April 17, 2024

Mother and son aiming to create golden future at Welsh family firm celebrating 50th anniversary

Chris Whittaker and Caroline Platt of Platts Agriculture Ltd , Llay . Picture Mandy Jones

A mother and son are leading from the front at a family-run animal bedding company that’s celebrating its 50th anniversary with a 25 per cent surge in sales.

Chris Whittaker, a third generation director at the Wrexham-based Platts Group, has already won a major honour and his mum, managing director Caroline Platt, has been shortlisted for another one.

Caroline, daughter of company founders Robert and Christine Platt, will be among the finalists in the sustainability category at the Institute of Directors’ Wales Director of the Year Awards on May 12.

Meanwhile, Chris goes forward to the UK final of the FSB’s Celebrating Small Business Awards having been named as Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the organisation’s Wales awards..

The recognition comes on the back of a hugely successful 2022 when Platts was crowned family firm of the year at the FSB’s UK awards.

Caroline has also been appointed to the FSB’s board of directors – a far cry from the company’s humble origins.

The firm’s headquarters on Llay Industrial Estate is called Parkleigh after the pig farm where it all started back in 1973.

The now retired Robert and Christine sourced a load of wood shavings from a joinery factory in Merseyside but it was a lot more than they needed for their own livestock, so they started bagging the rest and selling it to neighbouring farms.

Their fledging enterprise has grown into a market leader, manufacturing and delivering specialist animal bedding across the UK and Ireland and employing 65 staff, while  annual turnover has increased to around £8 million.

Chris, 26, was always destined to join the team at some point but his arrival was hastened by the pandemic when it was all hands to the pump.

Since joining family firm he has had experience working in every department and is now MD of associate company Platts Transport that’s become an award-winning haulage company in its own right.

Now two  new start-up companies have also been established under his leadership, one promoting fitness and nutrition for HGV drivers and a video-marketing content agency.

At the same time Chris has continued in his role as commercial director of Platts Agriculture where he has driven growth by securing new contracts with suppliers.

Chris said: “Winning the entrepreneurship award was an incredibly proud and humbling moment for me.

“Since I joined the company I have been given amazing support by all my colleagues who have enabled me to flourish.

“Starting a new company requires a huge amount of work and it is not something I could have done on my own so the award is recognition for all the members of our wonderful team.”

With Caroline at the helm, Platts has introduced a host of groundbreaking measures to make the operation environmentally sustainable, earning coveted Green Dragon accreditation.

The company has invested £1 million in two new baling lines which has led to a 30 per cent reduction in the use of polythene per unit and more recycled material being used in packaging.

At the same time, they have increased the number of bales being stacked on each pallet which means more can be delivered per lorry load.

In addition five new Mercedes trucks have been added to the fleet, making it 20 per cent more fuel efficient and reducing carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, a parcel of land affectionately known as Platts Pasture,  has been transformed into a wildlife haven, teeming with a host of different grasses and flowers, including bee orchids, and is buzzing with bees and damsel flies.

Caroline said: “We’re a family business in every sense of the word. Our wonderful workforce are like our extended family and we have a number of families spanning different generations within the business.

“There is a family culture embedded throughout the organisation and part of that is being passionate about being as environmentally sustainable as possible.

“At its core, Platts operates as a low- impact business, preventing a bi-product from the manufacturing industry from being burned or sent to landfill, and diverting thousands of  tonnes per year.

“These finished goods go onto serve the agricultural industry as bedding to promote positive welfare and prevent disease.

“I aim to inspire our growing team dedicated to continued growth and sustainable business practices and we now have a full-time, dedicated environmental professional as part of our management team.

“Being environmentally sustainable is not just a major priority in terms of safeguarding the future of our planet.

“There are now sound commercial reasons for adopting a greener approach to business and it can provide benefits for your customers whilst improving your bottom line.”

Robert added: “We’re incredibly proud of Caroline and Chris and how they have taken the company to the next level..

“It’s always been our wish that they carry it on which is lovely to see and it’s great that they’re making such a super job of it. They are creating their own wonderful legacy.

“As well as celebrating our golden jubilee, Platts can now look forward to a golden future as well.”