A GROWING city fancy dress firm, which was supported by a council business grant, has been making a killing for Halloween.

Dom Portman began to build a successful business empire during his university days, selling fancy dress outfits to Nottingham Trent University students during a freshers week.

Mr Portman said: “I pitched the idea of Fancy Fresher to my university and received a £2,000 bursary to start the company.”

The business opened in 2012 when Dom was just 22. It proved such a hit with partygoers that just two years later, Fancy Fresher won the West Midlands Start-Up Of The Year award, being presented the award by Dragon’s Den star James Caan.

In March 2016 Mr Portman launched Fancy Dress World as a full-time company, trading from the Shrub Hill Industrial Estate.

“I researched the online fancy dress market for two years and tested many online sales channels,” he said.

“The global market is huge, with the biggest US companies taking up to £2.3 billion in annual revenue from fancy dress.”

Within the first 12 months the business received more than £500,000 worth of orders from 36 countries.

The majority were from within Europe but the company also received orders from China, Indonesia, Australia and South America.

In March 2017, there were plans to grow the inventory from 4,000 products to 12,000, so the firm outgrew its starter unit and expanded, moving to a 14,000 sq ft base also on the trading estate.

At this point Mr Portman successfully applied for a Worcester City Council business growth grant receiving £3,000, which was match-funded from his own company’s reserves.

“In the early days I built shelving myself using timber and chipboard, but with an inventory today of 12,000 products and an increasing number of staff there was clearly a need to invest in a professional shelving system that would comply with current health and safety regulations,” explained Mr Portman.

The grant made a significant contribution towards covering the cost of a professional shelving system.

Turnover has increased rapidly at the firm in recent months, from £500,000 in year one, to a projected £2.8 million in its second.

He has has a clear path to grow it to over £7 million in year three.

The firm now employs around 70 people, including six apprentices.

“Employing apprentices and providing them with a detailed development plan to grow their expertise, particularly in the digital marketing and IT sectors, is a key part of our growth plan.” he said.

“It’s always manic at this time of the year, with sales predicted to quadruple in the run-up to Halloween,” he added.

“Ultimately, my mission is to make Fancy Dress Worldwide the biggest fancy dress company in the world.”

For more on the city council’s start up grants visit worcester.gov.uk/business or call 01905 722106.