Fireworks company hopes to come back from the pandemic with a bang!
Inspiration for what is believed to be the only moving firework system in the UK came to Rob Sosbe during his toughest time as a business owner. Watching light beams bounce around illuminated buildings in November 2020, part of their Covid-safe firework event watched online by nearly 250,000 people, has led to the design and build of the innovative ‘i-MOVE’ product. It is hoped this new product will reignite his business and help it come back better and stronger than before.
His business, Komodo Fireworks, based in his home office in Market Harborough, specialise in providing bespoke, dynamic and musical firework displays for weddings, bonfire nights and other special occasions. The business was set up by Rob in 2004 with a friend after spending many years gaining experience working for others, leading on their displays but often feeling there was more they could do.
Mechanical engineer Rob, ran the business in his spare time while working as a project manager handling multi-million-pound contracts in the nuclear industry. Komodo’s success grew year-on-year, producing shows on a par with its bigger and more established peers so Rob left his employment six years ago to work on Komodo full time. Profits were ploughed back into the business and ongoing training for his people. He has a team of 50 part-time display managers and operators who do the preparation work and run the shows.
Sadly like all event companies Komodo was hit hard by Covid-19 which affected two summer wedding seasons, despite restrictions easing here and there. However, it did give Rob the time to look at opportunities in fireworks and new effects, and this is where the new ‘i-MOVE’ project stemmed from.
Rob wanted to bring something totally new to the market, giving them the potential to grow rapidly post Covid.
Essentially the business has reverse-engineered existing equipment on the market for lighting, removing the light and putting fireworks in their place. They can drive the ‘i-MOVE’ unit to independent positions and move it in a 360-degree tilt and pan movement throughout a show so fireworks synchronise in time with the music – this has never been done before. They’ve also built a bespoke mounting system in the lamp unit that contains fireworks and the firing system to enable them to remotely fire the product using the existing kit. (View one of their shows where their new kit was used https://vimeo.com/582524719).
Buying a new lighting unit would have cost around £10,000 so a second-hand unit was the most cost-effective option. After months of research and development with some hiccups along the way, they had their first unit working as they wanted it.
Rob began to explore additional funding to support the project so they could build more units to use at shows.
Already connected to the Business Gateway Growth Hub having received business planning support when he first started, Rob got in touch again to ask for help. He was put in touch with Business Adviser Paul Bennett, who loved Rob’s idea.
However, timing wasn’t on their side. Komodo had come to the Business Gateway towards the end of the last round of grant funding which meant there was a possibility that they would miss out on a Business Growth Grant.
Rob faced huge time pressure to get all the documentation in before the application deadline and had to work tirelessly to get everything in working closely with Paul. Komodo received a £6,000 grant, 35% of the total £18,000 costs for controls and software.
He said: “Paul’s help was like gold dust. He was able to steer us in the right direction with specific details on what the panel wanted. With the timescales we had, that kind of help was so useful. Paul and Priti, who was dealing with paperwork in the office, were absolutely brilliant, putting in extra hours and their own time to make sure we got the grant through.”
Rob estimated with other ancillaries and component assets the ‘i-MOVE’ project would take the overall investment well into £40,000.
He added: “I think it’s great, we’ve had some recognition of the work that we’re doing through this grant approval. Recognition from our peers in the business community for an innovative project they can support. It’s a pat on the back from our perspective and it encourages us as a business to start to look at other opportunities for us to grow and develop.”
Paul Bennett added: “This grant application was certainly not a typical case involving product innovation and the use of multiple parts – some second-hand to build the ‘i-MOVE’ – as well as having to meet the pressure of tight timescales.
“However, I could see great potential in both Komodo and this growth project and wanted to support it, helping secure its future especially after being hit so hard by the pandemic.
“This story shows how businesses can bounce back from difficult times by thinking outside the box. Huge credit to Rob also for believing in his business and not giving up.”
Rob believes it will take his business about two and a half years to get back to pre-Covid levels. But with the new ‘i-MOVE’ project to bolster additional work and further opportunities, he hopes to do this much quicker, create a full-time position and achieve a 25% growth rate.
The Business Gateway Grant is open again for applications from Leicester and Leicestershire SMEs. Further details can be seen on the Business Gateway website. Alternatively call 0116 366 8487 or email email@example.com
The Business Gateway Growth Hub service is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by a partnership that includes Leicester City Council, Leicestershire County Council, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Limited (LLEP).
Pic 1: L-R Rob Sosbe, MD of Komodo Fireworks with Paul Bennett, Business Gateway adviser and three of the ‘i-MOVE’ units
Pic 2: Rob Sosbe of Komodo Fireworks controls the i-MOVE equipment via his laptop
Pic 3: Rob Sosbe of Komodo has created the i-MOVE by reengineering unwanted lighting equipment
(Images by Sarah Salotti Photography).