FAMILY seals design and manufacturing company Superior is celebrating its 50th anniversary – and a milestone of £25,000 donated to Dorset Community Foundation to help change the lives of STEM students.
Over the last seven years Superior in Wimborne has helped 46 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds take up courses in sciences, maths or engineering that they otherwise may not have been able to afford.
Its Superior STEM Bursaries, run by the community foundation, have offered grants of up to £1,500 towards equipment, travel, IT or course costs to young people aged 16 to 25 studying a STEM course at Bournemouth and Poole College and Brockenhurst College. It has recently been extended to include Bourne Academy Sixth Form.
Managing director Tim Brown, whose father founded the company “literally on his kitchen table”, said supporting the community foundation is a key part of the company’s ethos. “Working with the community foundation has allowed us to do something for the wider community which we otherwise couldn’t do,” he said.
“People wouldn’t know us, and we wouldn’t know them so it is a great channel for us to do that. It’s great to discover 46 people have benefitted – that’s a lot of lives changed isn’t it?”
The company now employs 200 people and produces seals for a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, domestic products and cars. “Our seals are components that go deep into devices and equipment you see around your home – but you don’t see the component itself because it is one of those hidden articles that does a very important job,” said Mr Brown.
“When you press the button on a washing machine there’s an expectation that a certain amount of water is going to go into it but actually there’s a lot of clever technology behind it and there’s one of our seals in there making that happen.”
Superior produces 120 million seals a month in thousands of different sizes and made up of hundreds of different rubber and silicone compositions. The company turns over £40 million a year, 63 per cent of which comes from exports to 45 countries around the world including China, Australia and the US.
We work with the community foundation because they are Dorset-based, are a small, reliable team and you know that the money you donate will get to where it is most needed because of their knowledge of the area
Commercial director Mark Wallis said supporting young people in STEM education sits alongside Superior’s own nationally recognised apprenticeship scheme. “It’s not just about the money, it is actually giving someone the encouragement that someone is willing to back them,” he said.
“There are many who clearly need help because of their personal circumstances and some of the stories are very moving, it is wonderful to be able to give a laptop to a student who has had to use their phone to study on at home because the family can’t afford one.
“We work with the community foundation because they are Dorset-based, are a small, reliable team and you know that the money you donate will get to where it is most needed because of their knowledge of the area. We are very much a people business and the people at the community foundation are very easy to work with – and it has been very successful working with them.”
In addition to the STEM Bursary, the company is a major supporter of the community foundation’s Lord Lieutenant’s Young and Talented Fund, which offers grants of up to £1,000 to talented young sportsmen and women facing disadvantage, such as Olympic and Commonwealth Games swimmer Jacob Peters, and its Lets Create Jubilee Fund, which supported Platinum Jubilee community events this summer.
Mr Brown said it is important to the company, which in total has donated more than £82,000 to the community foundation, and its staff to be seen to be putting something back into the community. “Anything that helps our staff feel that Superior is a good place to work and is making a broader contribution to the community helps make them proud of deciding to work with us and fosters a good spirit within the business,” he said.
“It’s definitely the case that people like to work for a company who are doing something meaningful beyond just their business activity. It adds to our culture significantly and on a personal level it gives Mark and I a lot of satisfaction.”
Dorset Community Foundation director Grant Robson said: “Superior have been wonderful supporters of not just us but Dorset as a whole and we are very thankful for the tremendous community spirit they have shown.
“Their generosity has made a huge difference to the lives of all these young people. We are very proud that it continues to put its trust in our knowledge and experience so that it can reach even more students whose potential might otherwise never be realised.”
Mr Brown said: “It’s money that wouldn’t be found elsewhere because it’s not going to come from central funding. It’s created here in Dorset and means we are able to help in a way that otherwise probably wouldn’t happen. To us that makes it even more valuable.”
Pictured: Superior Seals managing director Tim Brown, left, with production director son David, centre, and commercial director Mark Wallis