Thursday, 24 September 2009

BBC Visit LJ Create - 30 Years On.

LJ Create, the educational resources development and manufacturing company, will be appearing in the BBC local East Anglia TV news throughout today (24th September).

A BBC Look East programme from 1979 was uncovered that featured Larry Rowe, the managing director of LJ Create Ltd, winning a competition for one year’s free use of a new factory in Bowthorpe, Norwich. The competition for local people who had good ideas for new companies and needed a helping hand it turning the idea into a business. Perhaps this was even an early go at a formula that has produced the incredibly popular Apprentice TV series.

Larry had been making electronic circuit boards for use in education for himself colleagues at City College, Norwich where he lectured. Through a network of friends, college tutors, other colleges heard about his work and commissioned boards as well. Before he knew it, Larry had a small production line running from his home and even paid his teenage son, Chris, pocket money to help solder circuit boards. Each board was branded LJ Electronics, with the LJ coming from Larry’s initials, L. J. Rowe.

It was Larry's son who suggested that Larry enter the competition to win the use of factory and make the giant leap from a cottage industry into a fully commercial operation. Larry eventually agreed to send the entry form in.

On the 6th June 1979, Larry was delighted to be presented with the key to his factory as the first prize in the competition, in front of a large gathering of local press and TV cameras. The judges were very impressed with Larry’s hard work to date, the innovational electronics teaching products he had designed, and the gap in the market he described.

Although Larry found out that one of the judges, TV’s business trouble-shooter John Swinfield, said that it was unlikely that an "ordinary man of the street" with no knowledge of running a business would be able to keep this sort of business running more than a year!

LJ Electronics Ltd was born. Larry was given a year’s sabbatical from the College and Chris took a gap year from the University at Aston to help Larry. They started to recruit help straight away as they knew that they would need a workforce to produce enough products to support the cost of running the factory when the free year ran out. 30 years on, Larry never returned to the college and Chris didn’t take up his place in Aston University.

In 2009, with a new name to represent a far more diverse product range LJ Create is going strong. LJ Create is now a multinational business with £14 million turn over. Students all over the world are using educational equipment, curriculum resources and high quality computer software from LJ to learn about science, IT, engineering, media design, automotive skills and of course, electronics.

BBC Look East came back to LJ to talk to Larry about his success and see how the company has grown. The head office is in the same industrial estate in Bowthorpe, Norwich where it was founded, but now the company occupies several larger units and has additional offices overseas.

Larry, who is still very much at the helm is proud of his company and told the BBC that he owes his success to a very talented workforce and luck. But we all know that the success of the company is due to Larry's 30 years of hard work.

The footage of the BBC program can be found in YouTube