Meet The Founders: Chris Ogden of Laser Partners UK
Have you ever been to laser quest, and thought hmmmm I wish I knew more about some of the business uses for real-life lasers, well look no further! This week we were so excited to sit down with Chris Ogden from Laser Partners UK, another founder on our Cooper Project program. Here he gave us some fantastic insights into lasers, their benefits, his business story and how he got into the laser industry!
What is your name and company name?
My name is Chris Ogden, and my company is called Laser Partners UK.
Tell me a little about your business?
Our business is in industrial laser systems. So, we're using lasers for different processes like marking, welding, cutting, cladding, there's a whole host of different applications that you can use lasers for now. I do a bit of consulting work helping companies introduce a laser, industrial laser processing, or if they've already got it get the most out of their systems, but more so involved in supplying systems and accessories for industrial laser processing, as well.
How long have you been going for?
Started the company about a year ago but I've worked in the laser industry for just over 20 years now. It's going well so far!
What made you start the company?
It's something I've always wanted to do. And so I thought, if I don’t actually do it now I’ll never get around to it. So yeah, I kicked it off around a year ago, and it's building up quite well, really.
How has it been so far?
It’s been very good! We deal with lots of different areas. So currently we're working in the NHS doing instrument marking for hospitals or supplying the systems for that kind of thing. So that's a good area for us. But also, we're on laser welding as well, we've distributed out for a company that manufactures laser welding systems. We had a first sale for them some months back. That's due to be installed quite soon. So yes, a lot of interest really. It's a big growth sector, lasers can be used in lots of different industries now.
Have you always wanted to be self-employed or a solo-entrepreneur?
It’s definitely something I’ve always fancied doing. I started working from home and then I got to hear about the Cooper project. It's a great place to come into and all the help and advice they give you, you know, it's fantastic. I'm sure we wouldn't be at this stage without all the help we get from Tom and Rose, and all the other people here as well. It's a great environment for the startup company.
How did you find work from home, I guess you were employed and then worked from home, and now co-working?
I’ve always worked from home so I was used to it a little bit. I would go out and see customers quite a lot so it was okay, it's not something I would want to do five days a week. Coming here though with people to talk over ideas with and problems and challenges with and stuff like that is super useful. It's a great environment for a new company, and also the access they give you to loads of services and resources is fantastic. You get links with Sheffield, Hallam University and the research and innovation projects that they're working on at the moment as well.
Where do you kind of see the company going in the next few years? What's your vision for the future?
We've got like a five year plan to develop the business. We've hit all our targets so far, but I think getting involved more in the supply of systems for specific laser technologies is something that we're looking at at the moment. So we're finding niche areas for laser applications. The laser market is a very competitive area but there's good opportunities for growth. For example with electric vehicles at the moment, there's a lot of new challenges for battery manufacturers, using lasers to make those cells better and faster and that is a huge growth sector at the moment. So we're trying to try to get involved in that as well at the moment
What was your biggest challenge that you faced in setting up the business?
We've done quite well really, getting new business and things like that. It's been difficult getting out to see people, a lot of it's done via video conferencing, like it is with most companies now. And so I think everybody's got used to that. It's something that I think people will use more and more in the future, it saves so much time, and for many meetings, it does work well. But being able to go out and demonstrate a laser, it's a technology that's so impressive to see, so fast. If you can get it in front of people, it's great to show the power actually works and what it can do. So that's, that's been a bit of a challenge really, not being able to do that as much. But things are getting much better now. And we're out, we're seeing customers more and more now.
What has been your biggest win since you started?
There's quite a number of areas really! I think the levels of interest that we're getting. And like I say, lasers are something that's predicted to grow hugely over the next 10 years or more.
Lasers are such a niche thing to do! Can I ask how you got into the laser industry?
Yeah, by accident a little bit really. I worked in the marking industry for many years and was eventually moved into research and development. And one of the projects I got there was developing a new range of laser marking systems. I very much enjoyed working in that area. Then I moved to another company where I got involved, not just in marking, but in welding and cutting and all of the kinds of processes. Not just low powered applications, but like really, really high powered applications as well. And so I've done work in loads of different areas, using lasers for all kinds of interesting applications. So it all went from there really. I think the knowledge I picked up along the way really is what's proven useful now.
What would be your biggest tip for a new entrepreneur starting out?
I'd say for me, getting in touch with Business Sheffield, and taking advice on all the things that you need to know about has been so valuable. I think that the advice you get here is fantastic. You've always got people to talk to, to ask advice on areas where you might not know. So things like; accounting, website development and, funding for innovation and things like that - the things I knew nothing about. That's a knowledge resource that you need. If you get in touch with a place like the Cooper Project, or Business Sheffield, there's lots of advice there that you can get that's so helpful. I would say that I think Sheffield seems a great place to be able to do it. I think the location and the Cooper building and what's around here, and the help and advice that is available is absolutely fantastic. And I think it's a great place to start a company.
Is there anything else that you'd like people to know about you or the company?
Yes, so we've just launched a website, laserpartnersuk.com. So we're keen for people to look at that. Lasers can be used for so many different applications, we can save companies loads of energy, really old processes like laser heat treatments and conventional hardening can be replaced by lasers now, which can save huge amounts of energy, gas and electrical costs. Electricity prices are through the roof at the moment! There's fantastic financial savings there to be made, as well as process improvements. There are lots of financial advantages to using lasers for different processes, and instead of old fashioned technology, which lots of companies still use. For example, using things like laser marking gets away from any consumables, so the mark goes directly onto the part. So it's a very fast process generally, it’s very cost effective, and very high quality. Those are just some of the advantages you get from lasers. It's worth looking into for lots of companies, and if people would like some more information there is a contact form on laserpartnersuk.com where they can get in touch.