Entrepreneur of the Year finalist: James Leckey, James Leckey Design Ltd, FireFly, VIDA

Leckey makes equipment to improve the quality of life and social inclusion of children with special needs

James Leckey: “I would like the FireFly community to have over 100,000 active supporters.”

James Leckey: “I would like the FireFly community to have over 100,000 active supporters.”

 

James Leckey was born and grew up in Belfast beside the Ravenhill rugby grounds. He left school at 16, wanting to pursue a career in anything that smelled of oil or petrol. He did an engineering apprenticeship in James Mackie’s in Belfast, in two years moving from the work bench to the drawing office. He left Mackie’s at the age of 23 and took over his father’s florist business in Belfast city centre. Having developed some products for Interflora he had a well- equipped workshop at his parent’s home, from where his company started.

Leckey, founded in 1983, designs and manufactures equipment (seating, standing frames, walkers, etc) with a view to improving the quality of life and social inclusion of children with special needs and their families. Initially working alone in the garage at the family home, Leckey grew the business and by 1990 it was the UK market leader, employing 25 people. It also has strong export sales in the, US, Italy and Australia.

In 2010, Leckey acquired and developed a new facility in Lisburn, placing all operations at one location. Recognising the need for greater parent input and with a focus on social inclusion, Leckey created FireFly, an online, direct-to-parent ecommerce platform and community forum.

In 2015, Leckey created Vida Global, an international sales and distribution channel.In March 2016, Leckey opened its new design and innovation centre with a dedicated team of 18 clinicians, designers and engineers. It now employs 200 people.

What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start-up in business?

Handing in fundraising money I raised for Mencap in Belfast, I saw the kids in their then current equipment. This is going to sound corny, but in that moment I knew I could do better and would do it for the rest of my life.

What is your greatest business achievement to date?

The development and launch of FireFly and the UpSee has to be the most satisfying moment of my business life.

What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?

A year after taking on our first factory [1986] we couldn’t pay the rent. It was close up or do something radical. I found an exhibition about to take place in London and managed to get a stand in an annex. With only two weeks to prepare we developed two new products and were the talk of the show. By 1990 we were the UK market leaders.

What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company?

We developed a new bath chair in 1998. The investment into injection-moulding tooling was not normal, especially for a company as small as us in our sector. It took off and projected us into the international market.

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

I would like the FireFly community to have over 100,000 active supporters and Leckey to be providing clinically and technically leading products and best-in-market service directly in a range of major markets.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to government to stimulate the economy?

In Northern Ireland it would be to focus on what is important and not the old tribal politics.

What would make you a better leader?

Letting go of control.

What is your biggest luxury?

My Hitachi digger.

leckey.com

fireflyfriends.com

vidaglobal.co.uk

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