Hopkins Catering Equipment Ltd | CommonwealthFirst | World Champion in SME Support

Hopkins Catering Equipment Ltd – Second Cohort Export Champion


Manufacturing of Fish & Chip equipment

Location: Leeds
Company website: www.hopkins.biz
Sector: Manufacturing



Established in 1957, Hopkins is a family run business and manufacturer of products for commercial catering, combining the best of modern technology with traditional craftsmanship. Whilst the core of its business is with fish and chip shops, they have now diversified to sell all types of commercial catering equipment to the food service industry. Its team consists of highly skilled fabricators, designers and engineers and kitchen design team specialists.

The company is now often asked to embark on engineering projects outside the scope of food service, manufacturing bespoke items for customers. Recent projects have included a floating staircase, a multi-level hydraulic dining room table, equipment for the Ministry of Defence, and stainless steel doors. Hopkins also have an online eCommerce site which features thousands of products for those clients who wish to purchase equipment only.

CommonwealthFirst will work with Hopkins to internationalise the company and take their designs to exciting new markets.


Apply now to become an Export Champion.

How did you hear about the CWF programme and what made you apply?
I was asked to speak at a seminar about how Brexit had affected our business and was explaining that most of our exports were to non-European countries and the opportunities for export extended far beyond Europe but are often overlooked. After the event I received an email from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) who suggested I apply. As soon as I read through the information on the CommonwealthFirst website I really wanted to be part of the programme. I believe that this is a truly fantastic initiative and I feel very privileged to have been selected.

How did the idea for your business come about?
My Grandfather established Hopkins 60 years ago in 1957. He was an engineer by trade and innovative in his outlook. Seeing an opportunity within the fish and chip industry led him to manufacture fish frying ranges and the business evolved from there. Over the years we have diversified and now supply equipment to the food service industry.

What are the biggest trade and export challenges you face?
Fear of the unknown, compliance with country specific product certification, protection of Intellectual Property/legal issues.

What are the most crucial things you have done to grow and develop your business?
We have spent the past few years investing in our manufacturing department both with new machinery and implementing a Lean culture – which resulted in increasing our production capacity by 20%. I am a advocate of innovation and now we have the right foundations in place we are able to not only develop our existing business but look at diversifying into new markets.

What are you hoping to get out of the CWF programme?
I’m looking forward to gaining an insight and access to markets we have not yet done business with. In addition to this I hope to strengthen my knowledge of the countries we already sell into. It will also be valuable to share the experience with other members of the cohort who are on various stages of their export journey.

What is a typical working day for you?
Manic! Up at 6am, drop my 10 year old daughter off at school, into the office deal with whatever the day has in store for me which can vary hugely depending on what’s going on, collect my daughter from school at 5pm and take her to dance lessons (she trains every night of the week), while she’s dancing I catch up with emails and phone calls, then home around 8 or 9pm, dinner, then collapse into bed.

Where would you like your business to be in 5 years time?
I would like to double our turnover with at least 30% of total sales that attributable to export.

What advice would you give to anybody looking to set up an SME?
You need to be committed to learning about all aspects of business – sales, marketing, finance, operations etc. Cash management is also incredibly important. I would also highly recommend getting a business mentor/coach to act as a support mechanism when the going gets tough…which it will!


This interview was conducted as part of the CommonwealthFirst Export Champion interview series. Apply now to become an Export Champion.