Charles Owen & Co (Bow) Ltd moved from London to the Wrexham Industrial Estate in 1986. They were a company in search of a place where they could expand their manufacturing business . "The difference in attitude by Wrexham Council could not had been different ," said Roy Burek, Managing Director . " The council are very supportive of the business community and that support has helped our business grow."
Ask anybody in the horse world and they will know of Charles Owen . The name is one of the premier brands worldwide and is built upon a reputation of service and quality. A truly important factor when the equipment you buy can mean the difference between life and death.
"In business, we often refer to 'life and death issues'. In Charles Owen, the nature of our product means that it can mean just that to our customers and this makes us all strive that much harder."
The company is a world authority on protecting the body from injury. Its range of riding hats, jockey helmets and body protectors meet all the major standards in the world and are certified by both the British Standards Institute and the american Safety Equipment Institute based in Washington DC. "We must be one of the most inspected companies in the world, but at least we can say that its all for the benefit of our users."
Producing products is just a fraction of their expertise. They sit upon the committees that develop the standards in Britain, in Europe and in the USA. They are involved in the collection and investigation of accident statistics. They were flown out as an expert witness to help the US Eventing Association to adopt the correct helmet rules. Currently, they are involved with helping the US Racing Board ,based in Kentucky, dealing with a dispute with the jockeys and their helmets.
The company is a prolific collector of awards. They were granted a Royal Warrant to Her Majesty the Queen in 1984. Four years running, readers from You Horse magazine have voted one of their products, Best Safety Product. Their managing Director was presented with the first ever "Safety Good Guy Award" by the British Horse Society. Last week, Wrexham Civic Trust chose their new factory as "Best New Building for 2003/2004, the only award granted by the Trust this year in all four categories.
" To be the best, you have to be prepared to do things differently. When it came to the building, we wanted to do something that symbolised what Charles Owen was all about. I was over the moon when I was presented with the award, it showed that we had achieved our goal of being the best," said Roy Burek, grandson of the founder.
So what is the secret of their success? " You have to have passion. To feed that passion you have know that you are doing a worthwhile job. Getting a phonecall from a parent whose child's life you have saved feeds our passion."
Charles Owen Limited has customers ranging from riding schools to royalty and the Beckham boys.
The company develops and manufactures protective wear, including riding hats, for the equestrian industry. Based on the Croesfoel Industrial Estate, Charles Owen employs 80 people who work in teams using a combination of traditional skills and modern manufacturing processes.
The company started in business in London in 1911, initially producing army pith helmets. Sales of its riding helmets were given a boost by Esther Rantzen who highlighted the poor safety features of imported helmets on her ‘That’s Life’ TV programme. Today Charles Owen’s hats and other protective clothing are sold in 650 retail units throughout the UK and are exported worldwide. They have an office in the USA specifically to serve the American market.
The company relocated from London to in Cefn Mawr in ?? In 2001 it invested £1.5m in its current custom-built premises.
Roy Burek is the grandson of the founder of Charles Owen and is now owner and managing director of the company. He says the success of the business depends on its ability to embrace change: “We have introduced new methods of working and new technology which enables us to maintain the high quality and craftsmanship associated with Charles Owen while substantially increasing efficiency and production speeds. In doing so we have made the work more interesting – people no longer work on just one aspect of production, they work in small teams and are involved in the full process from start to completion.
“We face competition from the Far East, where they can manufacture more cheaply, but we beat them on comfort, style and fit, as well as on the all-important safety issues.”
Roy Burek was presented with the British Horse Society’s first ever Safety Good Guy Award. He has been involved with the society for a number of years and has instigated several safety initiatives.
Charles Owen now manufactures around 110,00 helmets a year, which still includes a small percentage of pith helmets, worn by the Band of the Royal Marines and by police officers in the West Indies.