Hygiene Solutions grows - and grows again - after small capital grant
"The grant from Warwickshire County Council was a big help. It was a vital stepping stone for us."
In 2017, Hygiene Solutions, based in Nuneaton, accessed a Warwickshire County Council small capital grant to support their plan to expand.
The plan went well - so well that the business is now in the process of expanding again.
Set up by Tracey Jackson in her home town 21 years ago, Hygiene Solutions quickly built an excellent reputation for its work in specialist washroom services.
Over the years the workforce and client-list continued to grow, to a point where, two years ago, the business simply had to have more space. An immediate solution was to adapt part of their existing premises in Pool Road Industrial Estate to accommodate more stock.
That was when the company received the small capital grant - and that has led to continued growth and further recruitment with the business now moving to an even bigger HQ at Tungsten Park , close to the border of Hinckley and Nuneaton.
"In 2017 we reached the point where we had outgrown the space we had," said Trudi Colledge, business development manager at Hygiene Solutions. "If we were to continue to grow, we had to expand the premises so we looked at ways in which we could utilise more of the space on the site to give us a lot more storage, enabling us to keep a lot more stock.
"The grant from Warwickshire County Council was a big help. It was a vital stepping stone for us. At that time our margins were getting very tight but that expansion enabled us to keep growing to the point where we now have had to expand again. As a direct result of the grant we have taken on five staff and we are targeting further growth."
The continuing growth of Hygiene Solutions is a great success story for the business and also for the town as Nuneaton expertise and enterprise means it is punching its weight globally. Alongside clients across the UK are customers in 16 countries worldwide, all serviced by the skills and entrepreneurial power of Nuneaton people.
"The business began and has grown in the town and, when we expanded two years ago, Tracey was very keen to keep it in Nuneaton," said Trudi, who attended George Eliot School before working as a commercial account manager at Coventry City for seven years. "Now we have had to move a little bit out of town to find the space we now need but we are very proud of service we deliver and that it has always been 'Made in Nuneaton.'"
* The advice for the company was delivered as part of the Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council.
- To find out more about the range of support available to grow your business, please contact the Growth Hub on 0300 060 3747.
Lauren's business is blossoming thanks to a call to JumpStart
"It’s so useful to have someone right in front of you that you can openly talk to and bounce ideas off.”
The Coventry & Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust (CWRT) is passionate about providing opportunities for individuals in Warwickshire to escape from their 9-5 job, utilise their skills, turn their hobbies into viable businesses or find a route out of unemployment.
The Trust's ethos is rooted in the belief that a ‘one size fits all approach’ no longer works when it comes to supporting those who want to start up their own business.
That is why it is dedicated to providing a service through the JumpStart project, part-funded by Warwickshire County Council, which helps clients break down barriers into self-employment by giving them the knowledge, information and resources to help make that all-important decision to set up a business.
Lauren Stokes is the perfect example of a budding entrepreneur who has benefited from the project's support:
“Last year I really struggled with anxiety and left my job in September 2018," said Lauren. "Since then I have been working as a volunteer for Cats Protection and Barnacle Hedgehog Rescue. This is where my mum encouraged me to walk to our own dog and our family friends’ dogs.
"I did this every day for one hour and a mixture of being outside and being with the dogs really helped my anxiety and self-confidence. This is where the idea for Let’s Walk! began. It was time to go back to work and I thought, why not try and see if I can do something I really love and helps my mental health every day?”
Exploring the idea of self-employment is big step to take and Lauren admits that she “didn’t know where to begin to get things started” - but it wasn’t long before she met the Jumpstart team and “jumped at the opportunity.”
“Although I was passionate about my business idea and had marketing experience from my previous job, I had no idea how to actually start a business or what that entailed," she said. "This led to me seek support that would help me with the elements of the business that I was either scared of or confused about.”
Lauren describes the support she received through JumpStart as an “invaluable” stepping stone to assess whether her business is viable.
“The main thing that I really enjoyed from attending the JumpStart workshops was the networking," she said. "It has been really great to mix with people who are more or less in the same boat as myself – all experiencing a range of barriers to starting up a business.
"It is useful to talk with the trainer and all the people on the workshops to share ideas and struggles and get our burning questions answered. It’s so useful to have someone right in front of you that you can openly talk to and bounce ideas off.”
For anyone with a business idea, or who just wants the opportunity to explore if being their own boss could work for them, then JumpStart is the perfect place to start to gain the knowledge, information and resources to help you decide which is the right path. What is learned through Jumpstart's support can be applied to any business venture or indeed any other activity you choose to do next.
The next best idea may be just around the corner and it may be yours. Jumpstart is here to offer support you and applying for the project is simple. Just get in touch with their friendly business support team on 07494 442869, 02476 551777 or firstname.lastname@example.org and they will walk you through the process.
For more about JumpStart please read here.
Special school post-16 hub opens for business
Exhall Grange Specialist School, Ash Green, Warwickshire has recently opened a new hub for its sixth-form students.
A former disused building on the school site has been transformed into a bright, airy and modern space which will be used for a range of activities including vocational learning, life skills, work experience and enterprise training. There is also a chill-out area with a pool table for students to relax between lessons.
To improve the chances of students securing jobs when they leave the school, a Skills for Employment grant from Warwickshire County Council has enabled the development of some new vocational courses to be run at the hub. The courses are certificated by national bodies including BTEC and recognised by employers.
The fifty-plus guests attending the opening were drawn from a range of partner organisations. Guests were welcomed by 18-year old student Lucy, who gave an articulate and passionate speech about how the hub will enable many more young people like herself to develop their confidence and skills and grow as individuals. She spoke about the great journey she had experienced in the past five years as she developed from a very shy year eight student, afraid of examinations, to become an assured young woman about to move onto a performing arts course at a local Further Education college, after she leaves Exhall Grange this summer.
After a tour of the new hub. where guests saw students making products such as key rings which are sold by the school at markets, and preparing food in the hub kitchen, guests were treated to a buffet lunch prepared by students including quiche, scones, fresh cream strawberry and lemon drizzle cakes.
Warwickshire County Council’s portfolio holder for Education & Learning, Cllr. Colin Hayfield said: “This fantastic new hub will allow students at Exhall Grange to access more opportunities with local employers. I’m delighted the County Council has played a major role in the redevelopment of the building, which will provide support and opportunities for many more students in the coming years.”
Exhall Grange headteacher Christine Marshall said: “By providing opportunities for enrichment, enterprise and employment to supplement the high quality education provided by the school, this hub will play a vital role in enabling students to become well-rounded citizens, able to make a worthwhile contribution to society.”
CoFresh £20million investment programme will bring many jobs to Nuneaton
A Leicester-based snack company has announced a £20m investment programme in Warwickshire after acquiring an additional food production and warehousing facility to cater for significant growth and expansion.
Cofresh Snack Food's current site in Menzies Road, Leicester, will continue to specialise in traditional Indian snacks while the new facility on a seven-acre site at the Attleborough Fields Industrial Estate, Nuneaton, will manufacture its Eat Real ‘healthier snacking’ brand.
The scheme will take place over the next 18 months, enabling the business to split its production between two sites and increase annual turnover to more than £100m.
In addition, Cofresh is planning to extend its new Nuneaton site from 140,000 to 180,000 sq ft, bringing the company’s total production and warehousing footprint to just under 400,000 sq ft.
The unit into which they will expand has been empty since 2016 when the former XPO Logistics frozen foods unit closed. The new investment will potentially create more than twice as many jobs as the previous occupier.
CoFresh Ltd currently employs approximately 250 people in Leicester and the new site is expected to require around 150 additional employees across production and warehousing with potential for more in the future.
Managing director Priyesh Patel said: "We are delighted to be taking this hugely significant step in the development of our business. Nuneaton’s central location is well-placed for our customer base and offers a great infrastructure and easy access from our primary location in nearby Leicester, while the site itself is perfect for our immediate needs and offers great potential for our ambitious business growth."
When planning the move, the company approached Warwickshire County Council to see what local help was available. After meeting the Cofresh senior team to hear about their expansion plans, and touring the factory, the Invest in Warwickshire team provided tailored information and made introductions to relevant local support, including Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council (NBBC).
NBBC played a key role in facilitating discussions around planning and potential support from the business rates Local Discount scheme, which incentivises employment creation in the borough. Meanwhile, Midlands commercial agents M1 Agency, the retained agents for the site, worked closely with CoFresh to secure the deal.
Warwickshire County Council Strategic Director for Communities Mark Ryder said; "CoFresh's expansion into Warwickshire is excellent news for the county and for Nuneaton which continues to be a popular location for advanced manufacturing and logistics. I am delighted that the County Council's Invest in Warwickshire team helped smooth the way for such a positive development."
* Invest in Warwickshire provides soft landing support for businesses looking to set up or expand in Warwickshire. This can include help with property and access to skills, networks and grants. For more infoormation about the range of support we provide please visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/invest
Confidence dips but remains well above national average
"The manufacturing sector in particular stays strong and optimistic for the quarter to come as contingency plans come in to play"
Business confidence in Coventry and Warwickshire has taken a dip according to a major survey of firms across the region.
Figures from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) show that fewer companies in both manufacturing and service sectors feel confident about the 12 months ahead.
The QES quizzes more than 400 businesses, acting as a barometer for the local economy, as well as feeding into the British Chambers of Commerce’s national survey.
The local results are analysed by the Economy & Skills Team at Warwickshire County Council and are given a rating between one and 100, where 50 is balance, anything above shows growth and anything below shows contraction.
Confidence in the service sector dropped from 83.6 in the previous quarter to 68.1 and from 70.3 in manufacturing to 67.6. Both remain well ahead of the national average.
The overall economic outlook – where domestic and overseas orders are taken into account, alongside investment & cashflow and employment intentions – was down from 63.4 in the first quarter of 2019 to 60.9.
The bright spot was overseas orders in both the manufacturing and service seeing a rise, from 52.1 in the service sector to 55.9 and from 55.8 to 63.0 in manufacturing.
David Ayton-Hill, Assistant Director for Communities at Warwickshire County Council, said: “As a result of the surrounding economic climate it comes as no surprise that business confidence is falling for both the manufacturing and the service sectors in Coventry & Warwickshire, with increased cost pressures, competition internationally and surrounding uncertainty
“Overall, Coventry and Warwickshire is seeing, from both the service and manufacturing sectors, that animal spirits are starting to kick in as businesses start to realise that clarity on the surrounding economic conditions is becoming increasingly distant.
“The outlook for the next quarter sees businesses using investment and overseas sales to drive themselves forward. There are still naturally concerns and decreased business confidence as a result of competition, cost pressures and exchange rates but both sectors remain resilient.
“The manufacturing sector in particular stays strong and optimistic for the quarter to come as contingency plans come in to play with the service sector hopeful for increased consumer confidence and orders in the near future.”
Louise Bennett, Chief Executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said the region was holding up well compared to other areas of the country but believes uncertainty is having an impact.
She said: “Coventry and Warwickshire is a strong, robust and forward-thinking economy with fantastic businesses right across the patch, who have faced many challenges over the past decade or so.
“Uncertainty is starting to kick-in and is impacting on the way businesses are thinking about the present and the future, which will be a major factor in why we have seen a fall in confidence.
“The fact that Coventry and Warwickshire is above the national average shows the underlying strength we have in the economy but we are not immune from external factors that affect the way businesses operate.
“My message to Government and to the next Prime Minister would be to ensure we avoid a messy and disorderly Brexit and give companies the conditions they need to thrive and grow now and in the future.”
* From the next quarter, the QES will be sponsored by Prime Accountants.
Summary of 2019 Q2 Key Numbers:
Overall 60.9, down from 63.4
Service Sector 60.7, down from 64.7
Manufacturing Sector 61.4, up from 59.9
Service Sector 61.7, down from 62.5
Manufacturing Sector 62.3, up from 59.7
Service Sector 55.9, up from 52.1
Manufacturing Sector 63.0, up from 55.8
Service Sector 58.3, down from 60.3
Manufacturing Sector 56.0, down from 57.2
Service Sector 56.7, down from 57.4
Manufacturing Sector 58.2, up from 54.0
Service Sector 68.1, down from 83.6
Manufacturing Sector 67.6, down from 70.3
Great explorer will speak at economic conference
The world’s greatest living explorer will share his inspiring stories at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Economic Conference on Friday, November 15.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes will address the area’s business community as the keynote speaker at the conference, which is sponsored by WCG. His visit follows the hugely successful 2018 event which brought over 250 business and civic leaders together to discuss the most important business issues as well as explore opportunities for local partnership and growth.
Record-breaking expedition leader Fiennes, who was the first person to reach both North and South Poles by foot, will be speaking at the DoubleTree by Hilton Coventry to share tales of his endurance.
He also made it into the record books by completing seven marathons on seven continents (including Antarctica) in seven days – soon after receiving emergency heart surgery.
Amongst an incredible catalogue of adventures and extreme tests, Fiennes has recently undertaken The Coldest Journey, an attempt to cross Antarctica on foot during the southern winter where the temperature falls to minus 90°C.
Broadcater and journalist, Naga Munchetty, will host the conference which will feature addresses and panel discussions with a range of business figures and key decision makers.
Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce said: “Sir Ranulph Fiennes is a national hero who will have plenty of inspiring stories to tell and we are excited to welcome him to the biggest event in our calendar.
“He will lead a line-up of prestigious speakers in what should be a fantastic day of thought-provoking and informative discussion, which will help to make this year’s conference as popular as ever.
“The conference is a key fixture in the calendar for local business leaders and decision makers at a local, regional and national level, and we are extremely pleased to have secured such a high-profile speaker.”
Louise added: “We are delighted to also announce that Naga Munchetty will be our host for the day and we will be securing further speakers over the coming weeks and months to ensure that delegates hear the very latest developments in the region and go away informed and inspired.”
For more information, please visit www.cw-chamber.co.uk/events/the-chamber-of-commerce-annual-economic-conference-2019
Ani Snaps Up Coveted Photography Prize
Rugby photographer Ani Evans who is based at Sir Frank Whittle Business Centre has gained international recognition by winning a significant award with the Guild of Professional Photographers.
The Guild is the highly-regarded national photographic body whose members are dedicated to enhancing their skills in the art, craft and profession of photography. It runs an Image of the Month competition and received around 13,000 entries during 2018, from photographers in the UK and overseas. Each image is scored and the scores from the year are then totalled to determine who wins one of the Guild’s Top 10 Photographer awards.
This is clearly a very demanding year long process. Ani Evans was honoured to become a Top 10 Photographer of the year (placed 3rd) in the Wedding Genre – a remarkable achievement when one considers the number and standard of the entries.
The Award was presented at the Guild’s Award night at Crewe Hall (a stunning Jacobean mansion in Cheshire). Not only that but Ani had one of her wedding images chosen as one of only ten for the Guild's Image of the Year competition too). Lesley Thirsk, Director of the Guild, said “I’m both proud and delighted that Ani has achieved the recognition after 12 months of submitting the highest quality images.
“The Guild has very demanding standards when judging photographic competitions. The judging is undertaken by a panel of internationally recognised experts from a variety of photographic backgrounds, so Ani, quite rightly, should be delighted with her extraordinary achievement.”Find out more about the Guild of Photographers at www.photoguild.co.uk, and more about Ani at www.anievansphotography.co.uk
Ani was quick to pay tribute to staff at the Sir Frank Whittle Business Centre, where her business is based and which has been her base as she has developed the business over the years. She said:
"We had been running our business from home for almost two years and then decided that it might benefit us to try and find premises. I was extremely anxious about doing this as we were still in our infancy and I was concerned about being tied into a lease for a long period of time. We came across the Sir Frank Whittle Business Centre in Rugby and it was the perfect solution for us. It gave us the space that we needed along with the support of the team who ran the centre.
“We took a small to medium sized unit on and it soon became apparent that our clients loved the fact that they could come and see us in a professional environment and it gave them added confidence in us.
“We had to write a business plan when we applied to take on the unit and we smashed that out of the park in the first 12 months and we have gone from strength to strength since then. We outgrew our first unit so took on a larger one so that we could do more studio work. The business centres are a fantastic way of growing your business with less of the risks that are normally involved in taking a business you operate from home into commercial premises."
Anyone interested in finding space at one of the County Council's business centres should call 02476 796 400 or email email@example.com.
Councils get recognised in awards for small businesses support
Warwickshire County Council was honoured recently as part of the Federation of Small Businesses Local Authority awards held at the annual ‘Small Business Engagement’ lunch, where local councils are recognised for their support of small firms across Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull.
Local councils were asked to make known any project or campaign that promotes and champions local economic development. The award presented to Warwickshire County Council was for the best ‘Small Business friendly’ programme or campaign and Warwickshire put forward its Apprenticeship Levy Small Business Support Programme which offers a full support service to businesses wanting to explore apprenticeships whilst also providing funds to cover the full cost of the apprenticeship training.
The judges said of the entry:
This was a really strong entry for the best campaign and is a fantastic initiative which we believe helps to remove barriers for small businesses around training, skills and recruitment. The project was launched earlier this year and sees this council commit a fund of £300,000 annually through its own apprenticeship levy to be shared with small businesses to help fully fund apprenticeship training.
The Apprenticeship Levy Small Business Support Programme also offers the opportunity for businesses to recruit a supported young person with an apprenticeship work opportunity and will look to create at least 42 new apprenticeship places a year.
The judges felt this programme targets an issue that the FSB has been lobbying on to tackle skills shortages that often affect smaller businesses and fits in well with our recent apprenticeship report recommendations to help small businesses employ apprentices and in some cases can give young people their first step into employment.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Coucil, said: “We’re delighted to have received this recognition for the scheme.
“The county council’s core priorities are to support our most vulnerable people and to help to sustain a vibrant economy in which small businesses play an integral part.
“By supporting small businesses to recruit apprentices, we are helping to address the skills gap that can be an obstacle to growth for many of them.
“But the Apprenticeship Levy programme does more than that. It also can be used to enable businesses to take on supported young people from diverse backgrounds or perhaps with additional support needs. We are looking for the programme to create at least 42 new apprenticeship places a year.
”We hope that this approach can be replicated across the country, helping small enterprises to grow while giving many young people that all important start in the workplace.”
Supportive Employers come together to create opportunities for supported interns
Warwickshire’s businesses, colleges and training providers came out in force once again for the second Supportive Employers Inc. forum with around 40 representatives from businesses jo
ining Warwickshire County Council (WCC) and the Careers and Enterprise Company in Coventry and Warwickshire (CEC).
The morning session was the latest in a planned series of events to bring businesses together to share ideas and best practice on providing supported internships to people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) following on from May’s inaugural event.
The government has committed to a 20% increase in the uptake of apprentices with SEND by 2020. Nationally, there are nearly a quarter of a million people currently in education with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). Of this number, while nearly 80% would like to get a job, a mere 6% actually go into paid employment.
The Supportive Employers Inc. partnership between the county council and the CEC is looking to create a network of businesses that can offer work experience and potentially apprenticeships.
As well as representatives from WCC and the CEC, other agencies were represented including the Department for Education and the Department for Work and Pensions who advised businesses on how they could access support from the department.
Giving the national picture was Claire Cookson, newly-appointed Chief Executive of the DFN Foundation, a charity which specialises in providing employability skills programmes for people with SEND.
Among the stark figures that Claire highlighted was the cost to the economy of people with SEND not working – an estimated £1million to the taxpayer in social care over the course of a lifetime for each person with SEND.
Also speaking was Natasha Hope who started her career as a supported apprentice and is now enjoying her job at the British Forces Resettlement Service where she is a hugely valued employee.
When asked what she hoped would be an outcome from the meeting, she said: “If one thing comes out of today, I would like to see more businesses give opportunities to people who don’t have as many qualifications as other people their age.”
The overall positive effect on staff morale, increased disability confidence in employees, enhanced skills developed by staff and the bond created within teams were also recurring themes. As they left, businesses signed pledges, promising levels of support to the programme ranging from offering work experience through to taking on an intern.
Future forums will help employers to understand the technicalities behind taking on a supported internship so that the intern’s needs are met and appropriate adjustments made to the workplace.
The Department for Work and Pensions will also provide advice on funding and support to help businesses make offers.
Councillor Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council, said:
“The county council is committed to increasing the number of people with SEND who are getting opportunities to take on paid employment. The county council is looking at every way possible to increase our own take up of interns and we will encourage and work with local businesses to increase the breadth of offer across the county and across a range of businesses. We made another very significant step at this forum.”
Lizzie Mara is one of the CEC's Enterprise Co-ordinators based at Coventry and Warwickshire's Chamber of Commerce. She said:
“Young people with SEND are less likely to take exams that employers recognise, such as GCSEs. They also have higher rates of unemployment than other students. Many young people with SEND would benefit from additional cover support such as supported internships, apprenticeships and employment, extended workplace interviews, supported enterprise activities and volunteering. With the support and encouragement, many of these students can access the broad range of career outcomes available to their peers including apprenticeships, employer training schemes, university or employment.”
Maxine Wheeler, the Apprenticeship and Work Experience Manager with George Eliot Hospital, outlined the trust’s ambition to widen participation and create opportunities for supported internships with a view to these being transitioned into full time Apprenticeship employment for up to 12 people across a range of disciplines including catering, estates, administration and GETEC. She said of the forum: “It has been an invaluable exercise and helped me to realise that this is not just achievable but that it could really make a huge difference to the NHS as it seeks to achieve its ambitions in widening participation and making employment opportunities within the NHS available across all of our communities.
“Today has given us the contacts to tap into the talent pool and see if we can find some suitable interns – and ultimately staff – that we can work with. It’s really exciting and I hope that other enterprises have been as inspired as I have because we can make a difference and our organisations will be all the better for it.”
For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
A high-tech company that sells its cutting edge products across the globe has been hailed by an MP as a shining example of how regional support can help a business of any size to achieve its ambitions.
Southam-based Silson, which makes ultra-thin membranes for use in science around the world, has just celebrated its 25th anniversary with the unveiling of the latest phase of its development.
The company was set up by Peter Anastasi in 1994 as a virtual business before moving into its own premises in Northamptonshire three years later.
After years of research and development, Silson wanted to expand and was attracted into Warwickshire in 2015 when it created its own headquarters at Insight Park in Southam.
It was supported at the time by Warwickshire County Council and then engaged with the University of Warwick and WMG before being introduced to the business support team at the University of Warwick Science Park by the CWLEP Growth Hub.
Funding for this project is the result of a successful grant application to the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) under the CWLEP Business Development priority.
This funding, managed by the Rural Payments Agency, part financed the development of the first floor of the company’s headquarters into office space and further laboratories.
The company, which now exports its products to more than 700 institutions in 45 countries around the globe, invited Kenilworth and Southam MP Jeremy Wright, to unveil the latest phase of its development.
Mr Wright said: “‘Congratulations to Silson on its expansion in Warwickshire.
“This company is a good example of what we hope to see in the UK specialist manufacturing industry – innovative processes, co-operation with our world class local universities and good engagement with local government and the Local Enterprise Partnership.”
Peter said the company had also been supported by Lloyds Bank and Coventry University Enterprises in its growth ambitions and that the joined up approach in the region had proved invaluable to the firm.
He said: “I believe we are a genuinely good news story for Warwickshire. We took the decision to move here and have been supported enthusiastically by a range of local bodies and partners.
“We are still classed as a micro manufacturer but we are growing and have a global footprint, selling these tiny, high-tech products into 45 countries all around the world.”
Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said: “We are very please to have supported Silson and they are a shining example of how this region works together for the good of the local economy.”
Dirk Schafer, business growth adviser at the University of Warwick Science Park, said: “Silson are a great business to work with. They want to engage and access support that is available where it can speed up their growth and we are delighted to have helped them over several years now.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, portfolio holder for economic development with Warwickshire County Council, said: “The county council works hard alongside its partners to help small businesses set up and gain access to finance and this is a fantastic example of what can happen with timely support. Enterprises such as this are key to the county’s economy so we are thrilled to see their expansion.”
Pictured (left to right): Craig Humphrey, Peter Butlin (Warwickshire County Council) Jeremy Wright MP, Peter Anastasi, Bob Gregson (Rural Payments Agency), Dirk Schafer, Dr Paul Milne (WMG).
Growing tech companies have much to gain from the company of Angels
For small business in Warwickshire needing financial and mentorial support, or for potential Angel Investors looking for a project, a solution might be on their doorstep. Alex Toft, head of Minerva Business Angels which is part of the University of Warwick Science Park, explains.
"Minerva’s model is to bring exciting and fast-growing tech companies, pre-vetted and curated to be investment-ready, to its investor community."
Minerva Business Angels is one of the University of Warwick’s fastest-growing activities. Started in 1994 by the University of Warwick Science Park to support its tenants, it has grown to become one of the UK’s largest syndicated angel networks.
Minerva supports start-ups and scale-up businesses who are seeking anything between £150,000 and £2m and our Angels have invested in more than 80 companies, helping support the raising of over £40m as a result.
Minerva’s model is to bring exciting and fast-growing tech companies,pre-vetted and curated to be investment-ready, to its investor community which meets collectively to evaluate the opportunity. Minerva is based in ten locations and links everybody through an online Angel Platform. Angels can thus evaluate companies remotely or collectively, and we interconnect all interested parties.
Founded at the University of Warwick’s Science Park, Minerva was a originally a Midlands-based organisation operating five syndicates: University of Warwick, Hagley Hall, Gloucester, Loughborough University and Wroxall (an associate member). We are now creating new partnerships, working with universities and enterprise hubs nationwide to grow our successful model, spread the word about becoming an Angel investor, and help more entrepreneurs and start-up firms access to finance and business expertise.
Business and investors in Coventry and Warwickshire have been at the heart of what we do and we want that to remain so. In 2017, the HMRC noted that, of the £1.8bn invested through the Enterprise Investment Schemes (an excellent tax relief incentive scheme to help mitigate the investment risk in SMEs), £1bn was invested in the south-east, with the majority going to London based companies. Around 2.6% is invested in the West Midlands and 2% in the East Midlands.Helping to address this regional disparity and stem the potential loss of skills, jobs, and companies to down south is a key objective for Minerva.
We seek to tap into that latent capacity of those investors who traditionally have never thought about working as a collective to invests in fast-growing companies and new novel technology.Our Angels are from a variety of backgrounds, be it business owners, self-madeentrepreneursor former executives. Our experience base is wide (our youngest is below 30) and, increasingly, female entrepreneurs are joining our ranks. While all angels must self-certify their investment experience, we seek to work to a minimum investment threshold of £5,000 and low joining fees.
Angels can be passive or active investors, but many are keen to get involved and participate in extracurricular activities, which they enjoy, which fuels further involvement.So we not only support SMEs but play an active role in helping develop entrepreneurs of the future.
For the companies we support, we provide an unrivalled pool of mentors, contacts and connectivity plus access to finance.Minerva has been a keen supporter of Warwickshire businesses with its Angels investing in a wide selection, including Section Clothing (an online retailer), Moasure (the Hottest Start-Up at Launchit Consumer Electronics Show 2019),Medherant(a MedTech company with a new drug delivery mechanism in the form of a patch) and Genesis Technologies delivering more efficient broadband down copper wires.
But we want see more of our local businesses coming forward to utilise our angel network to facilitate their growth and compete more effectively through investment, by accessing our Angel’s experience and contacts. Across the county there are also some amazing support initiatives to help businesses become investment ready, such as the Science Park’s Business Ready programme runin collaboration with Warwickshire County Councilout of the University of Warwick Science Park.
Just as importantly we need those entrepreneurs, self-made individuals, and former company executives to join our Angel network to help both start-ups and scale-up companies on their journey.
Becoming involved as an Angel provides many returns - hopefully not only financially. It's an exciting opportunity to “give back” and support a fantastic initiative lead by the University of Warwick Science Park. You get to work with like-minded individuals for a common cause - creating successful opportunities.
Anyone interested in finding out more about Minerva Business Angels can contact:Support@minerva.uk.net
Creativity, self-discovery and business development
Working in the creative sphere sounds like it offers great job satisfaction. But it does have its own challenges. Rob Harrison, partner at Leamington-based design agency Glued, offers the following insight into a course that has helped him to deal with some of the issues faced by the industry and how the learning is helping him to progress.
Business development might sound an odd bedfellow for creativity and self-discovery. At Glued we know differently having enrolled on, and completed, the Creative Warwickshire (now called Creative Springboard) programme by Coventry and Warwickshire Growth Hub and supported by Warwickshire County Council. Cleverly, the programme was free… providing you attended all the sessions. Missing a session would incur a charge!
The programme gathers together people who are earning, or aiming to earn, a living from some form of creativity. We were taken through a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment - developing a delight in proven business techniques to improve the sustainability, growth and processes in our creative businesses.
From simply breaking down prejudices about business practices through sharing and solving challenges to creatively documenting our story to date, our present circumstances and our ambitions, we visualised, role played and opened up in a collaborative and inspirational atmosphere.
I attended with my business partner, David Wilson, and we both got great value from it - but in different ways. Partly, because I had already been fortunate enough to have a kind of renaissance with a business mentor. Partly, because our behavioural styles are different - David had more of an epiphany than I did in relation to the business practices. But we both learnt great insights and courage.
The most prevalent of these was the concept of the ‘impostor syndrome’. This is a feeling that in doing what we do we are not really all that good at it and that somebody is going to find us out – the consequence likely to be a collapsing ‘house of cards’. The first step in this insight is understanding that many of us feel this, so how can there be so many unfound impostors? The second step is realising that we have to accept failures in order to learn how to do things expertly. The third step is recognising that those who might prey upon your ‘impostor syndrome’ are probably not the sort you are going to do good business with.
The Creative Warwickshire programme has also given us the confidence to get up in front of people and openly share our stories – the mistakes we have learnt from, the insights we have come to and the fun we have had. We surprise ourselves now by putting on our own paid for workshops, sharing parts of our process so others can go and conduct them in their own business to develop propositions and messages.
Our business was twelve years old when we joined the programme. What is more I had more than 30 years experience in marketing agencies and David had more than 15. So we weren’t ‘green’. And yet we learned things that changed us for the good as well as ways of sustaining our business – Glued turns 16 this year. At the grand age of 52, the main thing I learnt was that learning doesn’t finish at the end of your formal education, it carries on all your life – you can’t help learning even if you wilfully avoid it. So … why not grasp learning, instead of dodging it? Get on and enjoy the ride.
To find out more about Creative Springboard, go to https://www.cwlep.com/event/creative-springboard