Spark Energy plugs in to a bright future
Oct 16, 2014 by Scottish Enterprise
An innovative approach to the energy market powers the rapid growth of Borders-based company.
Spark Energy has doubled its turnover to £80 million in the last 12 months and announced plans in 2014 to add 50 new employees to its existing 200-strong workforce. The firm, with headquarters in Selkirk, is now the leading energy supplier for tenants across the UK and works with letting agents to simplify the process of electricity and gas provision for customers.
Investment from the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB) at key stages of development and an ongoing account management relationship with Scottish Enterprise (SE) has been critical to this impressive growth.
SIB works intensively with investee companies with growth and export potential, adding value through dedicated portfolio managers, who support company development and finance needs. Spark set up in 2007 and the company has benefited significantly by being part of SIB’s portfolio for a number of years.
About Spark Energy
The inspiration for Spark came when founder PJ Darling became aware of the difficulties which property management companies were having when dealing with utility suppliers on behalf of landlords and tenants.
From its origins as a start-up in 2007, Spark now has more than 110,000 customers and expects numbers to grow to over 130,000 by the middle of next year. Of the 15 smaller energy suppliers in a recent Which? customer satisfaction survey, Spark is the only firm headquartered in Scotland and outranks all of the Big Six energy companies. Much of the firm’s success has been attributed to its strong commitment to high standards of customer service which are seen to set it apart from larger operators in the energy sector.
Spark’s steady growth path since 2007 has been mirrored by its ongoing relationship with SE. The most recent evidence of that came in summer 2014 when the firm secured follow on investment of £200,000 from SIB to help further consolidate its position as one of the UK’s leading energy suppliers. This also allowed the creation of a further 50 jobs at the site. This latest round of funding takes the total sum invested in the firm by SIB since 2008 to £855,000.
Chris Gauld, CEO at Spark Energy commented: “These are testing times for the energy sector on a number of fronts and there are real challenges for the small operator in competing with the established Big Six energy firms.
“We believe smaller operators such as ourselves have an extremely important role to play in improving both customer choice and service in the industry."
Investing in people and technology
Chris continues: “The key for us has been investment in both people and technology and the support we’ve had from Scottish Investment Bank and Scottish Enterprise more widely has been extremely valuable in these areas. Our ongoing relationship with them has allowed us to gain access to the right support, including vital investment, at major inflection points along our growth journey.
“We’re now amongst the top five employers in the Borders area and our focus is on recruiting wherever possible from the local community and training them in-house to our standards.
“That approach encourages a real family feel amongst our employees which, in turn, feeds into our ethos of quality customer service.”
“The funding we’ve had has also enabled us invest in areas such as live webchat – that’s good for our customers as it gives them another channel to use to contact us and its good for our staff’s skills development.
“We’ve invested £1.5 million in a new Customer Relationship Management system, appointed new people into the business from Blue-chip organisations and we’ve just launched a customer app for mobiles and tablets which allows tenants to pay their bill, provide meter readings or receive energy-saving advice.
“Support from SE, including the relationship with our account manager, has allowed us to invest in a range of business improvements to help increase turnover, sales, productivity and employment.
“There are nine million people renting properties in the UK at the moment so while we’ve made terrific progress in building our customer base, we’re aware that there is still a huge market for us which is currently untapped.”
Supporting business growth and ambition
Judy Mackie, Spark’s portfolilo manager at the Scottish Investment Bank said: “Spark’s success in challenging the bigger operators and carving out an increasing share of the energy market underlines the importance of investing in continued business growth and ambition.”
“As well as the ambitious and innovative approach taken by the firm’s management team, its commitment to high standards of customer service is clearly doing much to set it apart from other operators in the sector.”
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For more information visit the Scottish Enterprise website.