Five years ago Diamond Dispersions was unknown – a new company with just one product and no customers, whose nearest competitor had 76,000 employees world wide.
Today, it’s a Queen’s Award winning business that has almost doubled overseas earnings over the past three years and become so well known that potential customers seek it out at foreign trade shows.
More than 80 per cent of the company’s products – a key component in ink jet printer cartridges – is exported, with 60 per cent going to the Far East and 30 per cent to China. The Darnall-based company has also established footholds in Brazil and the Ukraine.
No mean feat for a company set up by two former Business Link advisers who started out with no practical knowledge of the sector they were targeting and which has fewer than 10 staff today.
Diamond Dispersions success has been built on a combination of sheer hard work, determination, technical expertise and quality, as well as a conviction that it’s the people that are important in any business deal.
If the challenge sounds tough, the reality is it was even tougher for founders Sue Wright and Peter Callahan.
Originally known as Diamond Sheffield, the business was launched with the aim of exploiting pioneering technology to recycle scrap tyres by pyrolysis – heating them in the absence of oxygen to separate out carbon and metal.
The process could have had a huge positive impact on the mountains of waste tyres that are disposed of every year, but it was expensive and that meant it had to be used to create a high value product – which is how Diamond settled on printer ink.
Diamond Sheffield was ready to start production when disaster struck. Coalite Chemicals, where the pyrolysis plant was based, was closed down and Diamond lost its source of raw materials.
Diamond was on the point of closure when Sue Wright and Peter Callahan decided to see if they could buy the assets from the original investors.
“We were a small company and we were totally unknown. From day one we decided that brand was everything and we had to get the Diamond name known,” says Peter.
“We attended every trade show we could and went all over the world, hawking our one product around. We spent our life on planes and marketed for all we were worth.”
Diamond’s brand is now known around the world, but it doesn’t stop there. The firm has also caught the imagination of clients by coining the word “Inkology” to describe the science behind the development of its products.
“The chemists are so proud of it that they have started calling themselves “Inkologists,” says Sue Wright.
Diamond also owes its success to Sue and Peter’s attitude to the people they do business with.
“We love working across cultures,” says Peter. “We feel it is an honour to meet these people.”
So much so that the duo have been learning Chinese.
“We can do some French, some German, but Chinese is so amazingly different,” says Sue.