Entrepreneurs' Forum's Annual Business Conference Recap

Together We Can Take On The World

It's been a week since we (co-founder, Norman and myself) attended the Entrepreneurs' Forum's Annual Business Conference, and it's been great to reflect on everything we heard and saw from their speakers. There was so much to take in on the day, that all of their fascinating stories and advice needed a while to be digested.

Compered by BBC Newcastle presenter, Alfie Joey, the event had promised a diverse but stellar lineup or speakers, and everyone delivered on the day.


Kresse Wesling

Speaking first was Kresse Wesling MBE, the co-founder of Elvis & Kresse, a highly-innovative fashion accessories company. Everything Elvis & Kresse create, from bags to belts and wallets, are made from, amongst other materials, decommissioned and reclaimed fire hoses. That’s right - they turn something once destined for the dump into highly-sought after fashion pieces.

The Elvis & Kresse brand solves a genuine problem by ensuring that less waste makes it into the landfill.

As well as the environmental benefits of using recycled materials, Kresse stressed that the social values of such an enterprise are just as important. In fact, 50% of the profits from the fire hose range are donated to the Fire Fighters Charity and up to 50% of all profits go towards related charities and projects.

It was funny to hear that Kresse even likes to plan visits to the tip when she goes on holiday; she never knows what she could find, but it could just be the next fire hose-style treasure.

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Caprice Bourret

Next up, was Caprice Bourret. At the height of her modelling days, Caprice was ever-present on magazine covers and newspaper front pages. As a reality TV star, she was on every program from Celebrity Big Brother to Hole In The Wall.

In recent years, she's rebranded yet again and is now a successful businesswomen and owner of her own lingerie range, “By Caprice”.

Caprice spoke about her journey from when she first arrived in the UK to where she is now and described that first transition. Realising that photographers were making more money than she was from her looks by selling their pictures to lads' mags, she knew something had to change.

Her response was to revolutionise the process by retaining the rights and selling them directly to the magazines. Then, it was onto the next thing. As a model, Caprice understood that her looks were her brand, so how best could she utilise this?

By entering into a licensing agreement with Debenhams and lending both her appearence and name to a lingerie range. After a number of years, Caprice decided that it was time to do things her way: she bought back her license and invested her own money into creating By Caprice Products.

As she was talking, she made it clear that things hadn't happened easily for her, and she stressed the importance of making sure you have all the right information, a strong team around you and "don't be greedy!"


Breath-taking performance by Acropolis

After a break for lunch, the afternoon session started with something a bit different. Acrobatic group Acropolis delivered an absolutely amazing performance. Wow. The determination and focus it takes to be able to pull off a performance as breath-taking as that is unreal.

Just because they're not entrepreneurs or business owners doesn't mean that they don't embody entrepreneurial spirit, in terms of their drive and dedication.

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Anthony Thomson

Co-founder of Metro Bank PLCAnthony Thomson, was the next to take the stage. When Metro Bank first opened, it was revolutionary for a number of reasons: it was the first hightstreet bank in Britain to be granted a licence by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in 150 years. Also, it placed great levels of importance in providing outstanding customer service - even to dogs.

Their in-branch pet-friendly policy served to show customers than if the bank took care of their dogs, then they would be more likely to take care of them. At the Entrepreneurs' Forum event, Anthony introduced his new venture, Atom Bank, which has only recently been unveiled and is due to launch in 2015. Now, one of the most exciting things about Atom Bank is that it promises to be even more revolutionary than its predecessor.

It is a brand new from of banking: all-digital and completely online. Although the company will be based in the North East, there will be no physical branches, which is in stark contrast to Metro Bank's belief in the necessity of branches.

However, times have changed and technology has moved on so far that this is no longer a requisite feature. Mobile phone banking is the future.

Anthony was keen to stress that customer service wouldn't suffer as a result of no face-to-face interaction though; Atom Bank's aim is to be number one for both customer service and satisfaction. As he ended his talk, Anthony left the audience with some sage advice ringing in our ears: 


Sir Tom Shebbeare

The last speaker of the day, and rounding up a fantastic event, was Sir Tom Shebbeare. Prior to becoming Chairman of Richard Branson’s Virgin StartUp, Sir Tom spent 25 years with The Prince’s Trust, initially as their first full-time Director to the Chief Executive. He told the audience that:

It's about using what already exists in the world, fitting it with your thoughts and approaches, and then creating something new which solves a genuine problem.

Sir Tom Shebbeare also managed to instill a sense of pride in everyone listening as he told us that the North East is one of the most entrepreneurial areas in the UK.

We were also lucky enough to hear from a panel of Ward Hadaway's Fastest 50 winners who talked about their experiences and entrepreneurial ambitions. It was good to hear the contrast between the "celebrity" speakers and more local entrepreneurs and business owners. 


A big thank you

The main theme of the day was the promotion of entrepreneurial spirit and what it takes to be a true entrepreneur: having the courage to be a pioneer of change, taking risks, making mistakes, and often startting from nothing. There was so much to take away from the day.

We'd like to give a huge GrowthFunders Thank You to the Entrepreneurs' Forum for organising a fantastic event and to all of the speakers for sharing their experiences and inspiring advice.

We'd also like to say thank you to everyone who came to our stand, and especially those who entered our competition to win a magnum of champagne. It was great to meet you all. The winner was Andrew Briggs of The Pen Shop. Congratulations from everyone on the GrowthFunders Team.

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