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Business Gateway Peer Networks – a sector support network for your SME

30 April 2021

We are recruiting for the second Peer Networks scheme and this time there will be 17 cohorts of 11 people, working and learning together with an experienced group leader, to tackle the common issues that they face.  Here are some testimonials from the first scheme.  

Rozanna Madylus, Business Development I Sales I Marketing, Blackfriars Bakery

Blackfriars Bakery Ltd has been a dedicated family affair since 1988.  Many of my summer holidays were spent working in the factory or warehouse, so it’s safe to say that I grew up knowing the business pretty well.  After university, I decided to take my life in a different direction and pursue my passion for the arts, becoming an opera singer but I always kept a foot in the door and helped out when needed.

Then, Covid happened.  The theatres and concert venues closed their doors and with them, all of my contracts.  However, with every cloud there is always a silver lining.  A month or so into lockdown, it was becoming more and more evident that we were in this for the long haul; Covid wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  My sister, who has been at the forefront of business development, marketing and sales for almost a decade went on maternity leave and a position opened up for me to help my father navigate the business to survive and thrive during these unprecedented times.  It certainly felt like a baptism of fire and there was and still is so much to learn, particularly with not only the pandemic but also with all the unknowns we are facing in a post-Brexit world.

The Peer Networking Group offered the opportunity to learn from others, exchange valuable wisdom and experience as well as the reassurance that I was doing the right things.  It has given me so much insight into the vast amount of help that is available out there for SMEs, such as funding, research, and expert advice.  It has been an absolute pleasure to meet like-minded, ambitious individuals who want to build a better future for themselves and their local economy, with whom I hope to keep in touch.

Craig Harbron, Director, Bennett Engineering Design Solutions Ltd

As a director of a design engineering company, I am privileged to work with a range of businesses who operate in several industries. Primarily my role encompasses everything you’d expect from a design engineer (think CAD modelling, solution creation, project management). However, I also focus on process and numbers. My commercial approach to every project undertaken by Bennett Engineering Design Solutions Limited is with the outcome in mind for the business, not just operationally, but for a return on their investment. This means that our clients receive world class solutions for their engineering challenges every time.

The Peer Network group was relaxed, professional and highly informative with the sharing of knowledge and the different personalities.  It was a fantastic network group of senior likeminded professionals, focusing on supporting one another and exploring ways to solve each other’s current challenges.

Penny Price, MD, Penny Price Aromatherapy Ltd

I am MD for Penny Price Aromatherapy Ltd and my main role is to formulate aromatherapy natural skincare for B2B clients. We also have our own product ranges available on our website and in clinics, and we also train Clinical Aromatherapy across the world. I am also heavily involved in the teaching of specialist subjects within aromatherapy, such as the pharmacological and chemical properties, and travel (when we are not in lockdown) abroad also to support our Academy satellite schools.

It was good to meet up with business owners in Leicestershire to see how they handle their staff and processes. Getting to know them through the weeks has been very supportive and to have feedback from so many experienced business owners in various areas was confidence building.

Anne Ford MD, PGM Reball Ltd

PGM Reball Ltd manufactures bespoke ballscrews for the aerospace and defence sectors and offers ballscrew refurbishment to all sectors within the UK and beyond.  My role as MD in a family-run business covers everything you could possibly think of apart from engineering and machining (for which I am definitely not qualified).

At first, I was sceptical about the Peer Network, given the time commitment. However, the facilitation was superb; it gave us a good structure to work within and we quickly established an openness across the group which enabled us to share some of our most private issues and concerns.  Sharing issues and being challenged on our assumptions has really moved our business forward. The insights provided through the One to One support shone a light on areas we hadn’t previously considered which was very thought-provoking.

As a small business there are a number of groups you can belong to. However, our Peer Network was drawn from Leicestershire manufacturers which meant we had issues which were surprisingly common across the group and, as such, it was a great opportunity to learn from each other and share experiences, information and problems.

If you would like to apply to take part in the next Peer Network, please apply here