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WIN a hamper of Devon food & drink delights worth £500 from Fast Track to Growth businesses

PUBLISHED: 16:52 20 September 2018 | UPDATED: 16:52 20 September 2018

You could win a hamper of goodies from Fast Track To Growth businesses

You could win a hamper of goodies from Fast Track To Growth businesses

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Fast Track to Growth have gathered some fantastic produce from a selection of FT2G brands including Otter Vale Products, Salcombe Distilling Company, The Greedy Fox and Red Rock Brewery, for a ‘Devon’s finest’ luxury hamper worth £500

“I’ve been blown up a few times. An RPG strike to the head knocked me out. That makes you think.” Meet Chris Harris. He runs a Devon-based business called House of Harris selling a vast array of gifts online and through shops in Plymouth and Exeter.

“It’s definitely trendy again. Space tourism, mining asteroids, going to Mars. We love to solve puzzles and space gives Sam a really big platform to do those things.” Meet Andrew and Sam Lavender. They run a Devon-based business called Pixalytics. It is an Earth observation company, analysing data beamed back to our planet from satellites.

And that’s how the conversations start. Chris and Andrew are just two of the many people running companies in Devon brought together by and getting help from Fast Track to Growth, the county’s free business support programme. A former Royal Marine, Chris swapped firefights and tours of Afghanistan to set up an online ecommerce business with his wife Charlotte (plus occasional support from their children Emily, 13, Chloe, eight, and Jack, seven) from their Plymouth home.

This year over 70 Devon companies came together at the Growth DayThis year over 70 Devon companies came together at the Growth Day

In three years, House of Harris has grown from an initial £300 investment to exceed an annual turnover of over £4.5m, with no outside investment or loans.

Andrew and Sam studied at Plymouth University over 25 years ago and have been based in the city ever since. Today Pixalytics work with organisations ranging from farmers and developers to space agencies and government departments, helping to make sense of changes happening on the planet – on land, in the air and in the oceans – brought about increasingly through human activity, climate change and all manner of forces that are impacting on our environment and lives.

Andrew and Chris joined FT2G because, as they both agree, if you want your business to keep improving, why wouldn’t you?

The annual Growth Day offers members 1-1 sessions with partnersThe annual Growth Day offers members 1-1 sessions with partners

“The opportunity for free business support without too much commitment was what got me first hooked,” says Andrew.

“I went to the Growth Day, took something useful from every workshop and the one-to-one sessions with advisers. From there, with no expectations, we applied for the Intensive Support Programme and got shortlisted.”

Pixalytics went on to win the final pitch event for smaller companies. House of Harris won the pitch in the larger company category. The prize, for both, is ongoing business support.

Workshops on growth topics are held by the partners at the Growth DayWorkshops on growth topics are held by the partners at the Growth Day

“I didn’t expect to win,” says Chris. “I’d never done a pitch before. Mine was like a GCSE project! But I knew what I wanted to get across. I just had to condense it. FT2G has given me headspace. Each time I go back to the business I’ve put new actions in place. It’s been that immediate.”

Some 250 companies have now got involved with Fast Track to Growth, from Red Rock Brewery and Salcombe Distillery – before the brand had even launched – to Bluebird Care and Nexus Open Systems.

It is the huge variety of companies, from start-ups and scale-ups to well established, million pound plus turnover brands that, says founder Dan Pritchard, is key to its success. Dan is managing director of PR and Marketing agency Astley Media, which launched the programme in 2015.

The audience applauds at the FT2G pitch event at Plymouth Science ParkThe audience applauds at the FT2G pitch event at Plymouth Science Park

“The world of business is changing and there is so much to learn,” says Dan. “We knew we had lots to learn ourselves at Astley Media and of course we’re all in the same boat, so let’s help each other.

“Where else do you have directors with 20-30 years experience in the food and drink industry say, or tourism, having a chat and swapping ideas over tea and a biscuit with graduates launching their first tech company?

“If you believe that meeting different people from different walks of life can only be a good thing, then maybe Fast Track to Growth is for you. There is something incredibly enriching about sharing your concerns and discovering that we all have them. That’s what Fast Track to Growth does – brings people together to share, learn and improve, in a very supportive way.”

22 companies were shortlisted to pitch at Plymouth Science Park22 companies were shortlisted to pitch at Plymouth Science Park

FT2G has just entered its fourth year, with new business breakfasts and a day of masterclasses at the University of Exeter Business School added to the now well-established itinerary, which includes a Growth Day, Intensive Support Programme and Final Pitch.

Business expertise and funding for the programme comes from the likes of Aptus UK, Astley Media, Commissioning HR, Cosmic, Devon County Council, Logo Creative Design, PKF Francis Clark, Sampson Hall, SetSquared Partnership and Stephens Scown LLP, and starting this year, the University of Exeter Business School.

Lewis Banfield, PKF Francis Clark Partner, says: “As accountants and business advisors we know the importance of a business having good external strategic support. That is the beauty of the Fast Track to Growth programme.

Members network at the pitch eventMembers network at the pitch event

“It gives Devon businesses the opportunity to network and learn from a series of ‘critical friends’ who can spot potential issues, identify opportunities, provoke thought and generate ideas.”

Ben Travers, Head of IP & IT at Stephens Scown, added: “The programme puts you through your paces in a positive way. It provides the impetus for business leaders to think more strategically, reflect, consider and plan future direction, plus get advice from a range of experts. For example, the help we give is more than just legal but also general commercial advice, as well as using our connections, which can be particularly beneficial.”

FT2G is for companies in Devon and free to join. More information at ft2g.co.uk

Andrew Lavender, director at Pixalytics;, and Chris Harris, owner at House of HarrisAndrew Lavender, director at Pixalytics;, and Chris Harris, owner at House of Harris

WIN a hamper

We love ‘firsts’ at Devon Life and it’s not often you get the chance to win a hamper created by a business programme. Fast Track to Growth have gathered some fantastic produce from a selection of FT2G brands, Otter Vale Products, Salcombe Distilling Company, The Greedy Fox and Red Rock Brewery, for a ‘Devon’s finest’ luxury hamper.The prize is worth £500 and includes a Red Rock Brewery selection pack featuring their Red Rock, Lighthouse, IPA, Red Ale and Slow Beer favourites, ‘pub’ nibbles and Red Rock pint glass, a Salcombe Gin collection featuring all you need to create the ultimate ‘Salcombe & Tonic’ – a 70cl bottle of the multi-award winning Salcombe Gin ‘Start Point’, four Fever-Tree Premium Indian tonic waters, two copa-style gin glasses, copper gin jigger measure, tongs and bottle opener and red grapefruit for the signature garnish (you’ll need your own ice!).

Plus there’s a selection of hand-blended seasoning mixes from The Greedy Fox including Mexican, Barbecue, Burger and Steak, Moroccan, Caribbean, Chinese Five Spice and Goan, plus extra top-ups every three months for a year, and a selection of Otter Vale Products, a West Country cheese selection tasting pack, the Taste of the West Country cookbook and three more Otter Vale product selections every three months for a year.

For a chance of winning just answer the following question: which year was Fast Track to Growth launched?

E-mail your answer, with Fast Track To Growth in the subject line, together with your name, address and daytime telephone number, to competitions@devonlife.co.uk before noon on 17 October, 2018. The prize is subject to availability. Devon Life’s normal terms and conditions, which can be found on the home page, also apply.

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