Diversity of business

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Alex Nicholas, who heads up Business Link’s Convergence service in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, reflects on a ‘revelatory’ first year

The first year of the Convergence programme in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has been a remarkable one for the Business Link team responsible for delivering the extended business

support services that the programme funds.

It’s been remarkable mainly for the sheer diversity of the innovation, entrepreneurialism, determination and sheer hard work that we’ve come across in the thrilling variety of businesses that we’ve worked with.

From the cultural excellence and global reach of the Kneehigh theatre company to the endorphin-fuelled rush of The Zip at Liskeard’s Adrenalin Quarry, from the technical leadership of Truro’s Silvertree Engineering to the courage and energy of the Cornish Crisp Company near Callington,

it’s been a revelation of the true state of Cornish business.

True, it’s not a county that’s home to many large businesses; in addition, to the outside world it’s still primarily regarded as a holiday destination where one shakes off the stress of the working world. But to so many businesspeople in the know, it’s a land of opportunity as well as beauty that provides a valuable extra dimension to a company’s image. In the words of Sue Wolstenholme, founder in 2008 of the Cornish Crisp Company: “Having ‘Cornish’ in your name is a real sign of quality that’s being increasingly recognised across the UK and around the world, and our focus is on deserving to be a part of that picture.”

My Business Link colleague Clare Whitney expresses brilliantly what this Cornish brand means to the Kneehigh Theatre Company, saying: “Cornwall is Kneehigh’s lifeblood. It is about even more

than inspiration for its performers alone; its audiences, too, wherever they are in the world also appreciate its uniquely Cornish roots.” This was confirmed by research showing that, as far afield as

New Zealand and the US, the company’s ‘Cornishness’ is an essential part of its appeal.

Similarly, St Ives-based photographer Gavan Goulder, whose business The Day That… provides stunning landscape pictures to customers wishing to mark a special day, recognises the power of

Cornwall. He is inspired by the beaches and landscapes around St Ives and raves about the quality of the light and how the beaches hold water to create wonderful reflections.

But not every business we work with loves Cornwall for its branding power. For many, it’s simply an excellent place to work. Silvertree Engineering, a national and international leader in the field of wireless temperature monitoring and data-logging, counts the NHS, Coca Cola, Tesco and Manchester United among its customers. Its success is based on the software and electronic engineering expertise of its primarily Cornish workforce.

And when serial entrepreneur Chris Chapman moved from Oxford a few years ago for a change of lifestyle, he rapidly found Cornwall to be the ideal home for his new company, Cloud Nine, that’s now successfully pioneering the design and development of low-carbon eco-housing to a mass market.

Of course, as well as their love of Cornwall, these businesses are also all united by another common factor. As examples of the county’s most innovative businesses, they are eligible for the additional support that Business Link can deliver under Convergence – from help with innovation and development to collaboration and networking, selling UK-wide and overseas, environmental improvement, accessing development finance, supplier and buyer information and much more.

Tel: 0845 600 9966