Katy Sue Designs
Rebecca Wayman

Entrepreneurial cake designers from Tyneside find US exporting success

South Tyneside craft and cake decorating manufacturers and designers, Katy Sue Designs has ambitions to grow its US sales.

In the past year, the South Shields company has tripled its revenue and increased its workforce by almost a third.

Katy Sue Designs originally launched in 1994 when its co-founder and MD Sue Balfour, and her mother Doreen Thompson, began creating miniature porcelain dolls for collectors on their kitchen table.

Over a quarter of a century later, the company’s products including its silicone cake moulds, are sold in 50 countries, within the world-wide craft market which is worth over £45bn.

Eighteen months ago, Sue Balfour brought on board three new digital investors, Neil Stephenson as chairman and shareholder along with local digital entrepreneurs, Gary Hunter and Sam Morton, to develop its sales channels and increase US product sales.

Neil Stephenson said: “Digital channels are a key global sales channel for the craft market. Coming on board to advise the company how best to utilise digital marketing has been incredibly exciting; the business has grown exponentially and I can only see it continuing.

“Thanks to this growth, we’ve been able to bring high quality digital jobs to the borough and have hired four new people in the past 12 months, a 25 per cent increase in our workforce.

“We currently have a team of 18 people, 16 of which live and work in South Tyneside, and we’re continually looking for highly skilled digital and commercial talent.”

In January, the company showcased its products at Creativation in Arizona, one of the world’s biggest trade shows.

This was made possible after they received financial support from South Tyneside Council, under its Invest South Tyneside Export Growth Programme.

Sue Balfour added: “South Tyneside has always been a fantastic place to set-up and run a business thanks to the ongoing support of South Tyneside Council and the business community as a whole.

“The borough has a high calibre of businesses of all sizes in a variety of sectors.

“I’ve always been able to ring a bigger business in the borough to ask for help and reach out to the council for advice. It was actually the council who introduced me to Neil and they have enabled us to invest further in growing our US sales thanks to their Export Growth Programme grant.”

Katy Sue Designs’ growth follows on from its product showcase at New York Cake Show and America’s Cake Show, in Orlando last year.

The company’s products were also featured on The Great British Bake Off, thanks to contestant Kim Joy, and on Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Christmas on Channel 4.

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