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Rocking all over the world for Hip Rocker

Fresh from the news that she has won the Princes Trust/RBS Enterprise Award Claire Bradwell, managing director of South Yorkshire company Hip Rocker, is planning an exciting future with international expansion, thanks to help and support from RiDO's ERDF funded Soft Landing Zone.hip rocker

Claire came up with the idea of Hip Rocker after her daughter Daisy who has hip dysplasia, had to spend three months in a cast that stretched from her toes to her chest. Claire was keen to create something which didn't look clinical, was bright and colourful and would be something that young children would want to sit in. A year after Daisy came out of her cast, Claire began working on the concept for Hip Rocker, a jellybean-shaped rocking chair, which mirrors the shape of the cast young children are fitted with after a hip operation.

Claire, 29, set up a base for her start-up business at RiDO-owned Century Business Centre in Manvers, Rotherham after undertaking a Princes Trust Exploring Enterprise course. It was here that she access support which helped her to begin trading internationally.

Claire Bradwell, managing director of Hip Rocker, said: "I was getting lots of recommendations from customers, which meant sales were growing rapidly, not just in the UK but internationally. I received a number of orders from Australia, but didn't have any idea how to go about arranging payment for overseas customers or what to do about things like charging VAT. I hadn't expected to begin trading overseas so quickly, so I was straight on the phone to Bob Langley from RiDO's Soft Landing Zone. Bob answered every question I had quickly and efficiently, which really helped me and gave me the confidence to approach international business professionally and correctly."

Bob Langley, business co-ordinator for RiDO's Soft Landing Zone, said: "Claire has done exceptionally well in establishing and growing a business not just in the UK, but in a number of other countries. With our support she has been able to take advantage of some tremendous opportunities in Australia, the Republic of Ireland and Norway and these look like they will become major growth markets for her products. For a business in a specialist market sector like this, it is important to be able to sell overseas and Claire has gained the necessary skills quickly and adapted her business model to enable her to take advantage."

He adds: "She is definitely the well deserved winner of the Princes Trust Award for Enterprise!"

After almost a year at Century Business Centre, Claire decided she needed additional room to expand her business and her and her partner bought a cottage in Wadsley, Sheffield, where they have converted the large stable and hayloft into a purpose designed workshop for Hip Rocker.

Claire Bradwell adds: "I had a great start for my business in Rotherham and what I learned here this has given me the confidence and knowledge to expand into international markets, which I never believed I would have been able to do."

All Claire's products are produced within the local area and are assembled by her in Sheffield and painted ready for despatch. In just 18 months, she has gone from two designs for the Hip Rocker range in seven colours to five designs in 18 colours. Looking to the future, Claire is planning to expand the hire side of her business, which extends her range also into prams and specialist car seats.

The Growth and Prosperity in Rotherham (Soft Landing Zone) project aims to assist Rotherham companies in accessing international markets and also helps foreign inward investors who choose to locate to RiDO's business centres. The project is supported financially by the European Union. It has attracted £842k investment from the European Regional Development Fund as part of Europe's support for the region's economic development through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme 2007-13.

For more details about the Soft Landing Zone project, which is run by RiDO, visit the website www.ridobusinesscentres.co.uk. For more details about Hip Rocker, visit the website www.hip-rocker.org.

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