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Learning together and succeeding together

Businesses co-operate to maximise effect of Objective One funding

Co-operative relationships and shared learning opportunities have been key factors in the continuing success of a group of businesses assisted by Objective One funding.

This is the conclusion of an update from the Truro-based South West Investment Group on enterprises which it has assisted in the last two years.

Since May 2001, the organisation has so far invested over one million pounds of Objective One money into 125 Cornish businesses, and it is still receiving applications. The funding takes the form of interest-free finance packages to encourage enterprises which have strong potential and excellent ideas but are unable to raise sufficient funds from conventional sources.

The South West Investment Group is also keen to keep an interest in the businesses it supports, as its spokesman Peter Casey explains:

"As part of our post-investment aftercare service, we run something called the 'Learning Networks Programme' to help increase the survival rates of both new and expanding enterprises. It works by creating a sheltered learning environment and open networking forum for the businesses we have funded."

Originally set up as a pilot project with the University of Plymouth using Konver II funding, it has been funded via Objective One since April 2000. Based on monthly gatherings, it provides information and opportunities to network which would not otherwise be available to them. The diversity of the group ensures a dynamic learning environment, while regular close contact with the South West Investment Group helps to maintain a high level of support.

As well as increasing their business knowledge, participants have enjoyed important spin-off benefits by striking up mutually beneficial arrangements with others in the group. To give an example, Unique Homestays, a provider of specialist holidays based near Newquay, offers venues for painting holidays with Caradoc of Tregardock near Delabole and touring breaks with Bodmin- based Cornwall Classic Car Hire. Its properties are supplied with natural soap made near Penzance by the Seven Wives Soap Company. The company has also had its website pages translated for overseas markets by Launceston- based translation agency Language Links.

On the road to success

Bodmin-based Cornwall Classic Car Hire rekindles the nostalgic concept of touring in a classic British car. Its fleet comprises an E-Type Jaguar, a Mark II Jaguar, a Triumph Stag, a 1948 MG TC and an MG Midget. The cars are often hired as unusual gifts or as part of special break or touring packages which include accommodation.

Owner Rob Constant says: "We have worked in particular with Unique Homestays on joint marketing. Its luxurious properties in interesting locations are perfect for the packages we offer.

"We have found the Learning Networks Programme very useful. The speakers are all excellent. On top of that, the meetings give us a chance to get out of the office for a while and talk to other businesses. Some of them are very different from ours and we find that their ideas can be adapted or can trigger new thoughts."

Cleaning up- naturally

From its rural premises near Penzance, the Seven Wives Soap Company produces soaps and other personal care products with an important difference: they are all chemical-free and made entirely from natural ingredients.

"We have made some great connections with other members of the group," says owner Rick Kilminster. "For example, Language Links does our translations – which is vital as we are selling to a global market. Unique Homestays uses our soaps in its properties. We are also working with Elixir, a Wadebridge-based supplier of health products, and are talking to Lollipop Children's Products, both of whom we have met through Learning Networks.

"The meetings start with a seminar, which is always very useful in itself. Then we have a chance to brainstorm on issues of common concern and network over lunch. Running a small business can be a lonely road, so it's good to be able to share ideas, problems and challenges with others in a similar position."

Information, contacts and encouragement

Peter Casey of the South West Investment Group has been delighted by the effect of Learning Networks: "The many specialist speakers have gone down very well and we continually canvass the group for ideas to develop the content and format of the meetings. Participants have gained from introductions to potential customers and suppliers, as well as other support agencies and sources of vital information. Within the forum, businesses share their knowledge and encourage each other towards further success."

For further information, contact the South West Investment Group:
Trevint House, Strangways Villas, Truro, TR1 2PA
Tel 01872 223883
Fax 01872 242470


Editor's notes:

To contact any of the businesses mentioned for further information, please contact John Knowles or Mark Nicholson at the address which follows:

Issued on behalf of the South West Investment Group by
The John Knowles Company Ltd
Penwerris Lane
Falmouth Cornwall
TR11 2PF

Tel: 01326 312451
Fax: 01326 213049
Contact: John Knowles or Mark Nicholson


Jason Clark
Communications Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Tel: 01872 241379
Fax: 01872 241388

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