Best of Bristol - Meet the Buyer Exhibition
A unique Bristol-based event giving small businesses the chance to meet with some of the region's biggest buyers looks set to become an annual fixture after the "resounding" success of a trial run.
Over 600 entrepreneurs and nearly 100 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from across the South West showcased their goods and services at the first FSB Best of Bristol 'Meet the Buyer' exhibition last month.
The one-day expo, held on June 21, was devised as an "innovative" new way to support local firms by increasing the level of products and services purchased within the region by Bristol's major businesses.
The majority of regional SMEs lack the resources to be able to pitch to decision-makers in large and multi-national companies and so often miss out on being considered for contracts.
Exhibitors and delegates at the Meet the Buyer exhibition, however, were brought face-to-face with decision makers from the area's biggest and most-influential contractors including Boeing Defence, Ministry of Defence (MoD), Bristol City Council, Constellation Wines Australia and Europe, MITIE Facilities Services Ltd, University of the West of England, Lloyds Banking Group, Clifton College, and Computershare.
The event, sponsored by local paper shredding and recycling company Shred-it, has proved so popular with both SMEs and contractors that organisers the Federation of Small Businesses, Bristol City Council and Business Sorted are now planning a similar exhibition in 2012.
Neil Kinnerly of Business Sorted said: "It was a special day for businesses in Bristol, described by some as the 'most important day for Bristol business this year'.
"I spoke to many business owners on the day that were blown away by the opportunities available. One company had been trying to see a particular buyer for over five years and not only did they meet with that buyer but a second meeting has already been scheduled."
"The organisers are meeting to review the event but based on the feedback and response so far we are already discussing a similar event for next year."
Ninety exhibitors packed into the Mercure Holland House Hotel and Conference Centre, Redcliffe Hill, for the event. Both the Leader of Bristol City Council, Councillor Barbara Janke, who opened the day and Bristol's Lord Mayor Councillor Geoffrey Gollop both spent over an hour talking with local businesses.
Councillor Barbara Janke said: "We'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the businesses that took part in the FSB Best of Bristol B2B Exhibition and Meet the Buyer event.
"The interest far exceeded our expectations - seventy-three businesses alone applied for 12 interviews with Bristol City Council's procurement team. It shows the appetite among our small businesses for opportunities like this to meet big business buyers. We are certain that some positive results were achieved and we have already started planning similar type events in the future.
"The Federation of Small Businesses, Bristol City Council and Business Sorted are pleased to co-operate in this way to provide practical help to our small businesses eager to take advantage of the purchasing power of big business. This is good for jobs and the economy of this city."
Among the firms pitching their services was Lodge Causeway company N3 Display Graphics. Director Nigel Peeke said: "Like many owners of SMEs, I know just how difficult it can be to reach the right people in large organisations.
"The Meet the Buyer event was therefore a godsend and was the best local business exhibition we have ever done. I can't wait for the next one".
'Buyer' Helen Baker of the University of the West of England said: "We hope those companies attending both the exhibition and the one to one sessions with us found the day to be informative and we look forward to being able to work with some of the companies we met in the future."
Charlotte Muenster, group procurement consultancy sourcing manager with Lloyds Banking Group, said: “Meet the Buyer events like this one are a perfect opportunity to bring businesses together to hear about the easily overlooked business opportunities for small and medium sized suppliers.
“As a major procurer of services across the UK, events such as these enable us to meet directly with our business suppliers and ensure that they’re aware of how the bank procurement process works, helping them to sharpen their approach to winning supply chain contracts.”
According to the organisers, the concept of Meet the Buyer was such a "hit" with SMEs that the 120 interview slots with buyers were quickly oversubscribed.
Guy Kingston, Chairman of the Bristol branch of the Federation of Small Businesses said: "Small businesses in the Bristol area rely on big businesses for work but bigger businesses rely on the smaller ones for vital services.
"This event has made a real difference to the commerce of Bristol, creating jobs and touchable business opportunities. To see Bristol City Council working together with local businesses to boost the local economy was fantastic and shows that as a city we can grow and prosper even in these tough economic times."
The next event to be organised by Business Sorted, Bristol City Council and the FSB will be "FSB Best of Bristol Business Exhibition", taking place at on September 27 at the Dolman Exhibition Hall, Ashton Gate.
"Bristol is such a great place to work! There are so many interesting and exciting things happening here, I just don’t have the time to keep up. I love the fact that Bristol has everything that a big city can offer; but, on the days when you want to get away from it all, you can easily escape to the country or down to the beach for a surf. This luxury is something that people often overlook..."