A FORMER winner of a Hartlepool Mail-backed competition has worked tirelessly to open his brand new factory - and still found time to back one of the town’s best sporting talents.
Ray Liddell, 43, has just seen his new factory on the Hunter House Industrial Estate in Hartlepool reach completion, after spending countless hours on getting it prepared.
Ray is hoping business will boom and that could include trade in countries all over the world.
And in the meantime, the big-hearted entrepreneur has kept up his backing of town canoeist Bethan Kelly, 17.
Ray rose to prominence when he won the Mail-backed If we can, you can competition for rising entrepreneurs in 2009 thanks to one of his products called The Cactus.
The Cactus is a plastic spike which can be fitted to fences to make life difficult for intruders.
Five years on, his two firms - Cactus and Solutions-Injection Moulding - are benefiting from the new premises.
Ray said: “I am expecting an explosion in orders. I am looking to sell in Australia which is a very different seasonal calendar from here. When it is quiet here, it will be busy there.
“I am looking to ship to Brazil and Japan as well”.
Ray is “looking at export opportunities” and is doing it by arranging to ship pallets out to countries including Germany, Spain and France.
It is easier to replenish stock in the countries he does business with.
The new 2,500 sq ft factory means the storage and handling of goods can be handled better over a bigger site.
But there’s a second reason for the expansion. Ray explained: “If we want opportunities to come, we need a bigger unit.”
Ray famously hit the headlines soon after his competition success. He foiled the antics of the monkeys of Gibraltar.
The Barbary Macaques were stealing underpants from local washing lines until residents bought hundreds of Ray’s award-winning plastic spikes which solved the problem.
The Cactus has also helped to solve similar headaches on the Algarve, in Portugal, where seagulls where making a mess over local houses.
Ray had originally been running Cactus Products from a unit at Usworth Road, in Hartlepool where he also operated Solutions-Injection Moulding from the same premises.
But the Cactus became so successful, he moved to the site where he has now expanded into a second unit.
Meanwhile, Ray is continuing to provide sponsorship support to Bethan who has been canoeing since 2008.
Ray has helped her by providing the financial support for equipment and travel costs to get to competitions.
He said: “She has put a lot of time into it and it is nice to see”.
Bethan, a Hartlepool Sixth Form College student, said: “Ray’s support has come as a real boost. I want to thank him for what he has done.”
She was seventh in the English championships in June and has five events left in this year’s Canoe Slalom Women’s Premier Division.