Hope is a company born of two cycling enthusiasts, who at the
time worked as aerospace engineers for Rolls Royce. On the brand’s 20th anniversary, braking has come a long way and is virtually unrecognisable when compared to the sector that company founders Ian Weatherill and Simon Sharp grumbled about back in ‘89.
It was during that year that the two, quite wisely, left the car trade in favour of pursuing their personal passion, utilised their
combined engineering knowledge and started Hope.
The firm’s principles were soon tested as three years after forming the country saw increasingly tough times for UK manufacturers due to a looming recession. With production of most bike product being outsourced to the Far East, Hope was faced with the same dilemma as every other brand in the trade –to outsource, or not to outsource?
Concerns about the quality of goods made abroad conflicted with the brand’s philosophy and the foundations upon which it was set up. According to the co-founders, these are: “To produce high quality, durable parts that we would want to use; to use the latest and best design and machine tools; produce virtually every part in our UK factory from raw material to finished item; and to complete all processes under the strict UK environmental and employment controls. And to top it off, give out no sales waffle, letting the product do the talking.”
Hope remains to this day a Barnoldswick, Lancashire-based manufacturer and has survived several periods of difficult financial conditions. And the firm looks stronger than ever as the economy once again dips.
Co-founder and director, Ian Weatherill says: “Under no
circumstances whatsoever would we outsource work we can produce in-house. We take a great deal of pride from producing our products in the UK. We can do it better, faster and with more control than if manufacturing thousands of miles away.”
On the eve of the company’s birthday celebrations 86 staff are currently employed, of which 90 per cent live within three miles – making cycling to work a credible transport option for the enthusiasts. Many of those workers are assigned to run
Hope’s ever-growing portfolio of CNC machines, which at present include 38 units carrying out various production runs.
The factory also boasts its own heat-treating facility, used to harden the discs, as well as automated polishing machines for those finishing touches and its own anodising plant. All design work is done in-house too. The design team is trained in the very latest computer-aided software, which is primed to create highly-accurate drawings which can then be printed as three-dimensional models. At this stage models are analysed before prototyping begins. And because it’s all done under one roof, the turnaround of a brand new product can be exceedingly fast and costs can be kept under tight control.
Raw material enters the factory as extrusions, which are then cut into billets, machined, turned and milled to create what is essentially a finished part. The components are then de-burred, cleaned, polished, anodised and laser etched – all in-house, until finally being hand assembled, packed and shipped. It’s an incredibly efficient, and admirable, process.
Asked how it’s been possible to remain a UK exclusive business, Weatherill tells BikeBiz: “Remaining on this site has been possible because we’re willing to invest in the best new kit, whatever the price. We never go through financial justifications for investments –if we want or need it, we buy it. It seems to work out in the long run.”
Training is a large part of Hope’s investment in the UK. As an ISO 9002 approved company, investing in staff is central to the brand’s success –after all, in order to produce a quality product, those behind the process have to have their talents fine-tuned.
Weatherill added: “We’re not just an archaic ‘typical British-shed industry’ with blokes in boiler suits and oily rags in their pockets. It’s high-tech, modern and uses cutting edge technology. We use machinery and technology when it first becomes available –which other companies have only recently got involved with and then subsequently shout about.
“We invest heavily in the future, machinery, people and the brand.”
It is this belief in its people that has enabled Hope to challenge non-traditional sectors such as lighting and bits with
Asked what he makes of such products making waves in a series of positive magazine reviews, Weatherill said: “It is great to get good reviews on any of our products. It sends a buzz around the whole factory here at Hope.
“All of our 85 employees care about how our products are received – all our jobs depend on it. We only make products that we would personally want to use so that leaves us lots more products to work on.”
Financially the company has been advised by ‘business gurus’ that the firm could make a fortune should it outsource to the Far East. On this topic he says: “We do okay but then again Simon and I don’t have aspirations to own yachts or private jets. We don’t have shareholders, banks or ‘vulture’ capitalists on our backs. We only need to make a wage plus a pound or two and we’re happy. If we were in it for the money we would not manufacture everything in-house.
“We have often been advised by so-called business gurus that we could make a fortune if we used our brand and designs, but
manufactured the products in China. It’s never been considered
as an option.”
With another stunning product range hitting retail in 2009, Weatherill is quietly confident that the brand will continue to excel. While uncertain as to what new product is coming next from the firm, he’s curious as to what Hope can ‘do better’.
He concludes: “We’ve recently had the new Tech range of brakes come to market and 2009 will be its first year. We’ve got new hubs on the way and an extended range of pre-built wheels. We’re always looking at stems and lights and we have a couple of new things in that area as well. The long-awaited seatpost will finally arrive shortly too.
“From there, we’ll reflect on whatever else we discover that can be done better.”
Hope: 01282 851200
Service and warranty: 01282 818413