TODAY, we announce the winners of our competition, Local Business Accelerators (LBAs).

Soft furnishing and tailoring firm Fullerton & Hamblin of Hindon, metrology specialist Hills Metrology of Amesbury and drainage company Wessex Drainage of Salisbury beat off stiff competition to win an advertising campaign in the Salisbury Journal and mentoring from one of our three experienced entrepreneurs.

Those entrepreneurs, our competition judges, are James Grazebrook, Paul Horsley and Lara Morgan.

Narrowly edged out were milliner Vivien Sheriff and Henry Lamb’s Menace Sports, but all five businesses can count themselves winners, having been shortlisted from the many that entered.

Local Business Accelerators, which is backed by Prime Minister David Cameron, was launched in October.

It is an initiative organised by the Newspaper Society in which 500 newspapers, including the Journal, are offering £15 million-worth of free advertising.

One lucky business, picked from the hundreds chosen as regional winners, will get individual mentoring sessions from Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden, who is the LBA national ambassador.


Hills Metrology

BEING situated in an area with a large number of aerospace and marine enterprises provides dozens of opportunities for Hills Metrology to win new business.

The judges agreed its boss, Kevin Hills has the ability to seize those chances, as long as he is willing to “take a risk and go for it”.

Kevin’s business, which is in Amesbury, is all about high precision measuring of components, whether for automotive, medical, aerospace, marine or general use.

One of his most exciting contracts was the measurement of components for a Formula 1 sports car and he is proud of his achievement of the ISO 9001 and the more stringent aerospace standard. Kevin not only undertakes measurement and inspection for customers, but will also train their staff in how to use their own equipment.

He has quoted to 60-70 companies and has secured work from 40 of those, including Stannah Stairlifts.

On the day of the judging, Kevin had had a successful meeting with a new customer. He told the judges his contracts range from a few hundred pounds to £20,000 and over the life of his business, his turnover has remained constant.

His aim is to grow that by between 50 per cent and 100 per cent, to acquire more equipment, maintain excellent standards and to take on staff.

“My unique selling point is that I provide a more personal service, am very conscientious and am a good trainer,” he said. “I get good feedback from my training courses and I have never had a customer complaint.”

The judges said Kevin would benefit from a well-formulated business plan, an improved website and a series of discussions about the ways in which he could grow the company.

Lara Morgan put herself forward as Kevin’s mentor.

Fullerton and Hamblin

GREAT friends and fellow company directors Rene Fullerton and Jennifer Hamblin have a business with enormous potential, the judges agreed.

The two women have brought together the skills of textile design and tailoring and turned them into a successful enterprise offering bespoke garments, soft furnishings and upholstery.

Jennifer, who uses off the shelf fabrics or designs and print fabrics to the customer’s requirements, explained that when they provide one service for a customer, that customer tends to stay with them, using other services at a later date. The business, in Hindon, has expanded its workspace and showroom area by installing a mezzanine floor.

Rene and Jennifer acknowledged they needed to concentrate on their most profitable business, recognising that the dressmaking side, while enjoyable, took up a disproportionate amount of Rene’s time.

Having said that, Rene said they aspire to design their own collection. They added that they had started investigating how they should market themselves and welcomed the chance of mentoring to help them in all these aspects.

They said they had learned a lot from The Athenaeum contract and had secured more work through it from other clubs.

They have also been commissioned to design and make banners to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

The judges agreed there was huge potential for the business to attract orders from similar organisations and what was needed was for the two women to sit down with their mentor and plan the way forward. James Grazebrook put himself forward as Fullerton & Hamblin’s mentor.

Wessex Drainage Solutions

GROWTH is something many businesses can only dream of in the current economic climate.

Wessex Drainage Solutions of Salisbury has experienced rapid growth in its short life, but, say its directors Ian Porter and Zabrina Sait, that has not come without problems.

It has suffered a substantial bad debt, forcing the subsequent laying off of staff, and is about to experience the upheaval of moving to a new site outside Salisbury because its existing premises are bursting at the seams. However, Ian told the judges, the move will enable the company to hold more stock and expand further.

He explained that he and fellow director Zabrina had worked in the drainage industry for many years and their experience had enabled them to win large contracts with Hampshire County Council, Hampshire Fire & Rescue and Wiltshire Fire & Rescue.

They had invested heavily in state-of-the-art equipment, including cameras, and had five fully-equipped vans. They have 16 staff.

Ian said their watchword was customer service and all crews are trained in this, as well as technical know-how. “Our crews are the real ambassadors,” Ian said, “and people can see what customers say about us on the Check a Trade website.” Zabrina said: “Customers like us because we are local.” The company operates within a 65-mile radius of Salisbury, but will travel further afield for regular customers. It not only inspects and repairs drains, but will help building contractors with stabilising work on old buildings. Ian said the company would be able to cope with further expansion, as there was a ready supply of experienced job applicants.

He aims to retire in five years’ time, and he insisted Zabrina and the team would be able to grow the business successfully.

The judges said succession planning was a key factor and Paul Horsley agreed to discuss this aspect fully as part of his mentoring involvement.


JUST eased out of the winners’ enclosure were Vivien Sheriff and Henry Lamb, both of whom impressed the judges greatly.

For milliner Vivien 2011, was an extraordinary year, with a commission from the, then, Kate Middleton (now the Duchess of Cambridge) shortly after her engagement, followed by a number of commissions from women attending last April’s royal wedding.

And teacher Henry’s Menace Sports business gathered pace, with school holiday tennis and football courses running at venues including the Cathedral School and Chafyn Grove School, both in Salisbury.

Henry said the aim of his enterprise was to make sport fun for children and he had had “fantastic feedback” from the courses he had run so far.

The business model would also work for mums wanting to keep fit, he said.

“I can get the venues and the coaches, but it is getting the word out there that’s difficult,” he said.

“I have very little experience of marketing. And I have not got a business plan - where to grow the business and how to grow it.”

The judges praised Henry for having developed an excellent brand and said the main decision he had to make was when to give up the day job. They said that if the venture proved successful, it could be expanded through franchising.

Vivien, who began her career buying and selling textiles, explained there were a number of strands to her business: the annual collection, which is shown twice a year in the UK (and has been shown in New York), the bulk collection, and the bridal line and bespoke (one-off) pieces.

Her creations are available in Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges.

Vivien has a team of ten and due to the rapid growth of the business, she is now having the bulk pieces made by a small factory in Luton.

She said she was “really proud of what we have done”, but was anxious not to expand too quickly, despite her accountant predicting up to 45 per cent growth for the coming year.

“I like taking advice,” she said, “which is why the mentoring is important to me.”

She is currently looking for premises nearer Salisbury, as the business has outgrown its Downton base, and she wants to expand her sales to retailers.

She has also joined UK Trade & Investment’s Passport to Export scheme, with a view to expanding overseas sales.