A Colbea Success Story – Ribbon and Label Supplies

A Colbea Success Story


Ribbon & Label Supplies, run by Mark Lister, is a business that does what it says on the tin – supplying the right solution, with a barcode that goes beep first time every time. Mark has been a Colbea client since 2011 and a tenant since 2013. We spoke to him about his business journey, and how Colbea have helped him on his way.


“I started my business in 2011, having worked in the industry for 16 years. I had become frustrated after going along to sales meetings (often with multi-national corporations including Tesco, Argos and B&Q among others) and having to justify projected figures.


“I realised I could do my job better if I was my own boss. I set up an office in my garden. I got a computer, a printer and a phone, and starting calling around potential clients to ask them how I could help them with their label supplies.


“In my first year, I turned over £100,000 – almost to the penny!”


Keeping Things Local

Mark has built his business on a loyal and local client base, working mainly with businesses within an hour of Colchester. By keeping things as local as possible (Mark also buys from local or UK suppliers wherever possible) his client base is always on his doorstep, and he is always on hand to resolve any issues, often face to face.


Mark uses his extensive experience in the industry to solve issues and find solutions. “I try to put people back on track, make them as lean as possible (some suppliers will provide a solution closer to one size fits all, which often includes a lot of waste). “I advise clients on what they need – for example; will a label be left outdoors? If so a paper label isn’t any good, so I can advise them what will work.”


“I get more satisfaction working with a local business and helping them to get it right. There are more day-to-day relationships than my previous job working with much larger companies. I can work on keeping customers happy by providing them something that works.”


One problem that stumps many business owners, especially sole traders or businesses with few employees, is what happens if they aren’t there. Mark has spent a lot of time on Ribbon and Label Supplies’ business processes, making it possible for others to pick up where he left off. “The business can still run even if I’m off sick or away – anybody can step in and do it.”


Mark is reluctant to go too big. He has created a business that works for him and provides him and his family with everything they need. Mark’s situation is a fine example of the freedom and flexibility of running your own business. The direction you take it is your choice. Entrepreneurs you read about on Forbes may have taken everything they’ve earned and gambled in on “a turn of pitch and toss,” but many business owners create a successful and enjoyable career for themselves – to support and fit around their lifestyle. “I can make life easier for my children – I couldn’t have done that working for somebody else. I enjoy my job, I can’t imagine working for someone else again.”

Colchester Business Celebration

Coming to Colbea

“I initially came to Colbea in October 2011, when I attended the first ever BIG networking meeting (Mark is now one of two members still attending from that initial gathering over five years ago).


“I have since gone on to win two Colbea Business Awards” – Mark was named ‘Business Improvement Group’ Best Client in 2015 and overall ‘Best Colbea Client’ in 2016 – “and was shortlisted in the Essex Small Business Awards, which was a fun night even if I didn’t win.”


“After two years I took on a Colbea Business Advisor. Six months later I moved into the Colchester Business Centre, originally renting the office next door to where I am now. I looked around Colchester at other offices and commercial properties, but Colbea’s Business Centres were the best place for me – in terms of the services and facilities on offer, it made perfect sense. Not long after, I moved next door into a bigger office, where I remain today.”


According to Mark, there are many selling points to the Colbea Central Colchester Business Centre, “I can access my office 24 hours a day – which is so handy. You can park your car on site – some of the offices I looked at you had to park your car five minutes away. That might not sound like much, but if you’re lugging boxes of stock up to your office, it’s a different story. The location is great – it’s handy if I want to pop into town, or into the bank, or even walk or cycle to work. Plus you have access to facilities such as a kitchen.”


And on top of the facilities, there is the free business advice on hand for tenants, “the likes of (Colbea Business Advisors) James Cracknell and Keith Powell have been so helpful. I’ve never been afraid to go and knock on their door and as for advice.”


In terms of Colbea, Mark can’t speak highly enough of the support he’s received; “I don’t think you can beat the service you get from Colbea – the friendliness of the staff, their willingness to help. It’s little things like when the team bring my post to the door or popping into reception for a chat – on the good and the bad days! They look after you so well.”


Into the future

Now five and a half years old, Ribbon and Label Supplies is an established business which makes money for Mark every month – even allowing him to take on a part-time accounting employ to let him focus on sales. But it wasn’t always this way; “When I first started, I was in here every day eight ‘til eight. Now the business works for me.”


Ribbon and Label Supplies has grown year on year. Of course, there are still the usual problems to manage – today the printer isn’t working, “and I’m in the industry!”

Ribbon and Label Supplies is run using a simple ethos. The service, according to Mark, “does everything it needs to, and does it efficiently and well. Everything you buy has a label on it. Barcodes, labels, stickers and we help our clients find the right solutions.” By doing this, Ribbon and Label Supplies supply 188,000 square metres of roll labels, nearly 365,000 metres of printer ribbons and 7,500 square metres of label sheets every month!

For labelling and barcoding solutions from a local company that cares, call Mark on 01206 808268 or click here