A record 120 business people attended the 2017 launch of The Big Breakfast networking series with new sponsors Gatwick Airport and Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership.
Now in its seventh year, the free, monthly "speed-dating for businesses" initiative run by White Label at Ikea Croydon has grown to be one of the most successful networking events in the region.
And with the new sponsors on board, even more neighbouring regions will enjoy the chance to make new contacts and generate fresh business leads in 2017.
"We're really excited about sponsoring The Big Breakfast as it's a great way for us to support the growth of local businesses and increase their opportunities to do business," said Alison Addy, Head of Community Engagement at Gatwick Airport at the first event on January 26.
"It's my first time here and there's a real buzz in the room. We are now going to work with the White Label team to see how we can bring this brilliant networking formula to a wider area."
The Big Breakfast's sponsorship deal with Gatwick and Coast to Capital means that three of the monthly breakfast networking events this year will be held at other locations across East Sussex and Kent.
"Handling over 43 million passengers a year and serving more than 220 destinations in 80 countries, Gatwick is an important focus for the South East region's economic activity," said Ms Addy.
"The Big Breakfast is a great opportunity to work together to build a strong local supply chain and boost business, with over £150m planned for investment this year in Gatwick's existing infrastructure, as part of the airport's Capital Investment Programme. With the airport only 14 minutes away from East Croydon by train, businesses in the area can access a whole world of opportunities. "
With networking in full flow from 7am in the Ikea Croydon Restaurant, Jonathan Sharrock, chief executive of co-sponsor Coast to Capital Local Enterprise, said he and his team were looking forward to engaging with businesses. They are keen to find out about the needs of local business and the issues they face in terms of recruitment, apprenticeships, finding customers and finding premises.
"Any economy needs successful and growing small businesses and Croydon is a great centre for small businesses in the region," said Mr Sharrock.
"This event is an excellent way of helping entrepreneurs to make contacts and grow their business, and help grow the regional economy too.
"As the Local enterprise Partnership for the M23 corridor, our efforts are focused on identifying our businesses and helping provide the conditions that are going to allow them to grow. "
The feedback from delegates was enthusiastic. Leah Connelly, local business manager for Santander in Croydon said she had really enjoyed her first Big Breakfast.
"It's really good - I've met lots of people and it's been interesting to see how these different businesses can help my customers. I'll definitely be back."
Bambos Charalambous of Gold Office Solutions has hardly missed a monthly meeting since The Big Breakfast started at Ikea in 2011.
"I'm a regular and it's always fantastic - I would recommend it to everybody, whether your company is big or small," said Mr Charalambous.
"I have been here from the start and we always get good contacts and leads. It's also great to see new businesses here. We try to nurture them if they are a bit nervous. We tell them to keep coming back because business is all about building connections and building relationships."
Gary Pearce, store manager of IKEA Croydon said: "Ikea is once again pleased to be hosting The Big Breakfast. The monthly event has grown hugely since it first started in 2011. We are delighted to support such a popular initiative and welcome the local business community to join for breakfast at Ikea Croydon."
Katharine Glass, managing director of organisers White Label, thanked all the sponsors and said the event would not be possible without their support.
For more information about next month's Big Breakfast on Thursday, 23rd February, please email email@example.com or call 020 8726 7968. You can now also follow us on Twitter @BreakfastBig