REAPING THE #BUSINESSFEST BENEFITS
Delegates are being invited to reveal their International Business Festival highlights, with prizes on offer to those who complete an evaluation survey. But some are already reaping the rewards of attending.
Among them is Bernard Molloy who tied up a £3m deal to supply trolleys and trailers to Jaguar Land Rover, on behalf of the Liverpool office of German materials handler LKE Group.
The arrangement will see LKE ship the equipment - part designed and developed in the UK - from Germany to JLR's plant in Nitra, Slovakia. They will be used to transport parts from the warehouse to line-side workers building the Discovery when the plant goes into full production around the end of the year.
"This little British company is driving the relationship," said Mr Molloy, (pictured right, talking to Business Secretary Greg Clark at the Festival). "Our operation here is still tiny - just a handful of people - but we are growing and we've got ambitions to do a lot more in the UK."
Mr Molloy had developed strong links with JLR during 40 years in warehousing, logistics and materials handling. Now he's hopeful of sealing further supply deals with UK-based carmakers and aerospace companies.
"I was at the Festival virtually throughout,” he said. “My staff were there networking and they got lots of good enquiries; the quality of delegates was very high. And the environment made it easier to get this deal signed off.”
Lewis James pitched twice on behalf of his tech company AlgoLib on the Festival's opening day. He presented from the main Futures Stage as part of UK Business Angels Association's Investor Pitch, before dashing to the separately ticketed Fintech North event to do the same.
And Mr James said the company - founded with business partner Simon Wang after a conversation over coffee in the Liverpool Guild of Students - was already feeling the benefits.
"After the Investor Pitch, I was invited to Leeds to do another pitch for a bunch of angels," he said. "I’m also going to meet some venture capitalists who I met after that pitch in Leeds. That’s all as a direct result of coming to the International Business Festival."
AlgoLib has created a marketplace to connect developers to companies who need algorithms to analyse data - for example in machine learning, financial forecasting or calculating risk - by securely offering their code for licence.
And while the company – based in Liverpool Science Park - has been trading less than 18 months, Mr James says the Festival has boosted its growing profile.
"It’s a big event. People noticed that we spoke," he said. "We’ve since been invited to speak at a panel event in Manchester with the Lord Mayor of the City of London.
"We have had interest from the press, with articles already published and some in the pipeline."
Away from the main Festival site, Mr James met members of a Bulgarian delegation and made business contacts at related Fintech North and UKBAA social events.
"It’s amazing what an event like this can pull in; the kind of people it can bring to Liverpool. We’ve been chatting to some of the other guys who pitched too. Some people were really enthusiastic about potentially using the platform."
Among the more eye-catching exhibition displays in the Festival's International Marketplace was the stand manned by merchandise supplier Wild Thang, which used a pair of bright green branded Y-fronts to draw interest.
Managing director Andrew Dwerryhouse said "doing something different, something creative, to stand out from the crowd" was integral to his company's approach.
And it certainly reaped the benefits, with more than 300 delegates - including boxer Tony Bellew (pictured with Mr Dwerryhouse) - approaching the stand across four days. Within a fortnight, around 25 of them had followed up their interest with requests for quotes.
"We loved it. The event was a really effective way of getting our brand out there, and with a big variety of companies from large to small," said Mr Dwerryhouse.
“But the quality of the enquiry was also very high. We’ve got bigger companies that we might push a little bit more now to get that meeting, to take that next step beyond the introduction."
The Bootle-based company, which manufactures many of the goods it supplies, prides itself on thinking more creatively than the opposition. And Mr Dwerryhouse said the Festival's third week - featuring days focused around the Creative Industries and Sport, Culture & Travel - was an ideal fit.
"Anyone can sell products but it's all about going the extra mile, and creativity and innovation has to be central to what we do. If people come to us for plastic pens to give to their best clients, our first question is ‘are you sure you really want that to represent you?’
"So to listen to the speakers - and hear their attitude to the future - was great. They were of such high quality any business would have got something out of it. You never stop learning.
"The whole look and feel of the Festival was brilliant. It was a real success for Wild Thang."
Another exhibitor with high hopes of doing business with contacts made at the Festival was Liverpool's Sensor City innovation centre.
Business development manager Joanne Phoenix totted up more than 250 new connections, including several from overseas delegations including China, India, Zambia, Peru, Lithuania, Israel and Poland.
“The interaction we had with these SMEs, larger corporates, intermediaries and academics proved to be of genuine interest and we are looking forward to see how these connections develop in the near future," she added.
Sensor City manned a stand during the full three weeks. And executive director Alison Mitchell said delegates across a range of sectors were keen to learn about its work.
“There was a lot of interest around our laboratory equipment and engineering expertise, with delegates keen to engage in synergistic opportunities and take advantage of our business and technical support."
Indian entrepreneur Prithika Parthasarathy felt she was winning before she'd even left the Exhibition Centre Liverpool. Having arrived as a SheTrades Global Summit delegate, she was busy promoting her high-end range of organic Ayurveda-based beauty products under the AVA Skincare brand.
"It's been extremely encouraging. I've met people from a Dubai garment company and then contacted distributors for Nigeria and Kenya and they wanted exclusive rights," she said.
Ms Parthasarathy said she had spent a lot of time on the Festival Floor and learned a lot from the Investor Pitch feature, which involved entrepreneurs taking to the Futures Stage to present to an audience of investors from UK Business Angels Association.
"I didn't know how to pitch to a [European] investor because I would do it the Indian way. Even the way we negotiate international trade, compliance requirements are different for every country but I only found this out when I came here.
"It's my first time in Liverpool and it is really classy. The SheTrades event has gone really well. The one-on-one meetings have been very well-organised. The team has been fantastic; they even let me put some of their products in the VIP section when I asked them."
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