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Familiar faces help business support provider celebrate 25 years

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Rosemary Macdonald, Michael Williams, Henrietta Brown and Rob PerksRosemary Macdonald, Michael Williams, Henrietta Brown and Rob PerksA Wiltshire-based organisation that provides support to businesses that want to scale up celebrated 25 years with the help of the two people responsible for its very beginning.

Inspire have been providing support through a highly experienced team of advisors since 1994 when it started life as The Wessex Association of Chambers of Commerce.

And at a party to celebrate the 25-year milestone, founder Michael Williams MBE and Rosemary Macdonald, the organisation’s first-ever employee were there to join in the celebrations.

Michael quickly established the organisation as the County Chamber of Commerce supporting around 19 Chamber of Commerce around the country, which it continues to be today.

He regaled stories from when it all began, from the publishing of their newspaper, ‘Chamber Pot,’ to speak to the business community in the days before email, to securing the great Desert Orchid as the main attraction at the official launch.

Michael said: “Our objective was to become the voice of business so we could lobby and represent the business community and provide a range of services and networking opportunities.

“The association originally encompassed the five chambers of West Wiltshire, but we started getting enquiries from Frome and Devizes who were not part of West Wilts, so we came up with the name Wessex to recognise them all.

“The reason we changed our name to Wessex is because business doesn’t recognise boundaries – and Inspire has certainly taken that mantra on today.

In 2012 the business took a strategic decision under Michael’s leadership to enter the SME business support market with the support of Wiltshire Council and current CEO Rob Perks joined shortly before Michael retired.

The Executive team and Board decided to rebrand as ‘Inspire’ as it continued to develop its SME support activities, bidding for and winning a contract to run the Swindon and Wiltshire growth hub.

Today, Inspire has successfully launched into Bristol, Somerset and are set to launch into Devon at the beginning of October.

Rosemary said: “I didn’t think it would be this successful 25 years on.

“When we were trying to keep the original five chambers of commerce together expanding it beyond that seemed to be a bit of a task, but I’ve watched it go from strength to strength.”

The day bought together Inspire patrons, members and associate directors for an afternoon in the sun at Inspire’s stunning headquarters at Heywood House in Westbury.

Rob Perks said: “It was a fantastic day and it was great to celebrate 25 years of Inspire/Wessex Chamber of Commerce being in existence and it was fitting that Michael and Rosemary were there as, if it wasn’t for all their hard work, we wouldn’t be here today.

Michael added: “I’m very pleased that Rob has taken on the mantle and I would like to wish Inspire every success for the next 25 years.”

To find out how Inspire can help your business grow, visit www.inspirebiz.co.uk or telephone 01225 355553.