Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Delegates learn there´s more to Twitter than words

on .

Marcus Lilley of FutrSocialMarlborough business people learnt how to get more from Twitter at a social media training session on Tuesday.

In Twitter – More Than Words, social media expert Marcus Lilley, of FutrSocial, showed delegates how to get more from the micro-blogging site.

Attendees learned how to share pictures via Pic Twitter, six-second videos through Vine and audio with Twitter Music.

The 22 attendees were encouraged to tweet their efforts using the hashtag #MASMS (Marlborough Social Media Sessions) and tweets, pictures and videos were collated on Storify.

The next Marlborough Social Media Session will be held on Tuesday, June 25 at The Food Gallery, High Street, Marlborough.

In Google: More Than a Search Engine, Marcus will introduce delegates to Google+ and YouTube, and invite delegates to join a Google+ Hangout.

For more information, or to book a place, log on to www.futrsocial.com/masms

Photographers get behind Big Lift

on .

Ben GreerSalisbury photographers will be helping to raise money for five military charities next month, when they support former airman Ben Greer in his Big Lift challenge.

Mr Greer, a former RAF Chinook helicopter crewman who completed six tours of Afghanistan, is walking a mile for every member of the British armed forces killed whilst on duty in the country – the current death toll stands at 440 men and women.

And he'll be doing the walk with 100kg of kit on his back, simulating the evacuation of a casualty from the battlefield.

He will be walking in Salisbury on Monday, June 10, starting from the Cathedral at 10am. Anthony von Roretz, the owner of Trinity Photography and a former Army photographer, will be capturing the feat on film, while studio manager Fiona McWilliam, a member of the TA, will be joining Mr Greer on his walk.

So far the challenge has raised over £13,000 for five military charities and Ben has walked 246 miles. To join the walk, or donate, log on to www.thebiglift.co.uk for more information.

Meanwhile, Trinity Photography will be celebrating its 6th anniversary on Thursday, June 13 with a Bake Off. Entrants should bring along a cake to be judged on taste, texture and appearance. The winner will be named Master Baker and receive a trophy.

Grants scheme for rural businesses opens

on .

Small businesses and start-ups in Wiltshire can now apply for the government's Rural Economy Grant scheme

Rural Economy Grants were launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to enable a significant ‘game-changing', transformational performance in farm, forestry, tourism, agri-food businesses and micro businesses in rural areas in England.

And Swindon and Wiltshire is one of five regions in the UK selected as a Rural Growth Network Area, meaning help is available to establish micro-businesses too.

Rural Economy Grants can support up to 40 percent of an investment project.  Grants range from £10,000 up to around £170,000.

Applicants must have 10 or fewer employees, and must be based in Wiltshire or rural Swindon. 

The scheme is open to all qualifying people and businesses in the area, but targeted at retiring or redundant military personnel and service personnel dependents and women coming into business.

The grant can be for start-up costs – rent, staff, equipment – market research, kit, premises improvements, studies, marketing support, product development and branding.

Grants are also available for expansion and growth in first few years of operations  but a project must be for an investment and not for running costs.

The fund is administered by Wiltshire Council, and business support managers at Wessex Chambers have been charged with guiding applicants through the process.

For further details, call Wessex Chambers on 01225 355553.  

Hats off to charity fundraisers

on .

Withy King Swindon don their hats for HeadwaySwindon-based law firm Withy King has raised over £100 for the local branch of national charity Headway by taking part in the Hats for Headway day held on Friday 17 May as part of the charity’s national Action for Brain Injury week.

The day saw partners and staff at Withy King wear silly hats for a whole day in the office – even during client meetings!

The firm has a long-standing relationship with Headway Swindon, and the staff and partners grasped the opportunity to raise funds for the charity.

Partner and Head of Withy King’s Brain Injury Department, Stuart Brazington said: “We are very pleased to be able to support Swindon Headway which provides invaluable support to people affected by brain injury.

“Approximately 700,000 people per year in England and Wales attend an emergency department for head injury, while over 120,000 people are currently suffering long-term effects of a brain injury.

"As a law firm with large personal injury and clinical negligence practices, we know only too well how important it is for those affected by brain injury to have the right kind of care and support.

"We hope that our taking part in Hats for Headway will not only help Headway Swindon but also raise awareness of brain injury and Headway’s cause.”

Alison Burton, CEO of Swindon and District Headway said: “At Swindon Headway we support a large number of brain injured victims and their families daily. We rely on charitable donations and support from the State funds, as well as our own fundraising initiatives.

"Brain injuries are devastating for families and victims alike and we applaud the raising of awareness and funds to help us continue to provide the vital support for those unfortunate enough to have suffered a brain injury.”

Business minister visits Swindon

on .

BIS Minister Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP, Phil Young, director of investment at Forward Swindon, David Renard, leader of Swindon Borough Council, and Justin Tomlinson MP at Forward Swindon’s offices Michael Fallon, UK Minister for Business and Energy visited the new Oak Furniture Land UK headquarters and state-of-the-art distribution centre in South Marston, Swindon last week.

His visit on Thursday was billed as recognition of the company’s significant contribution to business in Swindon and the South West, and as a large local employer.

The Minister took the opportunity to discuss the company’s retail success story, expansion plans and current business issues with managing director and owner Jason Bannister.

Rapid expansion has meant an increase in the number of employees at the UK headquarters by over 100 from 134 to 240 in the previous year alone, and there are plans to create 500 new jobs across the business in the next three years.

“The Government is doing all it can to get the economy moving forward, so that companies like Oak Furniture Land can get on with the business of expanding and creating  jobs," said Mr Fallon.

“We’re getting the nation’s finances in order, investing in world-class training, and clearing away the pointless red tape that holds back enterprise. 

“We’ve already cut costs on business by more than £1bn, and I’ll be going further and faster to get regulations from the EU and Whitehall off the back of hard-pressed firms.”

Oak Furniture Land – which began on eBay before becoming the site's largest retailer in 2006 - now has 42 stores in retail parks across the UK and plans to launch a new store every month for the next three years, including three in the South West in the next 12 months. 

To meet customer demand, the brand new 300,000 square feet state-of-the-art distribution centre, equal in size to four football pitches, accommodates 23,000 cubic metres of stock on average. 

On a daily basis, the centre will have approximately 1,700 cubic metres of stock coming in and 1,200 cubic metres going out of the facility and distributed across the UK to fulfil customer orders across all 42 stores.

Oak Furniture Land chose Swindon as its headquarters back in April 2011, because of its central location with good transport links via the M4 corridor and its thriving business community with other major businesses in the area.  At the time the company had just 80 staff located there.

The company now employs 650 staff across theUKand in January of this year announced record sales of £85m, more than doubling its performance on the previous year.  It reported a 140% increase in turnover (up from £34.1m) and a pre-tax profit up from £3.9m to £9.2m.

Mr Fallon began his visit to Swindon at the offices of Forward Swindon, where he was briefed on a conference regarding the economic development area along the A420, on the outskirts of Swindon.

Marlborough toyshop strikes gold

on .

Charlie with the illusive Mr Gold at DucklingsA Marlborough schoolboy struck gold when he spent his pocket money on Lego collectables in the town on Saturday.

Silence descended over a bustling independent toy shop Ducklings after the boy unwrapped an illusive Mr Gold minifgure, which could be worth up to £1,000.

The rare model has been produced to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Minifigures.

Individual Lego figures are sold in foil bags, so the identity of the 1.7-inch figure is not known by the purchaser until it is unwrapped.

Children are encouraged to collect Minifigures and swap duplicates with friends.

Mr GoldLego sells millions of Minifugures every year, but only produced 5,000 copies of Mr Gold, who wears a top hat and carries a gold cane.

Each one is individually numbered, and very few have been registered on the Lego website so far.

The young collector says Mr Gold will take pride of place in his collection, even though examples of the rare figure are being sold for between £450 and £1,000 on eBay.

And the boy – identified only as Charlie – will be back at Ducklings on Saturday to exchange duplicates with other collectors and buy another figure to add to his collection.

But on the subject of Mr Gold he is quite adamant: the figure's not for swapping.

Accountant is a jolly young Fellow

on .

Scott SartinDevizes accountant Scott Sartin has become one of the youngest ever to become a Fellow Chartered Accountant in the country, despite only taking up the profession because it allowed him to play football at the weekend.

Mr Sartin, 35, who is managing director and owner of Charlton Baker of Market Place, Devizes, has been on the fast track ever since leaving Devizes School aged 18 in 1996.

“In the beginning I had no idea what I wanted to do in terms of a career," he said. "One of the reasons I applied for the job is because at the time I was playing a lot of football and the 9 to 5 Monday to Friday format seemed to be a good balance. But almost as soon as I started I realised what a great career it was and found I was good at it.”

He was taken under the wing of Charlton Baker owner Rex Charlton and encouraged to pass his examinations as soon as possible. He quickly gained his AAT qualification and went straight on to study the ACA qualification, becoming a chartered accountant in 2003 after first passing his examinations in 2001 and then completing the three years required practice experience in the job.

To become an FCA you need ten years experience as a fully fledged chartered accountant.

Just two years later in 2005 he was made a partner of Charlton Baker and when Mr Charlton retired in 2010, Mr Sartin took over the firm which now employs 22 people, with most of the team working from the head office in Devizes.

He said: “I always knew the firm had huge potential and it has been very exciting for me to be able to take it forward in to new areas. We work very closely with our clients and specialise in bringing companies together who are able to add something to each other’s businesses.

"I am particularly interested in start-up and high growth businesses and assisting clients with business strategies and associated tax planning. I have also developed a niche in dealing with high profile music artists, which is taking me all over the globe at present”

Mr Sartin, who is married to Claire whom he met at Devizes School, and has three young sons, said: “Most accountants become a Fellow in their early to mid 40s because they first studied at university, did their accountancy training and then need ten years experience.

The youngest one I have found is 31 but they are not in based in the UK. I would really encourage young people who are interested in accountancy to try the route I have taken.”

As well as running Charlton Baker, the young entrepreneur has also released an App on the iPad which teaches people to sight read music. "The project is very exciting, but Charlton Baker is my main focus. Managing our rapid expansion is an enjoyable challenge but requires my full focus."