Brad Burton, founder of 4NetworkingThe charismatic founder and MD of the UK's largest business network was in Marlborough this week to help the local 4Networking chapter celebrate its fifth anniversary.
Brad Burton's jeans and t-shirt approach to networking was grasped as an antidote to the regimented approaches of associations like the BNI, while his Meet, Know, Like, Trust philosophy to networking and referrals has struck a chord with so many small businesses that the organisation now boasts 50,000 members across 300 groups
The Marlborough branch was established by Brad and Karen Thurley, of RED Virtual Office, in 2007 at the Ogbourne Downs Golf Club, which has been the home of the 4Networking branch for five years
Every other Tuesday around 20 small business owners meet for a 40-second introduction to talk about their own business, three ten minute one-to-one appointments with other members, and to listen to an industry expert give a '4sight' talk.
And Tuesday's meeting attracted almost 30 members, from as far afield as Oxford, Newbury and Bristol.
“One of the great things about 4Networking,” explained group leader Gail Lummis “is that you join the entire network, not just your local group. You could spend five mornings a week networking if you wanted to.”
Guests celebrate the 10th anniversary of 4Networking MarlboroughThe proximity of the golf club from the M4 makes the club attractive to members from Swindon and further afield. Gail works from Calne, while Karen – who still attends Marlborough meetings – is based in Highworth.
“You meet so many great contacts at 4Networking,” said Gail. “And the relaxed atmosphere makes it easier for some people to get into the networking habit. It really gives you confidence.”
Marlborough Chamber of Commerce holds its monthly networking breakfast at the Castle & Ball Hotel, High Street, Marlborough from 8am to 9am on Wednesday, September 19.
Representatives of a £2.3billion industry will be holding a recruitment expo in Marlborough later this month to encourage more people to join the growing army of self-employed direct sellers.
From Jamie Oliver's kitchen products business Jamie at Home to The Utility Warehouse, which aims to save businesses and households money on their bills, direct selling has experienced a boom during the recession – at one point growing by over 20 percent a year.
It is estimated that 90 percent of direct sellers are women, although a growing number of men are joining the ranks, especially those who been made redundant or have taken voluntary early retirement.
The We Need Choices expo will be held at Marlborough Town Hall from 7pm to 10pm on Thursday, September 20.
Organiser Christina Goble said: “This recruitment expo is aimed at anyone who wants a career change, is looking for extra income, or wants a job that suits their lifestyle.
“We hope to show visitors that some of the names they come across in the day-to-day, are actually serious business opportunities.”
For more details go to www.weneedchoices.co.uk
Fraser's group operations manager Mark Wilson with shops development manager Nick FraserSupporters of some of Marlborough's best-loved charities and community organisations have just over a week to help them grab a share of a £6,000 jackpot in the Frasers Budgens of Marlborough Community Giveaway.
The Community Giveaway is being staged by Oxfordshire-based retail group Fraser’s, who are opening a petrol station, Budgens convenience store and Subway outlet at Marlborough Business Park in the autumn.
Until Firday 7 September, a public poll will select nine finalists from three categories – Health, Wellbeing and Social; Communities and the Arts; Education and Young People.
The finalists will be invited to pitch their projects to a live voting audience at Theatre on the Hill in Marlborough on Thursday 27 September, when representatives from each community group are invited to pitch their ideas from the theatre stage to a voting public.
While there's a lot of money at stake, the emphasis will be on fun, with organisers insisting the event will be more like Britain's Got Talent than Dragon's Den.
The three community projects that receive the most votes on the night will walk away with cheques for £1,000. And all of the nine finalists will get a share of another £1,000 over the first three months of the new forecourt opening.
With just over a week of voting remaining, Marlborough Brandt Group are leading the the Education and Young People category with 32 percent of the vote, with Savernake Forest Scout Group, who have 28 percent, in second place. The Merchant's House Education Programme is in third place with 25 percent.
St John's School (12 percent) and Savernake ExplorerScout Group (four percent) won't secure a place in the final unless they can muster some more votes.
In the Health, Wellbeing and Social category, Wiltshire Air Ambulance have maintained their lead with 56 percent of the votes, Splitz - KidzPace are still in second place with 23 percent, and Carer Support Wiltshire have 15 percent.
National Childbirth Trust have four percent and SWIFT Medics have two percent. They need to rally the support of their friends for a place in the final.
And in the Community and the Arts category, Phoenix Brass Band, with 59 percent of the vote, have increased their lead over Marlborough Communities Market, who have 32 percent.
We Love Marlborough's nine percent is still enough to win them a place in the final, unless Kennet Accordion Orchestra, Kennet Valley Arts Trust, Marlborough Concert Orchestra and Marlborough Community Orchard can up their game.
Readers wishing to cast a vote, or to apply for a grant on behalf of their community organisation, should go to www.facebook.com/BudgensMarlborough and click the red 'vote' button.
Paul ShimellMarlborough’s Chamber of Commerce has given its full support for the town council’s bid to introduce a start-up high-powered, quality CCTV system to cover the High Street shops and businesses.
But it fears that any continued debate on the proposal for a £20,000 initial scheme with four cameras will end up with further delay, the town council having first discussed CCTV 11 years ago and failed to take decisive action.
“It’s great, a fabulous idea which the Chamber fully supports but I fear we shall be in the same position 10 months from now and nothing will have happened,” Paul Shimell, the Chamber’s president, told Marlborough News Online.
“We are the only market town in Wiltshire without CCTV. Everyone knows it. That’s why we are being targeted and hit by gangs and thieves. Shops are suffering and CCTV is what we need to fight crime.”
“If the latest report to the town council shows it is such a good idea, then why haven’t they not introduced it? Why have they suddenly found the finance to do it when before they said it was too costly?”
He remains concerned that opponents to “Big Brother” CCTV as an intrusion into people’s lives will prevent the project going ahead, and added: “We have to ensure that any scheme does not invade people’s privacy.”
With other Marlborough organisations, including Marlborough town councillors, the Chamber is currently supporting the creation of a Business Improvement District to cover the town, which would eventually result in a Neighbourhood Plan being introduced.
This would include a wide-range of improvements for transport and parking, energy consumption, culture, tourism, telecommunications and Marlborough’s historic streetscape.
“If we can get that going then may be it will be the method by which we can fund CCTV ourselves,” he declared.
Pauline Hawkins outside Knitty GrittyPauline Hawkins has been running Knitty Gritty in the centre of Pewsey for over thirteen years. Now she wants to retire and do something different and has put the shop up either for sale as an established business or to let as premises for another kind of shop.
She sells women’s clothes, gifts and cards, but it’s the clothes that customers say they will really miss. As one very satisfied and frequent customer told Marlborough News Online: “Pauline doesn't just stock smart-casual clothes for us women, she also stocks all the basic, everyday essentials you can't buy in Marlborough or anywhere else around here.”
Knitty Gritty is the area’s main stockist for Sloggi, Triumph and Naturana underwear and swimwear. Which leaves plenty of space for Aristoc, Viz-a-viz, Pretty Polly – and for that special gift – Bulaggi designer handbags.
With one of the best addresses in the village – 1 Market Place – Knitty Gritty has been developed by Pauline into a thriving business. Now she thinks “Someone with new enthusiasms and new ideas could take the business to a higher level.”
One of the reasons for her success is that she stocks a variety of goods: “If you specialise you’re not going to sell everyday.” In the short time we were in the shop to talk to Pauline, she had four customers checking out her stock.
Pauline was born and brought up in Pewsey, but moved to Pembrokeshire where her husband became a well-known and successful builder renovating farmhouses and building new homes. After eighteen years in Wales, the family moved back to Pewsey.
So far she’s had a couple of people interested in taking over the shop. But she says despite being ‘of a retirement age’, she’s not in any great hurry to retire.
Anyone interested in taking over Knitty Gritty can ‘phone the shop on 01672 564313.
1 Market Place, Pewsey
Simon Elliman, partner, Withy King and Katrina Hart, 200m Paralympic athleteMarlborough-based law firm Withy King is sponsoring Paralympian athlete Katrina Hart, who is currently training at the University of Bath’s Sports Training Village in preparation for the London Paralympic Games.
Katrina Hart, a 200m sprinter and University of Bath alumnus, has cerebral palsy and competes in the T37 class. A neuromuscular condition affecting movement, posture and coordination, Katrina’s cerebral palsy manifests itself in the left side of her body – affecting her arm and leg.
Withy King’s specialist clinical negligence team has a national reputation for dealing with cerebral palsy-related claims. The firm’s £3,000 sponsorship will be used to cover training and travel costs in the run up to this summer’s Games.
Simon Elliman, partner and head of the clinical negligence team at Withy King, said: “We are proud to sponsor Katrina at the Paralympic Games this summer. Katrina is a real gold medal contender and I’m looking forward to attending the Games and seeing her compete.
“Withy King has close links to a number of cerebral palsy charities, and I have run half-marathons to raise money for several of them. Katrina is a great inspiration for many people and we are really pleased to be associated with her.”
Running competitively at an international level since 2005, the London Games will be Katrina’s second Paralympics. Katrina won her first Gold medal for England at the Commonwealth Games in 2010, setting a new British record. In the same year, Katrina took home Gold in the 200m at the World Championships.
Katrina said: “I’ve always been athletic – my two older sisters were sporty as children and it really helped to bring out both my confidence and my competitive spirit.
“I was also lucky enough to have great PE teachers throughout my school days – one of whom was also a GB athlete. She inspired me to think that anything was possible if you put your mind to it. I think it’s brilliant that Withy King has got involved and helped to make it all possible.”
Amanda Fearon of Ramsbury TeaSuccess is brewing for fledgling tea company, which won a clutch of medals at the 2012 Taste of the West Awards.
Ramsbury Tea, which is not yet a year old, won a silver medal for its Rose Congou Keemun, which was so highly rated it only narrowly missed taking the gold.
The company's Lapsang Souchong, which was complimented for its smokey aroma and character, took a silver medal while its Lemon Grey was awarded a bronze.
Director Amanda Fearon said: “For our first year, we’re absolutely delighted to have won anything at all! In fact, we nearly didn’t enter this year but we got a reminder on the last day for entries and thought we’d give it a go after all. If only all last minute decisions were so successful!”
As well as selling direct to the public online and at farmers markets, the team are increasing the number of select local retail and catering outlets which stock Ramsbury Tea products.
On the back of a successful launch in 2011, Ramsbury Tea have already doubled their range of teas and are adding new accessories like mugs and tea canisters.
In addition to their prize-winning trio of teas, and best-sellers like English Breakfast, Earl Grey and Peppermint, they offer specialist brews like Pu-Erh and Formosa Choice Oolong.
They’ve also sourced an organic single-estate Assam and a decaffeinated Ceylon and supplemented their herbal tisanes with Fennel.
For more information log on to www.ramsburytea.co.uk
Graham Pound from First4Skills, Chamber of Commerce president Paul Shimell and Dee Temple-Multon from Wiltshire Business Support ServiceMarlborough businesses will have a greater say about the closure of Britain's widest High Street for resurfacing in 2013 than they did about the closure of the Pewsey Road Bridge in 2010.
That was the pledge from Chamber of Commerce president Paul Shimell, elected for a second year to lead the business organisation.
He told twenty business leaders at the chamber's annual general meeting that a better relationship with council officials meant businesses – especially retailers – would have much more input into the planning of potentially-disruptive roadworks.
The traffic chaos caused by the closure of the Pewsey Road due to the replacing of the bridge two years ago has not been forgotten. The works lasted nearly two years – with a business-negotiated break over Christmas – and caused severe traffic jams as one of only two crossings over the River Kennet was closed.
But Mr Shimell, franchise holder at Specsavers in Marlborough High Street, assured the meeting that businesses would get more of a say from now on.
“The Chamber of Commerce is now sitting around the table with the town council and Wiltshire Highways,” he said.
“There will be resurfacing works soon. London Road will be done first, because it is in the worst condition, and in 2013 High Street will be resurfaced.
“We will be telling them how we want it laid out. There will be more consideration for pedestrians.
“We can now say what happens and when. We can't get to the ridiculous stage we were at with the Pewsey Road Bridge.”
As part of this new relationship, the Chamber was heading up the development of a Town Plan, Mr Shimell told the meeting.
“This Chamber-led initiative sees us sitting around the table with the town council, the police, the Transition Town movement, Marlborough Area Development Trust and a town planner,” he said.
He said the town plan may eventually lead to the formation of a Business Improvement District (BID), where all of the towns businesses pay a surcharge on their business rates if the majority vote in favour of the scheme.
The BID is seen as a way of getting large, uninvolved national chains contributing to the vitality of town centres.
Looking back on his first term as president, Mr Shimell – the first retailer to hold the post for at least five years – said: “It started in tough times and unfortunately we are still in tough times... and the weather isn't helping.
“My first job was to build a better link between the Chamber and the retailers, and there's been a big push around that.
“The fashion show, in November, was a great success: a lot of work went into it, a lot of businesses supported it, and it boosted businesses.
“Our jubilee ball was well attended, and the event raised a lot of money for Swift Medics – we were able to give them just short of £800.
“And we moved on to decorating the town with red, white and blue flower baskets for the Olympic flame and the jubilee, and the High Street looked good as a result.”
Mr Shimell said plans for 2012 a repeat of the fashion show, a golf event and more business networking opportunities.
The meeting then heard from not one, but two guest speakers.
Dee Temple-Multon from the newly-formed Wiltshire Business Support Service, which has picked up some of the services once provided by Business Link, talked about the work of the Wiltshire Council-backed organisation.
“We've been established to provide business owners with real business help and support,” she said.
The meeting heard that since April Wiltshire Business Support Service has already provided one-on-one advice or group training to over 200 business people. Around a quarter were people thinking about starting a business and around a fifth were new businesses, while most were established businesses.
The meeting also heard from Graham Pound from First4Skills, a government-contracted agency which provides young apprentices, aged between 16 and 18, to businesses under the Placed Apprentice scheme.
The apprentices receive formal training from First Skills during their 12-month apprenticeship, with an NVQ qualification at the end if they pass, while the employer is obliged to pay the apprentice £100 a week.
“For local businesses wanting to employ local young people this is ideal,” said Graham. “There is no obligation to keep the apprentices after the first year, but nine out of ten employers choose to keep them on, because after twelve months they are a real asset to the company.”
Mr Pound said the apprenticeships best suited retail businesses, call centres and administrative departments. For businesses with less than 250 employees, he said, there was government funding towards meeting the costs of the £100 per week wage packet.
Getting to work – group operations manager Mark Wilson, mayor’s consort Cllr Nick Fogg, mayor Edwina Fogg and shops development manager Nick Fraser cut the first turf at the development siteWork started this week on Marlborough’s new filling station and convenience store, with the town’s mayor cutting the first turf to kick-off the £2 million construction.
Contractors are expected to be on site for 12 weeks, after which the town will have a filling station to service eight cars at a time, Budgens convenience store, Subway food outlet, and car washes.
At a turf cutting ceremony, Marlborough’s first citizen, Edwina Fogg, said: “As mayor, I would like to say how thrilled I am about the new Fraser’s Budgens of Marlborough development coming to the town.
“It’s fantastic because 50 new jobs will be created. It’s really good news for everyone.”
For group operations manager Mark Wilson, the sight of diggers moving onto the Marlborough Business Park site was the culmination of a decade-long dream.
“We’ve been trying to get into Marlborough for some time; probably ten years, and we’ve finally made it,” he said.
“I hope we can do the town of Marlborough proud with this development, and that the people of the town will enjoy using us.”
Shops development manager Nick Fraser explained exactly what customers would find when the business opens its doors on Thursday, October 4.
“There will be a large BP forecourt, a Budgens convenience store and a Subway food outlet. There will also be a rollover car wash and two jet washes.
“We will be working with local producers and suppliers, and we are involving ourselves massively in the local community,” he said.
The company recently launched a £6,000 Community Giveaway, and invited organisations and good causes in the Marlborough area to compete for grants of up to £1,000.
The winners will be decided by public vote on Thursday, September 27 at an event at Theatre on the Hill, St John’s School, Marlborough.
Organisations can apply for a grant, and their members can support their bid, at www.facebook.com/BudgensMarlborough
The Fraser Group is a third-generation business with a string of awards to its name, including Best Forecourt Independent Retailer, a national title which it has won three times. The Marlborough filling station will be Frasers’ sixth site.