Future 50 programme a ‘great success’ despite restrictions

Future 50 members and partners met in person for the first time this year at an event in Norwich

Future 50 members and partners met in person for the first time this year at an event in Norwich - Credit: Sam Harrons

Future 50 members and partners gathered together in Norwich last week – the first time it’s been possible in 2021.  

A special round-up event was held on Wednesday, December 8 at The Norfolk Club, a private members club first established in 1770. As well as catching up with fellow members and partners, those in attendance were praised for their resilience by guest speaker Richard Porritt, editor of the Norwich Evening News.  

In spite of the pandemic, this year's Future 50 cohort enjoyed a full 12 months of virtual panel discussions and workshops. Businesses inducted in the 2021 scheme covered areas as diverse as food-box deliveries, virtual pharmacy services and sustainable eyewear. 

“It's been a tough year, but we're still here and we've reached an important milestone: lending our own money,” said Adrian Brooks, managing director at Norwich-based Chatsbrook Finance. “I've enjoyed Future 50, and while we might have made more connections if there had been more in-person networking events, the quality of the connections we have made has been excellent.” 

Serena Fordham, founder of HER Business Revolution, which offers training, networking and events for female business owners, added: “Future 50 has really made us a lot stronger, especially through the pandemic. We have been able to grow and bring more staff on board with the advice from Birketts on our franchising model – and we also received great advice from Barclays.” 

Emma Watson owns Little Hotdog Watson, a specialist children’s hat-maker. Reflecting on the past year, she commented: “There have been challenges, but there have also been great successes. I'm still lecturing nine-to-five as well as running the business, so the advice and support from Future 50 has really helped.” 

Jonny Billing, founder and managing director of GoWash, a mobile car-washing app, added: “Being a start-up business can be really hard sometimes, so the advice I picked up from Future 50 has been invaluable.”  

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“We've really enjoyed being part of the Future 50 programme,” said George Owen, head of marketing at Seven Resourcing, the Ipswich-based recruitment agency. “The coverage we received as part of the programme has definitely helped us this year."  

Fiona Portway, director of Bay Tree VA, which provides virtual PA services, commented: “It was great to finally be able to meet in person at this event, but I still found that Future 50 helped us make connections – especially after meeting people at the online events and through LinkedIn.” 

Future 50 partners highlighted the calibre of this year’s cohort. “There was a real sense of energy about this year's Future 50,” said Glen Webster, partner at Barclays Eagle Labs. “Given the Covid restrictions, the programme was a great success.”  

James Shipp, partner at Lovewell Blake, added: “Clearly it's been different to previous years, with so many of the events having to be online, but we're really pleased with how it went.”  

A number of students at Norwich Business School (UEA) also attended the event. “It was a fantastic opportunity for our students to meet and learn from some of the region’s most inspiring business owners,” said James Gardiner, associate professor at UEA and chief operating officer of Studious Digital Education, a social enterprise that offers an online learning app and courses for education and businesses.

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