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Cheshire Business Awards winners swap success stories

Oddfellows in Chester was the venue for round table discussion between winners and sponsors

Winners and sponsors at the Cheshire Business Awards winners lunch held at Oddfellows in Chester. Picture: Neil Lloyd

Challenges faced by start-up businesses was one of the key topics of a discussion involving winners and sponsors of this year’s Trinity Mirror Cheshire Business Awards (CBA).

Held at the Oddfellows venue in Chester city centre, the discussion was chaired by Andy Phelan, business development director for Chronicle publisher, Trinity Mirror Cheshire and North Wales, and included Kaye Whitby, Jeremy Orrell and Jonathan Whittaker from CBA sponsor, law firm SAS Daniels.

Award winners round the table included Bex Hassett, founder of bespoke greetings cards business, Bexy Boo; Edward Jonas from Staycold Export, which supplies chilled drinks display coolers; Roz Price from charity and social enterprise, People Potential Possibilities; David Barlow of specialist electrical firm, Barlows (UK); Martin Murphy from renewable energy installer Hero Renewables; Gary Smith of IT service provider, Prism Solutions; and Samuel McCarrigle, founder of craft beer delivery firm, Beer Dock.

Jonathan Whittaker of SAS Daniels. Picture: Neil Lloyd

Jonathan Whittaker of SAS opened the discussion by talking about there was no single right way when it comes to setting up and running a business.

He said: “It is about whatever business model works for each business.”

Samuel McCarrigle, founder of craft beer delivery firm, Beer Dock. Picture: Neil Lloyd

Samuel McCarrigle told the group how he started Beer Dock shortly after graduating from university.

“I was working in a pub and drinking some great beer and realised I had a passion for beer and decided this was what I wanted to do,” he said.

“We have a sustainable business model that works for us. I had £2,000 to my name, which I ploughed into the shop, and everything that we have done since has been organically sustainable.

“Every penny has gone back into business. We have not had any bank loans that perhaps would helped us grow quicker but it has been a nice steady growth.”

Andy Phelan, business development director for Chronicle publisher, Trinity Mirror Cheshire and North Wales, and Bex Hassett, founder of bespoke greetings cards business, Bexy Boo, at the Cheshire Business Awards winners lunch. Picture: Neil Lloyd

Bex Hassett, who is now supplying cards to more than 300 stores across the country, including Harrods, spoke quite honestly and openly about the challenges she faced running and growing her business and looking after her three children.

She explained: “I have to admit there have been times when I have struggled. It has been quite overwhelming.

“I have had to take a step back over the summer holidays and I had someone look at all the accounts and start from the beginning.

“I had to look at all my processes and procedures and bring in new people to help me. However, the learning curve has been immense. I came from a purely design background and I had no business skills at all.

“I was lucky in that my husband also runs a business and has been able to help me.

“When I got the award that was the week when I felt that everything was coming together and I now feel I am in control of the situation at lot more.”

Ed Jonas of Staycold Export at the Cheshire Business Awards winners lunch. Picture: Neil Lloyd

Edward Jonas raised a laugh around the table when he revealed: “My export strategy was based around the places I wanted to go to on holiday.”

Staycold supplies chilled display coolers to bars and shops and also to global drinks giants such as Heineken and SAB Miller with around one-third of its products going to export.

Mr Jonas added: “When we started in 1998 we got lucky because we got a big order from Guinness Africa for 1,000 coolers – that was a £750,000 orders and it was our first one.

“They could have gone to so many other people but it was simply because we knew somebody.”

Gary Smith of IT service provider Prism Solutions at the Cheshire Business Awards winners lunch. Picture: Neil Lloyd

Gary Smith from Prism raised a particularly crucial issue for his business – finding and recruiting skilled people.

He said: “Recruitment is our biggest challenge. We need more people coming into the business that are of the standard we require.

“We have more than 1,000 clients and we need the people to deliver the services to those clients and there is a real shortage of those people with those skills.”

Both Jeremy Orrell and Kaye Whitby of SAS Daniels agreed, with Ms Whitby adding: “When there is a lot of work coming though the door the temptation is to take people on that are really not suitable for your business – and you can risk damaging your business by doing that.”

Business Person of the Year David Barlow at the Cheshire Business Awards winners lunch. Picture: Neil Lloyd

David Barlow of Barlows (UK) said it was crucial that people they hired for their business were prepared to fit in with the pre-existing culture of the firm.

He said even if they take on an experienced engineer who is very good at his or her job, it is unlikely they will last long if they don’t buy in to the way the business works.

He explained: “We will help them however we can to find a new job but we will look to move them on.

“We have just taken on a new intake of apprentices. They are 16/17 and I always take them under my wing personally for the first year and teach them the culture of the business.

“For example, dealing with customers is very important – they need to know how to behave and how to speak to customers. We put in the culture from day one.”

Martin Murphy of Hero Renewables said the big challenge facing his sector was the uncertainty over future Government support for renewable energy schemes.

“Green energy incentives and things such as feed-in tariffs are a big issue for us,” he said. “We will not recommend an installation to our clients that won’t pay for itself within seven years.

“The Government is putting those incentives at risk and is putting our industry at risk.”

Ed Jonas from Staycold Export, which supplies chilled drinks display coolers, and Roz Price from charity and social enterprise, People Potential Possibilities, at the Cheshire Business Awards winners lunch. Picture: Neil Lloyd

Roz Price from People Potential Possibilities talked about how her organisation offered a range of services to the homeless, the elderly and young people leaving the car system.

She said: “We have people coming to use with addictions, or maybe mental health issues or just debt needs, particularly with how the economic climate has been of late.

“We will work with them for six-month periods but because that can be a shorty space of time we decided to get creative and opened hubs across Cheshire West.

“People could fall back down after that six months comes to an end so what we do now is promote the independence of the individual and then we invite them to come along to our hubs.”

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