If you’ve ever wondered what the best part of a firework display is for those who make it happen, Andy of Merlin Fireworks has the answer: “A lot of work goes into a display that may only last a few minutes. But the end response from the crowd gives you a massive high that makes everything worthwhile.”
Turning a childhood passion into a career
Like every child growing up, Andy was captivated by fireworks. He says: “From an early age, I loved watching firework displays. I remember enjoying the range of colours and effects, and wanted to know more about how fireworks were made.
“At university I studied chemistry and physics, and got in touch with a firework company for work experience. It was there I learnt that, sadly, very little firework manufacturing was happening in the UK as most fireworks are imported from China. But the more time I spent at the company, the more hooked I got on the industry.”
A business where the sky’s the limit
After university, Andy qualified as a senior firer and trainer from the British Pyrotechnists Association (BPA). He teamed up with John Webb, a fellow BPA senior firer, and Rob Denman, a BPA qualified practitioner and member of the International Special Events Society. With this team in place, in 1998, Merlin Fireworks was born.
The three founding members began their mission to bring fireworks manufacturing back to the UK. Andy felt that straight away that they were able to offer something special. He says: “The fundamental starting point when designing a display is to really know the product. With all of our experience combined, I knew we could advise customers on more than just colours.
“We’re all lifelong fireworks enthusiasts with bags of knowledge. We understand the intricate details of how different products ascend, how long they last in the sky and how high they rise. We’re then able to advise on shapes, patterns and rhythms. It’s this knowledge that helps us to design sequences and displays that are truly distinctive.”
Taking their venture global with DIT
After finding success in the UK, the Merlin Fireworks team decided to expand on their operations and go global. Andy says: “We knew that to export successfully, we needed to do our research. Fireworks are classed as ‘explosives’ and ‘dangerous goods’, so there was a whole host of rules and regulations to get to grips with.”
The Merlin team decided to target countries that didn’t have a home-grown fireworks industry and found DIT to be the best source of information and advice for achieving this. Andy says: “The most valuable aspect of working with DIT was that one-on-one support from our International Trade Adviser. They helped us to identify and access specific resources that were appropriate for us and the markets we wanted to target.”
It was also vital for the team to understand cultures and customs in different countries. Andy says: “Fireworks are an important part of celebrations all over the world. In the Middle East, fireworks are used to celebrate the end of Ramadan, while Lebanon hosts a number of international festivals throughout the summer months. We also export to countries such as Kuwait and Nigeria to coincide with various celebrations.”
Understanding the cultures of customers across the globe
Merlin Fireworks has been trading for over 20 years and is still going strong. It’s the memories of what they’ve achieved so far that motivate Andy and the team to keep creating dazzling displays.
He says: “We’ve created displays that stand out purely for spectacle and scale. One we’re especially proud of was in Lebanon. We designed and fired a display featuring 50 launching sites spread around the Bay of Jounieh coastline, making a 6km long firework display. I was incredibly pleased that we rose to the challenge and created something unforgettable.”
Could your business go the distance?
From the banks of the Thames to the coastline of Lebanon, your products could take you all over the world – just like Merlin Fireworks. To get advice on selling your products internationally, get in touch with our team of experts.
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