A Birmingham company that makes colour-coded musical instruments for young learners has secured two major new export contracts to the USA and Australia and looks set to achieve £1 million worth of overseas orders. Shades CP Ltd, which developed a colour-coding method that enables children to learn a range of instruments such as guitar, ukulele, harmonica, and violin, has seen a significant boost in overseas business after it secured new orders at the globally renowned Nuremburg Toy Fair in Germany in January.

The company has now attracted attention from the global shopping channel QVC, which has just taken delivery of 3,000 piano mats, its best-selling product that has 24 coloured touch-sensitive keys, eight instrument sounds, record and play back mode.

And Modern Brands, one of Australia’s biggest retail distributers, also has signed up to take the company’s top 10 products, with a view to increasing orders over the next three years. He is also about to complete his first order for piano mats for Aldi in Spain.

Chris Poole, managing director of Moseley-based Shades CP Ltd, said that although the company has been trading for about five years, he only decided last year to step up its exporting last year to boost the 1,000 units that were sold annually. And from a turnover of about £100,000 two years ago, Shapes CP Ltd is now expected to hit £1m within 12 months.

The success comes after he approached UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) West Midlands for help. After participating in a programme for new exporters, he received funding from the Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) to attend the toy fair – and the orders have not stopped rolling in.

Said Chris: “The business has been bubbling along for about five years but I decided that the time was right to start selling in the UK and overseas more seriously. If it wasn’t for the support of UKTI, I wouldn’t have gone to the Nuremburg Toy Fair, which has since led to a flurry of new orders in some potentially massive markets and the promise of new markets to approach. I’m sure that if I hadn’t have sought help, the business would either no longer exist or it would have taken us a very long time to achieve what we’ve done in the past few months. I’m very excited by what the future holds for the company.”

With the Shades CP’s projected growth, Chris, who also runs a music tuition business in Moseley, is hoping in the next 12 months to take on extra UK sales staff, sign up more overseas distributors and find a larger warehouse. Mark Sankey, head of the international trade team in Birmingham, said: "Shades CP Ltd is the perfect example of what can be achieved in terms of export success, even as a very small company. We are thrilled that our support so far has been a vital part in its overseas selling success and are looking forward to building on that to get its innovative products known across the world.

“As experts in export, we have the infrastructure available to any business that has ambitions to sell its goods and services overseas, regardless of its size.”