An elite networking group formed to help some of Scotland’s most innovative businesses work together to plot a path to beat the credit crunch is going from strength to strength.
The number of members signed up to Winning Entrepreneurs has hit 65 – meaning the group is already topped its half-way landmark figure weeks ahead of schedule.
Membership of Winning Entrepreneurs is being strictly limited to 120 of the most successful and emerging high growth business leaders in Edinburgh – all of whom have to be voted in by one of the organisation’s ‘ambassadors’.
Its members include IT and property magnate Shaf Rasul, Scotland’s richest Asian entrepreneur and star of the new online version of Dragon’s Den; Mark McElney, CEO and founder of No 1 Currency, Scotland’s fastest growing company; and PJ Darling of Spark Energy.
Winning Entrepreneurs is distinct from any other networking group as it only allows admission to actual owners or founders of businesses. It offers them the chance to meet with like-minded individuals and share their years of knowledge, network of contacts and ideas with one another in an exclusive forum.
Founder Belinda Roberts, who has a wide career in training, as well as entrepreneurial experience in setting up a major business, said: “I always believed that Winning Entrepreneurs is a great concept and this has certainly been borne out by the success we’ve had in securing so many members so quickly.
“I had estimated on reaching the 60-member halfway mark by mid June, so it’s clear we have really captured the interest of the business community.
“But what’s really pleasing for me is to see Winning Entrepreneurs actually working and doing what I set it up to do – to have members meet and learn from each other to grow their businesses.
“I’ve also been delighted at the support we’ve had for our various events, which have included our spotlight dinners and expert forums on issues such as securing finance during the credit crunch and exit strategies.
“Interest in Winning Entrepreneurs continues to grow and I’ve every confidence that we’ll reach our 120 members target in the next few weeks.”
Winning Entrepreneurs operates three tiers of membership; with the majority of members owning businesses with a turnover of more than £1 million. Around 25% of the membership will be businesses with a turnover of between £250,000 and £1 million and 10% of the places will be reserved for relatively new enterprises with the expectation of significant growth.
All potential members must be voted in by one of the organisation’s six ambassadors, as well as Belinda. The organisation has been launched initially in Edinburgh and the Lothians but it is expected other networks will open across Scotland in the near future.
The organisation has a social networking site called Connect designed by Gordon White of Podcastmatters. The site, which is structured in the style of the world’s most popular social networking site Facebook, allows members to host discussion forums, share information and is proving to be a highly valuable resource to members.
Belinda added: “The winning ingredient in any business success story is its contacts. That is all the more crucial given these extremely challenging times. The right contacts can make a thriving business soar – it’s the old adage of it’s not what you know but who you know.”
The first Winning Entrepreneurs informal networking session was held in December. One member generated around £100,000 of new business since the event and eight follow-up meetings were organised the next day.
Belinda was Managing Director of People Evolution Ltd, whose clients included the Eastern Western Motor Group. She is a former Main Board Director of the UK-wide Recruitment & Employment Confederation and has been involved in the creation and development of highly successful training companies including Optimum Proactive Training, which she founded in 1999 and subsequently sold in 2003.