New innovators: Kaber Performance

Brian Belton: “I am offering a higher quality of product at a destructive market price.”

Brian Belton: “I am offering a higher quality of product at a destructive market price.”

 

In 2011, Brian Belton left his hometown of Longford for China. His dream was to set up a business selling its own brand of high-performance motorsport parts online. The first step was to find manufacturers in China to make the parts. Belton decided the only way to do this was by going there and staying until he found suppliers he could trust. The process was arduous and protracted but Belton managed to do it on a budget of about €60,000. He set up Kaber Performance last March and his first orders have already been shipped.

Belton studied business and marketing at Athlone Institute of Technology but has spent the past 15 years in the motor business, most recently running his own performance parts shop in Athlone. His passion is preparing cars for motorsport competitions and his particular area of interest is auto electrics. However, he also has good general engineering skills having helped out in his family’s engineering business since he was young.

“The idea for the business came to me when I had the shop and found I was getting the same discount for selling items in volume as other guys were getting for selling a few,” he says. “I believe the more you sell the bigger the reward should be and that’s the business model I’m using.”

Kaber Performance has an initial portfolio of six products including performance radiators, fuel rails and wheel spacers. More products will follow. Its immediate market is Ireland where 16 customers have already come on board and it also has customers in the UK, Poland and Australia. “My intention is to focus on Ireland for now and look seriously at the UK for 2015,” Belton says.

“My USP is that I am offering a higher quality of product at a destructive market price and I have brought all my knowledge of motorsport to bear in developing the range. While I was in China I was continually sending parts back to friends in Ireland and the UK for rigorous real-life testing so I am very confident about the quality and effectiveness of Kaber products.”

Finding the right people to talk to in China was not easy. “Initially I was pointed in the direction of trade fairs attended mainly by trading houses. Eventually I discovered they were pretty useless and that I needed to be at events where Chinese manufacturers were talking to each other,” he says.

All in all the sourcing process took in excess of 18 months and Belton was in China for the best part of two years living on a shoestring budget and learning the language in order to build good relationships with his suppliers.

When he returned to Ireland his head was buzzing with ideas and the challenge was to choose the right ones. “I had so much going on that I wasn’t sure what to do next,” Belton says. “I was in Longford town towards the end of last year and dropped into the Enterprise Board. They were really helpful and offered me a place on their Discovery Zone programme.

“It’s an intense 12-week programme that really gets you thinking straight,” Belton adds. “The guys gave me great guidance and introduced me to a lot of useful people. They also stopped me from making what could have been big mistakes. I finished the programme in December and launched Kaber Performance three months later. I had around 90 per cent of my first order sold (and paid for) before it arrived and I am estimating the business will pan out at 80 per cent wholesale and 20 per cent retail.”

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