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New Anglia Growth Hub grant helps accelerate Sudbury silk weaving company’s export drive

New Anglia Growth Hub grant helps accelerate Sudbury silk weaving company’s export drive

Competition has intensified at the less expensive end of the market where high quality polyesters are now being produced to rival the look and feel of top quality silk. Gainsborough designs, dyes and weaves a broad range of natural silk yarns to create premium quality furnishing fabrics. Its core customers are interior designers commissioned to work on historical homes, luxury hotels, palaces, embassies, the hospitality industry and the homes of the super-rich. But, to grow its business, Gainsborough recognised the need to diversify into markets looking for a less expensive silk product.

Managing director, Emerson Roberts, explained, “It was imperative for our future that we re-engaged with the interior design sector who had turned to suppliers of cheaper silks and polyesters. The business opportunity for our new ‘collections’ lies in places where British design and craftsmanship are highly valued, such as the US, Middle East, Japan and Russia.

“To make the most of this opportunity, we needed to purchase a new automated loom to produce the silk in higher volumes than the more traditional bespoke silk woven on mechanical looms.”

The cost of the second-hand Dornier loom was over £60,000. Plus, Gainsborough also had to buy the Bonas Jacquard Harness that feeds the designs to the loom which was another £60,000, pay a £10,000 delivery and installation charge and invest £32,500 to upgrade the dye house.

With the help and support of a New Anglia Growth Hub adviser, Emerson submitted an application for part-funding and was successful in receiving a 20% grant of £32,000 from the Growing Business Fund. The expansion of the business resulted in an additional six new roles being created.

As planned, Gainsborough was able to weave a large volume of fabric to export to the US and has developed three new collections – Sir John Soane’s, House Medici and The Bunny Gets It.

Emerson summarised, “The Growth Hub provided fantastic support to our business. It helped us secure a good proportion of the financing needed to take this business into the new markets we want to exploit.”

Nigel Best, New Anglia Growth Hub Manager, said, “The challenge Gainsborough faced in moving into a new market sector is one we are familiar with and recognise the need for investment. Having someone at the helm with a good track record, clear plans and a credible vision for the future really does help the application. I am glad that we were able to assist Gainsborough in its bid to secure silk weaving in Sudbury for many years to come. “

Gainsborough was founded in 1903 and is a preferred supplier of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. It also holds a Royal Warrant from HM The Queen. Its orders are often bespoke and unique; the fabrics are typically used for walling, curtains and upholstery, as well as linings on luxury cars and luggage. A silk item woven at the Sudbury mill has featured in many Royal Weddings including the upholstery in the Ascot Landau carriage used by Harry and Meghan at their wedding earlier this year.


Anyone running a business who needs help to realise their growth plans should contact the New Anglia Growth Hub on 0300 333 6356 or email

Article by Suffolk Chamber of Commerce