Being able to take a hobby that brings you joy and turn it into a business is a great way to share your passion with others. This is true of James Teper, a MEng Off-Road Vehicle Design final year student, who has established Braemere Models.
Starting in 2014, James’ business stemmed from his love of engineering; taking apart old farm toys and rebuilding them into models. This then developed into more complex vehicle builds, reflecting engineering across the agricultural sector.
In this same year, James discovered Harper Adams. The engineering courses available appealed to him as a route into designing the real versions of his models.
As his designing confidence grew, James began adding his creations to auctions online. He said: “One model I listed was a Ryetec Lime spreader and, after listing it, the managing director of the company contacted me asking if I would build two more models, one to display in their office and one for a customer who had just bought the real machine.
“From here I created a Facebook page to display my builds and it has just grown and grown with more and more commissions coming in.”
James is now branching out with Braemere, appealing to another side of his audience. He said: “More recently I realised that part finished models sold for more money than finished items. This highlighted a gap in the market for 1:32 scale model kits, like Airfix, that many people will be familiar with. Not everyone has the time to commit to scratch building models, but still want to be able to put their own finishing touch on a model.
“From this eureka moment the Braemere Model Kits were born. Over the last year they have really taken off with people looking for new things to keep them occupied, particularly during the first lockdown.
“Our best sellers have been a Bailey Bale Trailer and Timberwolf Woodchipper and a range of resin sheep. My housemates have eventually got used to finding sheep and wheels all over the student house as I find places to store them before posting to customers!”
As a one man team, James looks after the whole product cycle, from the initial design drawings through to building the model, casting parts, painting, creating graphics and packaging for postage.
Most recently James has worked on a project creating a Heath Engineering Bale Chaser, which went on to be purchased by Heath Engineering themselves, commissioning further models for the company and other stakeholders.
James attributes his business development skills to modules from his degree learning. He shared: “Manufacturing modules allowed me to understand where I could speed up the building process and better utilize my time; business modules improved my understanding of marketing a product and using customers' feedback to enhance the product range; and the software facilities provided by Harper have enabled me to push my design skills further and further. The contacts I have made while at Harper have also enabled a greater understanding of the market and products.”
Likewise, Braemere Models has also made James more passionate about engineering and his degree. Talking about his studies, he commented: “Harper Engineering will kit you out with the tools to succeed in any engineering application. While the courses seem specialised from the outside, once you are here and studying you start to realise how wide the range of subject matter that you are taught is.
“Studying on this course allows students to become highly diverse engineers, studying aspects across the board from manufacturing to design to product implementation, while still providing the opportunity to become specialised in the off-highway field for those that show a keen interest in the subject.
“This is great for those unsure about exactly what they want to do as Harper will allow you to grow and naturally follow the pathway that interests you most.”
Working while studying is no easy feat, and James’ ambitions are still great. He said: “I would love to take Braemere Models to a point where it can comfortably support me financially. Given the small size of the target market this will be a push and I’ll happily settle for an engineering role within a large HGV or construction company, working on models in evenings and weekends.
“While spending my placement year with Mecalac Construction UK I was able to get hands-on experience in a wide range of engineering roles including Research and Develop, Manufacturing, and Design.
“The role I enjoyed most was Product Management - planning what new products the company would make, how best to market these products and understanding the current market. It all felt fast paced and consistently interesting. As a result, I’m currently hunting for jobs in this field.”
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