Case Study

Cool under pressure

1st March 2017

Cool under pressure

Developing long lasting, trusting business relationships is always easier when working with organisations that share similar values.

When Higgs & Sons was approached by Staffordshire-based bespoke packaging manufacturers Woolcool, it was clear that the two organisations had a lot in common.

A family run business, Woolcool prides itself on 'building close relationships with clients on a long-term basis', an ethos that has run through the core of Higgs & Sons ever since its founding by Joseph Higgs more than 140 years ago. Founder and CEO of Woolcool, Angela Morris can also point to an impressive heritage within her specialist sector.

"I have been involved in the branding and packaging industry for 37 years, previously having worked with blue chip clients such as BHS and Cadbury," explains Angela, who first recognised the qualities of wool as an efficient packaging material after being engaged as a packaging consultant by the National Trust in 2000.

After advising sheep farmers whose livelihoods had been affected by the foot and mouth epidemic, Angela's work in the Lake District led her to a business idea for packaging based on the particular qualities of Herdwick sheep wool.  This natural product provides insulation properties that far exceed those of the more traditional, synthetic materials used for packaging temperature sensitive items such as food and pharmaceuticals.

"Our wool can keep packages at the desired temperature for many hours longer than polystyrene. Furthermore, you don't get the condensation levels with wool that you would expect to get with other materials. This offers a more efficient, durable environment for items that are particularly sensitive to changes in their environment."

The discovery of such qualities proved to be a real eye opener for Angela who quickly started to receive enquiries from those in the food sector keen to take advantage of this exciting new product.

Such interest led her to found the Wool Packaging Company in 2009, the trading company of Woolcool.  Since then the company she formed to realise that fledgling idea has gone from strength to strength, growing from 8 employees to around 60 this year with turnover doubling in the last two years alone. The company also has an increasing international profile due to the unique properties of its core product.

"We supply wool to one of the world's major pharmaceutical suppliers that ships its products to countries as far afield as Kenya and Siberia. It is essential that drugs remain between 2-8 degrees Celsius for the journey to avoid them becoming unusable. The World Health Organisation estimates that up to half of the world's vaccines arrive at their destination unfit for use because of temperature control problems when being transported.

Our wool enables products such as vaccines to remain at the correct temperature for up to 150 hours, far in excess of the required journey times."

With such a remarkable growth in operations, the need for a trusted legal adviser was essential.

"Due to expansion we had reached a point where we needed to look for a new firm of solicitors to represent us. Being able to respond swiftly and effectively to the legal challenges involved in business development is essential to help sustain growth.

"We were introduced to Higgs & Sons by the organisation Families in Business who had supported us throughout our early development. Having such a recommendation was invaluable and since working with Higgs, that sense of trust and confidence has only grown."

Woolcool's dealings with Higgs & Sons have increased during the tenure of its working relationship. Jody Webb from the firm's Corporate team and Peter Gosling a Partner in the Private Client team have worked with Angela from the earliest point of the relationship, however as Woolcool's needs grew so did the need for more wide-ranging advice.

"Peter has provided essential support on trusts, whilst David Bayliss on licensing agreements and Jo Walker with employment advice have supported our continued growth. Knowing we have someone we can turn to when we need advice or information on the myriad of issues that can arise at any moment is crucial," continues Angela.

"That is the advantage of our relationship with Higgs & Sons; in business you often get issues that come to you unexpectedly and it is invaluable to know that you can just pick up the phone and someone will be there to offer advice. Having all your legal advisers under one roof is such an advantage. Higgs' comprehensive business offering in addition to them looking after our personal affairs has enabled us to focus on developing our plans for growing the business."

Those plans include moving out of their current premises, possibly to a new build facility which will enable the Staffordshire based firm to expand manufacturing capacity of their core product.

"Working with Woolcool has been fascinating," comments Jody Webb. "The benefits the company can provide to the food and pharmaceutical sectors as well as its growth and success over such as short period of time are remarkable. Angela and her team are passionate about their product and their employees and this really shows through when you are discussing business with them."

Peter Gosling adds: "We work with many family run businesses, indeed Higgs itself has a proud heritage as a family firm.

"Working with and supporting those who have invested so much as a family in a business they are so committed to, is a privilege. I am certainly looking forward to continuing to support Angela and the rest of the team as they progress to the next exciting stage of their development."

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