Keeping it in the family: The Great British Family Business

Last week the rather grand headquarters of the Institution of Civil Engineers at one Great George Street in London played host to The Great British Family Business Event 2015. I was invited by the organiser and founder of Family Businesses United, Paul Andrew. Paul is extremely passionate about British business and an all-round nice chap. However, beyond the palatial surrounding and generosity of my host I was there to hear 3 icons of British manufacturing speaking as part of the days schedule.

The event is all about businesses run by families in the UK. Indeed, there is a great tradition of British businesses being founded, run and managed by families. Companies like JCB, J Sainsbury and Associated British Foods are all multi-billion pound businesses run by families. In general the quality of the speakers was high but, for obvious reasons, I was there to hear what the manufacturers had to say. Adrian Maxwell – Managing Director of Fracino, Christopher Nieper – Managing Director of David Nieper and Robin Skailes – Director of Cropwell Bishop Creamery were on the bill to discuss what running a British manufacturing business, with their families, means to them.

fracinoFracino are one the the largest manufacturers of commercial coffee machines in the world but I was interested to hear of their humble beginnings. Started by Adrian’s father, Frank, in the early 1960’s the company name is a rather sweet amalgam of his fathers name and cappuccino. Frank bought an old coffee machine while on holiday in Italy and stripped it down in his shed. A year later he launched the businesses from that same shed. Some 50 years later they now have a 50,000 sq ft factory in Birmingham and ironically export back to Italy.

davidNiepDavid Nieper have been manufacturing luxury women’s clothing and nightwear in Derbyshire for more than 50 years and are one of the biggest names in the UK garment industry. Christopher himself seems like quite a character – he explained that they try to do as much in-house as possible… they even print all of their catalogues themselves.


Cropwell-Bishop-Stilton-001Cropwell Bishop are a Nottinghamshire based cheese manufacturer famous for  producing a punchy, creamy and thoroughly delicious stilton. The Cropwell Bishop stilton, thanks to the efforts of Robin and his family, has gained Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status and so can only be produced in specific areas of the Midlands.

The question of what made in Britain means to them was posed to all 3 speakers and the response was unanimous. Each, in turn, stressed the importance and pride they place on making their products in the UK. Every Facino coffee machine bears a Union Flag, the Nieper family believe that it is a unique selling point for their products internationally and the guys at Cropwell Bishop believe their cheeses cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.

All in all it was a terrific event.

– James


  1. That sounds like an excellent and very inspiring day. Thank you for the report, it’s made my day.

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  2. Phil Lightfoot says

    Facino coffee machine bears a Union flag but does it say Made in Britain? There are a lot of companies that have Union flags on their products but are made in the Far East. They just like to give us the impression they are made in Britain. Designed and Engineered in Britain, is the latest that I have seen on many products, and a little label on the back Made in PRC! I feel these companies are con merchants and should be exposed as such. Ruark HiFi are one, and Cotswold shoes are another. I asked Cotswold where their shoes and boots are made, and they replied, British designed and sourced from all over the world. Let’s hear it for made in Britain and preferably British owned companies. After all British paid tax will help the Government with NHS and Pension bills, keeping foreign companies rich will not.

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  3. Phil lightfoot says

    Big fopar that should have been Chatham Shoes not Cotswold. Late night emails are no good!

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    • I think you can rest assured Fracino coffee machines are very much made in the UK, they even make most of their components in house I believe. I do agree that it is really annoying when companies try to mislead though. Jack Wills ‘Fabulously British’ has always annoyed me. However I notice the FAQ’s section of their website does at least answer this now, with a stated ambition to open their own UK factory and help develop the supply chain. I think what it proves is that if we the consumer keep asking the questions and are prepared to spend our money on genuinely British made goods and services things will change.

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  4. Phil Lightfoot says

    With all the confusion of companies using the Union Flag on their products when they have no production in this country, I think that companies should reiterate “Made in Britain” with the Union Flag. I know that there are a few companies that do make in Britain but do not advertise the fact, I think they are missing out.
    One misleading company example “Henry Watson Pottery England Founded 1800. Original Suffolk Crock”. No mention of Made in Portugal and the Enamel ware from the Far East!
    I believe at one time there was a motion proposed in parliament to have all goods labelled with the country of origin. What happened with that?

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  5. Australia has a similar issue with its Australian Made logo. Apparently the consumer is conned into thinking all ingredients, components and labour is sourced within Australia, but in fact only “nearly all” processing is required to be made in Australia, from only “significant” ingredients.

    There really should be a legal definition of what British Made really means and it should be what people expect it to be!!

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