New Managing Director at Cherry Professional
As an introduction can you give us a potted history of you and your company please?
My company has been in existence for about 9 years in Derby. We specialise in project management, business support and more latterly the support for early stage equity investment in high growth businesses. Up until very recently we were East Midlands wide, since Easter we have been fully Midlands wide, we have taken over responsibility for the West Midlands Angels Den activity.
How are you positioning and differentiating your business from your competitors currently?
Because we are a relatively young business, Angels Den is an activity that has only been running for about 4 years. We are much more web friendly, much more social media savvy than most of our competitors and what we tend to pride ourselves on is the ability to turn round deals much more rapidly than any of our competitors who are much more traditional, old school equity investment.
What are the major challenges affecting your business this year?
The major challenges I think are driven by the absence or the relative absence of bank funding. We are getting a lot of enquiries from businesses and entrepreneurs that would normally have gone to banks for debt finance and trying to explain to them that they are not necessarily best positioned for Angel investment is proving quite difficult so there is a kind of pent-up demand that we are not able to meet because our products and services don't fit.
Have you seen an increase in popularity for your services off the back of things like Dragons Den?
Absolutely, there are two things happening in the economic climate that are driving people our way. I mentioned the banks, businesses tend to come to us because there are very few places to get money, but also the investors - interest rates being so low, a lot of investors are looking for slightly more interesting things to do with their money and the opportunity of generating a good rate of return.
On a more general basis how do you think the East and West Midlands are faring as a region compared to the UK as a whole?
I think the West Midlands is certainly up there with the best of the rest. In the East Midlands we are seeing deal flow a little bit slower than we do in the West Midlands and I think that's probably something to do with the culture. The East Midlands seems to be a little bit less ambitious, a little bit less go getter, a little bit more laid back and relaxed than the West Midlands. The West Midlands is dominated by Birmingham, it's a big active city and that activity and that dynamism then tends to spill out into some of the satellite cities and towns in the West.
So what could we do better in the East Midlands to help promote that dynamism and that entrepreneurial type flair?
I'd like to see the leaders of the 3 cities really pushing the East Midlands as a region, it's a fantastic place to live and work, I choose to live here, I'm not an East Midlander by background, I choose to live here because I love the place and I think the East Midlands as a region needs to sell itself a little bit better.
So what does a typical day look like for you?
There is no such thing as a typical day! Typical activity flow for Angels Den - we probably get 4 or 5 enquiries a day either direct or through the website from businesses who think Angel investment might be interesting to them, we will try and screen those through a telephone conversation early and those that look interesting we'll invite to a funding clinic. We are probably getting a similar number of potential Angels phoning us up or emailing us enquiring about what we do and how we do it. So we spend quite a lot of time explaining what we do, it's not really marketing, it's more filtering and explaining and then we have a cycle planning up to events.
What do you outside of work?
At the moment it's health activities, I go to spin classes twice a week, I box once a week, I try and run a couple of times a week, I've got a personal trainer. I have a young family - a 4 year old and a 2 year old and I'm trying to keep up with them in terms of energy levels! The flip side of that is that I also love cooking, I cook a lot. I like the idea of looking at a recipe book and picking up ideas then throwing the recipe book away and trying to cook something myself so I'm quite a creative cook, I quite like Far East fusion cooking. I pick bits of Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Chinese and blend them together to fit what I've got in the cupboard!
If you were not sat where you are today doing what you do what would you have done?
It's a really difficult question because whilst I was an employee I was always looking for the opportunity get out, the opportunity to find something to do myself and in all seriousness I did look a good few years ago into buying a restaurant on the South Coast.
Being a kind of chef/owner I guess is in an ideal world is what I would be doing.
What stopped you pursuing that particular dream?
Relative risk adverseness at the time. It was a step too far at the time.
Anything else you would like to tell us about your business or comment on in general with regards to the East Midlands?
The time has never been better for Angel investment. More and more people see us as an opportunity to raise money for their business. More and more Angels are joining the networks and have a much more broad view of businesses that they are likely to invest in. In one sense Dragons Den has done us a favour because it has raised the profile of equity investment, on the other hand Dragons Den is a TV show, reality is a lot more positive and a lot more helpful than something that's designed for audience generation on TV.
What would a typical Angel look like to you, what is a typical Angel and what is a typical entrepreneur if you were pitching to those people?
We have got 4,200 Angels in the network up and down the country. There are 4,200 individuals but I guess your ‘typical' Angel is what you might classify as middle aged, very successful and usually a serial entrepreneur. They have probably made their money 3 or 4 times over having grown their own business and exited it in some shape or form. They have their portfolio of secure investments, they have their portfolio of property investments, they have got the boring stuff, they have got the guilds, the bonds, the blue chips and are looking to do something more exciting and more adventurous with their money but also something where they can add some value aswell. Leveraging the value of their little black book is a phrase we use a lot. Businesses range from people with really good ideas but don't really know how to get them to market so they need cash and support.
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BoE - BBC National News - August 2013view cherry video archive