About Me

The guy who designs and administers the websites for Kent Business Tweetups, Sittingbourne Swords Fencing Club, Expresso Mechanic's Workshop and Young Sounds. Anyone wanting to add a post to the blog, should contact me by email. No adverts, please!

Friday, 29 August 2014


I often think of all the great music out there humming in the heads of people without the musical ability to record it, and the funny things people think without being able to express them as jokes.

It’s the same thing in business. You think of the amount of people who say they’ve got a great idea, but they don’t have the money or other tools to put it into action.

That’s where grants come in. It can be more straight-forward than you think. I had one email from a particularly inspiring example.

Darren Hollands had some bright ideas for making audio speakers and amplifiers. He wanted to base the company locally rather than going to the cheaper manufacturing bases of the world.

“We were looking for factory units in the county that had an area that we could use for design, as well as manufacturing bays,” said Darren “I was finding it frustrating.”

Darren turned to an associate he knew, Chris Broom from Locate in Kent, who suggested he apply for a grant from the South East Urban Coast Creative Enterprise Support Scheme (SUCCESS). This body supports new or expanding creative SME’s who want to create jobs in the district and have match funding.

SUCCESS provided a £150,000 grant, funded from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund covering Thanet.

“If it wasn’t for Chris, I wouldn’t have known about the scheme and we wouldn’t have been able to start up the business,” said Darren. 

“I was able to match the £150,000 grant with my own money and loans from family, and that has allowed us to start developing products and to buy a company called O’hEocha which, although technically still trading, had been dormant for a couple of years.

“That has been important, as having an established brand name with a history and product range has opened doors to specialist suppliers and potential high street retailers and has given us a really positive start.”

Locate in Kent also helped identify the Rowe’s Yard unit where the start-up team is busy developing new products, updating those bought from O’hEocha, and developing a range including a streaming unit that allows for downloaded music to be streamed directly to speakers.

“The premises are perfect,” said Darren. “They are new, very clean and smart and ideal for the image we are looking to project to suppliers and customers. We are really keen to identify local suppliers as I am a huge advocate of keeping business as local as possible.”

Paul Wookey, Chief Executive of Locate in Kent, said the range of financial support schemes across the county had made it an even more attractive location for businesses looking to launch or expand.

“All the statistics and feedback we have show that businesses from the UK and beyond are increasingly aware that much of Kent and Medway is covered by Regional Growth Fund support. There are various schemes that support companies of all sizes and at all stages of their development and which are looking to grow and create jobs,” he said.

“Sonic Concept is a prime example of a company whose start-up has been made possible by one of those schemes, launching in an area where investment and growth is helping transform the economic landscape.”

With six months of design and development work ahead before releasing its products to market, the company has a team of four, including Darren, with a fifth joining at the end of August and plans to expand to 20 over the next three years.
                       Jules Serkin.

To find out how Locate in Kent can help you grow or set up in Kent, visit www.locateinkent.com

To find out more about SUCCESS visit www.success-creative-fund.biz

Friday, 22 August 2014

Local Airports

Schlepping to Gatwick, Stansted or Heathrow for the summer holidays? Spare a thought for more local airports.
Thanet council has been appealing for expressions of interest in running Manston airport. The search is part of the local authority’s consideration as to whether the compulsory purchase of the airport would be a viable option.
We should know the level of interest soon enough following the Aug. 20 deadline. The final stage will involve meetings set to take place in mid-September, depending on the level of response.
Any acquisition of the site would rely on significant investment with a minimum twenty-year business plan.
What a pity such robust qualifications didn’t form part of the sale process last time around!
To add insult to injury, the local business community is also being asked to consider the Boris Island plan to devastate the Thames estuary with an airport on the Isle of Grain.

Sir Howard Davies – yes the one who was meant to be regulating banks five years before they blew up – is now chairing the Airports Commission. He’s considering the locations best placed to add much needed airport capacity for the South East and UK.

So far, he has taken forward proposals for expansion at both Gatwick and Heathrow for further consideration. He will be announcing next month whether a new hub airport on the Isle of Grain will also be included in his review.

The Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce hasn’t publicly supported any particular scheme for Sir Howard's review but is now considering the views of the business community.

Personally, I’m against building new airports when we have several that can be enlarged to cope with increased travel needs at a lower environmental and financial cost. For a start, there’s Southend Airport, which I used only last month. It was an absolute breeze to fly from there. A transport link, say from Ebbsfleet to Essex, would improve the connection even more.

Better still, Sir Howard should get together with Kent County Council to consider Manston. 
          Jules Serkin. 
The Chamber’s closing date for comments is Friday 22nd August 2014 at 5.00pm. Download a form at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SNM29T3
Tweet me @julesserkin, Tune in to my shows @SCOFFQUAFF food & drink show for Kent every Tuesday live 11-12 & 1pm @businessbunker  on www.channelradio.co.uk

Friday, 15 August 2014

Anyone Fighting for Canterbury?

In the 1800s, Canterbury was the centre of the universe for public infrastructure, with the world’s first regular steam passenger train, the Crab & Winkle. So how is it that this great city has been cast aside in the battle for resources today?

Last weekend, I had to call an ambulance to the scene of an accident in Whitstable. At 9pm on a Saturday night there were none. It turned up an hour later. We then drove for another hour to Ashford. When we arrived, the hospital was bedlam with 30 ambulances bringing in patients in the space of about an hour. The medics were completely overrun. Despite a serious incident involving a head injury and concussion, we were made to sit in the waiting room six long hours to be seen, with no beds available or even a trolley to make the wait more comfortable. My concussed patient, (told not to move by the ambulance, was shuffled from scans to nurses etc all on his feet whilst bleeding from a head wound.)

But it’s not just the health service. Call the police and you’re through to an operator in Maidstone. It takes triple the time to explain an incident when the person you’re speaking to has no knowledge of the area, (Whitstable Alleyways !)

Our shops in Canterbury are fast disappearing, replaced with a multitude of cafés. Yet the council seems to feel no obligation to address this. One member told me: we must be doing something right as the cafes are all full. It isn’t the point. A city thrives on a variety of retail outlets.

I took the park-and-ride recently and was horrified at the jump in fares to £3, I visit Canterbury twice a week on average & my parking costs me approximately £14 a week, at £56 a month that's an expense I'll need to cut.

The population of Canterbury and the surrounding area isn’t getting any smaller. In fact, more housing is going up all the time along with the universities expanding, 3 private schools, 2 Grammars, Herne Bay High, & lots of primary schools and growing numbers of commuters.

So I’m wondering, who is fighting Canterbury’s corner? Anyone?

Jules Serkin

Tweet me @julesserkin listen to my radio shows live Tuesdays 11-12 @SCOFFQUAFF & 1pm @businessbunker  on www.channelradio.co.uk    @KentTweetups

Dates: Free Microsoft Word Training Talk  F-Keys : August 28th 10am: @lenleys Roper Road Canterbury, free parking.  Details: www.KentBusinessTweetup.co.uk

Saturday, 9 August 2014

An Inspiring Story...

On last week's Business Bunker, as we sweltered in our studio in sunny Dymchurch, our guests Steve & Anny Lowe provided an inspiring story of a great Kent business starting up.

They met working for a  textile company. Anny was in Bangladesh, Steve in the UK,

Steve  as sales manager travelled out after four months of emailing on work business. Anny watched him trawling through the offices in Bangladesh saying to each lady worker, "Are you Anny? until finally they met.
 "We never saw each others' faces before, just emails, said Anny. "Youre much younger than you seem on email, he told me!"

The couple have been together 10 years now and have 2 children,

Steve travelled around the world previously and had good connections,

The pair started Elsatex in Strood as a business five years ago, supplying the full range of budget hotel needs along with hospital bed sheets. They  bought a small factory that was struggling in Bangladesh, importing 30% of their product from there.

Last year was a pinnacle moment. "We actually gave back the factory to our workers," says Steve. ``So all of our workers get the benefit and a share of all the profits."
The workers come from very humble beginnings.
“It was great to know we saved the factory from liquidation, and that were making a difference to those workers."
The company is now looking at competing with Turkish producers, traditionally a leader in textiles quality, and importing Egyptian cotton and then making the materials in the factory in Bangladesh. They're making higher percale cotton count and better quality towels.

"Youll see most of our textiles in town centre shops in the UK," said Steve.

The company won the Medway Business award last November and was joint Kent winner of the HSBC Global Connections & KEIBA SME Business of the Year award.

This company epitomizes the ability of a small business to compete globally," said Paul Andrews, my co-presenter. "A small operation with a relatively small number of staff probably 30 years ago would have found it almost impossible without a huge amount of money to back it. Nowadays with hard work its easier. It's about collaboration , its about partnerships and it's about empowering the people that work for you."
           Jules Serkin

 Do you know an inspiring story? Tweet me @julesserkin ; listen to my radio shows live Tuesdays 11-12 @SCOFFQUAFF &1pm @businessbunker  on www.channelradio.co.uk 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Shop Local...

While I was strolling around Canterbury on some business one sunny Thursday, son number one texted me. 

"Mum, what's the name of that Steve guy you use, that delivers your electrical stuff?"

Excited that son No. 1 had actually listened to Mummy, I texted the number of Steve Marley of Advance Electricals in Oxford Street, sunny Whitstable.

Thinking no more of it, I continued my business, and as I left the car park behind the cinema I saw the Advance delivery van. In the space of an hour he was already delivering my son's fridge freezer in Canterbury.

My son's call actually inspired me to get my own fridge freezer upgraded -- any hot summer is bound to coincide with a year of the dodgy fridge freezers, mine always packs up on bank holidays & in a heatwave. I find that Steve is out within an hour removing my old cranky one,  the new one plugged in and the guarantee all sorted and kept on record courtesy of Steve. 

Many of us think of the big chains - especially when we're in a hurry, thinking the local shops will be too slow. It just goes to show that isn't necessarily the case. Steve Marley, 42 Oxford Street , 01227 274359

Do you have a local supplier you'd recommend? Tell me about it.
          Jules Serkin 

This weeks Tweetup is @lenleys 10am with a presentation by Alison Parmar of Federation of Small Businesses. Details: www.KentBusinessTweetup.co.uk
Tweet me @julesserkin listen to my radio shows live Tuesdays 11-12 @SCOFFQUAFF & 1pm @businessbunker  on www.channelradio.co.uk    @KentTweetups