Childhood friends reunite to spark business success

Two former childhood friends from Leeds have reunited to create an electrical business with a turnover of £2.5m.

Andy Stoner and Dan Coombe set up National Safety Inspections (NSI) in 2017 after spotting a gap in the market.

The company, which has just expanded into bigger offices, specialises in electrical testing for letting agents and landlords.

NSI employs 20 people at its headquarters in Armley, having taken over an extra floor just before Christmas to accommodate more staff. It also has 25 engineers across the UK.

Previously, Stoner and Coomb had kept in touch even though Coombe moved to Scotland and worked in sales. Stoner, meanwhile, was an electrician and a lecturer in Leeds.

In 2017 a chance conversation led them to realise they had a good combination of skills to create a start-up,

Coombe said: “Me and Andy spoke to each other about the idea of setting up and just offering testing, and then we just said, let’s do it. So, I moved back to Leeds.

“We were ambitious to be national even as a start-up. That’s why we called ourselves ‘National Safety Inspections’, even though we were just in a little office in the city.”

After getting the firm established, the pair realised a new law due to come into force would open up even more opportunities. The rules meant private sector landlords would have to carry out electrical checks every five years.

Stoner said: “Student lets were pretty good at doing electrical checks, but the private sector needed to catch up. We realised if we were going to get the work we would have to scale up and get ahead of the game.”

They turned to AD:VENTURE, a programme for new businesses in North and West Yorkshire, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

They successfully applied for two grants through the programme, one for £4,300 towards a comprehensive CRM system, and another of over £14,000 towards equipment, including laptops for engineers out on the road, and website development and SEO.

By the start of 2020 Andy and Dan had 15 staff and had signed with several letting agencies.

Stoner was invited to take part in an AD:VENTURE accelerator called Northern Max. He was given a mentor who helped both him and Dan realise they needed to re-think their approach in order to successfully scale the business.

NSI finished 2020 with 45 staff, creating 30 new jobs through 2020, with engineers across Yorkshire, Lancashire, the North East, the Midlands, and down to Reading and Oxford. It has plans to extend into the rest of England and grow to 100 staff this year.

Roger Marsh, chairman of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and NP11, said:  “We really applaud what NSI has done; spotting a gap in the market and going for it. That is true entrepreneurship and something we really want to encourage.

“By innovating in their business, Andy and Dan are creating the prosperity and the jobs that we need for the local economy.

“Their success shows that with a good idea, hard work and practical support it is possible to build a thriving business even in these difficult times.”