TURNING the great outdoors into usable covered space is providing rapidly-expanding work for a Fenstanton-based manufacturer of sturdy canopies, shelters and walkways. At present, schools are the predominant customers for products manufactured by Inside2O

TURNING the great outdoors into usable covered space is providing rapidly-expanding work for a Fenstanton-based manufacturer of sturdy canopies, shelters and walkways.

At present, schools are the predominant customers for products manufactured by Inside2Outside Limited, but the company is also starting to get enquiries from the catering trade looking for smokers' shelters that will not take flight in high winds.

Key to the company's success are product and installation quality and customer service, managing director Robert Carpenter told The Hunts Post.

Since the identification of five associate companies to complement the Low Road-based sales force in Fenstanton, the number of people relying on Inside2Outside's Pocca products has increased tenfold to 50 in a year. The headquarters-based sales team has increased from one to five in 18 months, as schools turn to durable rigid structures to turn outside space into covered play, teaching and dining areas.

"Teachers and heads want to get on with looking after the children, so we can look after the red tape for them," Dr Carpenter explained.

"The product is deliberately over-engineered, so customers can have absolute confidence."

So, too, presumably, can the manufacturers, who offer a 20-year warranty that has been taken up by hundreds of schools across the country.

"It's a niche market, and we got the product sorted about four years ago. Since then we have been trying to get the customer service right. We've done that now. We're very particular about controlling the quality of installation and service.

"We went backwards a couple of years ago while we were looking for the franchisees, but last year we leapt ahead, and we shall probably go forward again next year," Dr Carpenter predicted. The company now turns over around £2million a year, the result of three years of rapid sales growth.

"Eight years ago, the technology enabled us to introduce our Pocca range of structures - the country's first and only range of tensile membrane structures designed specifically for schools, helping them to bring their inside activities outside, throughout the year.

"We installed our first structure at a school in 2000 [the year he joined the company] and got further enquiries as a result over a period of years. So we decided to go into the market - and we succeeded."

Dr Carpenter added that the interest he had expected for the product from pubs and restaurants when the indoor smoking ban was introduced in July 2007 had not materialised. "But now the cheap shelters are falling apart and they want something that will last."

The company, which was founded in 1991 to specialise in temporary aluminium frames for major sporting events, before moving into advanced materials. It was involved in construction of the Millennium Dome.

INFORMATION: Inside2Outside Limited is at Manor Farm, Low Road, Fenstanton PE28 9HU: telephone: 01480 498297; fax: 01480 498303. www.inside2outside.co.uk/