A self-confessed accidental entrepreneur, who became one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of colourful sensory putty, has secured a match-funded grant from the South Yorkshire Business Productivity Programme to help her unique business target future growth in international markets.
Ruby Sheldon launched her Carlton-based business Slime Party UK in 2018. Inspired by her daughter, who wanted to celebrate her birthday by inviting her friends to make slime together, Ruby decided to take matters into her own hands and began developing her slime making workshops.
The party proved to be an instant hit, and Ruby started receiving requests from other parents to host similar events. Sensing a small business opportunity Ruby decided to advertise her unique slime parties on a social media platform.
Within just a month, Ruby had secured party bookings for a full 12 months. As she began experimenting with new ways of making colourful, scented and sensory slime, she started selling her products online. When the Covid-19 pandemic forced Ruby to suspend her slime parties, she spent time developing her own unique compound, a sensory putty with a butter-slime texture designed to be thick and easy to hold, but also the perfect texture for stretching, squashing and encouraging sensory play.
Her unique products quickly caught the eye of national retailer Toymaster, and today Slime Party UK produces over 4,000 tubs of Ruby’s unique sensory putty each week. With demand for her services growing quickly, Ruby expanded her business, combining a manufacturing facility and colourful shop in Barnsley which opened its doors earlier this year.
With plans to expand her business internationally, Ruby knew that she needed to re-think the way her sensory putties were manufactured, enabling her to increase production to meet future demands and she decided to contact Enterprising Barnsley for help.
Working with key account manager Paul Johnson, Ruby secured funds through the South Yorkshire Business Productivity Programme, a match funded ERDF grant scheme, to enable her to automate her packaging processes. The funds helped Slime Party UK to invest in a labelling machine, allowing labels to be added to her pots of sensory putty automatically, rather than relying upon members of staff physically labelling her products.
The machinery helped to free up the time of two of her 13-strong workforce, enabling production capacity to increase, and since installing the new equipment, Slime Party UK has started to forge an international distribution network and even exhibited at trade shows in North America. The additional capacity created within the business has also enabled Ruby and her team to start developing a new range of sensory putties, and the company is also planning to release a range of gift sets in the near future.
Ruby Sheldon, Managing Director, Slime Party UK, said:
“When my daughter started getting interested in slime, I thought it would be a fairly short-lived fad, but I was genuinely amazed by the reactions my parties received and just how much they were in demand. As I delved more into the science behind slime, I began to realise the importance of sensory play in childhood development.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, when we were unable to host the regular parties that I had built my business around and so I began developing my own sensory putties. We launched them in 2021 and since that time the business has gone from strength to strength. We’re planning to expand internationally later this year, but our products were already in high demand, so I wanted to explore ways of improving the way our manufacturing processes.
From my very early days of trading, I’ve worked closely with the Enterprising Barnsley team: initially, through the Launchpad business support programme, which helped me to understand how to run a business, and they have also provided help and assistance as the business has grown and evolved.
One of the barriers we faced was the way each tub of slime was packaged. I knew that automating part of the production process could help, but the costs of purchasing the machinery were inhibitive. Paul suggested that I should apply to the Business Productivity Programme, and since securing the funds, it has helped to transform the business. I’ve really enjoyed working with Paul and he’s been very supportive of our plans and he always goes the extra mile when it comes to helping us.
Paul Johnson, Key Account Manager, Enterprising Barnsley, said:
“Although there are very few businesses out there who specialise in making sensory putties, like many businesses working in the manufacturing sector, Slime Party UKealised that to increase production, additional investment was required. Ruby realised that employing two members of staff to stick labels on her completed products was causing something of a bottleneck in her production line and realised that if the process was automated, her workforce could be used more effectively.
Ruby has worked closely with Enterprising Barnsley since she first began developing her ideas, and it’s great to see how the business has grown and evolved over the past five years. The Business Productivity Grant scheme was developed to help businesses across South Yorkshire to overcome barriers to growth, and for Slime Party UK this meant being able to free up staff, which will help the business to increase its current production levels. Through the distribution network Ruby has forged, children across the world are enjoying Slime Party’s unique products, and I am looking forward to seeing how the business will develop in the future.”
The Business Productivity Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and provides businesses with 50% grant funding up to a maximum of £12,499, and the other 50% must be provided by the business. The maximum project application is £24,999 and can include investment in new equipment or machinery and consultancy services to help them overcome barriers to growth. The scheme is delivered by Enterprising Barnsley, Business Sheffield, Business Doncaster and the Rotherham Investment and Development Office (RiDO).
The next phase of grant funding available through the Business Productivity Programme will re-open in Summer 2023. Details how to apply to the scheme will be published in due course.
Main image caption:
Ruby Sheldon Director and founder of Slime Party UK, Paul Marshall Operations Manager Slime Party UK, Paul Johnson Key Account Manager Barnsley Council Vera Mackiewicz Putty Operative with the new Automated Labeling machine 7 June 2023 All Images © Paul David Drabble All rights Reserved www.pauldaviddrabble.co.uk