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New business centre opens in birthday celebration

Croydon Business Venture celebrated its 30th birthday at a VIP event to showcase its new Weatherill House Business Centre on Monday, June 9, 2014.

Steve O’Connell, GLA member for Croydon and Sutton, joined newly-appointed Mayor, Councillor Manju Shahul-Hameed, Toni Letts, Croydon Council’s Cabinet Member for Ececonomic Development and Investment and Lady Weatherill, widow  of the founder Lord Weatherill, to officially open the new business centre and to cut a commemorative cake.

David Robinson, chairman of Croydon Business Venture, said it was fitting Lady Weatherill was present to share the day because it was her husband Bernard’s vision, when he was Croydon North East MP, that saw the creation of an enterprise agency which would help individuals to start their own business in the borough.

“Lord Weatherill knew a thing or two about running a business because he worked and ultimately became chairman of the family tailoring business called Bernard Weatherill Ltd,” said Mr Robinson.

“He knew the problems facing small businesses and was passionate about helping those acorns grow into oak trees.”

Lord Peter Bowness, Peter Meader, Tony Pelling, Frank Birch and Geoffrey Dove, who is still a director today, were founder members of the organisation when it opened its doors in Barclay Road. The charity then moved via Acorn House to its new premises, where it continues to encourage and advise potential entrepreneurs as well as providing more than 40 serviced offices to small businesses.

Norman Pierce, chief executive of Croydon Business Venture, told guests about the 11-year journey from being introduced to Barratts, developers of the New South Quarter development, to the opening of Weatherill House Business Centre.

“There has been lots of stress but also lots of support from the Council, from my chairman, from our board and from the team,” he said.

“This is open now and I have a bigger dream. Croydon needs to push on with its tech city and we need to grow this business so that we can help even more people into self employment.”

Cllr Toni Letts, told the story about how Croydon Business Venture had helped transform the life of one of the residents she came into contact with when she worked for the YMCA.

She had found the man making jewellery in his own room and, with guidance from Croydon Business Venture and having been put in touch with the Prince’s Trust by Lord Weatherill, he has ended up being hugely successful making items for the big stores in the United States. “That’s just one success story this amazing organisation has created,” she said.

Mr O’Connell praised Croydon Business Venture’s long-term record of supporting budding entrepreneurs. “One of the big challenges for businesses is the cost in London of office space,” he said. “That’s why this building is so fantastic and I congratulate you on the opportunity that you give to people.”

The Mayor added: “It is fantastic to see the number of people and the businesses that are benefitting from Croydon Business Venture.

“It is great to see that, since its launch, Croydon Business Venture has helped more than 8,000 businesses through its programme and more than 60 per cent of them are still surviving. It will have generated in excess of 12,000 new jobs which really is fantastic.”

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