A London social enterprise has secured a string of high street approvals after tapping into support from the Business Growth Service.

Fashion Enter has built on existing contracts with ASOS and Marks and Spencer by passing compliance audits for supplying high quality garments to Tesco, Harrods and Phase 8.

Chief Executive Officer Jenny Holloway, a retail expert with more than 25 years experience, believes it underlines the UK’s ability to compete against international textile rivals on quality and price.

The recent successes have been achieved after it worked with manufacturing experts from the Business Growth Service to improve its processes, lead times and scaling up operations so that it can produce up to 7000 garments a week – a 500% increase on 2013 levels.

“It drives me bonkers when I see the same reports being wheeled out about the UK not being able to go head to head with international textile producers…it’s simply not true and we are living proof of that,” explained Jenny.

‘We have gone from constructing a few samples for designers to supplying hundreds of thousands of high quality garments every year in a range of jersey and woven fabrics for ladies soft separates.”

She continued: “The journey hasn’t been easy due to an initial lack of skilled machinists. However, we are now even beating firms from Turkey on price and very few offshore manufacturers can match us on our lead times – often just two to four weeks from the order first being placed.

“This couldn’t have been done without the support of the Business Growth Service, who we have been working with since attending one of its workshops in 2012. The external support, impartial review of our business and the way they shared lean manufacturing knowledge has been massively beneficial.”

Jenny’s initial vision was to start a fashion forum to help young designers start out, but it wasn’t long before she had started a small sampling operation to help provide cut, make and trim services.

“We were so lucky to have that financial support. It enabled us to secure all machines and provide a flow of production and, to this day, we are immensely loyal to ASOS, who we still work very closely with on fast-track jersey production.

“I was completely out of my comfort zone for the first six months. It was naive to think I could achieve a successful manufacturing business when all we were used to was making individual samples. That’s where the Business Growth Service came into its own.”

Business Growth Manager Jeff Mallows was invited in to review the existing operation and, working with specialist Nigel Rust, immediately identified a number of improvements that could be made relatively easily.

This involved reducing waste by greater stock control, introducing a ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing approach and measuring production cycle times by implementing Galaxius smartphone technology.

The first impact of this assistance was Fashion Enter securing compliance to supply a third of all the garments for London 2012’s Opening Ceremony, but now the success is based on the firm’s ability to scale up production.

“We initially wanted to manufacture 2000 units per week and we thought that was ambitious. With the support we’ve had and the transparency we now enjoy, we can easily get 7000 garments out the door every seven days,” added Jenny.

“This has seen us grow to over 100 part and full-time staff and turnover increase to £2.3m, with new recent approvals expected to add another £200,000 of sales.”

Jeff Mallows added his support: “Fashion Enter is tapping into the popularity of the ‘Made in the UK’ brand and growing rapidly…our role was to make sure they could meet customer quality guidelines and the volume increases that have followed.

“With a lot of hard work, the buy-in of the excellent staff and specialist external support, the company now has a world class fashion production business that is perfectly set-up to make the most of new opportunities.”

Fashion Enter has a number of ambitious plans to move the social enterprise forward, starting with the rollout of its Belles of London collection through television channel QVC.

It is also seeing exponential growth in its Fashion Technology Academy, which is providing up to 5000 apprentices over a 5-year period with specialist training on stitching, garment technology and product development.

Jenny concluded: “I’d never go back to the world of buying. Manufacturing should be the backbone to the UK economy and, with the support of organisations like the Business Growth Service, it will be.”

For further information, please visit www.fashion-enter.com or follow @fashioncapital on twitter. Details on the Business Growth Service can be found at www.greatbusines.gov.uk/mas or follow @mas_works.