We believe that bringing the best out of the people who are running businesses in Cumbria is key to helping those businesses flourish.
That’s why the Chamber’s Cumbria Business Growth Hub is working with Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) to run Cumbria Forum, which aims to enhance the capabilities of SMEs.
This is a six-month programme for owner-managers, MDs, and senior decision makers from ERDF-eligible SMEs.
As it is fully funded by the University and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), there is no cost to participating businesses.
The idea is to help them develop strategic thought processes and provide the skills and tools they need to evolve their business model.
Delegates are taken out of their comfort zone and are encouraged to think about their business differently and reflectively, perhaps for the first time.
Participants can attend masterclasses from world-class speakers, business workshops, and an “access all areas” company visit, and can interact with each other constantly through an online forum.
Speakers have included Jonathan Warburton, Edwin Booth , Loyd Grossman, John Timpson, Mark Adlestone (Beaverbrooks) and Peter Cowgill (JD Sports).
There is also an opportunity for participants to have a group of MBA or undergraduate students work on a specific area of their business.
Programme manager Helen Wilkinson said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for growth-orientated small and mid-sized companies in Cumbria.
“We have significant experience in delivering business growth through a combination of challenge, business tools, speakers, peer groups and world class university support which grow skills and confidence in equal measure.”
The next Cumbria Forum programme starts in February. To find out more click here or call LUMS’ Business Liaison Officer, Pete Cornwall, on 01524 510728.
CASE STUDY: CHIMNEY SHEEP
Chimney Sheep is a uniquely Cumbrian success story.
Started in 2012 by Sally Phillips, an ecologist, the business based in Maryport makes draught excluders for fireplaces from Cumbrian Herdwick wool.
It has sold more than 40,000 so far.
Sally came up with the concept after she moved into a Victorian terraced house in Cockermouth and realised that most of the heat in the property was escaping up the chimneys.
She completed the Cumbria Forum programme in January 2017.
She said: “When I heard about the Growth Hub, the business was already three-and-a-half years old.
“It had grown organically year on year but I felt that I needed some structure and ideas of how to grow it in a more organised way.
“Cumbria Forum was just what I was looking for and I found it a really beneficial experience.
“I learned that there isn’t a magic bullet or formula.
“It’s about developing yourself as a business person, having a clear understanding of your business, a clear strategy about what you want to do and confidence in your own skills as a manager.
“A lot of the things they were talking about I was doing, and that was good for my confidence because I don’t have a business background.
“Talking to other business owners was useful, discussing issues we had in common such as pricing and dealing with staff and distributors. When you work in isolation you don’t get an opportunity to do that.”
She praised a masterclass delivered by Helen Colley, who started her desserts business in Lancashire, Farmhouse Fare, with a £250 investment and eventually sold it to Daniels Chilled Foods for £10m.
Sally was also enthused by a visit to Playdale, the playground equipment manufacturer at Haverthwaite, near Ulverston, which has become a hugely successful exporter selling its products in nearly 40 countries.
Sally added: “Helen was inspirational in the way that she developed her business in a phenomenal way.
“And I learned a lot from Playdale in terms of their marketing, how they manage social media, and how they order their factory. I’d definitely recommend Cumbria Forum to other businesses.”
Cumbria Forum has received £446,000 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.
Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, click here.