Since 1950, three generations of the Doyle family have worked to build a strong company committed to innovation, the latest technology and exceptional quality.
It all started on Marlborough Street in Dublin’s city centre in 1950 when Doyle and his sons Brian and Conor perfected the art of making ferrules – the metal bands that hold brush bristles in place – using the metal off-cuts from tins of Jacob’s Afternoon Tea biscuits.
They bought the surplus from the Jacob’s factory and transformed the scrap metal into a successful business supplying ferrules to the Irish market.
Fleetwood soon began to diversify. It started to make paint brushes by hand and when they sold well, it diversified into artists’ brushes and, later, cosmetic brushes.
By the mid-50s, the company had opened a factory in Cabra. A decade later, it had moved to a two-acre site in Inchicore, Dublin 8. Domestic sales were booming and exports totalled more than half a million brushes.
Fleetwood was one of the first companies in Ireland to invest in research and development. In the mid-1960s, it took the then unusual step of hiring a chemist to develop fillers and wallpaper pastes. [The paste that emerged would “stay stuck when others give up”, as the advertising slogan had it.]
Fleetwood was the largest manufacturer and supplier of DIY products in Ireland, a position it still holds. Exports were growing too – 90 percent of turnover was exported to the UK and the Middle East. And, in 1971, Fleetwood Ltd even opened a subsidiary in Jamaica.
A year later, Fleetwood expanded again and opened a factory in Virginia, Co Cavan to make rollers and to assemble frames.
However, the joint managing directors, brothers Brian and Conor Doyle, had always wanted to add another product to their range – paint. They loved colour and design and wanted to bring a high standard in manufacturing to the paint business in Ireland.
The first can of Fleetwood paint came off the production line in Virginia, Co Cavan, on January 12, 1979 – a 5 litre tin of matt emulsion white, one of a range that included 18 colours.
Adapt, innovate, diversify and find the right people for the team. Those are just some of the secrets of the company’s success, but central to everything it does is a commitment to manufacturing the very best product possible.
I personally vet every product,” says Conor Doyle. “It doesn’t get the Fleetwood name unless it is of the highest quality. I think that is what has kept us in business for so long
The people behind the paint are also a huge part of the Fleetwood story. It’s not unusual to find two generations of the same family working in the factory in Virginia.
“We have a really good team around us,” says Conor’s son Alex, the third-generation Doyle to work at Fleetwood Paints. “We are one big family in here – and we always have been.”