Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Weymouth speed networking breaks records

Ainslie set records here - so could you!
If the thought of speed networking, or business networking of any kind, fills you with dread - read on!

Last week, I survived, and even enjoyed, the second speed networking breakfast laid on by the Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce.

The format is simple. I was handed a sheet telling me which table to sit at for each of the seven short sessions. Three other people were at each table and during the session we each had one minute to say who we were and what we did.

We then had another minute each to make an extra point, ask a question or enjoy small talk. Once our eight minute session was over, we all moved on to the next table on our list. I was never in a session with the same person more than once, and by the end of the event I still hadn’t met everyone in the room.

Halfway through, we paused for bacon sandwiches and a short talk from the sponsor. Tea and coffee were on tap throughout.

No pressure networking

The one minute ‘this is who I am’ presentations were painless. No one delivered a hard sell and, while coming with a prepared script was encouraged, most didn’t. It was all very conversational.

There was no pressure to buy from one another, or to make any form of commitment. This was simply an opportunity to tell other business owners what you do and to give some insight as to why they may want to use your services.

That said, not everyone present was an owner - some were employees. But they were in the minority.

Business networking made easy

If you’re not a fan of networking, this approach could work for you. Perhaps you don’t like the idea of addressing a large group - this involved speaking to just three others at a time.

Maybe you don’t know how to sell yourself at a networking meeting - this makes it really easy to prepare and practise a very short presentation, in a supportive environment. Almost everyone simply said who they were and what they did, which usually filled the time.

This type of speed networking event is also ideal for those reluctant to attend a meeting by themselves. There’s no danger of being left out of the conversations.

It’s too early to know whether any business will come directly from this meeting, but I look on networking as a long-term, not short-term strategy. I’ll be back next time and I’m not bothered if I meet all the same people again. I’ll get to know them a little better, and they me, and experience says that one day these relationships will lead to direct business or to referrals.

Finally - the record that was broken last week? (Look back at the title). It was for the number of business cards I’ve given away at a single event.

Andrew Knowles copywriter for business

Visit the Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce website to discover more about their business networking events.

Read about other business networking opportunities in Dorset

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ecommerce goes Cuckooland in Dorset

A new Dorset business is putting down quirky roots amid the slightly unreal environment of Poundbury, just outside Dorchester.

The name, Cuckooland.com, is an insight into the not-quite-of-this-world flavour of a firm which purports to be run by Zebarella, an award-winning half-woman, half-striped horse who enjoys Champagne and seafood.

If that isn't curious enough, the company employ a young, and rather special, feline chief buyer, who features heavily in their social media presence.

If you look closely at the photos published on Facebook and elsewhere, you’ll also spot some real people. These may be the three business partners from whose imaginations Cuckooland has emerged, both the fantastical curiosity and the online retailer with an unwavering focus on the upmarket female customer.

Once upon a time...

The tale behind Cuckooland begins in South Africa, where Russell and Nathalie Davis ran a successful property firm. Deteriorating economic and social conditions led them to sell up and come to the UK in search of a new life and business.

After an abortive attempt to buy a firm in Kent, they decided, with another partner, to create an innovative new operation of their own.

They chose to build a brand, and a world, that would appeal to women with money to spend on themselves and their loved ones. A lot of time and cash were invested in researching the market and sourcing unique and aspirational products.

Cuckooland.com wasn’t just going to be another online shop selling nice things. It was to be a “magical place of intriguing discovery” where women could indulge themselves, and their partners, with products that are far from average or boring.

The Cuckooland.com reality is now online

Following months of very hard work, Cuckooland.com went live a few weeks ago and is already proving to be a hit with the target audience.

News of this “female focused, luxury lifestyle emporium” is spreading fast, in part because the team are committed to making full use of social media as a marketing tool. They’re active on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+, where they’re attracting plenty of ‘Likes’ and fresh followers.

No doubt, somewhere behind the scenes, Zebarella is already researching other opportunities for her “very upmarket, very exclusive and very different” online adventure. She is, after all, responsible for promoting the finest non-mass-produced products from the Principality of Cuckooland into our world. According to her website profile.

Don’t be fooled by the whimsical presentation. Push through the magical mystique of Cuckooland.com and you’ll find it has a solid commercial heart, and the potential to be a huge Dorset success story.

Intrigued? Take a peek into the world of Cuckooland.com.  

Read more Dorset start-up and success stories

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dorset businesses benefit from promoting contemporary artwork

Dorset firms and organisations of all sizes are increasingly discovering that using their spaces to showcase artwork brings plenty of benefits. 

It creates a vibrant, lively environment for visitors and staff, and can strengthen connections with clients and other users of the space.

South West Artwork are passionate about find ways for emerging local artists to showcase their work. They have worked closely with business venues since 2008, providing unique artwork for their space.

They currently showcase contemporary artwork from 30 artists from the South West region in a variety of locations. One of their long standing business relationships is with B+B Weymouth, a contemporary bed and breakfast based in the heart of Weymouth.

Emma Carter, Business Development Manager at B+B Weymouth, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure working alongside Laura and the SWA team. South West Artwork has the knack for sourcing artwork that suits our funky B+B. Guests love the pieces and our walls are much more colourful now.”

Other venues include The Left Bank seafood restaurant, artisan bakery The Phoenix Bakery, and Mary Portas Living & Giving store in Primrose Hill, London.  They have recently partnered with Brilliant Fish PR & Marketing working in association with The National Trust in Dorset in delivering an app aimed at 11-16 year olds, encouraging a younger generation to engage with their heritage in a fun and exciting way.

South West Artwork started as a small group of artists exhibiting work in unusual spaces around Dorset. From a deconsecrated church, an empty shop space and even a reclamation yard in the heart of Weymouth, the company then took inspiration from their first exhibitions and developed their business model as a platform for emerging talent to showcase their work in corporate and leisure spaces.

By attracting visitors to a contemporary art experience that sits outside of the norm, the unique venue and the adventurous curating of the pieces encourages the viewer to not only appreciate the artwork on display, but also their surroundings.

“Having realised we were attracting unique footfall to a venue, it was clear we could use this model to benefit business spaces,” said Laura Mulhern, Company Director. “It was also a great way for emerging talent to showcase their work on a regular basis.”

All artwork is carefully selected from contemporary artists using a variety of mediums such as photography, illustration, abstract painting and sculpture. Exhibits and commissioned work are chosen specifically to suit each venue and in keeping with the company brand.

To find out more about the company, whether you are an artist or a business space and keen to find out more, visit www.southwest-artwork.co.uk or follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Weymouth becomes a Town Team Partner

Weymouth BID joins local government Town Team Partnership

Weymouth town centre
On 23 October 2012, the Department of Communities and Local Government announced that Weymouth was one of 326 successful applications from across the country to become a Town Team Partner as part of the wider national campaign to revitalise our town centres.

The Partner programme includes a special support package from the Association of Town Centre Management aimed at promoting best practices and shared learning from retail experts and town teams across the country.

Town Team Partners will also receive a grant of £10,000 to help develop a 5-year strategy supported by a small number of pilot projects to bring life, culture and growth back to our town centre.

The strategy will be based on close consultation with local residents and business communities to secure their involvement and develop a range of ideas to achieve quick wins and early successes. There are many innovative ideas being developed in town centres throughout the country, such as the concept of clusters for specialist retail activity, a focus for street art and busking, night markets and community gardens. This shared learning from other towns will all be part of the consultation process.

Weymouth has a unique location, a vibrant events’ programme and strong partnership networks which will allow it to use this seed funding to help build a real momentum for the wider regeneration of the town centre in future years.

Nigel Reed, Chairman of Weymouth BID, said: "This funding provides a great opportunity to link the Weymouth BID and its work with other partners who can contribute in making Weymouth Town a successful and vibrant place. The experience on offer to Weymouth from tried and tested projects elsewhere will be an invaluable benefit."

Businesses are encouraged to register their interest in the Weymouth BID with Nigel Reed on 07557 142906. More information is available at www.weymouthbid.co.uk.

Photo © Andrew Knowles.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dorset business owners to vote for Police and Crime Commissioner

“Crime against business remains a low priority for the Police, and it is often referred to as a victimless crime,” says Tim Colman, Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

While he speaks for a neighbouring county, crime is also a real problem for firms in Dorset. Ours is a county of small towns and businesses, where theft and criminal damage, both physical and psychological, can destroy livelihoods and damage communities.

On Thursday 15th November, everyone, including Dorset’s many business owners and employees, can vote for the first ever Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) in our county.

The PCC will not run Dorset Police, but, depending on who is elected, they could have a major impact on the way local communities are policed. Their job is to hold the Chief Constable accountable to the public.

Bizoh asked the four PCC candidates how they would address the issue of crime against businesses in Dorset.

Andy Canning, Liberal Democrat PCC candidate, who has a ‘professional business background’ said: “Dorset’s economy depends more than most on successful and enterprising local businesses.”

If elected he will “work with local businesses to develop a strategy that cuts crime and helps improve the training of the Police so that they can appreciate the impact of business crime”.

Rachel Rogers, Labour PCC candidate, said: “It will be important for the PCC to work with business organisations, with retailers, the evening/night-time economy, transport and other business sectors to reduce crime affecting business in our towns and shopping centres.”

If elected, she will help the police to build trust and confidence by improving their communication, and to keep a balance between local and national issues. One of these is fraud, which can impact local firms but is often organised by networks across the country and even internationally, and requires local police forces to work with national law-enforcement organisations.

Nick King, Conservative PCC candidate, is a member of the Federation of Small Businesses, and has set up and run small firms. He is concerned “to hear that crime, particularly low level incidents, appear to be given a low level priority by the police”.

If elected, his approach will be driven by his belief that “if criminality is not confronted at its lowest level then that can only lead to an environment in which more serious crime is seen as more acceptable”. He said: “The police need to work more proactively with business to tackle crime and to encourage a zero tolerance attitude to anti-social behaviour and minor crime.”

Martyn Underhill, independent PCC candidate, said he has spoken to “numerous business owners” and is “more than aware of the issue of small business crime, indeed several business owners have shared their frustrations of drug-fuelled shoplifters draining their resources and their profits, and their time”.

If elected, he would work with traders to get the Shopwatch scheme operating across Dorset and would “seek to work with the business community” to address shoplifting and burglary from commercial premises.

For more information about all four PCC candidates for Dorset, visit the following websites:

Choose my PCC (official PCC elections website)
Police elections
Rachel Rogers, Labour and on Twitter as @DorsetRachel
Nick King, Conservative and on Twitter as @NickKing
Martyn Underhill, independent and on Twitter as @Tosh599
Andy Canning, Liberal Democrat


Monday, November 5, 2012

Open 4 Business Dorset 2012 award winners

Congratulations to the Open 4 Business Dorset 2012 award winners!

The winners of the Open 4 Business Dorset Awards have been celebrating at a glittering award ceremony which was held on Thursday 25th October at Weymouth College.

The Open 4 Business Dorset 2012 award winners

Best Small & Medium-sized Business Award sponsored by Lloyds TSB
Dorwest Herbs, Shipton Gorge

Best Large Business Award sponsored by Old Mill Financial
New Look, Weymouth

Best Community Engagement Project Award sponsored by Battens Solicitors
Blondz, Weymouth

Best New Business Award sponsored by Dorset LEP
Food Lynx Ltd, Shaftesbury

Best New Innovation or Service Award sponsored by SALT
Odeoflare, Weymouth

Best Marketing Campaign Award sponsored by Resort Marketing
Marketing West, Beaminster

Best Employer Award sponsored by Wessex FM
Createful, Bournemouth

Best Customer Focus Award sponsored by Puragen
Chalbury Food & Wines, Weymouth

Best of Dorset Food and Drink Award sponsored by DJ Property
The Dining Room, Weymouth

Inspirational Young Person Award sponsored by Equation Accounting
Elysia Munday Weymouth

Outstanding Contribution to Business Award sponsored by Porter Dodson
Anna Maria Geare, President of Weymouth & Portland Chamber of Commerce & Business Manager at Lloyds TSB Commercial in Weymouth

Business of the Year 2012 sponsored by Weymouth College
Marketing West, Beaminster / Furleigh Estates Campaign

Each award winner will be given a complimentary copy of their finalist film to use for their marketing purposes. During the Awards Dinner, guests were invited to play the “Heads and Tails” game & auction which raised over £1600 for the RNLI. The fundraising was supported by the Dorset Echo who donated a book of Dorset 2012 photography, signed by Olympian Nick Dempsey, and by Albert Goodman, Chartered Accountants, who donated two bottles of champagne. Funds were matched £1 for £1 by Lloyds TSB Commercial.

The Open 4 Business Dorset Awards Dinner was hosted by Weymouth College, sponsored by Albert Goodman, Chartered Accountants, award sponsors and supported by media partners Dorset Echo.

Julie Cleaver, Managing Director, said: “I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in making the Awards Ceremony and Dinner an absolute success. 2012 has been a tough year for a lot of businesses with many new challenges and opportunities. Tonight provided a great opportunity to get together and celebrate the very best of Dorset business. Open 4 Business Dorset continues to bring out the best in local business and we should all be very proud of what we have achieved this year. 2013 will bring a whole new set of challenges and opportunities and Open 4 Business Dorset will be there, once again, to celebrate and recognise the very best.”

If anyone is interested in taking part in the stakeholder group or becoming a sponsor in 2013, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Read more Dorset start-up and success stories