Rebecca Tonkin

Posts by Rebecca


David Banting – Professional Automotive Services (PAS)

David Banting originally started his career training to be a qualified mechanic, working at a local garage which gave him work experience but also made him realise that he wanted to work more on the management side of the industry. He went back to college to study Business Management but states that “the knowledge and experience of the motor mechanic side of things has been invaluable, even years later, as it helps me to communicate confidently with fleet maintenance teams.”

David later “fell into” sales and decided to pull the two elements together, forming initially LCJD Business Consulting Ltd, which later evolved into Professional Automotive Services (PAS) when his friend and business partner Chris Lamport joined forces with him. They brought together a long history of experience and knowledge of corporate fleet services and vehicle manufacture on David’s part with Chris bringing a similar level of experience in the corporate retail sector. This mix meant that together they could offer smaller companies the benefits and experience of the large, corporate market to create greater efficiencies and stronger partnerships.

“Our business model is based on everything we have learnt in our careers and as a result we are able to offer customers a comprehensive outsource fleet service. We can manage all driver queries, requests, information about vehicle maintenance as well as being able to negotiate powerful discounts due to our contacts within the industry,” stated David. 

The company boasts a number of high-profile business clients including a large hotel chain, one of the largest publishers in the UK, a well -known opticians plus a global computer company. “The business is going well, especially as clients have come out of the national lockdowns and starting to increase trade again,”said David. Looking to grow the business to the next level, they participated in the GetSet for Growth Coast to Capital programme to find the answers to some of the questions they had about how to move forward with the business. 

“The workshops were really valuable, and we found Nicola Wiley, the Programme Director to be very engaging and happy to answer any question we had,” commented David. “It helped us to shape our business on paper and to put in place formal business plans and a cashflow forecast.”

David added that the support they received enabled them to present a more professional approach to documenting the business, which would be very useful when working with new clients who didn’t know them. “We knew that the service we provide is of a high-quality but needed this to extend to our business documents as well,” said David. 

“GetSet for Growth Coast to Capital helped us to work towards our goals to develop the business,”stated David. This included an application for an Invest4 grant so that they could introduce a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) to the company. “This will allow us to manage customers more effectively with some processes being more automated which in turn will mean that we have time to dedicate to the growth of the business,” he explained. The grant opportunity meant that the pair could look at a more expensive part-bespoke system that they originally planned to purchase which in the long-term would help to future proof the business.

David and Chris plan to grow the business themselves to the point where they can then look to offer franchises across the country. “We want to provide a turnkey solution to others who are currently working within the industry but looking for greater flexibility and opportunity to work for themselves. The CRM system is imperative to these plans,” stated David. 

David explained how the fleet market has faced a challenging few years, with many business clients having to reduce spend during COVID, which meant that they had to be more agile in the service they provided. The strong relationships that they had built up previously with clients helped maintain the trust and custom of clients during this period and this is now paying dividends as business picks up again. 

“We offer a different proposition to clients as we are always on their side, working to provide the best service, at the best price rather than simply providing a quick solution to their fleet needs,” said David. “Through our experience in the industry, we can highlight the genuine opportunities to clients and ensure that they are not being manipulated in order for them to spend money.”

With the help of GetSet for Growth Coast to Capital and the Invest4 grant, they hope to also improve their website in terms of providing a driver portal where clients can access their accounts easily, linking with the CRM system to provide a seamless service. “We would have struggled to complete the grant application without Nicola’s help as the documents are quite lengthy, but she made the process much easier and was always on hand to offer advice.” 

“We are proud of what we have achieved so far, which is now more obvious through the business documents that we have produced with the programme’s help,” said David. “This will help us as a business to grow, not just in the immediate future but also long-term and for that we are very thankful.”

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Libby Wilton – Opulent Designs

Opulent Designs is the world’s first designer and supplier of bespoke carbon fibre lifts for superyachts and the ultra-luxury residential market. Despite being a relatively recent start-up, the company has big plans to work in the marine, residential and leisure sectors, bringing the benefits of carbon fibre to design. The company’s CEO has almost two decades of experience within the lift industry. 

The company came to GetSet for Growth Coast to Capital initially to seek advice on grant funding and investment to help specifically with marketing their product to potential customers.

The GetSet team were really helpful. Their workshops gave us an overview of the funding and investment sector and helped us to decide which route was right for our needs as a company.

Company Secretary, Libby Wilton

One-to-one coaching sessions with the GetSet team enabled Libby to review her business plans and cashflow forecast. “I had previously prepared business plans, but Nicola’s guidance helped us to look at our financial documents with fresh eyes, highlighting where we needed to adjust spend,” said Libby. The company is now progressing with applications for funding through Let’s Do Business. 

“We are keen to install a showcase carbon fibre lift at a specialist marine lift installer’s HQ in Rotterdam which will enable potential customers to view the product in a working environment,”commented Libby. Initial feedback on the product has been very positive as carbon fibre brings benefits to the customer in terms of its light weight and ease of fitting for the superyacht industry. They plan to target luxury residential developments in the Middle East and will be providing sample boxes (themselves made of carbon fibre), to demonstrate the product and to help build awareness and demand. 

To achieve these goals, we need investment and the help provided by GetSet for Growth Coast to Capital was invaluable in preparing the documents required for funding applications and our credibility as a new business.

Added Libby

She works alongside her husband in the company, who has over 30 years of experience in the commercial and residential sectors, while her youngest son works in a complementary side of the business focused on promoting carbon fibre in the manufacture of classic cars and motorcycles as EVs.

“We have a head start on our competitors which gives us a distinct advantage, but we need to move fast to establish ourselves in the marketplace” stated Libby. She describes both the superyacht and luxury residential marketing as buoyant, with the current economic difficulties not affecting their target market. The company is confident that there will be strong demand for its innovative product and is approaching potential equity investors alongside its current funding application.

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Emanuel Squires

A lifelong Arsenal supporter, Emmanuel Squires is taking inspiration from his love of football for a new business venture which he hopes will “bring the game to the ride, all day, all the way.”

With a career in IT, it was inevitable that Emmanuel would utilise technology in his idea to create an app which allows sports fans to share rides to games in a new way. “I knew that I had the skills to develop a prototype app, even though I had never created one before,” stated Emmanuel. 

Lockdown proved a key point in his life, as working at home, he had more time to think about the initial idea which sprang from a conversation with a friend involved in sport, who struggled to find travel options for games which were cost effective but also added to the enjoyment of the game.

Having developed the app, Emmanuel realised that he also needed to brush up on the business skills required to launch a business and this was where GetSet for Growth Coast to Captial came in. Their programme of practical workshops combined with information sessions and 1:1 support meant that he could increase his business knowledge at the same time as finding out about the Invest4 grant funding available through The Business Hothouse.

The GetSet for Growth team helped me to develop my business plan and prepare the financial documents I needed to make my business work. I’m now putting all the knowledge from the workshops and support from the GetSet for Growth team into action and am planning to apply for a grant to help fund equipment as well as help from external consultants.

Emmanuel Squires

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Mike Noble – Noble & Stace

Like most ideas that arise in a pub, over a glass of your favourite tipple with his friend Mike Stace, the idea of becoming a chocolatier came somewhat out of the blue for Mike Noble. Having had a successful career in business, followed by a period running a B&B, Mike took a two-day course at The Chocolate Academy, coming back with lots of ideas for a new business venture. 

Six months of practice and experimentation later, Mike had used the time not only to refine his technique but also to explore if a business based around chocolate was viable and if there was a market for his products. “I knew that I had a love of chocolate and that lots of people shared this love,” commented Mike. 

Mike identified that there was a potential market in the Sussex area that he lived for high quality artisan chocolate products, having put his previous experience in business planning and marketing in practice. “Looking at the competition within this crowded marketplace, I knew that the branding, packaging and price were key factors in our future success,” stated Mike. 

“My differentiation as a company was that everything was made by hand, but this did mean that my production capacity was limited, so initially we didn’t sell online,” continued Mike, “however when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we had to rethink this approach.”

The trend for people to treat themselves and show support for others through gifting during the lockdowns meant that there was an increase in demand for chocolate. “An advantage that we had as a company was our reputation locally and our use of local ingredients which added to the story behind our products,” stated Mike. Whereas the demand from the hotel market disappeared due to them being closed, there was an increase in business from companies wanting to reward or treat staff. As a small company, Noble & Stace were able to personalise items and send to multiple addresses which was a distinct advantage over competitors. The company even introduced a Lockdown tablette which was very popular. 

The situation meant that Mike needed to upgrade their website to enable customers to place orders easily and to reach the new markets opening up. Having received business grants previously, he sought to find investment and was referred to The Business Hothouse and in turn to GetSet for Growth Coast to Capital. 

Initially I chatted through what we wanted to achieve with Nicola Wiley, the Programme Director and during our 1:1 sessions, she helped me to develop the business plans and financial documents required for the Invest4 grant. She was really helpful, even though I thought I knew how to complete a grant application, the support she gave was very worthwhile.

Mike Noble

Mike submitted an Invest4 grant application for website development to provide customers with a better shopping experience along with a new tempering machine to assist in the production of the products, which would be time saving for the business. The machine would also allow the company to introduce new products more easily and increase the volume of production to service the expected upsurge in customer demand. 

Even with the plans to expand what they do, the company remains true to its original values of using high quality, locally sourced products which have included sparkling wines, artisan gin, cream and butter. “There are seasonal trends in chocolate, and we have seen an increase in customers looking for vegan products. We are looking to develop a subscription service to move away from wholesale to direct sales which will allow us to test products more easily to see what people like,” commented Mike. 

Their chocolate products are sold in a number of local farm shops and specialist outlets and Mike is now teaching people to how to temper chocolate and make their own truffles in small groups. “This was never part of the original plan and teaching people is out of my comfort zone, but there is so much interest in what we do,” added Mike. The future looks extremely busy and with the recent news that the company had been awarded their Invest4 grant, Mike is likely to be even busier! 

To find out more about Noble & Stace, visit their website or follow them on Facebook or Instagram   

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