Norfolk Start up businesses praise Chamber network
Over 40 start up businesses have joined the Norfolk Chamber network since April. They are using its contacts, online communication channels and events to help grow their businesses. Hear what they have to say:
“Chamber helped us to grow our business”
Many young businesses have benefited from Chamber membership. Norwich-based Sweetbriar Office Solutions, for instance, benefits from the networking opportunities.
Based on Frensham Road on the Sweetbriar Industrial Estate, the company comprises a team of local people who have more than 25 years’ experience in the stationery industry.
They officially opened on March 1 and supply a number of businesses across Norfolk, Suffolk & Cambridgeshire, providing everything from office supplies and printing to office hygiene, interior design and refurbishment and paper recycling systems.
Jenny Blunt, the Office Manager, said: “Attending the variety of events, breakfasts and similar events arranged by the Chamber of Commerce has enabled our business to connect with people who make the real day-to-day decisions, which has helped us grow our business.”
“Chamber events help me to make great contacts”
Forage4it, which helps clients meet their legal obligations under security, environmental and WEEE regulations. The business reuses, recycles and disposes of used Electronic/Electrical equipment. PCs, laptops, phones appreciates the role played by the Chamber.
Pete Lloyd, who runs it, said: “I find the support offered by the Chamber to be very good. I am particularly keen on events such as the chill-out networking events. Not only do these give a good opportunity to meet and talk to others in business, they also enable you to make some great contacts.
“But what I find most helpful about these events is the chance to spend time with other positive people. Building a business can be a lonely affair so it‘s good to meet and talk to others that are trying to achieve similar things to you, to swap advice and stories.”
Norfolk farmer Richard Wright has also drawn on the networking opportunities offered by the Chamber as he develops his business.
“The Chamber feeds into the wider business network”
The Chamber’s role in influencing decision-makers is important for Norfolk businessman and former solicitor Mark Oxley, who helps clients resolve a wide range of business and personal problems.
His recent work includes advising on company turnarounds, acting as trusted adviser on multi-jurisdictional business, probate and aggressive tax planning issues and advising small businesses across a wide range of strategic and operational issues.
He said: “For me, the key thing about the Chamber is the way it feeds into the wider business network, both nationally and internationally.
“It is important to have an organisation that can operate on the macro level, ensuring that Government appreciates the views of businesses in Norfolk. No other organisation does that and that makes the Chamber a useful forum.”
“Chamber events give me access to people I do not know”
Norwich-based Leavs Ltd produces bespoke organic packaging from botanicals and by-products of popular farming crops. The company’s innovative approach was recognised by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, which mentioned Leavs in the Green Economy Pathfinder Manifesto presented to the Government in June.
Richard said: “The Chamber has helped me establish the business. The really useful thing has been the Chamber events. They are really important because they give me the opportunity to meet potential customers and gain access to people I do not know.”
“I’ve had a great experience of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce”
For Richard Shepherdson, setting up his own business was a major step, having spent his earlier career in the public sector.
When he decided to take that step, the result was Norfolk Workplace Mediation, which helps resolve disputes, and he has appreciated the support he has received from the Chamber.
Richard said: “I am always amazed when I read some of the research-based estimates regarding the cost to industry of poor relationships at work, bullying and the inevitable resulting anxiety. The facts are difficult to exaggerate.
“I have always had a professional interest in emotional literacy and believe with a passion that excessive conflict within the workplace is simply not necessary. I was struck by the extent of the misery which so many people feel obliged to endure at work and I realised that I want to do something about it.
“Becoming self-employed is a risk, however. From the start, I knew that there is a need among local employers which I am able to fulfil. It was obvious to me that the issue of poor workplace conflict is a serious problem which affects most businesses at some level and I set-up Norfolk Workplace Mediation because I realised that the principles of how to address these problems are actually simple ideas which most of us can easily understand.
“I’ve had a great experience of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce – it seems to offer a broad variety of opportunities from which members benefit according to our different needs. Currently for me, it’s mainly about networking opportunities and B-2-B. I am relatively new to the business world because my previous career was in the public sector and I’m really enjoying finding out about the many different ways in which people work.
“I loved the ‘Engaging Customers using Social Media’ event and was both surprised and fascinated to learn about just how commercially significant social media has become. I felt that I was being kept informed about an important aspect of my work and I have to say it immediately influenced my business plan. People at Chamber events are sociable and approachable; I’ve met some interesting people and made new friends.
“Publications including the Business Directory are useful and members are kept informed by email. I have a two-year business plan and the Chamber will remain central to that. The Chamber is particularly well-suited to the kind of service which I am able to provide.”