Malcolm Snape is the eponymous owner of William M. Snape Manufacturing and the inventor of a number of revolutionary, patented flood defence products. We spoke to Malcolm to discover what inspired him to specialise in flood defence, the quest to perfect his product, and how RfM supports his business to grow and expand.
Over a long and varied career in manufacturing, Malcolm Snape had put his problem-solving skills to good use developing a number of viable business ideas – but he had never invented a product, as such. Malcolm’s transition from entrepreneur to inventor was to begin in 2010, many miles from home, as he neared the end of a short term contract in Nigeria, and considered what his next steps would be.
“I was carrying out a study into the feasibility of manufacturing UPVC products in a remote African province called Akwa Ibom,” explains Malcolm. “Akwa Ibom neighbours Cameroon, and is in the rainforests so, of course, it rains – a lot. In the evenings, there was little to do, but lots of time to think.
“All the rain set me thinking about flood protection and, more specifically, the problem of how difficult flood defence doors are to operate.
“Conventional flood doors are very heavy and difficult to lock – so not suitable for your average home or business. My vision, if you like, was to be able to design a door that could keep out the water as effectively as these conventional doors but be operated by anyone, even the elderly or disabled.
“The logical way of doing things seemed to be to use the pressure of flood water. Then came the problem of designing a suitable flood seal that would operate by pressure of flood water…”
A journey of discovery
Back in England, armed with some ideas of how it could work, Malcolm began a process of Research & Development with earnest. It was a journey of discovery that would take many years and ultimately lead Malcolm to find a completely original solution to the problem.
“I set the business up in 2010 and we had perfected our first product – the inward opening door – by 2014,” Malcolm tells us.
“Progress was very slow at first. We didn’t have our own testing tanks here in Preston so I was travelling over to Yorkshire to use another company’s tanks. When you are developing a product that’s never been made before, R&D is vital to the process and you obviously need to invest in the right equipment and expertise. We now have seven testing tanks on site at our premises in Preston; so I can come up with an idea for a modification to a product in the morning and be testing it by the afternoon.”
R&D tax credits
But how can a business sustain the cost and time involved in researching and developing new products?
“RfM have been our accountants for a number of years now and they understand that R&D is a core part of our business. They were instrumental in helping us to secure R&D tax credits from the government. These are tremendously beneficial to a business like ours as they allow us to offset the costs involved in the R&D process – including the materials and the labour – and also receive a bonus on top.”
The business, which trades under the ‘StormMeister’ brand name has now successfully applied for and been awarded patents for the design of two of its flood defence doors, and is working on developing a range of other products.
Funding for the next phase
“We have established a strong reputation for engineering and design and clients now approach us directly to develop new products specifically for their needs. The business is rapidly growing, not just in the UK, but in Europe and the US. To meet demand and continue to innovate, the next phase is an expansion of our manufacturing site.”
RfM Accountants has helped William M. Snape Manufacturing to secure funding that will enable the business to double the size of its premises, invest in the necessary equipment and continue to innovate for years to come.
“We knew that the bank would not have loaned us the amount of funding that we really needed to achieve our plans for growth. RfM directed us to a marketplace lender and supported us through the application process and it was all completed within three weeks. To secure this funding is absolutely wonderful for us; it gives us peace of mind to know we have enough money to be able to grow… and to continue to do what we do best.”
Find out more about the Stormmeister range of flood defence products here.