EKCO was founded by Eric Kirkham Cole in 1922 and with his wife, Muriel Cole nee Bradshaw started out making radio sets in 1924.
William Streatfield Verrells, a schoolmaster and freelance journalist from Southend-on-Sea, wrote an article in a local newspaper asking if it was possible to power a radio set from the mains electricity supply rather than batteries. Cole saw a possible business opportunity and set about building his battery eliminator, which he later demonstrated to Verrells. Suitably impressed, Verrells joined Cole in a business venture, with Cole manufacturing the battery eliminators, and Verrells marketing them.
In 1926 a private company E.K. Cole Ltd was formed with Verrells as chairman and Cole as vice-chairman. With the extra funding that was raised, the company set up a new factory and further expansion in 1930, saw the Ekco company move to a spacious new factory at Southend-on-Sea built on a cabbage patch.
The company then began to concentrate on the manufacture of mains powered radios rather than battery eliminators which were becoming obsolete.
The company suffered a major financial setback in 1932, when a fire swept through its research and development laboratories. The blaze destroyed much of the design work for the company’s new range of receivers. Ekco continued to innovate and launched its first car radio at the 1934 Radiolympia exhibition.
Another important development for the company was the introduction of bakelite cabinets for its radios. Initially these cabinets were made for the company in Germany by AEG, however the introduction of high import duties on the cabinets in 1931 led Ekco to establish its own bakelite moulding shop adjacent to its Southend-on-Sea works by 1934.
The company employed famous architects such as Serge Chermayeff and Wells Coates to design its bakelite radio cabinets resulting in designs such as the AC85, Dougal and A36, Round Ekco
In 1935 Ekco made a substantial investment in Scophony Limited, the developers of the Scophony projection television system which showed great promise but turned out to be commercially unviable.