An elite networking group has been formed to help some of Scotland’s most innovative businesses work together to plot a path to beat the credit crunch.
Admission to Winning Entrepreneurs is being strictly limited to 120 of the most successful and emerging high growth business leaders – all of whom have to be voted in by one of the organisation’s ‘ambassadors’.
Interest in the group has been significant with 43 members already signed up since the launch in November – way ahead of expectations – with a flood of other entrepreneurs ready to join.
Its members already include IT and property magnate Shaf Rasul, Scotland’s richest Asian entrepreneur; Mark McElney, CEO and founder of No 1 Currency, Scotland’s fastest growing company; and Chris Montgomery Managing Director and founder of Sound + Vision, recently awarded Best Technical Production Company at the Scottish Event Awards.
Winning Entrepreneurs was conceived by businesswoman Belinda Roberts after she spotted a gap for a network that was only open to successful individuals to share their skills and experience with other similar business owners.
Belinda, who has a wide career in training and recruitment, as well as entrepreneurial experience in setting up a major business, said: “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.
“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.”
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.
Ambassador Paul Atkinson, Partner at investment business PAR Equity, said: “Networking is something I have always been involved with and have a strong belief in.
“One of the benefits of Winning Entrepreneurs is that it is focused on the owners of fast-growing and reasonable-scale businesses and allows real connections to be made within this group. It is a chance for people with common issues to give each other advice and guidance.”
The organisation has a social networking site called Connect. 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.
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.
The group will also host topic based lunches and dinners, as well as more formal events. Additionally it is formally linked with the Supper Club, one of London’s top networking organisations.
Ambassador Graham Langley, Chief Executive of Tiger Advisers Ltd, said: “I have been involved in networking for many years and understand just how important it is for business success.
“Although there are similar organisations in Scotland, I think that Edinburgh was in need of a locally-based network organisation that would appeal to the decision-makers and founders of businesses in and around Edinburgh. Winning Entrepreneurs fulfils that role.
“Effective networking is such an important aspect of business, particularly in these challenging times. During this downturn people in business need to help each other out and know where to turn for support.
“It is simple – people will do business with people they like. Meeting one another in a social context where there is no hard sell is very important in building these relationships.
“My business relies on word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business – that means the more people we meet and the bigger our network is, the more successful our business is.”
Member Gill Eastgate, Director of £1 million + turnover NKD Clothing, said: “Winning Entrepreneurs is a fantastic organisation with a membership sheet that reads like a who’s who in Edinburgh commerce. I am a firm believer in the merits of networking and am confident that this organisation will help me grow my business.”
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.