Marek Szepietowski tells Trish Dromey how the firm he founded is meeting the EU-driven demand for quality training manuals.
Identifying a niche market for health and safety training manuals has opened up a world of opportunity for Mallow-based entrepreneur, Marek Szepietowski.
Supplying manuals to health and safety training companies and large organisations in both Ireland and the UK, his company, Health & Safety Publications, is now dealing with a request from one of the world’s largest material handling equipment companies to provide training manuals in nine languages.
Named as winner of the North Cork Local Enterprise Board annual company award, and as a finalist in this year’s National Enterprise Awards, H&S Publications employs a staff of seven and is aiming to double turnover to close to €1m this year.
The company came into being during the recession after Mr Szepietowski lost his job as a health and safety trainer.
While working for a consultancy company during the boom years he had often lamented the lack of training manuals: “I always said that if I had materials to hand out to trainees it would make my life much easier,” said Mr Szepietowski.
Making use of previous publishing experience in Poland and a non-trading translation company he’d set up a few years earlier, he decided to set up a business to fill the gap in 2009.
Selling two apartments in Poland to raise funding, he bought equipment, renamed the company and from his home in Millstreet began work on a manual-handling manual.
“The first year we sold just 500 copies but the next year we sold 30 times more — it snowballed and, by year three, we had sold 50,000 books.”
Joined by his wife Rose, also a health and safety professional, he produced a manual on forklifts and another on first aid.
Finding a ready market for its publications, the company began making plans for expansion in 2014.
Using industry experts to produce new manuals, the business moved to a 370 sq m premises at Newberry Cross Industrial Park in Mallow.
To raise the necessary funding, Mr Szepietowski braved the Dragons Den and secured €60,000 for a 10% share from technology company CEO Barry O’Sullivan.
With this funding, and an employment grant from North Cork Local Enterprise Office, the company took on one full-time employee in 2015 as well as four part-time ones.
The company now has around 600 customers in Ireland including FÁS, ESB, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, and Toyota Material Handling Ireland.
H&S Publications now has 80 customers in the UK where it first started trading at the start of this year.
It is aiming to grow sales in the UK to 50% by the end of the year.
Following the request from one of the world’s leading material handling equipment manufacturers, H&S has already translated two books into Russian and has started work on Danish and Swedish versions.
Translation into Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Romanian, French and Polish and Ukrainian is also planned.
H&S is currently working on an electronic version of its forklift manual for another customer.
It is also responding to requests from police forces and the aviation industry for health and safety manuals.
This year, the focus is on a strong sales push in the UK, but in the long term the company’s aim is to become a leading player in the European market.
Mr Szepietowski said the market is being driven by the EU and the introduction of mandatory training courses across the member countries.
Company: Health & Safety Publications
Location: Mallow, Co Cork
Set up: 2005
Managing Director: Marek Szepietowski
Business: Produces health & safety manuals
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