Empine is a business based at the Bridge at Darwen Aldridge Community Academy.

If there’s one thing that successful people have in common, it’s passion. Passion creates world-leading businesses and is a great inspiration to others. The story of Darwen business Empine is an illustration of passion in action.

Jacob Knowles and Anthony Taylor have been friends for many years. They enjoyed the early stages of their careers, Jacob in a role that saw him encourage people to start sailing and Anthony as a print production manager. But they felt that something was missing – they had a burning passion to create their own business. The budding entrepreneurs had an issue. They struggled to find a home for their idea in their hometown of Darwen, where business premises are at a premium and tend to be inflexible spaces with long leases.

A solution came from Darwen Aldridge Community Academy, which was looking for ambitious growth companies to take space at The Bridge, home to Darwen Creates – an Aldridge Foundation initiative which provides space for young entrepreneurs and creates a link between business and education, a connection which has a powerful effect on communities which have historically lacked opportunity.

With a place at Aldridge Creates secured, printing firm Empine was born, handling everything from the smallest print job to large print management contracts. Anthony has a printing background and heads up the technology and innovation side of the business, while Jacob handles the commercial side. But both have a passion for print media and its power to educate and inspire.

“We have created three divisions: commercial print for conventional jobs, print management for large scale contracts and, importantly, educational print,” explains Jacob. The pair are passionate about innovation in the print industry and how it can be applied in education, resulting in them launching Empine Education. “We have recommended special paper tints for use with dyslexic pupils,” says Jacob. “This product is not widely available but we have been able to actively advise schools on its use.” This is a sector of the business they are looking to grow and they have now traded with 15% of the schools in Oldham as well as schools in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and London!

Empine has experienced fantastic commercial growth (turnover predicted to be £¼ million in the next year) and it has played an important role in school life at the Academy – notably when working with Community Kids, the Team Academy student group that created and printed a calendar for their Tycoon for Schools entry.

“This is the magic of being located here. Empine’s CSR activity, like our Print2Learn initiatives, are part of our daily life and it is as rewarding for us as it is for the young people,” says Anthony. They have also managed the impressive feat for such a small business of delivering print to France, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal. Having a fast-growth business in the heart of the school is a clear demonstration of the effectiveness of the Aldridge Foundation approach.”

The last twelve months have seen Empine go from strength-to-strength, with nominations for a variety of awards. They were finalists for the New Business Award at the Red Rose Awards and for the Young Entrepreneur of the Year (North West) Award at the FSC Awards. They were also shortlisted for Young Entrepreneurs of the Year at the Great British Entrepreneurship Awards.