We Mean Business Expo 2015 was hailed a huge success by nearly a thousand exhibitors and visitors who came along to south London's premier business event in Fairfield Halls, Croydon.
Featuring a bigger Ecodrive Motor Show showcasing 'green energy' transport, the Expo was praised by everyone, including Mayor of Croydon Patricia Hay-Justice who opened the event and Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell who addressed delegates at VIP networking session.
"There is a real sense of energy at the Expo and it is really exciting to be part of what's going on here," said the Mayor (Wednesday, October 14th).
"Everyone can see that Croydon is going places and there is a real expectation of things getting better all the time. People are actually taking that vision and really pushing forward with it now, which is absolutely fantastic."
Mr Barwell revealed to delegates at a VIP Breakfast that he was due to meet Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin (today, Thursday, October 15th) to press for more money to be spent on the borough's key London to Brighton rail service through East Croydon Station. He said investment in infrastructure, both in Croydon and the UK, is vital during this important period of growth and regeneration in the borough.
He said: "One of my top priorities is to get investment in the service over the next five years. It is important to increase capacity and reliability on the line."
The biggest event on south London's business calendar, the Expo attracted over 120 businesses and almost a thousand visitors to network, do business and attend high level seminars from leading experts. They could also visit the Ecodrive Motorshow on the Fairfield forecourt featuring fuel-efficient "green energy" cars and electric bikes.
Croydon's Cabinet Members for Economy and Jobs, Councillor Toni Letts commented that the success of the Expo showed Croydon was "clearly on the up."
She said the council was committed to enabling small businesses and start-ups to set up and grow in Croydon. And she pointed to the Expo's new Innovation Hub, supported by the Sussex Innovation Centre, which supports some of the town's booming technology businesses.
"SME's make up 99% of all businesses in Croydon and it was a Manifesto promise to enable them – a promise we are keeping," she said.
Commenting on the success of the Expo, Katharine Glass, Managing Director of event organisers White Label said: "The Expo has been an amazing success – everyone seems to be really happy. All day there has been a real buzz with people networking and doing business."
And the exhibitors seemed equally please with many saying the Expo had resulted in quality business leads. John Miller, Head of Employer Engagement at Prevista, one of the Expo sponsors said: "It's gone really well for us today with a good range of businesses visiting our stand and at least a dozen solid leads."
"I also enjoyed the events and went along to an Ikea Speed Networking session, which was really interesting."
The day started with a Federation of Small Business sponsored VIP Networking Breakfast addressed by Central Croydon MP Gavin Barwell, FSB National Chairman John Allan, Croydon Council Leader Tony Newman, FSB Regional Chairman Antonio Falco and Croydon's Cabinet Members for Economy and Jobs, Councillor Toni Letts. Mr Allan spoke about the negative impact on small businesses of the Living Wage, although Mr Newman said Croydon believed the Living Wage would attract more skilled workers to the town.
Central Croydon MP Gavin Barwell said the Expo showed how keen people were to do business in the borough which is undergoing multi-billion pound regeneration. He also confirmed that work was due to start on Croydon's proposed showcase Westfield-Hammerson shopping centre in 2017, with a proposed completion date of 2017.
The Expo featured a busy programme of business advice seminars and workshops, a series of speed-networking sessions and an Innovation Hub for tech sector firms. The exhibitors covered a range of business sectors from innovative technology companies to multi-nationals such as HSBC.
Three seminars across the day focused on key issues for local business people. The Gatwick Procurement Team discussed opportunities for contract at the airport. Experts and academics from Sussex Innovation Centre on how to pursue sustainable business growth and bring new ideas to market. While the final seminar, led by Beaufort Consulting, examined Pension Auto-enrolment and the implications for businesses.
The Business Navigator Growth Hub, in association with Prevista and Coast to Capital, hosted a series of free Business Advice Clinics. While Ikea supported the ever popular Business Speed Networking sessions. The new Innovation Hub, sponsored by Sussex Innovation-Croydon, featured some of the most exciting and innovative businesses in Croydon.