Former BBC2 Dragon’s Den panelist Jenny Campbell was among an inspirational panel of speakers who took part in a virtual event called Business After Brexit: A New Chapter for the West Midlands.
She was joined by West Midlands Mayor Conservative candidate Andy Street, former CEO of Porsche, BMW and Lamborghini Kevin Gaskell, director at Coventry-based HydroGarden Stuart Green, and Daniel Szor, founder and CEO of The Cotswolds Distillery Company Ltd in Shipston-on-Stour, at the event which attracted more than 250 business people.
Jenny founded ATM provider YourCash when she bought it as a loss-making subsidiary from Royal Bank of Scotland in 2010 and used her skills and experience from working at NatWest and RBS for over 30 years to turn it around before selling the business in 2016 and joining the Dragon’s Den panel a year later.
She told the event she wished there had been business organisations such as the Growth Hub when she was starting out.
Jenny said: “When I bought the business from RBS, there was not the level of business support that is available today from Growth Hubs and Local Enterprise Partnerships.
“We did a lot more in-house research into what was possible in new markets and recruited advisors, accountants and solicitors into the countries we went into.
“We had to do a lot more self-taught research compared to what is clearly available today in terms of support from Growth Hubs which is fantastic.
“If I was setting up a business today, I would be engaging, as the businesses are here, with my local Growth Hub because they bring together the accountants and lawyers and all the information that is needed, and I don’t feel we had that connected network of support to take our business to the next level. We had to join all the dots ourselves which we did but it would have helped.”
The West Midlands Growth Hubs have joined forces with the Department of International Trade (DIT) to run a 14-week programme to encourage businesses to access free advice at a new website www.wmgrowthhubs-eusupport.co.uk to Check, Change and Go following the end of the transition period and the UK’s exit from the EU. Jenny added: “We have an opportunity to become a global Britain. Why stop at Europe? We have an opportunity to reach out into Asia and Australia.
“We are an independent island and we can take our global reach out towards the rest of the world. I think we probably feel more empowered now and less bogged down by European legislation. “I think we have probably got our British competitive spirit back now and we absolutely don’t need to feel restrained now, if we did before, and we’re writing new trade deals and we need to grasp those opportunities straight-away.”
Craig Humphrey, managing director of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub, who also spoke at the event, said the EU readiness campaign run by the West Midlands Growth Hubs and the DIT had been set-up to harness all the support that is available to help businesses following the UK’s exit.
He said: “We have been able to connect businesses to the expert advice and help that is available to help them identify the changes that they need to make in their own business at the end of the transition period, and then work with colleagues to enable them to identify new markets and access the resources and support that is available.
“There’s been a huge demand from the business community so during the rest of this month we will continue to offer a range of Brexit clinics and one-to-one sessions which will give businesses an opportunity to assess the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU. “It was fascinating to hear the experts from local businesses and industry heavyweights at the virtual event which was focused on bringing opportunities to life.
“We know that the new trading opportunities outside Europe will have an impact and businesses can find out what this means for them by contacting their local Growth Hub in the West Midlands.”