Congratulations to Anker Stuy Verven, this year’s winner of the NBCC SME Award which was presented during the NBCC North Sea Neighbours Event in June, 2021. Anker Stuy’s sustainable paints product line has the potential to contribute to both to climate goals and economic growth at a local, and national, level and according to the Award judges is “a fantastic example of British-Dutch entrepreneurship and collaboration”.
Anker Stuy Verven is located in both Terwispel, in the province of Friesland but it’s early origins were from the printing ink and paint factory "'t Anker" in Steenwijk, Overijssel. Mergers and acquisitions, and bundling of knowledge and expertise through to the 70’s when Stuy Verven took over the factory led to Adriaan Stuy’s sons became part of the flourishing business in the 80’s. Today the business has 70 employees (with 8 dedicated employees working in R&D). And the growth continues: whilst some businesses may have chosen to leave the UK after Brexit, Anker Stuy invested further by setting up a new office in Peterborough in 2019, in part to optimise on the growth in the UK construction market, and in part due to the location as the biggest city in the East of England, sitting between two of the UK’s growth corridors. Here is an excerpt from our interview with co-owner, Emile Stuy:
Q: How did it feel to win the NBCC SME Award this year?
“Well, If I am honest, the online experience is very different from a physical event, so I was standing in my attic in 35 degrees of heat and hadn’t expected to win, so it was a surprise, but in a good way, and naturally was nice to be able to accept the award for recognition of the work of the whole company. In addition, the name of Anker Stuy now sits between brands such as Philips, Rabobank, and Unilever, that's a nice list to be in!”
Q: You decided to set up in the UK in 2019, when most businesses were worrying about the impact of Brexit, and the pandemic had not even started, tell us about that …
“In the beginning, as it is for many businesses beginning in a new location, it was challenging to find the right local people and the right location, a gamble in fact. But when the COVID-19 pandemic started and the whole industry locked down we still did not regret our decision to establish ourselves there, as we can see the potential for growth in such a large market, especially after Brexit. We started with two, and now have six employees. We also know we have great products for the UK market, and our plans for longer-term expansion in the UK are still on track”.
Q: How has NBCC helped you with your ambitions?
“We use the NBCC payroll services in the UK which has saved us a lot of administrative hassle and we have also found an accountant through your network. I would like to be involved in more networking events in the UK to find new partners – there is always someone new to meet who can make your business processes work better. Being a part of trade missions, and being able to access legal advice: this is all really useful to us”.
Q: How do you view Brexit now?
“I would like the UK government to focus on the importance of the UK-NL relationship and feel they could better articulate their hopes for future cooperation across the North Sea. What other new markets do they think will emerge? I think the UK can make itself more interesting for other companies to set up there by making good trade agreements with other nations, and making the tax system attractive. I am not sure about the reported ‘race to the bottom’ on standards, but for us, at the moment, we are only seeing the positive side effects”.
Q: You are already working hard to be sustainable when many multinationals are just taking first steps, what is behind this?
“Sustainability is also about the business decisions taken behind the commercial reasons: we want to contribute to making a more sustainable world with our strategy to make a careful selection of core ingredients contributing to less bio risk and be aware of the sustainability of the supply chains behind the ingredients. We collaborate with our suppliers and are researching new developments with them all the time: being able to formulate new products ourselves is a real USP. Being part of a sustainable commercial strategy is one thing, but it’s also important to understand how you can make that a ‘win-win’ situation. The costs for investing in sustainability are going down and consumers are also willing to pay more for a green product which gives them a solution to reduce their own carbon footprint. For example, there are ‘smart’ coatings available now with pigments designed to reduce temperatures, solar energy pigments, formulated to have a higher output / adaptation to sunlight: but we only make decisions to invest on development from within our niche market”.
Q: Do you have any insights based on your experience that you can share?
“I think the Frisian approach to business is a combination of product, service and mentality! My advice is to focus on what you are really good at and then develop an action plan, or strategy for growth. I am a fan of Geoffrey More who offers sensible advice on marketing high tech products at different segments from early adopters though to mainstream adoption in the marketing lifecycle”.