Elite - Insight & Case Studies
John Williams Heating
One of the first Wiltshire businesses to be enrolled on the programme was Chippenham-based, John Williams Heating Services Ltd. Directors John and Debbie Williams first heard of the programme at the launch of Inspire's Elite programme, where Goldman Sachs made a presentation.
"I looked at the programme on the website and felt that the time was right for our business and we met all of the criteria," said Debbie.
"We have been in business for 13 years with steady growth, I knew we had the potential to grow further but I wasn't sure what the next step was, we needed expert help and advice and the programme looked like it could offer this.
"The application process is quite rigorous, and you need to demonstrate that you have the drive and enthusiasm to grow yourself as well as your business and also the time to commit to the programme.
"We are absolutely delighted and thrilled that our business was chosen to take part on this fantastic programme it really is a golden opportunity that you grab with both hands.
"The programme fast paced and a packed programme and the time has just flown, I have met some amazing people who I know will be friends and business support for life.
"I started on January 9 and it commenced with online modules. Since then I have been allocated a growth expert and I have also been on two residentials, the first one at the University of Leeds, the second at the University of Oxfor's Saïd School of Business, and our final one is at Aston University in Birmingham.
"The online modules have continued as well as peer to peer mentoring through my cohort on the course.
"The programme has far exceeded my expectations, in terms of quality of the course and delivery. I have learnt more in the past few weeks about our business than I ever imagined possible.
"It has enabled us to look at our business in a very different way giving us opportunities that we didn't even realise were there.
"Inspire have been very supportive throughout the programme. They wrote a letter initially supporting my application and they are always on hand for advice for any parts of the programme that need another opinion or a sounding board."
Prezola is now the UK's largest independent wedding gift list service. Another go-getting Wiltshire duo,husband and wife team Dom and Ali Beavan, set up their successful business after discovering a gap in the wedding market. Rather than making their own products, they have created a unique digital platform which allows couples tocreate their ideal collection of wedding presents from a huge range - 30,000 and counting - of high end brands including Selfridges, The White Company and Le Creuset.
They launched their company in 2010, after sketching out their business plan on a piece of paper at the kitchen table, where they come up with the name and registered the trademark on the same day. Prezola is now the UK's largest independent wedding gift list service, with over 30 members of staff supplying the gifts for over 5,000 happy couples last year.
Being an online service means Prezola can base themselves in Westbury, Wiltshire, where they recently used assistance from WBH to win a Gateway for Growth grant of £50,000 to enhance their digital presence. Attention to detail and customer service have led to industry awards, bigger premises with extra warehousing space, and a successful business for the couple who both previously worked separately in Bath, Somerset in interior design (Ali) and publishing (Dom). Dom says the pair married their different skills to come up with a combination that has taken the wedding industry by storm.
The former publishing executive explained: "Ali is an interior designer with a huge knowledge of the homeware market, while I managed web strategy for charities. The combination of Ali's passion for products and my tech background have proven to be pretty formidable."
Another Wiltshire-based business which has embraced the internet in order to thrive is Wentworth Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles, based near Malmesbury. The company founded in 1994 makes wooden jigsaw puzzles of every conceivable size and subject - and ships them all over the globe from their converted dairyfarm. Online shopping has transformed what used to be a very traditional mailorder business selling a very traditional product, albeit one made with state of the art computer controlled lasers. It now sells 150,000 puzzles a year, and with a recent overhaul in design and packaging increasing availability, business is booming.
In fact, according to Managing Director Dominic Lewis-Barclay,who is contemplating a move to bigger premises to allow for growth over the next 20 years, there is probably a Wentworth Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle customer in every country in the world, thanks partly to their effective website which makes ordering from afar much easier than it used to be.
Social media sharing is something the company is embracing, having just appointed a local agency to develop its marketing strategy and grow their customer base in the UK and overseas. And like a jigsaw puzzle, it seems that for a lot of businesses in Wiltshire, everything is fitting together perfectly.
Aerian is just one example of a successful Wiltshire-based digital businesses. Starting out as a one-man creative service, Aerian has exploited its Wiltshire roots, and benefited from support and advice from Inspire, including a Gateway to Growth grant that has helped the company grow from a team of 18 to 25 in the past year.
Today Aerian has a national client base that includes well known brands such as BBC, Sky, CNN, Tesco, Good Energy and Breast Cancer Now. Aerian regularly wins national campaigns and industry leading projects normally managed by the big name agencies in London. They are able to do this by giving staff a much better work-life balance than you traditionally get in large cities like London, with a closer knit team and much shorter commute times.
"If you are a niche supplier, or you work in digital, as long as you're up there with the best in your industry, there's no reason you can't succeed nationally or internationally, wherever you're based," explains Paul Goodenough, Founder and CEO of Aerian. "The whole point of digital and being environmentally friendly, is to not keep moving things and people around the world, but to work from where you already live, " says Paul. "Wiltshire is a great place for a digital business like ours." People are the powerhouse behind any business and finding and keeping staff is essential to growing a successful business. At Aerian, the company ethos is very much about training and upskilling staff, so they can continue to compete with talent in the cities.
Both directors are qualified lecturers, having taught at Wiltshire College,Bath Spa and Swindon. "I am a big fan of apprenticeships', says Paul, "and teaching is a good way of finding the best young talent we have often employed past students."