The future looks bright for Black Country ramp builder

Feb 10 | 2023

Deputy Editor David Jordan travels to the Black Country to visit a start-up company that is thriving despite the gloomy economic climate.

Darren Kendrick (left) and Anhar MiahFor those unfamiliar with English place names, the Black Country is an area of the West Midlands which was, in the 18th and 19th centuries, at the heart of the industrial revolution. Coal mines, steel mills, foundries and brickworks brought work to the masses and made millionaires of the industrial barons that owned them. Pollution from the thousands of factory chimneys turned everything - including the lungs of the people who lived there - black and was probably how the area got its name. Although the rich seams of coal, once found close to the surface, is another possible explanation.

I was heading to the town of Tipton - where among its other claims to fame - James Watt built his first steam engine, to meet Darren Kendrick and Anhar Miah, two young entrepreneurs who in 2021 decided to leave their secure well-paid jobs and start their own company designing and manufacturing aluminium ramps and access equipment.

Light-weight van ramps, designed for use with 3.5 tonne low loaders

Being only 10 miles from Birmingham, modern-day Tipton is now largely a commuter town.  The belching chimneys and coal mines are gone, and the air is once again fit to breathe, but there are still lots of businesses turning out high-quality products and providing work for the many skilled workers living in the area.

I first met Darren and Anhar at The Movers & Storers Show in November where their company, DnA Ramps and Access, was exhibiting. I was impressed by the products on the stand, but more so by their energy and enthusiasm and I was keen to learn more about them and their new business venture.

The DnA factory was buzzing with life when I arrived. Welders hunched over their benches wearing fearsome protective hoods to shield them from the electric-blue sparks, while others expertly wrapped newly finished aluminium ramps ready for dispatch.

Fabrication in progress

I joined Darren and Anhar in their small, welcomingly warm, office built on the edge of the shop floor. Before starting their business both men had worked in the ramp building industry for many years, Darren as a welder and fabricator, while Anhar, who has a degree in marketing, was an account manager for the same company.

I asked why they decided to start their own company? “Well, after 18 years I guess I just got tired of designing and making ramps for someone else to make money from,” said Darren. Anhar added, “It was a risk, but we both know the business very well and with Darren’s skills on the fabrication side and my marketing experience we thought we had a good chance of making it work.”

After acquiring a factory unit in Tipton, the guys spent the first six months promoting their products and designs online to generate sales before starting production.

Wrapping ramps for despatch

“To begin with it was just the two of us, with Darren handling the design and fabrication work and me doing the selling and marketing,” said Anhar. “After 12 months the headcount is up to seven, including ourselves, and the way the business is going it won’t be long before we need more staff.”

All DnA’s ramps are made at the factory in Tipton whether it’s an item from the extensive standard range, which can be bought via the company’s website, or a one-off bespoke design made to the customer’s specification.

“We listen carefully to our customers when they have a particular request and we’re always looking for ways to improve our products,” said Darren. “At The Movers & Storers Show for example, we were keen to present our folding van ramp, which is designed for use with 3.5 tonne low loaders. One concern visitors expressed about ramps in general was that in wet or icy conditions it was very easy for porters to slip due to the grip lines only being at right angles to the slope. We took that feedback onboard and devised a way of producing serrations on the ramp’s surface that gives 360-degree grip, making it much safer to use. We believe we’re the only manufacturer to offer this and we think it will prove popular, especially with removals companies who often have to work in bad weather.”

The specially designed ramp made for a disabled dog in Dudley

Some of DnA’s more unusual projects have included making a folding platform and access staircase for a bungee-jumping club in Whitby and a ramp to enable a disabled dog in Dudley to get down the steps to his back garden!

Items from DnA’s standard range are available for next-day delivery throughout the UK, or customers can collect their orders from the Tipton factory. “At present most of our customers are in the UK, but we’ve also shipped ramps to Italy, Spain and most recently Cyprus. That’s very encouraging and we’ll be looking to expand our international business in the future,” said Anhar.

Darren and Anhar realise it’s early days for the business and are investing most of their money in expanding their production facilities to enable more bespoke products to be manufactured. “We’re in this for the long term, not just trying to make a quick buck,” said Anhar. “The first 12 months have proved the business plan works, even in these difficult times, so we’ll be working hard to make sure we continue that success in the future.”

Photos (top to bottom):
Darren Kendrick (left) and Anhar Miah.
Light-weight van ramps, designed for use with 3.5 tonne low loaders.
Fabrication in progress.
Wrapping ramps for despatch.
The specially designed ramp made for a disabled dog in Dudley.