Stockport-based Enviroheat HET is a business with grand plans to transform the global energy market through innovative new technologies.
The international climate emergency demands a concerted effort from businesses to help drive innovation and bring new solutions to market, especially when it comes to domestic energy use which accounts for around 40% of all carbon emissions in the UK.
Enviroheat HET based in Stockport, Greater Manchester, shows what is possible when great minds including scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, join together to try and tackle some of the world’s most challenging problems.
Established on the belief that cutting edge technology will be the answer to reducing energy consumption and eliminating fuel poverty, the company is bringing innovative new products to market such as the EconoRad heater and the EconoCylinder hot water cylinder, which are both highly efficient in their consumption and preservation of energy.
We spoke to Enviroheat’s Director, Luke Cronshaw, to hear more about the company and how it has been supported by GC Business Growth Hub.
Hi Luke. Tell us a little about your business - what is it and how was it founded?
We were founded by a group of engineers who wanted to find technological solutions for the universal challenge of rising domestic energy usage and costs.
The biggest consumers of energy in the home are heating and hot water products. Our founding engineers looked specifically at electrical heating products and tasked themselves with making improvements. They looked first at electrical heating and figured out a way to store and use energy better, essentially creating our first product, the EconoRad radiator. It’s a water-filled electric radiator, powered by our Hydro Electric Thermic (HET) technology. HET is essentially a pump, a heat exchanger and controls. It uses around 600 Watts of electricity to heat the water to 55 degrees and provides enough heat for an average domestic room – compared with other products on the market that typically have high 2kW electrical load, so it’s a huge reduction in energy demand.
We’re backed by real, leading expertise. Our technical director and chief engineer, Cédrick Grandbois, used to work for CERN on the Large Hadron Collider. Cédrick was responsible for managing around 100 engineers, physicists and other technically-minded individuals on multiple research and development projects. A number of those engineers were sat around a table at lunch sharing ideas about improving heating systems across the world, and that’s essentially where our business was founded.
Our managing director, Mike Condon, is from Stockport (Cheadle Hulme) and has established and managed a number of successful companies over his long career. He started in construction and renovations, then owned various maintenance businesses and latterly a business in solar and renewables.
Mike became involved in technology from there and due to a chance series of events, a company that was making an early version of the EconoRad product wanted to expand into the UK, Mike was the conduit for that. He crafted a business around the product, made it marketable and drove it from there. He brought that skillset which the group of engineers don’t have.
When and why did you first make contact with GC Business Growth Hub?
As a start-up business without any seed capital and only personal investment from directors, we were first made aware of the Hub thanks to other businesses who we were connected with in the area. We first approached the Hub for financial advice. When our first orders started to come in, a lot of our early day challenges were due to us being a tech start-up. In those earlier days we had supply chain issues and had to purchase 100% of goods upfront meaning if orders fell through, major cashflow issues ensued. So we invited someone from the Growth Hub to look at the business from that aspect and see how we could improve.
We totally transformed how our business operates after a member of the Growth Hub – Joanne Barlow, Access to Finance advisor – came in, sat down with us, looked around the premises, at our clients (local authorities, housing associations, blue chip clients) and began presenting options for us.
By looking at the financial angle in particular, we managed to acquire both trade finance and invoice financing. That instantly helped with our cashflow. We were suddenly able to get the majority of invoices paid upfront. There’s a fee involved but it shifted our business from waiting anything from 30, 90 to even 120 days to get invoices paid, to suddenly having them paid upfront.
That lifted our business to regular cashflow which really helped reinvest incoming revenue back into the company bolstering us for continued growth. Since then, there have been multiple areas that the Hub has helped us with.
How else has support from the Hub helped you?
One of the Hub’s former low carbon sector business advisors, Daniel Dickinson, (now working for the Energy Innovation Agency) performed some market research for us regarding Jersey looking into what the energy market is like over there and what opportunities there would be for very efficient and well-connected energy solutions.
As a result of this research, we identified a significant area for growth. We already engage in overseas trading with France and Europe, but looking closer to home, Jersey has been an opportunity that has directly led to just over £20,000 worth of sales of goods in our first week of working over there (as a result of securing a contract with a hotel chain).
So for us, those few hours of market research and detailed reporting to identify suitable applications for products has led to a huge win. It’s a direct link from the help we’ve received from the Hub through to sales. It’s phenomenal and especially because all the help and advice we gained has been fully funded meaning there’s no cost to the business.
I’ve also been on a number of funded courses led by the Hub which have centred around small business growth. Other businesses and professionals come in and help you understand whether your marketing is up to speed and if you’ve got the right processes in place, so basic 101 business support but massively helpful.
On the marketing side of things, we’ve recently just launched a website and a marketing campaign. Digital Innovation Advisor, Judith Ross at the Growth Hub has helped us with the vetting process, reviewing all the tender packages that came to us through different agencies which has helped in choosing our current marketing company.
We didn’t have the skills in-house to do that, so we’re now spreading the word with our marketing team, ALT. If you’re not 100% au fait with a certain industry, it’s always good to call on help and Judith’s impartial advice has certainly informed our decision.
How has working with the Hub made a difference to your business?
We’ve benefited immensely from working with the Hub both in terms of sales and of access to companies that can help you grow. It’s a no brainer for any business to at least engage with the Hub. It‘s not necessarily that we wouldn’t have done the things we’ve done but it would most definitely have taken more time and resource.
As a start-up you need to move quick to capitalise on your Unique Selling Point (USP) in the marketplace. The Hub is an invaluable resource with a team that you can consult, working with your business and your best interests at heart.
It can be quite strange to be safe in the knowledge that there’s another set of eyes and ears to go and look at a particular problem or an opportunity for you. There’s a set of advisors at the Hub who are seasoned professionals and willing to help you with any areas of growth that you want to explore. It’s both a safety net and also a reality check sometimes. You can approach the Hub with an idea and they’ll take a look and make you think about other routes you may not have considered. It’s an incredible resource to have.
Based on your experience with the Hub, what advice can you offer to other entrepreneurs and business owners?
Engage with their team as early as you can. There are so many areas of help they can provide. They cover the core fundamentals of your business. And it’s not like a jack of all trades approach either. Each of the Hub’s different divisions have specialists to offer, whether it’s in finance, green technologies, marketing and digital, support with resources etc. Even if they don’t have a specific expert they can certainly find one quickly.
For example, in our case we’ve needed support with exporting to Europe and the Hub can refer you on to other contacts, whether that’s other businesses or government bodies such as the Department for International Trade who will certainly help you out.
So my advice to any business is to at least have an opening discussion with the Hub. You can get in contact in all the usual places and they’re really not hard to find. If you’re at a stage where your business is very niche, they can also put you in touch with other similar businesses to find references of which way they have chosen to go. There’s a full network in terms of the low carbon sector that they can put you in touch with. In my experience there’s never been a case in which they can’t help.