When Monica Norley and her partner began making soap in their Hastings kitchen in 2005, she could only dream that one day she's be supplying Waitrose. Five years on, The Visionary Soap Company now employs six people and saw its sales double last year. She's anticipating that sales will jump again this year, with a deal to sell through the supermarket chain and Ocado in the offing, and Oxfam stores have agreed to add the soap to its range of Fair Trade products.
Norley's story suggests that reports of the death of manufacturing in Britain may be rather premature. Many companies are enjoying a boom in trade with a record number of manufacturers taking on new employees towards the end of 2010, according to the Engineering Employers' Federation (EEF) and accountancy firm BDO.
Exports are strengthening too, helped by the fall in sterling against other major currencies. The Office for Budget Responsibility projects a 6.9% growth in exports in 2011 and a 7.1% increase in 2012.
But if you are a budding Sir James Dyson, how do you start? There's now an enormous amount of information online, for example the government's Business Link website first for tips on resources you can access and how to put together a business plan.