Loads4Less, Progress Recruitment and Netmatters - the entrepreneurial businesses first to receive growth Future50 grants for growth
10:00 03 March 2016
Archant Norfolk 2016
Future50 firms are helping to create jobs thanks to a new government backed fund. Business writer SABAH MEDDINGS reveals the investment plans of the first wave recipient businesses
They are the elite of a new generation of businesses – those with the entrepreneurial spark and growth ambitions to become the major players of tomorrow.
And with previous alumni including Naked Wines, Seajacks and Go Ape - multi-million pound firms employing thousands of people across the country - the Future50 intake of 2016 have good reason to aim high.
Three of their number have been boosted by grants totalling £20,000 from the £1.2m Regional Growth Fund, which they will invest to fuelgrowth, upgrade equipment, create jobs and improve marketing.
Progress Recruitment, Loads4Less and Netmatters are the first firms to secure the cash, with more than a dozen more grants in the pipeline. The grants are administered by business support organisation Nwes, which has been working with the Future50 firms to help them achieve new levels of growth.
Nwes senior business adviser Richard Voisey, pictured, said Future50 was about helping the businesses which were driving the economy in Norfolk and Suffolk.
The money is intended to help them increase turnover and take on more employees.
“It’s about the difference the grant makes,” said Mr Voisey. “It allows them to do something they wouldn’t necessarily have done without the grant.
“Having worked on this project since July last year, I have been really pleasantly surprised how many businesses out there in Norfolk and Suffolk who are really making things happen. But they’re not necessarily singing from the rooftops to let people know what they are doing.”
Coaching has helped businesses make the transition from being one-person start-ups to navigating the early days of employing people, with the added pressures of HR, management and payroll.
“A lot of the business I have been working with started off being kitchen table businesses and then have gone on to get premises and then staff,” said Mr Voisey.
When Progress Recruitment managing director Laura Rycroft launched the business from her spare room in 2011, there was a stair gate at the door and she took calls while looking after her newborn baby boy.
Now, five years on, the business employs 15 people and is about to move into bigger offices in its current home at Sapphire House in Roundtree Way, Norwich.
Its turnover has reached £500,000, and staff numbers are set to grow over the next few months.
A Future50 grant for £6,300 has been put towards a new database - which cost £31,500 plus VAT - allowing recruitment staff to place more candidates in the automotive and logistics trade.
The scheme has also helped find new business for the firm, with Progress Recruitment sourcing staff for fellow Future 50 company Lifeline24, and Lambda Films helping with promotion.
“In five years’ time I would like to be more established and doing well over £1m turnover,” said Ms Rycroft, now a 34-year-old mum-of-two.
She used £10,000 of savings to launch the business, and said turnover was on target to reach £750,000 next year.
“The good thing with recruitment is if someone is being productive they should cover their own costs,” she added.
Many of Progress Recruitment’s own staff come from an automotive background, which helps win new business across the UK.
“I like the fact we know it in depth. We can see from a CV if they have the right qualifications.
“We fully register each candidate and discuss the job and where it is before we submit the CV.” She added: “I didn’t think we would be here when I was working in my spare room.”
A business which launched as a “man-with-a-van” venture six years ago with £500 and a rented van has developed a three-year plan to break the £1m turnover mark.
Low-cost removals specialist Loads4Less, based in Canary Way, Norwich, wants to expand into Cambridge, and has hopes to reach across the UK in the next five years, according to founder and director Adam Soall.
Its £5,839 of Future50 funding has been used to extend its reach through digital marketing and contribute towards a new vehicle.
Mr Soall, 36, also wants to employ someone to increase the company’s profile on social media, and add a full-time administrator to the team.
He has also received business coaching and help in developing the structure of the company from Nwes.
“I went from being in the van and someone who was always manoeuvring things to all of a sudden being in charge of a load of people and in the office all the time,” said Mr Soall.
“We have got around 10 to 12 people now. That should grow over the next year.”
Mr Soall, a former landlord of the Spread Eagle pub in Sussex Street, said he was targeting a “middle-class market” who might be moving from a three-bedroom house.
“They don’t need an 18-tonne lorry if they are moving half a mile down the road,” he said. “If you have to do two trips it’s not far to go.
“We are professional, we’re good at what we do and we’re still affordable.”
As the business expands, he said he hoped to save on carbon emissions by offering shared loads, which would also cut costs for customers.
The business currently has a turnover of £420,000.
Chris Gulliver, pictured below left, was working as head of IT for a group of companies when he decided to launch his own business in 2008.
He agreed a deal to carve out web-design arm Netmatters from one of the firms, and was joined by brother James, below right, who was working as a freelance web developer.
Within the first year the business grew to employ six people, with a turnover of £400,000. Eight years later, it has just bought a third unit at its Wymondham base, and is using its Future50 grant of £5,026 to help pay for a disaster recovery suite - standby office space for businesses whose own offices are unusable for a period of time.
It also employs 37 people, and has plans to grow to 45 by the end of the year.
Managing director Chris, 36, said: “We will probably get up to about 50 staff. We work across all industries, so it might be a case of consolidating and specialising in some areas.”
Turnover has also increased to £2.5m, up from £1.8m last year, with growth coming from new and existing customers.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to cross-sell,” he said. “A business might come in for some digital marketing and might want some IT or design as well.
“A lot of work goes into new customers, so we want to maximise the ones we have got.”
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