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Ahead of the Curve


From a friend’s garage to a 300sq m site, Sauce has been growing ever since its inception in 2011. Carys Evans spoke to Gary Bagstaff, director of the company about the process

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The installation of graphics for Diesel stores in Carnaby Street, London is one of Bagstaff’s favourite jobs

Creating a stir

Gary Bagstaff, director of Sauce, first cut his tooth in the print and sign industries when he started out as a trainee estimator within a signage company at the age of 20. According to Bagstaff, he instantly knew it was something he wanted to do for himself one day.

With this motivation in mind, he purchased a used Encad Novajet printer and began printing canvases of pop art images which he backed onto wooden frames made by his dad and sold at a weekend market.

For four years, Bagstaff sold prints at the market alongside his day job and when the print company he worked for at the time went bust after six months, it gave him the push to set up his own business. In 2010, Print Sauce was formed and in 2011, Bagstaff took on a 50% business partner.

Having started out in a friend’s garage as a one-man-band, business looks a little different today and Bagstaff now operates from a 300sq m site in the Welsh town of Caerphilly with a team of 11 by his side.

The company now occupies three industrial units - one for the office, one for production and one for vehicle branding. Over the years, Bagstaff says the company’s typical project value has grown and the type of clients it works with has changed from start-ups to corporate, healthcare, and education. Last month, Print Sauce had a rebrand and the company now operates solely as Sauce.

I want to grow the business so I can step away from day-to-day tasks and concentrate on business development

Describing the range of work the company now produces, Bagstaff says: “We do shop signs, interior wall graphics, vehicle graphics, and basic display stands. In-house we have large-format printers, laminators, mounting tables, and our own CNC (computer numerical controlled) cutter.” A humble guy, Bagstaff adds: “We won Vehicle Wrap of the Year in 2019 at the Sign Awards so we’ve done some good work, I guess.”

For Bagstaff, awards such as these have been a source of inspiration and an opportunity to see what companies ahead of Sauce are doing. He also credits support from industry members such as Sam Armstrong of Make it Happen.

Growing pains

As with growing any business, it’s not always plain sailing. Having entered the industry as a trainee, Bagstaff has experienced first-hand the journey of starting out and having to work his way up to owning his own company. The print and sign industries are often said to have limited entry routes with little courses or qualifications designed to encourage young people into the industry.

This is something Bagstaff is all too familiar with in terms of his own team. He explains: “In Wales, there’s no apprenticeship programme for sign-making or printing and that’s caused us an issue. We’ve been going for 11 years, and we’ve tried a few times to take on apprentice sign-makers but there’s no colleges in Wales that offer that qualification.

Eye-catching graphics produced for Tiny Rebel microbrewery

“We’ve got one member of staff that’s on an apprenticeship at the moment and she’s in the print department operating the printers and doing the basic stuff there. The college we’ve gone through is basically trying to adapt a business admin apprenticeship to suit what she’s doing and it’s not right.”

Another issue in terms of staffing that Bagstaff notes is a lack of skilled staff in areas such as vehicle wrapping and sign installation. “I think the people who do those jobs are tending to set up on their own now as contractors,” he says, adding: “Rather than look for employment with a company, they know they can earn more money as a subcontractor vehicle wrapper.

“They know they can earn £250 a day, whereas if they were employed by a company their salary would be a lot less. I’ve definitely seen a lot of that. It’s been a struggle to hire a qualified vehicle wrapper. At the moment, we are using a couple of subcontractors.”

Although managing staffing can be tricky at times, Bagstaff says “growing the company so it can support a team of great people and seeing them develop inside and outside of work” is something he is most proud of.

Bouncing back

For every business in every corner of the world, the last 18 months has brought with it its own set of challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For Bagstaff, the pandemic has been the biggest challenge the company has had to face in its 11 years of operation.

He says: “I am not normally a worrier but when Covid first happened, I had many sleepless nights and worried for the future of the company.” However, Bagstaff was able to adapt to the changing situation and Sauce began producing a range of Covid products. “We picked up a really nice contract that meant we could come out the other side in a good position,” he adds.

Now that businesses in Wales have been back open for some time, Bagstaff says clients are coming back to Sauce regarding quotes that they were given at the end of 2019, having not forgotten about them. “The other thing is that a lot of people are spending their government grants on improving their business, so I think that’s a good thing,” he says.

Sauce offers a large range of wide-format print services

When businesses had to operate solely from outside spaces, the Welsh government gave out grants to help businesses improve these areas. As a result, Sauce saw a rise in demand from cafes, restaurants, and bars all wanting to invest in canopies and other printed products to do just this.

“We didn’t use to do canopies to be honest, we always shied away from them, but I found a good company in Bolton called James Robertshaw, and we’ve started using them and they’ve been really good.”

A packed portfolio

Whilst Sauce produces a range of print and sign products for a variety of applications, a favourite of Bagstaff’s in recent years has been an installation at Carnaby Street’s Diesel store. The company was given five days’ notice from initial discussion to installation, however after Sauce produced eye-catching graphics for the store, Diesel was impressed with the look and design of the print as well as the ability to easily remove and update the graphics, and the job resulted in future work for the company.

Another example of a job produced by Sauce is one for Grange University Hospital. For this, the company applied commissioned artwork to a range of surfaces within the new children’s assessment unit. Due to the clinical environment of the hospital, the graphics had to be durable and able to be cleaned regularly with antibacterial sprays.

“We conducted a full survey and produced an artwork template for the designer showing doorways, televisions, pillars etc. This also meant we could work out the best areas for panel joins,” Bagstaff explains, adding: “Vinyl cut window graphics were applied with the design made to line up perfectly with wall graphics, the main reception desk was wrapped, and four assessment bays with full wall panels were wrapped.

“In addition, corridor walls were wrapped to match and all wall graphics were printed onto high grab wall vinyl with a matt finish overlaminate featuring antibacterial properties.”

Following a competitive tender process, Sauce was also chosen to produce and install a range of large internal and external wide-format print and signage including wall covering and directory displays. This job comprised of 12m x 5m dye-sublimated printed stretch fabric which was installed onto two main building towers at Nevill Hall Hospital. These had to be installed using abseiling due to the restricted access.

In addition to this, Sauce produced stainless steel raised letters for Nevill Hall Hospital, and a custom-made glass canopy, individual LED internally illuminated letters, and a 2m high monolith for The Royal Gwent Hospital.

When asked what his plans for the future are, Bagstaff says: “We plan to become more sustainable, improve our systems and processes to offer clients the best service possible and move into interior design and fitout.

“We are now ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 accredited and are looking to grow the business via tendering and business acquisition. I also want to grow the business so I can step away from day-to-day tasks and concentrate on business development.”

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