Issue One: 2012
Ignite 2012 Kicks Off The hunt is on for Cornwall & the Isles of Scillyâ€™s best business ideas
Homegrown Success Starting small, growing strong
Guiding Light Advice from top business specialists
Fully Charged Ten flashes of business inspiration
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BRIGHT We’ve all been there. Driving home from work. Doing the washing up. Watching a film. Walking the dog. Suddenly inspiration strikes. Your mind kicks into overdrive – why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? It’s a sure-fire winner. Great ideas can happen anywhere, at anytime – it’s what you do with them that counts.
Charlotte Green Ignite Coordinator
Welcome to Ignite magazine, a teabreak-sized insight into how to take your brilliant idea forward, brought to you by the people that can help make it happen; Ignite 2012. A business planning competition for Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly where the rewards are big, Ignite invites you to take part in The Ignite Experience, a series of free start up business workshops to guide you through turning
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IDEA your brainwave into a business opportunity. With a watertight proposition under your belt, you’ll have the chance to enter a short video pitch and privately share your idea with the Ignite judging panel. Your pitch could help you win a share of the £100k prize that includes business support, services and funding. So take some time out, grab a cuppa and read. Find out about lightbulb moments, humble beginnings and starting out. Get insight and advice from the specialists about taking things further. Hear from people who’ve been through Ignite and discover what it did for them. And if what you read gets you thinking, visit www.ignitecornwall.com and register your interest. Why not make 2012 the year your idea ignites?
Think it. Plan it. Win it.
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You never know when and why an idea could spark. Some of Cornwallâ€™s leading entrepreneurs talk about the ideas that kick started their business and what came next...
“I was sitting on a long haul flight. A mother was really struggling to feed her toddler between controlling the little one, the spoon, the tin of food and the bowl,” remembers Michael Mailling, founder of Sproggie and Ignite 2011 winner. “I thought, ‘there has to be a market here for single-handed feeding’.” This simple observation in a finite moment of time literally changed Michael’s life. Coming from a product design background, he started sketching ideas and arrived at a clip-on spoon for a squeezable food pouch. Since then, he’s invested thousands of hours, ideas and infinite energy into setting up Sproggie and getting everything in place to take his product to market. Simon Gill, founder of The Safeguarding Community and Oxford Innovation business coach, also remembers a single moment that set him on a new course. “When I read the first media coverage of the horrific Baby P case, I realised I had knowledge, research and practical experience that could address many of the underlying problems,” he says. “This started a journey to explore how I could build a business to develop risk and safety management in health and social care.” Many entrepreneurs can point to similar moments or sudden realisations that set the wheels in motion for their start up journey; a spark of an idea that they just had to act on. For others, the idea developed more gradually. “The idea for Useeka.com evolved
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over a period of time,” says Neil Simpkin, founder of the ethical travel company. “I’m not sure I can pinpoint one particular moment, though I do recall a couple of particular conversations when, as I talked about bringing ethical travel choices to a mainstream audience, I got a really positive reaction. That’s when I realised this could really work, which gave me the motivation to make it happen. Everybody gets to their starting point differently, but recognising those moments and using them as your motivation is really important.”
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While starting their own business is a very individual journey for some, others say it was meeting someone else driven by the same ideas that gave them the impetus to move forward. “I’d recently been made redundant and joined a programme run by the Cornwall School for Social Entrepreneurs to learn how to set up a social enterprise,” explains Janet Popham, co-founder of GP Assist. She met Scott Bennett, who wanted to develop a business in the health sector. “We realised that between us, we had a combination of skills and experience to offer GPs a new approach to locally commissioning services for their patients, minimising demands on their time. For us, working together offers more opportunity for innovation than trying to go it alone.”
But whether it’s saving GPs’ time or making it easier to feed babies, understanding the problem at the heart of a business idea is key. “You must be absolutely clear as to the ‘problem’ your idea is going to solve and the benefits it offers,” says Alan Street, business coach at Oxford Innovation. “What is it that’s different about your idea?” “The idea came quickly, the research process was quite lengthy,” says Emma Mansfield, founder of Lovely Little Books. “But all the time I was considering what is going to make this different? What will make the books pick-up-able and what will make them leap off the shelf?” She clearly got it right; her Little Book of Cornwall has become a bestseller and she’s released six more titles since.
Michael Mailling Founder of Sproggie and Ignite 2011 winner
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But like Emma, many entrepreneurs will tell you that having the idea is the easy bit; the real challenge is developing it into a viable business proposition. “Strategy and planning are critical,” says Simon Gill. “After you define your vision, you need to develop your strategy to achieve it and understand what your proposition is and how you’ll go about developing it.” This is where the support and advice of expert business coaches can be invaluable. Michael and Sproggie won the Ignite competition in 2011 and have since received a high level of business support from the Oxford Innovation team and Ignite sponsors, including legal services from Foot Anstey, accounting support from Francis Clark with Winter Rule and design from Creative Edge.“Oxford Innovation has proved instrumental in making sure all my plans are realistic and achievable, making sure I remain on-track and my passion and determination to succeed are channelled in the right way,” he says. “Like all new ventures, you only have one chance and with limited resources, getting the right support is paramount for small businesses.” “Ignite brings a number of important benefits aside from the prize itself,” adds Alan Street. “As well as training, advice and mentoring from experienced business coaches, the opportunity to have your idea ‘tested’ by independent business professionals – in terms of market attractiveness, route to market and scalability – is priceless.”
Expert Advice “Test your idea as thoroughly as possible with potential customers but NOT with family and friends – they will ALWAYS say the idea is great and that they love it. And be realistic as to the amount of cash you are going to need – generate a cashflow forecast.” Alan Street, Business Coach, Oxford Innovation
“Like all new ventures, you only have one chance and with limited resources, getting the right support is paramount for small businesses.” Michael Mailling, Founder of Sproggie and Ignite 2011 winner
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Thereâ€™s a lot to think about when planning how to take a business idea forward and questions come thick and fast. However, if you focus on ten key areas and find answers for the essential issues first, your chances of business success multiplyâ€Ś
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Knowing there’s enough cash in your proposition to operate is imperative if your business is going to succeed – from setting your sales price to anticipating your overheads. Ask yourself: Do you know your numbers? How will you make money? How much will it cost to build your proposition? How much cash do you need?
Exploring the underlying principles behind your idea and how it works will get your strategy into shape. Once you’ve honed this aspect, everything else will follow. Ask yourself: What is your personal and business vision and how will you achieve this? What assumptions have you based your business on and how will they be tested?
Access to Finance Innovation Change
Considering the impact you have on the world around you is essential for any modern business. Not only will it help protect the environment, but it could also save, and even make, you money. Ask yourself: What actions are you taking to consider the impact of your business on the environment, and the impact environmental issues will have on your business?
Operations People and Skills Marketing and Sales Leadership
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Access to Finance
Having worked out your direct cash needs, you can look into any finance requirements you might have to grow your business and then consider where and how you might access that finance. Need help? “Francis Clark with Winter Rule has a good knowledge of funding sources across the range of finance types; embracing grant, debt and equity. We also work hard to understand what specific funders are looking for from a proposition and look to match the requirements of the funder with those of the business. Part of this matching process is working with the entrepreneur on financial projections to assess quantum and timing of cashflow deficits.” Richard Wadman, Francis Clark with Winter Rule.
Protecting and continually developing your proposition (and the way you deliver it) will ensure you stay ahead of the market and stand out from your competitors. Ask yourself: How will you regularly review your proposition to challenge assumptions and keep delivering value?
As a new business, change is inevitable. Managing this change effectively will ensure that the perpetual evolution of your start up doesn’t derail your business, but rather improves it. Ask yourself: How will you manage change in your business and proposition?
There’s a big difference between managing and leading. By exploring how to lead your business, you can make sure your team is motivated, your partners are excited and your customers are inspired to buy. Need help? “You can never have too much knowledge. Business Cornwall magazine offers expert advice from established local businesses, who have been there and done it. It can help you feel connected and involved with what is going on in the business scene, which in turn helps you run your own business better.” Toni Eyriey, Business Cornwall
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Putting your proposition into action takes planning and structure. Good operational systems will help you minimise costs and maximise efficiencies.
People and Skills
Working out what specific skills you have in your business now and what you’ll need to grow will help you decide what sort of people you’ll need and when – giving your business the best chance of success.
Need help? “Support and training on disciplines such as cashflow management or time management can be vital for a business to succeed. At Pool and Tremough Innovation Centres we provide on-site support and training, as well as flexible office space, meeting rooms, 24/7 access, secure parking, a managed reception and much more. The centres offer a vibrant setting to network with like-minded companies with ambition and aspirations to grow their businesses.”
Need help? “Each business is unique, so at Tamar HR we look for ways in which the relationship between business and employee can be built to benefit both parties. We offer a straightforward start up package for new employers that means they can ask the inevitable questions which arise when taking on staff.”
Richard Scutt, Pool and Tremough Innovation Centres
Tim Marrow, Tamar HR
Marketing and Sales
Identifying, articulating and promoting the problem your product or service solves for specific customers, and how it does it, sits at the heart of marketing and sales. This is what will set you apart from the competition and give your business the solid footing it needs to succeed. Need help? “63% of local people regularly listen to Pirate FM, demonstrating that local radio advertising really can reach potential customers right across Cornwall. We work closely with local businesses to get a real understanding of both their business and their customers so we can design effective campaigns that showcase their products and services, grab the attention of listeners as well as deliver a great return on investment.” Beverley Warne, Pirate FM
If asking these questions throws up more; great! Head to the Ignite 2012 website, where you’ll find more insights and advice. Plus you can register for Ignite 2012 and benefit from The Ignite Experience, free business workshops that will run in various venues across the county from May until August, where the coaches from Oxford Innovation will give you an invaluable boost of business advice. www.ignitecornwall.com
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GROW FOR IT Even the biggest business has to grow from somewhere. So what are the best conditions for nurturing an idea? Do you need a giant plot and tonNEs of fertiliser or can a carefully tended windowbox of seeds blossom just as well? 2010 Ignite winners Rokka Play think so. Their business quite literally started in the garden shed. Founders Vanessa and Sam noticed how their children naturally made dens and cubbyholes out of whatever they could find, and having scoured toy shops looking for a large, sustainable multi-purpose toy that could allow their children’s imaginations to run wild, all they found was a gap in the market. Coming from a career in market research, Vanessa understood that having a good idea was not enough to make a successful product and brand. Their approach was to carry out extensive market research first, talking to retailers, teachers and parents and showing the prototype (built in a garden shed) of their toy product the Rokka – a wooden see-saw rocker for two that becomes a boat, shop, or theatre – to focus groups.
Testing the water in this way is frequently recommended by business specialists. “It’s part of a specific methodology based on something known as Lean Start Up,” explains Oxford Innovation business coach Simon Gill. “You focus your business on what you believe is most important to your customers by developing a solution, delivering it and checking with them that you have achieved what you set out to. Then you can move onto the next problem and repeat the cycle.”
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â€œWinning Ignite allowed us to take the Rokka to market quickly and has given us a support network of expertise that has been invaluableâ€? Sam Spake, Co-founder of Rokka Play and Ignite 2010 winner
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The aim is to enable businesses to start small and grow fast – in a methodical, structured way; constantly learning, evolving and improving. It also saves money and time, as not so much investment is needed up front, and the product can get to market quickly. “All you need to start a business this way is a great idea based on sound reasoning, time and boundless energy,” Simon adds. “You must start with an open mind and be prepared to challenge your own assumptions.” It was while testing if Rokka Play had the potential to grow, that Vanessa and Sam heard about the Ignite competition. “Winning Ignite allowed us to take the Rokka to market quickly and has given us a support network of expertise that has been invaluable,” says Sam. “But even if we hadn’t won, the advice and encouragement we received going through the Ignite process means that we would still have had the confidence to launch.”
Sam Spake and Vanessa Harris Founders of Rokka Play and Ignite 2010 winners
Rokka Play has been trading since October 2010, during which time it has aced the National Baby Show, won loads of awards, racked up bundles of national press coverage, attracted interest from department stores and is currently retailing with Hamleys online alongside other prestigious toy shops. And it all started with an idea, a garden shed, and the willingness to take small steps in the right direction; laying down roots before shooting upwards. Find out more about growing your business idea at www.ignitecornwall.com
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From small seeds Rokka Play isn’t alone. These Ignite finalists have also grown from humble beginnings into thriving businesses… Dicky Bag Mandy and Barry Davies started running their business – which sells odour-proof, handsfree, neoprene bags for carrying dog waste – from the spare room in their family home. “In the early stages it cost us not much more than some of our time and a small amount of cash,” says Mandy. “So we thought, why not see what happens?” After continual research to pinpoint and contact their target market, sales and interest continue to grow, averaging six new UK and worldwide trade enquiries every week. “Ignite helped us plan out our next steps, focus on where we’re headed, and have some serious business people take us and our product seriously,” Mandy adds. “Now I feel stronger and better placed to move forward.” Flock Follies Jayne Tarasun began by making and testing her acrylic bird feeders by hand at her kitchen table. Her products were picked
up by over 30 retailers in the first nine months and intensive research and design meetings were then needed to find a suitable UK manufacturer that matched her ecoproduction requirements. “Ignite helped me develop a floor plan for my business,” Jayne says. “The research is key; you always need a plan B and C in your back pocket.” Lovely Little Books “It was just me, at a desk, with the internet and a phone,” explains Emma Mansfield of how she started out with the hugely successful The Little Book of Cornwall. Emma has released six titles and developed her business online. For her, entering Ignite was about getting other people involved in the process. “Because I work largely on my own, it was great to have the enthusiasm of all the different coaches and it was great to have support on the business plan,” she says.
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Sometimes getting from lightbulb moment to fullyfledged start up can feel like a shot in the dark. We shed SOME light on the process, with the help of some of Cornwallâ€™s top business specialistsâ€Ś
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The nitty gritty Actually understanding what it takes to set up a business can be tricky. “Every business is different but key considerations will always include liability, tax implications and fitness for purpose,” explains Gavin Poole, Partner, Foot Anstey. “Speaking to a specialist adviser at an early stage will help identify the right solution.” As a start up you need to think about the legal entity you want to operate as. Are you going to be a sole trader, or is it a joint venture with a partner? Will you be a company with shareholders or something else instead?
“Each legal entity requires different considerations,” Gavin continues, “but every legal entity will need documents in place to address issues regarding strategy, decision making, employment and protection of the business.”
TOP TIP: Spend time and care over the detail at the outset. The legal aspects are critical to ensuring a secure platform for strong growth and investment.
Counting every penny “Failing to get your finances straight can leave you devoting a disproportionate amount of time to ‘firefighting’, rather than making sales,” explains Francis Clark with Winter Rule’s Richard Wadman. “Financial projections are the best way to avoid this, while also providing the foundation for securing potential funding.” For many businesses, finance is required to fund growth and robust financial projections make third party investment more likely. “Whilst financiers may be excited by your ‘idea’,” he continues, “they also will be
considering their return and will need to be convinced that you have thought out the financial implications of your business model – and you have the ability to deliver. Projections play a persuasive role in both arguments.”
TOP TIP: Do projections and be realistic in the assumptions made – base the finance requirements on the projected cashflow.
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Knowing your stuff “Market research closes the gap between what you know and what you think you know,” explains Robert Rush of PFA Research.“It could tell you the size of the market opportunity, how your product or service fits that opportunity, who your competition is, whether the market can afford your prices and so much more.” But it’s important to do it right. How you decide on your participants, the questions you ask and whether you are willing to listen to the answers will all determine how useful your research is. “Too often people will ask friends, family or random contacts without
being clear on who they are or what interests they represent,” he continues. “It’s about asking the right questions but also how and when you ask certain questions and how you record the responses.”
TOP TIP: Think about what you need to know, who or what groups will have the answers and that will tell you the best way to do it to get the information that will be the most valuable for you.
New recruits “People drive successful businesses so the way that you hire, induct, motivate and reward your employees is a key element of success,” explains Tim Marrow of Tamar HR. Every business is unique so it’s important to identify your specific needs, skills and even the sort of business culture you have to make sure you get the best team member for you. “Most people have a particular range of things they are good
at,” he continues, “if you’ve got the right match between your new employee, your job needs and the way you operate it can be very productive.”
TOP TIP: Never recruit alone. Involve others who are perceptive about people; it will pay dividends.
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Spreading the word The term marketing often scares new businesses, but really, it’s just about people. “Marketing means working out who your customers are and what they think about your company, then developing the best way to tell them how your product or service is useful to them. It’s an essential aspect for all businesses,” explains Lotte Mahon of marketing and PR agency The Vine. “You need to ask yourself, ‘Do I have the skills and time internally to manage my marketing?’ If not hire someone and ensure that the budget you allocate is realistic for your expectations and goals. Get this right and your business will grow.” Email marketing is a tried and tested way of communicating with your customers, but it’s important to do it right. “We come across a lot of people who simply use their personal email client for email communications, which can lead to you being blacklisted,” warns Anna Penrose of MailAway. “Using
a professional email marketing platform will ensure this doesn’t happen, but will also help make sure your message, strategy and design are on track to deliver a return on your investment.” Email communications engage your customers in their own space and reinforce what you’re doing in other aspects of your marketing. “It’s the glue that holds it all together,” Anna continues, “plus with a professional email marketing platform you can pull off detailed reports of how your email marketing is working for you.”
TOP TIP: Begin building your database immediately. A good place to start is a sign up box on your website. From here you’ll get a mailing list of interested people ready to hear your news when you are ready to share it.
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Get the look Research by The Design Council shows that companies that invest in design significantly outperform those that ignore it. In fact, for every £100 spent on design, it is estimated that a company’s turnover increases by £225. “A strong identity is key to marketing success – it all builds up the framework for a strong effective brand which dictates the way your clients perceive you,” explains Melinda Rickett of Creative Edge. “A good design company will help any new start up prepare a creative strategy - which might be as
simple as defining their target market, what their unique selling point is and what differentiates them from their competitors. These are fundamental questions that need to be asked from the outset.”
TOP TIP: Avoid DIY! Quite often you are too close to the project to be subjective. Do what you do best and if possible, leave the rest to the specialists.
Being Seen For the uninitiated, search engine optimisation (SEO) can sound technical and scary, but it’s simply about ensuring your products and services are put in front of potential customers in the search engines. Roughly 75% of all new website visitors come through Google so making sure that you rank high when people search for terms relevant to your product or service can significantly impact your business. “The best way to maximise your site’s performance is through ‘key phrases’ – introducing the terms you know people will be looking for into your website – but it’s important not to overcook it,” explains
Tom Telford of 3WhiteHats. “Too many key phrases and you’ll end up binned. Instead, focus on creating great content that represents your product. SEO is content based so get that right and you’re half way there. Then work with a specialist on the rest so that they can accelerate what you are doing.”
TOP TIP: Make sure you have Google Analytics from the outset. It’s the best way to monitor how people are finding your site and using it.
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Specialist treatment When it comes to starting a business, there are a handful of common questions that always come up… Q: ‘How can I fund my start up?’ A: “I help people explore what funds they have access to, the finance requirements of their idea and the different options available. I then help them understand ‘bootstrapping’ – stripping down to the bare bones in the early stages while testing their assumptions to see if their product or service works, before investing huge amounts of money.” Simon Gill, Planning and Strategy Specialist, Oxford Innovation Q: ‘Do you think this will work?’ A: “I ask ‘How badly do you want it to work – what are you willing to give up to make sure this works?’ That is always a good starting point.” Andrew Finley, Sales and Marketing Specialist, Oxford Innovation Q: ‘Where can I get a grant?’ A: “I work with people to get to the bottom of why they think they need the money and then look at all the options available; the best is often organic growth from a steady start.” Will Cairley, People, Skills and Pitching Specialist, Oxford Innovation Q: ‘What makes a business successful?’ A: “After recognising a situation where value can be added, I would say, the ability to sell, the ability to deliver on time and the ability to manage cash.” Andrew Farmer, Finance Specialist, Oxford Innovation If you’re interested in hearing more from these specialists and many others, sign up to be part of Ignite 2012. You’ll get the opportunity to come along to The Ignite Experience workshops before entering your idea into the Ignite competition to be in with a chance of winning specialist business support; turning your idea with legs, into a business with scope. www.ignitecornwall.com
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Directory Ignite 2012’s lead sponsors have all the expertise you’ll need to get your business off to a flying start…
Business Support Oxford Innovation, www.oxfordinnovationservices.co.uk, 01872 300116 Design & Web Consultants Creative Edge, www.creativeedge.co.uk, 01872 260023 Digital MailAway, www.mail-away.co.uk, 0845 241 4620 3WhiteHats, www.3whitehats.com, 0203 3974 123 Facilities Pool and Tremough Innovation Centres www.poolinnovationcentre.co.uk, 0800 052 5600 Finance Francis Clark with Winter Rule, www.francisclark.co.uk, www.winterrule.co.uk, 01872 276477 HR Tamar HR, www.tamarhr.co.uk, 01579 343700
TREMOUGH INNOVATION CENTRE
POOL INNOVATION CENTRE
Law Foot Anstey, www.footanstey.com, 01872 243300 Market Research PFA Research, www.pfa-research.com, 01208 262000 Marketing The Vine, www.thevinemarketing.com, 01326 218414 Stranger Collective, www.stranger-collective.com, 01326 376500 Pirate FM, www.piratefm.co.uk, 01209 314400 Business Cornwall, www.businesscornwall.co.uk, 01209 718688 Sideways, www.thinksideways.co.uk Toby Weller, www.tobyweller.co.uk
EUROPEAN UNION Investing in Your Future
European Regional Development Fund 2007-13
Memberships Federation of Small Businesses, www.fsb.org.uk, 0808 2020888 Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, www.cornwallchamber.co.uk, 01209 216006
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A BRIGHT FUTURE The desire to start a new business can spring from anywhere. A passionate belief you can do something better, a person you meet who fires your imagination or a gap in the market that you know you can fill.
Exciting. Challenging. Unexpected. Creative. Educational. Rewarding. Spirited. Courageous. Yours.
You might have a clear personal vision of what you want to achieve, or an understanding of the kind of career you’re keen to pursue, through the business you want to create. You might have just got up and running, but, with less than 12 months under your belt, already know you want to stretch further, to do more. Or you might just have an idea. An idea, and enough ambition and tenacity to make it grow into something special. Whatever your motivation, with Ignite 2012 you can build on it, turning it into the sort of strong, solid business proposition that can carry you forward – with support, guidance and advice from the people who’ve been there, done it and succeeded. And who knows, you might win a share of a business support package worth £100k as a result. Starting a new business creates all sorts of opportunities, experiences and emotions. It’s a chance to shape your future, with your own foot on the pedal. Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly is the perfect place to build a budding business, and Ignite 2012 is the perfect way to make it happen. Visit www.ignitecornwall.com, and sign up to a series of free business workshops designed to get you thinking. It could really take you places. The Ignite 2012 business planning competition is now open. Register at www.ignitecornwall.com
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EUROPEAN UNION Investing in Your Future
European Regional Development Fund 2007-13
Ignite your business idea at ignitecornwall.com