Diversification grant helps FRO Blinds launch ready-made curtains range

A high street blinds business is branching out after receiving a diversification grant through Telford & Wrekin Council’s Pride in Our High Street programme.

Diversification grant helps FRO Blinds launch ready-made curtains range

FRO Blinds has landed the funding to make changes to its Wellington shop and accommodate a new range of ready-made and ready-made-to-measure curtains.

Owner Andrew Simpson has identified a gap in the market for the curtain range following the closure of other blind and curtain makers in Telford.

FRO Blinds, which launched in October 2021 with the support of a Pride in Our High Street business start-up grant, is now the only major high street retailer (along with Dunelm and Next) which stocks ready-made curtains locally.

The business, which has become a popular addition to Market Street in Wellington, has grown rapidly and launched a new manufacturing unit in September 2022 as it continues to expand.

A 1200sq ft industrial unit at Trench Lock 3, Telford is where FRO Blinds manufacture its full range of blinds and curtains and the opening of the base created additional jobs.

Andrew has used the grant to make changes to the shop and accommodate and launch the new product range in addition to his current stock. 

The grant has also been used to purchase a specialist guillotine for thermal blinds which will enable the business to make significant production cost savings.

The ready-made curtains range will also benefit homeowners - providing significant cost savings when new home windows need to be furnished.

Andrew is forecasting further growth this year and at the end of his five year lease he has ambitions to bring his manufacturing and sales into one larger unit in Wellington.

After previously working self-employed for well-known national firm Hillarys Blinds, Andrew gained vast experience in the blinds industry before going solo to set up his FRO Blinds venture.

Andrew said: “We’re really pleased and grateful to receive a diversification grant to help us expand our manufacturing and introduce this new ready-made curtain range.

“Since we opened the Wellington showroom in 2021 the business has continued to expand but we are always looking to grow further and increase our customer base through new products and by branching out into other areas of the blind and curtains marketplace.

“There is a gap in the market for ready-made curtains and we are really excited to launch these new products from our store which will hopefully popular with new and existing customers.”

High street businesses of all types can benefit from the diversification grant which ranges from £500 to £4,000.

The grant can help businesses to pay for training in a new practical or technical skill that will either help them branch out into other areas or make them more resilient.

Funding can also help businesses to introduce new product lines to gain sales and purchase new equipment which supports the continued operation of the business.

The grant can also be used to provide marketing collateral including improved signage and packaging or cover advertising and promotion costs.

Councillor Lee Carter (Lab), Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet member for neighbourhood services, regeneration and the high street, said: “We are delighted to support FRO Blinds Ltd with this diversification grant.

“This funding is helping FRO Blinds build on what has been established already and also explore new avenues to support business growth and capitalise on new opportunities.

“This business has been a fantastic addition to Wellington since it launched and has a clear plan to grow and bring further footfall to the high street.

“Our diversification grant shows that we remain committed to supporting high street businesses, particularly at a time when they need our help the most.”

If you are interested in applying for a diversification grant, please email prideinourhighstreet@telford.gov.uk or phone 01952 387805. 

Or find out more about the diversification grant and other Pride in Our High Street funding here.

Photo: FRO Blinds owner Andrew Simpson, centre, with Cllrs Angela McClements and Graham Cook.