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Three ways economic development can help business today


What are the three ways economic development can help business today?

Collecting the bins and planning are statutory functions at most local authorities in England, economic development  (ED) function is not a statutory function.  So it is right that we ask what is the value of economic development and what contribution does it make to business growth.

This article sets out the three ways economic development can help business today.   So here we go, we hope this article contributes to the discussion about what local government can do to boost business.

  1. Bring together local agencies
    Economic development should have a focus on bringing growth and investment to the area.   As an economic development professional your role is to stay focussed on this.  In England local authorities cannot set the tone and direction for economic development by themselves.  Economic development has a collaborative attitude which recognises the uniqueness and value that other organisations can bring.  Economic growth comes through collaboration.   Central government, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Councils, Chambers of Commerce all have a part to play.   Success will only come from these agencies collaborate.

  2. Share insight
    There is such a wealth of information and data available to us.  We do not need to rely on who shouts loudest in the room, or those with fixed opinions based on personal prejudices.

    By sharing data we can bring different sources together to build a nuanced, clear picture of the current situation.   This will then lead to insights and perspectives on the problem.  For example at a recent client meeting we were able to bring new data on road traffic patterns which fundamentally changed the ways the client “framed” the problem of traffic exiting a business park.

  3. Set out and own a vision for the district
    We’ve been saving the best until last!  It is not the job of business to create and own vision for the locality.   Business look to local authorities for vision and leadership of place.   Leadership and vision is central to economic development

    So let’s get to work!



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A message to all Welwyn Hatfield Dragons Apprentice Teams…

“Don’t be a stranger.  Stay in touch, keep the network going”

How many times do we hear people say things like “keep up your networking, because it will pay dividends eventually”.

We start with good intentions to remain in touch, keep the contact going but we get distracted, events happen and then it becomes a bit awkward to re-build the business relationship.  Sounds a bit familiar? Don’t despair, it happens to everyone.

Why is networking important?

So our appeal to the brilliant young people who participated in the Welwyn Hatfield Dragons Apprentice Challenge 2015-16 is to stay in touch with your charity and business Dragon.  You have done a lot of the really hard work by being part of the Dragons Apprentice Challenge.  Now is the time to build upon the relationships you have made with your charity and business Dragon: Tell them what you are doing to develop your skills and competencies. The business Dragon and/or Charity may not reply immediately, but keep going!

Show  your resilience and determination – you have everything to gain, and nothing to lose!

Welwyn Hatfield Dragons Apprentice Challenge

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3 Reasons why we are involved with careers education

Red Potato believe passionately in careers education.  So we wanted to be the first to “sign up” as an Enterprise Advisor at Hertfordshire LEP.

Hertfordshire LEP are delivering The Careers & Enterprise Company Programme.  This forms part of a nationwide network being rolled out across LEP areas.

The ambition is to:

• inspire and prepare young people for the fast changing world of work
• shape the future workforce to meet local business needs

Why careers education is important

Here are three reasons why business leaders in Hertfordshire should get involved with this programme:

  1. “What you sow, so shall you reap” – firstly, your business can gain important insights into what your next generation of customers wants and expects from your business.
  2. The young people will give you especially relevant feedback and new insights.   Hence, you will learn how to improve your business.
  3. Most of all this is your opportunity to give back to Hertfordshire. As a result you can help future generations create wealth and prosperity in the local economy by sharing your experience and insights with young people.

Careers Education

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Some nice workshop feedback…thanks!

Education workshop feedback

Since our intervention, Red Potato staff have received this great workshop feedback.

Many thanks to @welhatcouncil for these kind comments:

“We would like to thank the The Director of Red Potato, Jay Wheeler, who led the Education Workshop on Apprenticeships, Skills & Training at the Welwyn Hatfield Annual Alliance Conference on the 12th of November 2015. Delivering this key workshop played a valuable part in contributing to the overall success of the Conference which saw the launch of the Welwyn Hatfield Economic Development Strategy 2015/2016.”

At the conference it was great to hear from local schools, colleges and business leaders.  Most noteworthy was the way everyone committed to improving the prospects for young people in Hertfordshire.

So, as a consequence of the conference, it seems business and schools will work together more effectively.  If as a result of our intervention at the conference, we make this happen more quickly, so much the better!

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#FSBHertsAwards – Business Innovation

A night to remember

It was (another) glorious June evening in Hertfordshire for the FSB Business Awards.  Red Potato had been invited to attend as a finalist and we were really chuffed to be awarded “Runner Up” in the Business Innovation category! Congratulations to the worthy winners Brig-Ayd Controls!  The event was held at the Manor of Groves – a sumptuous Georgian House set in 150 acres of prime Hertfordshire countryside.

Why were Red Potato at the Awards event?

Our business innovation entry was based upon the way Red Potato uses innovative short animations to tell the story of how long term partnership projects, involving local authorities have a huge positive impact for residents.

Why celebrate being a “Runner Up” for Business Innovation?

Part of the value of the FSB Awards event is that it brings local businesses together.  Also the way it inspires us all to achieve more for #Hertfordshire , that seems like a good thing to celebrate!

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Well done to all the Teams who participated in the 2015 Welwyn Hatfield Dragons Apprentice Challenge!  Red Potato were pleased to be a business partner with Welwyn Hatfield Council to deliver the programme again this year.

The Challenge requires local schools to work with local businesses and charities with the aim of growing £100 “seed capital” into at least £1000.  All the proceeds from the Team activities are given to the charity that the team is paired with for the duration of the competition.   At the Awards event, it was great to hear about the strong relationship that had been built and that many of the schools said they would continue to work with the charity, even though this year’s Challenge is now over.

You can get a flavour of the excitement by viewing the Awards night story!



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Working in Partnership with Councils

Judgement Day at the #LGCAwards: We were really happy when asked to be part of the Welwyn Hatfield Council presentation to the Local Government Chronicle Awards panel in #London.  During January the team (composed of Welwyn Hatfield Council and Red Potato staff) put in the time to prepare and rehearse our pitch to the judges.  It was great to have the support of the Welwyn Hatfield Council CEO who quizzed us hard, before approving our final presentation.   Red Potato had helped the Council engage local businesses with an innovative scheme for young people to gain experience of being an entrepreneur.  The young people gained valuable experience which will help them in their future careers and the businesses gained a useful insight into the mindset of “Millennials”, as customers and potential employees.   Red Potato has conducted initial research that shows that a typical Return on Investment for businesses who participated as a staggering 81.8%! In terms of cash that means for every £100 a local business invested in the programme, they could receive benefits worth upto £500! If you’d like to discuss how we could work with your local council and local businesses to achieve similar results do get in touch.   In the meantime we anxiously await the results of the LGC judging process….

On behalf of Red Potato we wish Welwyn Hatfield Council the best of luck, for when the final awards are announced in March.


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Why Paddington Bear is great for British business

The Paddington movie is a great Christmas treat for families.  From a business perspective, the film is also a brilliant advert for #London and sends a powerful message for businesses who wish to engage across the world.

But how many small and medium size businesses are ready to trade globally?

At a recent event we asked a group of entrepreneurs “How many of you are ambitious?”  Everyone put up their hand.

We then asked the same group of entrepreneurs “How many of you have global ambitions?”  Only 2 hands went up out of group of 20 established businesses.

The UK has a predicted growth rate of 2.5% in 2015. Admittedly the UK growth rate is better than that predicted for the Euro area (1.5%) but compared to regions such as Asia – which has a predicted growth of 6.8%, the UK is only a small part of the global market for goods and services.

With these predicted rates of growth in foreign markets, it seems like a good idea that British businesses capitalise upon the value of “Great Britain” – (including #Paddington! – which was partly filmed at Elstree Studios in #Hertfordshire) to maybe even sell marmalade to darkest Peru!




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Business studies courses don’t always produce the best entrepreneurs

What do flight safety information, dog treats and Ghanaian cosmetics have in common? If you said they provide inspiration for the latest crop of entrepreneurial ideas from students at a leading UK university then congratulations.

Inspiration can come from different sources – sometimes life experiences can be the reason people set up in business. Recently Red Potato helped to deliver business Bootcamp services at a leading UK university. The students on the Bootcamp came from a variety of countries, different nationalities and perhaps significantly many were not studying business studies.

The course being studied was less important than the business idea. The most impressive business ideas – think passenger safety, pampered pets and Ghana – were all solving a problem or had recognised a market opportunity. The inquisitive, innovative and in some cases idealistic vision of the students was more important than the course being studied. Crucially the best students were able to talk about that vision in everyday language -not management speak.

Funnily enough despite the students coming from all over the world, few focused on geographical markets. Instead there was a natural assumption that they would build a business which would be able to serve customers from all over the world from “day 1”.

After the initial flurry of excitement, not all the ideas will develop into sustainable long term businesses. Some would-be entrepreneurs will find more (financially) rewarding careers working for someone else and “Business studies” will give them an important career qualification for these roles. Good luck to all the students as they launch on this exciting adventure. We hope that the students will stay in touch and remain inquisitive as they decide to brave the “enormous ups and deep downs” of running their own business. Here at Red Potato we believe the value of practical entrepreneurship education is not always obvious but it can be demonstrated over the long term. That is why we are committed to delivering measurable long term outcomes by working in partnership with further and higher education organisations.DSC03679


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The pleasures of a flower shop; other types of business are also good!

Outside the Box delivered by Red Potato for Oaklands College, Hertfordshire
Mark Rowley from the Welwyn Florist talks market research at an Outside the Box Business Bootcamp

Inspiring young people about a career as an entrepreneur, is great when done by other entrepreneurs.  Red Potato works in partnership with local entrepreneurs to equip students with the skills needed to set up in business.  At a time when some UK schools are described as stagnating by international standards, could entrepreneurship, switch students back onto education?

“Check out the area, what kind of cars are going up and down the high street, what time of day is the high street busy?” Mark Rowley from the Old Welwyn Florist was talking about his market research prior to setting up his shop.  Mark knows quite a lot about market research – business is nearly “blooming” (sorry for the pun!) for his high street florist, thanks to infectious enthusiasm, a great product range and sheer bl**dy hard work.

The future entrepreneurs
Outside the Box Business Bootcamp is delivered by Red Potato in partnership with Oaklands College

Mark is just one of several entrepreneurs from the B49 networking group.  Mark was joined by fellow business owners, Matt Howeson from 3internet and Jon Pentel from Systemtalk who came to Oaklands College in Hertfordshire, on a cold night in December so that the students could see and hear real life entrepreneurs talk about business.  The session at the student campus in Welwyn Garden City was part of the Out of the Box Business Bootcamp.

The aim of the Business Bootcamp is to equip students with all the information they need to set up and run their own business.  It’s quite a tall order, but central to the success of the sessions is hearing from local entrepreneurs about their experiences.  The initial feedback from the students was very positive – “insightful”, “inspiring” and “motivational” were the words used to describe the session.

In the longer term the success of these sessions needs to be compared to other forms of training for new entrepreneurs.   For Oaklands College, success will be measured by whether the sessions lead to more students knowing how to access the help available to them and then taking those first daunting steps as entrepreneurs.   It is not an easy path, and does not necessarily lead to fame and fortune.

Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith at Herts Chamber of Commerce

The Bishop of St Albans was the invited guest at a recent Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce meeting.   The Bishop was talking about his views on education and business.  In response to questions, he said that not everyone can be an entrepreneur; and of course he is right.  The UK performance in the (PISA) international league table for maths, science, reading and problem solving, shows that we can’t be complacent.   Making the explicit link between maths, science, reading, problem solving  and enterprise is one answer.  Entrepreneurs able to inspire young people about the importance of these competencies, when building an enterprise able to compete on the global stage, might be even better.  Otherwise it might all be down to sheer bl**dy hard work.