Future 50: Region’s most exciting businesses gather at Future Summit

Panellist Andy Gale of Blakely Clothing at the Future Summit event in Norwich.

Panellist Andy Gale of Blakely Clothing at the Future Summit event in Norwich. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Growth and innovation were the hot topics at last week's Future Summit – held at the Norwich office of Future 50 partner Birketts.

The event saw Future 50 members and partners gather in person for the first time this year, with a number of others joining virtually. Attendees had a chance to network with fellow business leaders, while hearing the inspiring stories of Future 50 members past and present.

There were some honest insights on the challenges of business growth in the first panel discussion.

Jamie Minors, co-founder and managing director of Minors & Brady, has grown the Norfolk-based estate agency into a team of 58 since 2014. In March, the company agreed a record-breaking £74 million worth of property in a single month.

Like any business, however, there have been ups and downs along the way. “It's like my child because most days you love it, but sometimes there are problems that seem difficult to overcome which leads to many sleepless nights,” Jamie said. “People don't see that because they only see the ‘sold’ boards – but every business has those challenges. 

“You just have to remember why you started your business and keep reminding yourself of that,” he added. “Hopefully it will give you the motivation when perhaps you've had a bad day or two, because the overall picture is absolutely worth it.”

Andy Gale, chief operating officer of fashion company Blakely Clothing, said it’s dangerous to chase growth as a business owner.  

Blakely was founded in 2012 by Gareth Newman and now occupies a 40,000 sqft warehouse in Melton Constable, Norfolk, as well as a physical store in Norwich city centre. It is targeting £25 million in turnover this year.  

Guests network at the Future Summit event in Norwich

The Future Summit saw Future 50 members and partners gather in person for the first time this year - Credit: Denise Bradley


“Most of that growth has happened in the last four years,” said Andy. “We’ve hit milestones, seen opportunities and made informed decisions quickly, so luckily we haven’t had too many ‘make or break’ moments during this period. 

"We are living in a world where everyone expect immediate success, but that isn’t reality,” he added. “Gareth wants to build a business that is here in 40 years' time. For us, that's so much easier because we know where we're aiming – it's not the end of the world if it doesn't all happen today.”

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Andy and Jamie both said that people have been central to the growth enjoyed by Blakely and Minors & Brady respectively.  

Finding the right partners in Europe helped Blakely open an EU website and warehouse – an opportunity that resulted from Brexit. “I would definitely say don't go into these things thinking you know it all,” said Andy. “You have to inevitably put trust in people who do know it.”

And the same applies when it comes to recruitment, Jamie explained. “You might have a great brand or a decent product, but actually the people are the most important element of a business. They are the ones that can actually get your business to where it needs to be,” he said. “Don't be afraid to let other people grow, progress and help lead in your business, because they can often do a job better than you can.”

Nor should businesses be afraid of making mistakes, said Míriam Prat Gutiérrez, business development associate at Colorifix, a Norwich-based biotechnology company.

Colorifix has developed a revolutionary way of dyeing clothes using DNA code and micro-organisms – eradicating the use of harsh chemicals, while also lowering water and energy consumption. Perfecting the technology has understandably been a steep learning curve, but a culture of innovation and embracing mistakes has helped Colorifix create something truly ground-breaking.  

“Everybody at Colorifix has this mindset that if we don't make mistakes, we don't move forward,” said Míriam. “You need to be comfortable being uncomfortable.”