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Galway Independent


Empire made of steel

Wednesday, 8th February, 2017 1:00am

Galway business Steeltech Sheds has experienced the type of success that comes with having a product that has adapted to suit the growing needs of its customers.

The steel shed manufacturing company recently announced a major investment of €5million over the next three years and 43 new jobs in the next 12 months. The expansion is due to the major growth of the company in the last year, following the creation of 50 jobs in 2016.

Having started with two people back in 1994, including its founder and CEO Sean Brett, Steeltech’s progression is as staggering as is it is impressive. From two people, it now has 130 staff, a head office in Tuam, and 20 locations around Ireland, with plans to grow from six locations in the UK to 20 there before the end of the year.

By 2018, the company hopes to have expanded to Europe, starting in Holland and Germany. With this future expansion, it also plans to have a manufacturing base in Europe.

But it all started in Tuam and the North Galway town remains the company’s headquarters and the main manufacturing location.

Mr Brett, who is originally from Mayo but now living in Oranmore, first had a coal business before he started Steeltech Sheds.

“This was where we saw a need for proper sheds. Every day, we saw old timber sheds falling apart. That’s how it all started,” he explains, looking back at the early days.

What followed next was making coal bunkers. “We started recycling the old square oil tanks. People were replacing them with plastic ones. So for a small fee, we’d take them away. We ended up with lots of steel oil tankers so we chopped them up and turned them into coal bunkers.”

Mr Brett and Sean Brennan, who was working with him at the time, thought, ‘Why not make a steel shed?’

“Their durability for the Irish weather made it a good idea. Timber sheds are not ideal in Ireland at all. Way back it was 50:50 timber and steel. Now it’s 97 per cent steel, three per cent timber.”

How the product evolved is where the story of Steeltech Sheds really begins.

Mr Brett explains that at first when people think of a steel shed, they think of a basic plain shed. “And originally they were kind of ugly. In recent times, we use different materials to make them more attractive. The shed itself is made of steel and different materials like PVC can be used.”

The steel shed that can be used as a garage remains hugely popular but the rise in home offices, granny flats, gyms, and chalets is where the business has seen a huge level of interest and orders.

A Steeltech Sheds office can be in place on site in two days, a one bedroom chalet in six days. All buildings are fully insulated and wired.

“The quickness of it is a huge advantage. We have teams on the road all the time installing them,” adds Mr Brett.

All come with a 20 year guarantee. “And there is no maintenance on them, which is another huge advantage,” he adds. They can also be customised. “Sometimes people want it to fit in with what they already have. Other times they just want the basic option. We also have people who will buy the shell and then finish it themselves.”

A look on their website gives an idea as to how they can be customised to suit whatever individual needs the customer has.

One of the uses that Mr Brett has seen grow in popularity in recent times, in particular in Dublin, is as Airbnb accommodation. “This has really grown,” he says. Another popular use is as a granny flat. “This is for grandparents who may not be able to live on their own but don’t want to live under the feet of their children and grandchildren. It allows the grandparent independence but they are also nearby.”

Garden rooms are also popular. “People also see it as an addition to the garden. For those working from home, they find it hard to work at the kitchen table so having an office even if it’s only across the garden is ideal.” Mr Brett adds that for some people, it can be their pension plan. “Pensions can be boring to talk about. You can put into a pension and you mightn’t see anything for 20 or 30 years. If you put up a chalet, you could have it paid off in a year and after that all the money from it is yours. You can see something for your money.”

With plans to have 20 showrooms open in the UK by the end of year and with expansion into Holland and Germany next year, this is a period of huge growth for Steeltech Sheds. A minimum of 43 jobs will be created over the next 12 months, with more due to come on stream, following a major investment of €5million over the next three years. The investment by the company will see funding in capital, people, IT, innovation, R&D and sales and marketing.

“It is an exciting time for the company. We are rapidly expanding in the UK. It took us 20 years to get 20 showrooms in Ireland. It will take us one year to get 20 units in the UK. That is the scale of things,” says Mr Brett.

The company is now actively hiring. “We are looking for people who are good with their hands and enjoy working on a factory floor. We will train people up for the job. There is good job satisfaction as one can see the product come together. It is not a conveyor belt type of situation where you are doing the same thing every day. Every day is different.”

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