Kilkeel music-maker Ruach named one of UK's most promising micro-enterprises
A KILKEEL music equipment manufacturer has been named one of the 16 most promising micro-enterprises in the UK, with its founder Stephen Henderson (22) one of just four finalists for a Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in the Citi Micro-entrepreneurship Awards funded by the Citi Foundation.
Henderson decided to build his very own cajon (a type of wooden box which is played as a drum) after playing one for the first time at a jam session in a friend's house six years ago. From that point he wanted a cajon of his own, but when he couldn't afford one, he made his own.
As Stephen progressed with his A-Levels, he made and refined more cajons and advertised them online.
He developed what became a great selling point - the “two-way snare lock” which helped ensure players' sound was consistent throughout their performance whilst giving them the option to pull their snares off instantly.
As percussionists from all over the UK became familiar with his work, many made contact with Stephen about custom cajons they wanted him to build.
Stephen quickly realised this hobby had potential to become a business, and Ruach Music Ltd was born.
After finishing his A-Levels in 2013 he secured his first retailer, Matchetts Music in Belfast.
Ruach now produces and sells handmade pedal-boards for guitarists, a line of cajons, effects pedals for guitarists and now electric and bass guitars have been developed ready for sale.
The business now has six full time staff, 20 stockists across the UK and distributors operating in the USA and Republic, and its instruments are listed on the Guitar Centre/Musician Friend's online platform - the largest seller in the world.
The firm's growth came after working capital finance support from responsible finance provider Enterprise Northern Ireland. Sales growth meant the business needed a cash flow facility to fund larger raw material purchases for their handmade musical instruments in order to be in a position to fulfil new orders as they come in.
Henderson said: “It is a privilege to have been short-listed for this great award. It is a credit to the entire team behind Ruach, and our collective efforts over the past six years building the business to where it is today, and toward its vision.”
The Citi Micro-entrepreneurship Awards celebrate micro-entrepreneurs who have accessed “responsible” business finance, and the four young entrepreneur of the year award finalists are in the running for a £7,500 cash prize and national and international recognition in the awards, which culminate in Glasgow on March 20.
Donal Leahy of Enterprise NI said: “Huge credit is due to Stephen for his enterprising ability and diligence in entering such a competitive music equipment retail market. We've been thrilled to help Stephen and the Ruach team to amplify the world's love for music.”
Another Enterprise NI client, Killbran Toy Trailers, is also a finalist, having made the short-list in the Sustainability Award.