Electric String provides bespoke automation and audio-visual systems for the high-end residential, commercial and marine sectors. The company was established in October 2010 by friends and founders; James Ward and James Symonds – two young entrepreneurs with passion, energy and a fresh idea. At the time they were working as a System Designer and Technical Manager en-route to an exhibition in Monaco.
In the time it took them to drive across the continent they had already come up with a ‘rough around the edges’ business plan and from this, Electric String was born. Managing Director, James Ward said; “we had both always wanted to run our own business and technology, electronics and gadgets are huge hobbies of ours. We were just ready to take the leap and be our own boss.”
On the back of one long road trip and a bright idea, they set up Electric String and operated out of The University of Hull’s Enterprise Centre for the first 18 months. The centre is a great hub for entrepreneurs as it provides start-up businesses with incubator space, offering affordable rent and business advice. Managing Director, James Ward said; “the Enterprise Centre was fantastic for us; we were around other start-up companies, giving us incredible peer support and we were mixing with businesses at the same stage as us, such as Xing Smoothies, Fan Frames and Forward Thinker. We also gained access to the wider business community and advice and support as the Enterprise Centre Manager introduced us to Bondholders and FEO (For Entrepreneurs Only). It was the perfect setting for us to turn our business idea into a reality, so we were able to establish our company foundations and grow.”
Having outgrown their space at the Enterprise Centre, Electric String moved to Hull’s Priory Park and subsequently bought a site at Hull’s Hedon Road Orbital Trading Park in November 2014. The new site is perfectly positioned near to the Siemen’s Greenport activity, yet still in close proximity to C4Di and the emerging digital and technology hub in Hull’s Fruit Market. All installation of Electric String’s products takes place onsite, from data and networking cabling to server equipment and racking, and it is then shipped directly to the customer, which makes the process extremely cost effective. The new Head Office site also provides the team with further office space, a workshop/depot area, and a boardroom come bespoke showroom where they can give live demos to prospective clients.
After a merger in late 2014, the management team now consists of Managing Director James Ward, Operations Director James Symonds and Commercial Director Rob Sullivan. Electric String has grown from 2 employees to 16 and continues to grow its annual turnover, in 2016 reaching over £1m. Although, these achievements are not solely related to the merger, it did allow the management team to re-structuralise the business but Electric String has demonstrated instrumental growth from the off.
Before setting up Electric String, James Symonds had studied at The University of Hull and James Ward had just returned back to his hometown after completing a degree in Electronic Engineering at The University of Sheffield, both are incredibly proud of their ‘Hull Roots’. Managing Director, James Ward said; “being based in Hull is so economically viable, we have a skilled workforce on our doorstep and overheads are so much lower than our competitors based in London, so even with travel expenses to and from the capital we can usually beat on cost. It’s also crucial that we are based so close to the Ports and P&O Ferries which is perfect for the Marine side of our business as we can get the ferry to mainland Europe and often be on-site within 24 hours.”
One of the major projects instrumental in the rapid growth and success of Electric String was winning the Sumitomo project contract, worth £250K, which at the time was their largest to date and took three months to complete. Sumitomo are a multi-million pound international trading and investment solutions business. The project consisted of installing an entire office floor with a state-of-the-art audio visual system, servicing 7 meeting rooms and 2 large conference rooms at Sumitomo’s prestigious headquarters in London. Managing Director, James Ward said; “the success of Electric String is that we offer bespoke, holistic solutions and our USP is that we can provide highly technical equipment that none technical people are able to use with ease.” Another niche to their business is their tailored customer service plan. After every installation a support and maintenance plan is put in place, guaranteeing an agreed amount of visits per annum, all within a competitive pricing structure.
Another pivotal moment for the business was when Electric String won the prestigious 2016 Integration Award for Best Corporate Installation, having been invited to enter by Creston, the world’s leading provider of control and automation systems. “Each entry is independently judged, not on the size of the project or the financial investment, but on what has been achieved and the spirit of innovation” (Creston 2016, Integration Awards body). Electric String were up against 78 company entries and scooped the award because of their ‘spectacular and innovative’ corporate fully automated audio visual installation at global marketing agency; MullenLowe Group’s new headquarters in Shoreditch, London. Electric String were commended by the judges and client’s MullenLowe Group for delivering a large, complex, end-to-end fully integrated audio visual system within a limited timeframe and in an innovative, tech savvy and aesthetic setting.
Electric String is proud to be recognised for projects including audio visual and system integrations on some of the world’s most luxurious yachts in Barcelona, Monaco and Montenegro. Marine installations have taken place on moving platforms, with limited space and amongst other extremely expensive state-of-the-art fixtures and fittings – whilst still providing satisfied charter clients with bespoke user-friendly systems. In addition, Electric String have installed audio visual systems in high-end retail space such as Harry Winston jewellers, Breguet Watches and men’s designer clothing retailer John Varvatos, all based on London’s New Bond Street, revered globally for its elegant boutiques, exclusive brands and luxury goods. Managing Director, James Ward said; “we’ve fitted audio systems in ceilings and plasma screens displaying corporate film footage whilst always adding to the customer experience and ambience of the boutique.”
If that wasn’t enough, the expertise at Electric String also lends itself to working with luxury developers selling landmark homes, architects and interior designers. The team at Electric String have installed custom designed systems in the homes of clients including Lord Seb Coe, and even members of the British Royal family. The can create bespoke home theatre and cinema rooms, video distribution, computer networks and audio that can be used throughout the home with superb results and without any visible wires.
What’s the future for Electric String? Visiting their new premises, you can feel the growth and envisage how this company will look in a few years’ time and it’s incredibly exciting. Without a doubt, Electric String is destined for further growth, increased assets and great profitability. The business is aiming for a turnover of £5 million within three years, which sounds achievable after quadrupling their turnover in 2011 and continuing to increase it each year, resulting in a fourteen-fold increase in turnover since the 1st year. Electric String has created a reliable brand within a sector that can enable them to gain high margins whilst keeping their overheads low.
In order to secure future growth, Electric String has a major recruitment drive for engineers and installers planned, with the expectation of doubling their workforce by the end of 2016. To coincide with this, they plan to develop their Head Office in Hull, expanding onto the second floor and potentially purchasing the adjacent premises. Electric String is growing at a pace, as they remain at the forefront of an exciting period of growth for the electronics and AV industry, staying ahead of the competition and on top of developments in the industry.