James Biggin (45) is the Managing Director of Steel City Marketing, a leading promotional gifts company which this month celebrates 40 years of getting brands the exposure they deserve.
Born and bred in Sheffield, James went to study International Business at Northumbria University. He spent his third year abroad in Chambery, France at the Ecole Superieur and selling sports shoes in French, in Decathlon. James returned to the area and – not wanting to go straight into the family business – worked in Dronfield as a graduate trainee with a large company trading in ferro-alloys and metals for the foundry and steel industry.
The illness and early retirement of his father’s co-director coincided with a discussion between James and his father about moving into the family business, first learning the ropes in sales, then becoming a director in 2004. He describes himself as geekily obsessed with the company, pens and seeing how excited clients get when he gets some great ideas in front of them to use in their marketing campaigns.
The business was founded by James’s father and his business partner in 1980. The two families ran the business for over 20 years. Changes came early 2000, when James’s father’s co-director retired early with illness and father invited son to come in, learn the business and to eventually take up the reins. He retired just as recession started in 2007. The company, like many suffered in cash flow and profitability up to 2012. James made a host of changes and turned the business around. Sales steadied from that point and the company experienced sustainable growth.
New ideas included halting the production of the traditional paper brochure and taking marketing online and word of mouth marketing by looking after retained clients. After being in the same building since 1980, in 2014 the company moved into a renovated former print house on New Street in Sheffield city centre. James designed the space so that it reflected the growing team, with a New York Loft style which allowed for more collaborative working. Being experts in promotional merchandise, the company also took their own advice and looked to image branding experts to rebrand the company with a more contemporary look and feel.
“The changes I made have made a massive difference to the business, allowing us to look further forward. We have placed a big emphasis on our culture and worked closely on our values as a team. Graduating from the Goldman Sachs 10K small business programme in 2018 with a cohort of incredible people, helped me to gain perspective and really invest my time wisely into honing the company ethos.”
To mark the 40th anniversary, Steel City Marketing is holding a virtual fitness charity event – the #40X4CHALLENGE! James plans to host a Zoom exercise session every working day of September at 9am. There will be 4 sets of 40 seconds of light exercises – perfect for any business person (whether in the office or at home) who wants to start the day off motivated and feeling both physically and mentally great. There is no need for sports gear, the idea is to have a short and fun session to get the blood pumping! Steel City Marketing are also giving the chance for other companies to nominate themselves or colleagues to host a session, in exchange for a donation.
The challenge commences on the 1st September and will run every working day at 9am until the 30th September. There will be prize incentives and all donations received will be split between local charities: Cavendish Cancer Care, The Children’s Hospital Charity and Western Park Cancer Charity. Attendees can also expect a pep talk from the charities and other mental health and wellbeing gurus before the exercise session!
To take part sign up via Eventbrite: https://40x4challenge.eventbrite.co.uk
You can donate on their just giving page here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/SteelCityMarketing
James is also planning a personal challenge to be the culmination of the #40X4CHALLENGE. Watch this space!