This Suffolk company adds bling to the world's most luxurious super yachts
PUBLISHED: 18:27 28 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:59 30 August 2018
The idea of riding in a James Bond-style superyacht equipped with toys to indulge every whim might seem like an unattainable dream. But for one Suffolk businessman, it’s all in a day’s work.
When I speak to Josh Richardson on his mobile, he’s just emerged to the surface after spending four and a half hours underwater in the deepest, largest and most luxurious submersible in the world.
Mr Richardson’s company, Superyachts, Tenders & Toys (SYTT), sells tenders for yachts - as well as custom-made submarines for 4m Euros a pop - along with a whole raft of other luxurious marine equipment.
“We went down to 1,140 metres under the water in the dark - it was incredible,” said the 36 year-old of his underwater adventure. “We had equipped the submarine with air conditioning, champagne fridges, stereos, and many other things so it was very comfortable.
“Our customers want toys like these just for fun. Its about exploring something completely different.”
Many of SYTT’s biggest clients are from Gulf countries, where due to a culture of religious conservatism, privacy is highly valued. “There is nowhere more private than being under water,” Mr Richardson said. “It was very nice - for four and a half hours, my phone was not ringing!”
Mr Richardson, who was raised in Shelfanger near Diss and later moved to Banham, set up the business six years ago with his wife Claire Richardson, and the couple have since grown SYTT to accommodate 10 staff operating from their base in Harkstead, Ipswich. “We saw a niche in the market and jumped with both feet in,” he said. SYTT is currently outfitting a yacht that is more than 180m in length, and will be the largest yacht in the world, so perhaps its no wonder that he believes that the overall size of some yachts is increasing.
Operating in a market of clients with deep pockets and a desire to push the boundaries, outrageous requests come through almost every day. “Yesterday we got asked to work on the design of a removable ice hockey pitch which could get mounted on the bow of a yacht that’s more than 100 metres long,” he said. “I suppose the most unusual toy we have supplied was a motorised dolphin that people can ride on underwater. This was custom built to the clients requirements.
“The most popular are things like Stand Up Paddleboards, Seabobs, jetskis and towables.”
Mr Richardon admits that having “sexy photos and movies” helps drum up interest in terms of free advertising and editorials. “Jetpacks trending is one example,” he explained.
Business is growing by 50% year on year, and Mr Richardson is currently recruiting for three additional staff to cope with demand. “We have grown a specific area that was poorly looked after, being the tenders and toys purchasing, and we have marketed this area, creating an area of purchasing for captains and owners they really consider now, rather than just going to a local dealer and seeing what they have,” he explained.
While custom-made items such as certain giant inflatable docks and slides are made in China and America, custom fabrication such as games decks, diving platforms and jetski trolleys are made in Ipswich.
As the business grows, Mr Richardson finds himself becoming involved in bigger and bigger projects.
“People are always trying to push the boundaries and creating something new and unique,” he said.
An example of one such product sold by SYTT is the Life efoil, a board powered using a lithium-ion battery that enables riders to rise up on the hydrofoil to literally fly above the water, with ride times up to an hour at speeds of more than 25mph.
While such toys might well look at home in a James Bond film, in fact, less than 2% of SYTT’s business is done in the UK these days. The company has increased its international sales by almost 70% in the past two years, particularly to clients in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
SYTT recently exhibited at the Dubai International Boat Show, which was attended by delegates from over 76 countries. In February, SYTT made it to 45th place the Sunday Times Lloyds SME Export Track 100 league table with £5.4m of international sales (and £5.5m total sales.)
As part of the Exporting is GREAT campaign, the Department for International Trade (DIT) supports many businesses to sell their products and services abroad. Exporting to these markets can present challenges, warns Alan Pain, Head of Exports for the East of England Department for International Trade (DIT). “Competition from high growth Asian economies, as well as the more traditional competitors in Europe and North America, is fierce. Navigating this requires not just tenacity, but research and good planning.”
For SYTT, the United Arab Emirates (the UAE) has proven to be a particularly lucrative market. But the Ipswich firm isn’t the only one to have made inroads into the UAE market. The country is the UK’s largest export market in the Middle East and the fourth largest market outside the EU, after the US and China.
Despite it being geographically distant, the UAE shares a close affinity with the UK. “The two nations have strong cultural and historical ties - many Emiratis have studied in the UK, have homes here and visit regularly,” explained Mr Pain. “English is also widely spoken and accepted as the language of business.”
Any firm interested in exporting to the UAE is advised to get in touch with one of DIT’s 30 international trade advisers who are solely dedicated to businesses in the East of England.