Business profile: Gaudio, the glitterati's go-to trophy designer
PUBLISHED: 15:37 07 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:12 12 December 2018
© Thousand Word Media
Engineer Adam Hutchinson thought his career was over at 26. Then he set up Gaudio - the glitterati's go-to trophy designer company, and he's not looked back. Tanya Gledhill meets him
We’re used to seeing celebs tearfully accepting awards for this achievement or that performance, gleaming pieces of metal triumphantly held aloft at glittering ceremonies from the Oscars to the BAFTAs.
Formula 1 drivers spray theirs with Champagne. Coca Cola demand theirs bottle-shaped. MasterChef winners grip theirs as they tie on their aprons. Radio 1 hands out theirs to terrific teenagers.
All these have one thing in common. Not their red carpet winners. Not their dazzling handovers. Not the mantelpieces on which they will finally rest.
But the maker - and that’s Gaudio.
Hidden away on an industrial estate in Tewkesbury, Adam Hutchinson’s company is the go-to trophy maker for everyone from Newcastle United to the Pride of Britain Awards, Investors In People to the Paralympics to Jamie Oliver and the National Lottery and everyone in between.
Testimonials on the website read like a who’s who of the entertainment industry.
There are pictures of Tom Jones holding a Gaudio trophy. Gladys Knight. Iron Maiden. Duran Duran. Ed Sheeran. Olympic diver Tom Daley. The Countryfile team.
The list goes on.
“The awards were wonderful and loved by all,” gushes one testimonial. “The customer service has been amazing,” says another.
“You have really excelled in our expectation and have been a pleasure to work with.”
“I am really impressed with the work and effort from the team at Gaudio.”
These are not untypical of the responses to the delivery of a consignment of Gaudio trophies.
All bespoke, from concept to creation, Adam’s 26-strong team designs, manufactures and hand finishes every trophy, every plaque, every sign that leaves the factory.
It boasts an impressive 96% client retention rate - and Adam insists that’s all down to the exceptional customer service on which the company is built.
“I’ve always felt that making money isn’t the end goal of the business,” says Adam. “What is, is doing a great job for people.
“If someone has a problem, our first thought is ‘how can we fix it?’. The second is, ‘what’s gone wrong?’.”
Adam launched Gaudio 13 years ago.
With a National Diploma in engineering and working as development engineer for Ultronics, dealing with hydraulic control systems, he spent the early part of his career travelling in China.
Everywhere he went, the client would give him a china tea set as a memento of his trip.
Embarassed, in return he could only give them a T-shirt with Ultronics printed on it.
At the time, Ultronics was his life. He’d started at the bottom as a technician and worked his way up, having been taken under the wing of the then MD and given several key opportunities within the business.
And then, suddenly, he was let go. At the age of 26, Adam thought his career was over.
But the Hutchinson entrepreneurial spirit was about to kick in - his father is Mark Hutchinson, founder of intelligent traffic systems company AGD in Staverton - and he’s not looked back since.
He was accepted for a small business loan, but his father stepped in at the last minute and lent him the money - at the same rate of interest as the bank had offered but with the added security that, should he fail, dad wouldn’t seize his house.
It was the step up he needed.
“Dad always ran a company, so it seemed like the natural thing to do,” says Adam, who is grateful for his father’s mentoring in the first few years.
“It’s in my blood. So I started sourcing corporate gifts which I was selling out of dad’s garage.
“One of the first enquiries was for a trophy. And I thought it sounded great - niche, and really interesting.”
The client was Formula Kart Stars, the amateur racing organisation where F1 drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg cut their teeth.
It seems fitting, then, that Formula 1 is now one of Gaudio’s key clients.
“It’s sort of come a nice full circle,” Adam says proudly.
One week after Formula Kart Stars and placed its order, Coca Cola approached him to make a trophy for its most illustrious company awards.
“They wanted a trophy in the shape of one of their Coke bottles,” says Adam who, incredibly, is self-taught.
“We still make the same trophies today, to the same design I did 13 years ago.
“Did it phase me, having to start from scratch? No. As an engineer, I’d been used to being given a bag of bits and being told to make them into something that worked.
“I got hold of a copy of Illustrator, I’d take people’s logos and worked out cutting paths for tooling machines. And I just plugged away at fault-finding for the first few years.”
Adam no longer designs trophies, nor gets involved in the state-of-the-art cutting process or works the 40-year-old polishing lathes.
These days he employs skilled product designers to create the 64,000 trophies, medals and plaques Gaudio manufactures and ships each year.
A quarter are shipped abroad to markets as diverse as Afghanistan and Australia in an industry worth a staggering £70m a year.
Turnover is well in excess of £1.5m and all from trophies costing an average of £130 each.
Clients range from SMEs to one with a £6.2bn turnover.
The firm makes, for example, all the Investors In People plaques, accolades awarded to companies with an exceptional track record of staff development.
It’s a turnkey solution, liaising with the client and studying proofs. And crucially, it’s a quick turnaround. There’s no waiting for prototypes to arrive.
Out of the 7,500 plaques Gaudio has made for IIP over the past few years, there’s a less than 0.2% failure rate.
That’s pretty impressive by anyone’s standards.
But not one to stand still, Adam is busy working on the launch of two more businesses.
One will create highly customisable house name plaques, with materials looking like slate and wood and even leather and silk.
The other is a homeware, clothing and giftware company - every product capable of being personalised, from colours to patterns to text.
It’s clear, sitting at his desk piled high with samples of acrylic, wood and metals which will make the next crop of Gaudio trophies, he’s excited about his new ventures, particularly his upcoming homeware brand Haut & Bold.
Thanks to a huge range of design skins, customers choosing a dinner service will, for example, be able to choose the pattern and colour of their plates.
Others will be able to personalise their children’s back-to-school pencil cases and rulers, T-shirts, mugs or mobile phone cases.
He’s devised a system where, as soon as the customer clicks ‘buy’, online technology creates a ready-to-print file and packages it ready for the machinery to do its customised job.
This, combined with new manufacturing techniques, makes the process cost-effective and efficient.
“I’m passionate about manufacturing the UK, and manufacturing on demand,” says Adam.
“I don’t believe in clients having to order £500,000 of stock.
“I’ve always worked B2B and I’m looking forward to working B2C with these new companies.”
A valuable lesson learned in the early days has informed every business decision Adam has made over the past 13 years.
“Back then we had a few opportunities to make a fast buck,” he says.
“We were dealing with a client who wasn’t very efficient. I realised I could circumnavigate them and go straight to their client, and make some money.
“But Dad said, ‘that’s not going to do you any favours in the long run, being unscrupulous’. And that’s stayed with with me.
“I never listen to the voice on my shoulder. I won’t be swayed. I’m always going to stick to my values.
“I’ve always said that financial success is just a byproduct of business. I couldn’t go home thinking I’d ripped people off.
“Our pricing structure is very clear. So for example, if the client says they want their product 3mm smaller, it comes in cheaper. If they’ve only got half the budget, we stick to that.
“That’s why clients don’t leave us.”
Clients stick around, and so do the staff. Adam’s Operations Manager was his second ever employee, and he’s still with the firm. Likewise, the Company Secretary started out as a half-a-day-a-week bookkeeper, and is now full-time.
His Design Manager is celebrating their 10th anniversary with Gaudio.
They’re just three of a loyal band of long-term staff who see their future under Adam’s leadership.
The majority of staff come from Gloucestershire, but more specialist roles - product designers, for example - are recruited from around the country.
Does he feel a sense of pride when he sees his trophies held aloft on TV or pictured in the Press?
“I’m proud because it’s my employees,” he says.
“It’s not about a particular trophy. But there are some… I mean, I love Formula 1 and I love the fact that we make them. But my pride isn’t about seeing the trophy on TV, it’s seeing my people grow and develop. Guys that started out with us when they were really young, now seven years on, it’s brilliant.”
Adam has just moved to Twigworth from Cheltenham with his Spanish wife Thais, an interior designer who keeps him on the straight and narrow, creativity-wise.
“She’s basically my Creative Director,” he laughs.
“She vetoes everything. I think she thinks I’m totally crazy.”
When he’s not in the office dreaming up new businesses, Adam and Thais spend their time in Barcelona, catching up with family and welcoming friends to their Catalonian bolthole.
He jokingly says he “can’t wait to step away” from the day-to-day running of the business.
“I’m all about development, testing, playing,” he says.
“Trouble is, when I think I’ve got nothing to do, I think, ‘well I may as well start a new business’.”
And if Haut & Bold and his house sign ventures are anything to go by, there are plenty more where those came from.