A Barnsley company’s new approach to wedding albums is winning it customers across the world.
Folio Albums produces book-like, fine art albums which are very different to traditional albums printed on photographic paper.
Just two years after the company’s launch, orders are pouring in from professional photographers in the UK, Europe and the United States, and the firm aims to also target markets in Asia.
Director Stewart Randall, who spotted a niche in the market while working as a wedding photographer, describes interest in his products as “phenomenal”. He and wife Julie have recruited three other employees plus three freelance staff to keep up with demand with plans to create more new jobs.
The company expects to sell over 1,200 albums this year, compared with 500 last year.
Stewart puts the firm’s ability to expand so rapidly partly down to coaching from business support organisation Enterprising Barnsley.
Stewart said: “We started Folio because, while working as photographer, I found albums available were uninspiring and lacked attention to detail. Couples want something really beautiful and tactile and presentation is everything to us, including the box the album is presented in.
“No-one in the world is doing quite what we do. People love our brand as well as our environmentally–friendly ethics and attention to customer service. We’ve set out to go as fast as we can to establish ourselves as leader in this market and we’re now focusing on winning more clients overseas, especially in Asia.”
Stewart, 37, got his first camera at 13 and started a wedding photography business in 2005 along with Julie. He has photographed weddings all over the UK and beyond and also teaches photography and speaks at industry conferences and seminars.
The couple moved the photography business from Surrey to Barnsley, where Julie grew up, and then launched Folio Albums in a small unit at the Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre (BBIC), in Wilthorpe, and have now expanded into larger space there.
The business keeps it simple by selling only square albums. Each opens flat with an almost invisible crease. Covers are made from either leather, silk or cotton in a choice of colours and sizes. The albums are handmade to order with work done on-site, apart from the manufacture of leather covers which is outsourced to a local specialist.
Folio Albums recently launched a new cotton presentation bag during a series of events held around the country for professional photographers. Also in the pipeline are photographs in frames made from reclaimed wood.
Although weddings account for the vast majority of business, more requests are coming in for albums capturing other special occasions.
Experts from Enterprising Barnsley have given the firm help with sales and marketing as well as idea generation and innovation. They are now providing support to develop a growth strategy for Folio Albums, including expanding their export markets.
Stewart said: “It’s hard to take time away from the business and think about its future course, so the coaching was fantastic and is probably one of the reasons why we’re where we are now. Also BBIC has been very supportive and accommodating. We expect to be creating more jobs soon as we’d like to bring some of the bookbinding in-house.”
The Enterprising Barnsley programme is supported financially by the European Union. The project has attracted £2,259,511 investment into Barnsley from the European Regional Development Fund as part of Europe’s support for the region’s economic development, through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme.