YESTERDAY morning I found myself arriving bleary-eyed at the University of Wolverhampton's Telford campus, with the sun having only just risen, not having had breakfast, and the clock not even registering 7.30am. I'm sure for a few of Shropshire's student population, this is the absolute norm (probably with accompanying headache), but I was there to attend a breakfast meeting and 'hub' launch.
Luckily enough, fresh coffee, a sausage sandwich and pastries were on offer before anyone got down to business, so the hunger quickly abated, even if it took the coffee a little while to kick in. During the ensuing mingling - networking I believe is the technical term, but I prefer the Nintento Wii-style mingling - the inevitable question came, 'so what does Sirane do?'.
It's a surprisingly difficult question to answer, particularly to people not in the 'trade'... as we do so much. It can be a difficult question to answer without going into too much detail, it's not an easy company to pigeon hole. Absorbency? Does that cover it, well no, because we also make cooking bags, supply packaging films, medical products etc. Food packaging? Well that would be ignoring the medical & healthcare, horticultural and industrial divisions? Packaging innovation? Some of our products are not packaging solutions... so I tend to offer something like 'food packaging design, medical and horticultural products based on absorbency, shelf-life extension and material science'. And then I wait to see whether they are interested to know more. More often than not they do indeed want to know more...
I guess for many people it's an area they've never really thought about. As a consumer they have never given that absorbent pad in their pack of meat any thought whatsoever. it's just there when they open the meat pack, and they throw it away. They've never considered why it is there, what difference it makes, who made it, and how much it extends the shelf-life of the product. They've never considered that there is a certain level of science gone into making sure that their punnet of strawberries is in the best possible condition, and stays fresh for as long as possible.
Anway, mingling done, it was time for the main event.... sounds like a boxing match, I now have visions of the leader of Telford Council coming on to the stage with Simpy the Best blaring in the background. No, there was no ringside seats needed for the launch of the Marches Growth Hub. Covering Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, the hub has brought together all services available to business in the region, such as grants, training, funding etc - whether sourced locally or nationally - and put access to it, and advice, in one place. And unlike many of these hubs nationally (there are 30), which are virtual only, the Marches hub is both virtual and has an actual physical home - which is at the University of Wolverhampton's Telford campus. Hence my bleary-eyed visit.
Additional sites are to be opened in Shrewsbury and Hereford, meaning businesses across the Marches will have access to some fantastic resources.The hub includes meeting rooms, interactive conferencing facilities, a calendar of training events, and staff who can advise on all the support out there for businesses... it looked a great resource and one well worthy of support.
Have a look at www.marchesgrowthhub.co.uk and you can see the virtual hub and the services on offer... and anyway, free pastries is always a good start to any day!
MARK LINGARD, MARKETING