B3 Cricket – Part 1

In Part 1 of this series, read about The Cricket Magazine editor Alex Britten and his visit to the B3 factory in Nottingham.I first sceptically clicked onto the B3 website after seeing, on Twitter, people raving about the amount of control the customer had over the shape and style of their cricket bat.  I expected to see a stuffy page full of calligraphy and overpriced, over stated bats.  What I actually saw was a simple website with clearly laid out sections – and most importantly, gorgeous cricket bats that started at £140.  Brilliant bats that were fully customizable.  I had a play – even the shape of the bat handle was down to the preference of the buyer.  I contacted them asking for a tour of the factory.  They replied immediately saying they’d even pick me up from the train station.  Over the top friendliness?  No, just the B3 way of life.

Sitting in their Nottingham showroom whilst a cup of tea was made for me I glanced around – with memorabilia on the walls and cricket bats, pads, gloves and bags lining the walls, clearly the B3 guys were cricket mad.  Making my tea was Russell Evans, B3′s Commercial Director one of the three brains behind the business.  A former Nottinghamshire professional cricketer who currently resides on the reserve list for First Class umpires and with 20 years experience working for Gunn & Moore, it is fair to say that Evans has cricket in his blood.

B3 Cricket 3

As we sit down, he tells me that he decided to go it alone because he saw a gap in the market – a gap that would allow him to give the discerning amateur cricketer a level of control, quality and service that is not the norm.  Later on, when I press Evans and Michael Blatherwick, the Managing Director, about the concept of giving the amateur player the best equipment, they make their view clear – “In our opinion we don’t want to go down the road of paying professional cricketers a lot of money to use our bats.  If we did that, it would drive the cost of our bats up hugely.  We want to build on the principle of giving our customers as good a bat as the professionals get, but at the right price.” The words are selected carefully and delivered with precision and the point stands out clearly – this is a cricket company intent on creating great products for amateur cricketers.

In current times, starting a business is as hard as it has ever been, if not harder.  B3, however, have a clear business model and are sticking to it.  This business acumen comes from Blatherwick, who sold his IT company a couple of years ago.  Having played cricket for years with Evans, he was approached by his old friend and David Bacon, the Production Director who, with a PhD in materials engineering and seven years experience creating cricket bats, is an expert in modern bat manufacturing.

The key to B3’s cricket bats is the use of CNC machines to carve the bats as opposed to the old hand “pod shaving” methods. Bacon explains, “The use of CNC machines and lathes has been around for some time now. However they have only really been used in mass production and that doesn’t give the individual player the flexibility to design their perfect bat. At B3 we slow the whole process down and using our expert willow knowledge and CAD (computer aided design) skills we can literally make the perfect bat to suit each player.”

Blatherwick adds ”Larger manufacturers can’t do what we do because it isn’t cost effective and small “boutique” manufacturers don’t have the facilities or the know-how. This gives us a unique position in the market place.”

Following a tour of the factory led by Rob Cooke (“the customer who didn’t leave until I had a job” as he proclaims) including a look at the 1930s bat presser and the stack of clefts from their merchant in Essex, it is with Bacon who I sit down with.  Having heard so much about the amount of customer control over the style of one’s custom bat, I wanted desperately to see it in action.

Go to Part 2 of the B3 interview here.

Visit the B3 website at www.b3cricket.com

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