LITTLE Eleanor Biddle might just be a Dancing on Ice star of the future, as she takes her first sliding steps on the ice at Plymouth Pavilions.
The two-and-a-half year old toddler negotiated the rink with a little help from her friend – a 3ft push-along penguin, created at an East Cornwall plastics factory.
Eleanor is the granddaughter of Bob Sherriff, a director and general manager at Orchid Plastics, based at Kelly Bray, near Callington.
The penguin character skating aid – manufactured for Teesside-based Ice Aid – is one of a portfolio of rotational-moulded products produced by the firm, which have generated year-on-year growth of 30 per cent, for the past three years.
"We just haven't known recession," said Mr Sherriff.
The penguin is known variously as Bobo, Smudge and Percy by junior skaters at rinks throughout the country.
Ice Aid's Tony Boynton said: "The interest in them is now phenomenal and I expect all ice rinks in the country to have them by the end of next year."
The skating aid was initially manufactured in the far East, but Ice Aid found that it wasn't up to purpose.
"We approached Orchid, who came up with a re-design that was more robust." said Mr Boynton. "The product wasn't just cost-effective and within budget, but fully engineered to not just look pretty."
Orchid, which was established by managing director Rod Dix in 1988, also manufactures sharps bins and sanitary disposal units, sewage tanks and water bowsers, by pouring molten polymers into moulds it designs from scratch.
The firm has its own in-house team of designers, which not only realise clients' initial blueprints, but can also create product designs on behalf of its customers, from scratch. Its business model and service has not only secured a custom base that might otherwise go to the Far East, but has prompted its significant growth throughout the downturn.
"It's our unique selling point," said Mr Sherriff. "We offer a total design service from a blank piece of paper to a finished product and that has given us a real edge."
The firm worked for three years with a client on the design and manufacture of an innovative hay steamer, which is now generating global sales.
It also makes the Minipod bike rack, a modern alternative to the cycle shed bought by primary schools across the UK and Europe.
"We can't make them fast enough," said Mr Sherriff.
Orchid has also been working with Devon inventor Chris Watson, to perfect his innovative sliding bed prototype, which was shortlisted in the Western Morning News Inspire innovator scheme.
Orchid is currently in the process of expanding its operation into a second, 5,000sq ft unit, on Kelly Bray's Florence Road Industrial Estate.
At the end of November, it is to take delivery of an additional bespoke moulding machine, which it has commissioned from a manufacturer in India.
With the added capacity, it anticipates increasing its 25-strong workforce by 20 per cent in 2010.
Article originally featured on www.thisissouthdevon.co.uk
Last Updated: 16th October 2009 3:23pm