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Steve Helm banking on new business with Red Chilli Audio

The Sonic8 creator is hot for the next challenge at his unusual HQ, learns Dave Robinson

Distribution entrepreneur Steve Helm – formerly of Sonic8 and before that, SCV London – has launched his latest venture, Red Chilli Audio, “so I could finally be in charge of my own destiny,” he says. Basing himself in an old bank building in Caverley, Leeds (pictured below), Helm will distribute mainly MI brands in the UK, but he is looking at professional product lines in the realm of the studio too.

Helm stepped down as managing director of Sonic8 a couple of years ago “as I was not seeing my son grow up and needed to be home more to not miss out on this experience”, but stayed on as a freelance sales person, with 20 key accounts in the north of England and Scotland.

After working behind the scenes with several sales and distribution strands, Helm cut ties with potential conflicts of business and formed Red Chilli Audio last month, “so I could have 100% control on the sales, marketing and financial running of a company, driven in a way that I wanted to drive it, right or wrong,” he says.

His official limited company is called “Steve Helm Limited” and runs two types of business. One is a sales rep/agency for brands needing a solution in the marketplace working only on paid results and without the cost of a wage and overheads. Clients include microphone developer Sontronics, cajon manufacturer Ruach, acoustic tiling and treatments outfit EQ Acoustics, and his own original creation, Sonic8, in which he is still the majority shareholder.

Red Chilli Audio, meanwhile, has been created to deliver several key brands direct to the dealer as a traditional distribution company. “We aim to do product training, marketing, visit stores and give brand focus to complimentary brands that fit within the general MI market (for instance, Richter guitar straps and Kahuna ukeleles) but also touching into education and studio markets, such as Prodipe with studio accessories from France.

The Leeds native has been working in sales and distribution for over 25 years, so you there’s real weight to his mission statement: “We understand the product, work with our dealers on training, how to actually make a profit with a brand and be supportive as well as try and be flexible and understood the needs of both the retailer and the manufacturer.”

“Distribution is a little like being a bank,” continues Helm, “and so it is quite apt that we actually bought a bank!” Helm purchased a decommissioned NatWest as a secure facility for his new venture. “We actually have a bank vault [pictured right] and all the rooms have steel reinforced doors and have installed the latest alarm systems and infra-structure to ensure we are ready for the future.” A studio (pictured above right) and vocal room enable testing and equipment demos without leaving the building.

“The aim of Red Chilli Audio is quite simply to bring a little professionalism along with fun to the industry, offer a superb service and ensure people can make great margins with a great products,” he says. “Watch this space for an exciting line of studio and live sound products, to be announced in May.”