CrazyBags has made a lot of changes over the past couple of years. Images takes a trip to Hampshire to hear about the bag supplier’s next phase of development

In 2000, three people in a car on the M3 were throwing around names for the new promotional product supply company they had set up. One of them joked that they could call it Crazy Horses. Fifteen years later, that person, Andy Steavenson, is still managing director of the business, although the company changed its name in 2004, dropping the ‘horses’ in favour of ‘bags’ to reflect its increasing focus on – yes, you guessed it… “I’m a bag man,” says Andy. “My blood is made out of bags. We were selling everything and anything, from printed rulers to mousemats, but I was pushing the bag side because that’s where I’ve come from.”

According to Andy, CrazyBags was one of the first to import bags from Europe for the UK promotion industry. “The UK factories were charging £2.50 a bag and we were bringing them in out of Greece at £1 a bag. We were far more competitive, so most of our business turned into bags and we dropped the promotions side of it,” he explains. Greece gradually became more expensive and the company now imports its bags from further afield as it strives to become ever more competitive.

Starting out with five people, the company now employs 14 members of staff and offers over 40 different stock reusable bag designs. A bespoke service is also available. It moved premises in May to New Milton in Hampshire, from a temporary office just down the road near Lymington, yet despite having barely had time to settle in, CrazyBags is already contemplating a further move. The 5,000 sq foot the premises are only just big enough to accommodate the company’s operations since it kicked off its printing business earlier this year with the purchase of two M&R Gauntlets along with an M&R four-colour manual press and an M&R dryer.

Bringing print in-house

“We’d outgrown it before we moved into it,” laughs Andy. “There’s been very limited property come up in the area, so when this came up we said, ‘It’s too small but we could be sitting in our temporary office for another year, throttled, if we don’t take it.’ This way we can start carrying out our plan and then at some point we will have to move again.”

The plan, explains Andy, is essentially a sideways move. “We’re going to expand our bag range, but we also want to start decorating other products for our industry.” While they will print some T-shirts, the emphasis will be less on garments and more on promotional gifts. The move back into promotional products may seem surprising, but Andy disagrees: “It’s a case of just adding to your portfolio of products. If you offer ten products to a customer, you can potentially sell them ten.”

Andy Steavenson, managing director of CrazyBags. The printshop at the New Milton premises

It’s a major change for the company. “Until we started printing for ourselves, we hardly saw any of the products. Now we’ve got production people, we’ve got targets, we’ve got production boards and we’ve got headaches if there’s a problem,” says Andy cheerfully. “Instead of picking up the phone and telling somebody else they’ve got to reprint it today, we’ve got to sort it out ourselves.” It is, he says, a massive change of responsibility, and one that he seems to relish.

A digital future

Digital technology underpins the company’s current operations and is expected to play a crucial role in its future, Andy explains. Eight years ago, CrazyBags bought PromoServe (since rebranded as Enterprise) business management software, which is built by Customer Focus Enterprise. As an early adopter, Crazy Bags had a lot of input into how the software was developed, and the company now depends on it for the smooth running of its operations. “Our whole business operates around our software system,” Andy comments. “Without the software, we have a nightmare.

”Digital printing is also on the horizon and is the future as far as the production side of the business is concerned, believes Andy; however, he readily admits that it’s a huge investment. “The digital machines are a lot of money at the moment but that will come tumbling down as the technology gets cheaper and the volume is there for the manufacturers.” Ever the joker, he adds, “That’s the way I’m going, that’s what I can see us doing with the bags – just put in a floppy disc and press a button!”

Some examples of CrazyBags’ screen printed products