Chloe Watmore was just 22 years old and fresh out of university when she took her parents’ engineering business by the scruff of the neck and dragged it into the 21st century.
The economics graduate and tech fan with no manufacturing experience revolutionised factory processes at 23-year-old Chesterfield-based thermal engineers Thermotex, cleared the company of negativity and built a new team of young professionals.
The new broom grew international trade and led the company to record growth, doubling its revenue to over £3 million.
Now 25, she is the multi-award-winning managing director and justifiably proud of her achievements, her team and the company her parents founded.
Chloe sees a bright future ahead for the manufacturer. Its custom-designed thermal insulation, heat tracing and bespoke protective casings maintain correct temperatures for equipment and pipework relied on by global clients in a number of different sectors.
In 2013 Chloe left the University of Birmingham with a First and her parents Peter and Beverley Watmore offered her a temporary post in business development while she job-hunted.
Chloe had no knowledge of the industry, but took the challenge.
Thermotex had just won a large international contract and needed to modernise. It had only five staff and was making bespoke and customised products by hand – the way many of their competitors still work.
With Chloe’s help, Thermotex started researching hi-tech manufacturing techniques and investing in new equipment and soon after won a bold bid for a Russian contract to supply 3,000 bespoke insulation jackets to YAMAL liquefied Natural Gas.
Chloe said: “We beat six other suppliers to win what was our largest project ever, worth £1.5 million to us. We were ecstatic. But we needed to dramatically improve our manufacturing techniques and production efficiency. Dad said to me: ‘If we are going to do this, I need you to project manage it.’ ”
Chloe’s love of tech has been crucial, she replaced more machinery and introduced computerised systems. The revamp cost £100,000 and Thermotex is now at the cutting edge of its sector.
Those who didn’t want to embrace the changes left. Chloe replaced them with people who could grow with the company. Today, unlike many other traditional engineering firms, 80 per cent of the workforce are women. Several speak different languages, including Chinese, which aids communication with customers and new markets. Chloe speaks four – Spanish, French, Portuguese and English – and is learning Korean.
During the evolution of Thermotex, the YAMAL order doubled to over 6,000 units, a value of £3 million, and the Russians announced they needed the products six months early.
“We cracked on, foot to the accelerator, brought in more designers and machinists to grow staff to 33 and hit the deadline,” says Chloe.
Consequently, in 2017 revenue was £3.056 million, double the £1.5m of the previous year and the highest in the company’s history. Today 85 per cent of the products Thermotex manufactures are for international customers requiring winterisation, solar, sound or chemical protection products.
Chloe will be heading to Canada, Copenhagen, The Middle East and China this year to explore new markets and aims to forge links with Sheffield’s universities and world-leading companies resident at the AMP in Rotherham.
The company now has six wins in regional business awards and the over the next three years is aiming for extreme high growth and a turnover of £15m by 2020.