The business opportunity which became a success story

When the electricity market was deregulated in the late 1990s restaurant owner Chris Sykes saw a business opportunity.

From the table of his Hunstanton restaurant, Baggy Anne's, he founded energy brokerage Utility Savings Corporation.

The firm now looks after the utility bills of about 80,000 sites – from pubs to churches – up and down the UK and employs 40 people at a former Syngenta seed testing site it owns in Docking in rural west Norfolk.

It turned over �1.5m in 2009/10 and Mr Sykes has his sights set on �2m for the end of 2010/2011.

The growth is partially thanks to their first customer, a pub in west Norfolk.

'The very first customer we signed was a public house near King's Lynn,' said Alan Taylor, a director at USC.

'The pub was purchased buy a small management company, then later by a large group and finally by Punch Taverns.

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'USC was fortunate to keep winning the business through performance and results and we are today Punch's utility broker and they are the UK's largest pub company.'

USC now looks after some 50 pub management companies and the work includes renegotiating unpaid bills when landlords have come unstuck.

However, pubs are just one sector the business looks after.

The firm also looks after village halls, groups of companies, multi-site operations, UK ports and more recently, The Church of England Diocese of Norwich.

However, a large growth area, over the past three years has been the convience store sector. Last year the firm won the contract to broker for members of the 16,000 member National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN).

This recently resulted in the firm beating Nestle to the Supplier Excellence Award at the NFRN Awards.

USC has also won contracts with the National Federation of Sub Postmasters (NFSP) with 8,000 members, The Rural Shops Alliance and for Londis throughout the UK. 'The convenience store sector grew 3pc in volume in the past year,' said Mr Sykes.

'And the Association of Convenience Stores also includes forecourt retailers, who we would like to work for.

'We also look after major energy users, advising them on the Carbon Reduction Committment (a Department for Energy and Climate Change scheme). There is lots of business out there. Our long-term vision is to grow the brokerage in all directions.'

And with 10,000 sq ft of office space at its Docking site, 5,000 sq ft of which is not currently used, the business has the room to do it.