Inspired Energy - The £10 million Lytham company that started in a conservatory

PUBLISHED: 12:14 27 January 2012 | UPDATED: 09:24 21 February 2014

Janet at the Kirkham head office

Janet at the Kirkham head office

Janet Thornton started her business in the conservatory at home. It has just floated with a valuation of well over £10 million, writes Roger Borrell

Getting the best deal for our household gas and electricity becomes more important as fuel prices continue to spiral. But the task pales to insignificance if you are running a major company which relies on huge volumes of power to keep the wheels of your industry turning.

We could be talking millions of pounds a year. Get it right and you can have a big impact on the bottom line. Making the wrong decision could have catastrophic consequences. The cost of energy has never been so important to industry.

Its no surprise, then, that there are consultants with in-depth knowledge who will guide your company through the complexities of creating a fuel strategy that provides a high degree of price and energy efficiency.

More surprising, perhaps, is the fact that one of Britains top consultants, Inspired Energy, is based in the small Lancashire town of Kirkham and is run and owned by a local businesswoman who left school with few qualifications but a strong work ethic and a burning ambition to be successful.

Janet Thornton, who lives in nearby Lytham, founded the company eleven years ago, initially working from the conservatory at her home. Since then, its reputation for being totally customer-focused has grown organically as has the Inspired Energy team from a one woman band to a group of 37 men and women based in a modern office suit in the refurbished Progress Mill buildings at Kirkham.

This is the town where Janet grew up, attending Carr Hill High School and she maintains strong links. In fact, you get the impression that few things give her more satisfaction than being able to take on youngsters from her old school.

I left at 16 because family circumstances meant I needed to earn a living, says Janet. But Ive always been very ambitious and, back then, I often had two or three different jobs on the go.

When she and her husband started a family, Janet used her skills as a seamstress to work from home making anything from wedding dresses to soft furnishings. She also boosted her qualifications at night classes. When the children started to grow up I knew I wanted to do better for myself, says the mother-of-three.

The deregulation of the power supply industry meant she was able to work with some of the biggest consultancies in the business. Its a job I love no two days are the same, she says. Providing information and balancing risk make it a fascinating job. Its an industry where gas, for instance, can be bought and sold 50 times before it reaches the user. I love working with businesses to improve their balance sheets.

However, she became disenchanted with the big consultancies feeling they had sacrificed customer service for profit. I felt I could do better.
And she did just that - to the extent that when she was approached by another company wanting to take over Inspired Energy she realised the value of what she, her family and the rest of the team at Kirkham had created.

I could have cashed in and gone to lay on a beach but then what would I do after that? says the managing director. My passion is still here. Her brother, David Waite, will remain on the board as a non-executive drector, her sister Linda Higham, her daughters, Charlotte and Jessica, her brother-in-law Andy Nuttall also work for the company as well as her step-father David and her father-in-law, Brian.

Instead of taking the money and running, Janet and Matthew embarked on the most gruelling and exciting 12 months of their lives as
they worked towards floating on AIM, the Stock Exchanges market for growing companies. It has been a resounding success, valuing the
business at well over 10million.

The family intend to use some of the money for future acquisitions and to give staff a stake through shares. Janet officeand the family retain a controlling interest.

We have some exclusive products we offer to our customers and a team with a high level of enthusiasm, she says. But I dont want to grow and grow. We want to remain nimble. I dont want to lose the ethic of providing a service thats focused on the customer not on the profit. We will stay different and well stay small.

If Janet has anything to do with it, they will stay successful, too.

Bright sparks

Despite staying small, Inspired Energy thinks big when it comes to saving customers money. One major foundry group saved a staggering 1.7 million when it switched to working with Inspired.

Another, a global transportation company, joined Inspireds client list and made almost immediate electricity savings of 500,000.

The expertise of the Kirkham team has managed to secure a further 300,000 of savings.

The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012 issue of Lancashire Life

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