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The fantastic four that truly are the West's best

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 18, 2012

  • Plymouth-based Vi-Spring

  • SunGift Solar

  • Stagecoach South West MD Michelle Hargreaves

  • Right, Rob Mouser, managing director of Bovey Tracey-based Plastic Surgeon

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Vi-Spring

Plymouth bed-maker Vi-Spring has already bagged a prestigious Queen Award for Enterprise in International Trade this year on the back of impressive overseas growth.

The company hand-makes 500 luxury divans and mattresses every week and has seen its overseas sales increase by 64 per cent since 2008, with overseas sales accounting for a third of its £35 million turnover in 2011.

The company – which is privately owned by a Spanish family – relocated to the Westcountry in the early 1970s and it now employs 193 staff from its Ernesettle base.

Hand-made from natural fibres and pocket-sprung – a method which the company pioneered – its beds retail from between £2,000 and £30,000, with celebrity clients including the Beckhams, Paris Hilton and Tom Daley.

Vi-Spring has established a market in mainland Europe and also is building upon its distributor leads established in North America over the past three years.

Vi-Spring pioneered the world's first pocket sprung mattress in 1901, revolutionising the way beds were made.

In March 2011, Vi-Spring became the first UK bed-maker to be awarded the Woolmark for its Shetland Collection of all-wool beds. In the same year, Vi-Spring was presented with a prestigious gold award for Best Wool Product at The House Beautiful Awards 2011 for its Shetland Collection.

Vi-Spring has also been voted top mattress brand by the UK's largest consumer group, Which? for the second year running.

SunGift Solar

SunGift Solar is renewable energy specialist which has grown from a one-man operation to employ a staff of more than 40.

SunGift Solar, which was established in 2006 by Gabriel Wondrausch, is based on Exeter's Matford Business Park.

The £2.5 million turnover company specialises in the supply and installation of tailored renewable energy systems to meet its customers' exact requirements.

Mr Wondrausch began by installing solar thermal systems for hot water heating, but the company now fits most renewable technologies, from solar PV panels and heat pumps to biomass boilers, small wind turbines and 'whole-house' integrated systems.

The company receives between around 50 and 60 queries a week from customers within its core market, which covers Devon, Cornwall and parts of Somerset.

Clients range from domestic households and smallholders, through to farmers, businesses and local authorities, with the company also undertaking significant large-scale commissions.

In addition to installing renewable energy technologies, SunGift is a major supplier and distributor of systems and components to installers across the UK, including a number of smaller Westcountry firms.

SunGift was one of the first installers in Devon to be accredited to the Government's microgeneration scheme, to which all suppliers must belong in order for clients to qualify for FiT payments.

It is currently one of the only companies in the UK to hold this certification for five different renewable technologies.

It has twice been named Renewable Energy Installer of the Year at the South West Green Energy Awards and is one of the most highly-rated renewable energy installers, according to consumers votes on the YouGen website.

While many installers and suppliers have struggled over the past 12 months with the uncertainties of the Feed in Tariff regime, SunGift has managed to diversify its offering and retain its position in the market.

This year it has opened a trade distribution centre in Exeter to pass on its expertise to other installers and it has represented the South West at two national renewable energy exhibitions.

Stagecoach South West

Stagecoach South West provides bus services across Exeter, East Devon, Torbay, South Devon, North Devon, Somerset and into Cornwall and Dorset. It aim is to provide safe, clean, reliable, punctual and greener, smarter bus services which offer customers good value for money.

Despite the challenging economic outlook, the firm has invested in new buses and retained rural routes.

Stagecoach South West has notched up 14 million miles and carried 27 million passengers in the last year, investing £15 million in new vehicles over the past year, with further investment planned for November.

The firm has a strong emphasis on customer service with complaints responded to within seven days and feedback used to improve its services.

Excluding school buses, 99 % of its fleet is low floor or wheelchair lift equipped with plans to have all services easy-access by the end of 2012.

In the past year 96.9% of services operated within five minutes of their scheduled time.

In April 2010, it launched a sustainability strategy to reduce buildings' CO2 emissions by 8% and transport CO2 emissions by 3% across a five-year period from 2009/10. In early 2011, the strategy was rolled out to all operating companies with the formation of local Green Teams tasked to reduce buildings' energy use.

In the South West, it achieved a 17.9% year-on-year saving in 2011 to 2012 in CO2 tonnes buildings emissions. In addition, Stagecoach South West has introduced environmental measures across engineering and driving functions, encouraged staff to improve their recycling rates and run a cycle-purchase scheme to help them cycle to work – with more than 80 signing up for the first round of the scheme.

Plastic Surgeon

An award-winning repairs business which has saved construction company clients a small fortune during the downturn, has grown its workforce by 25% since the recession began.

Earlier this year the Plastic Surgeon, based at Bovey Tracey, welcomed six new recruits to its 125-strong team, 12 years after being established as a "man and van" based enterprise.

The business, which earlier this summer was named Specialist Contractor of the Year at the Construction News Awards, repairs cracks, scratches and gouges in anything from plastic, masonry and render to glass, metal and wood.

Clients range from construction and building trade clients, maintenance firms and all the major national insurers. The business has a nationwide network of directly-employed troubleshooters on call to effect repairs, which has grown from 80 in 2008, to 100 today. It also has a 25-strong staff based at its Devon head office.

The company has recently added a new sector within its client portfolio. It has signed deals with two cruise ship operators to maintain the cabins of seven passenger ships.

Plastic Surgeon fixers and finishers board the vessels at UK ports and undertake their work, as the ships voyage around the continent.

The company increased its turnover by 14% last year, with new leads such as the cruise ship market broadening its reach and reducing its exposure where the downturn has hit.

Across the South West, it has a presence across a breadth of sectors, while in the London and South East area the housebuilding sector is buoyant enough to maintain its work levels.

The business also has a presence in the leisure parks industry, including Thorpe Park.

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