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Small business grant helps Warwickshire exhibitions and event company invest for a brighter future

A family-run exhibitions and events business in Warwickshire has designs on a brighter future after investing in new machinery and AV screens thanks to support from Warwickshire County Council.

Exhibition Equipment UK Ltd provides modular exhibition stands and shell scheme graphics from their state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Alcester.

Warwickshire County Council awarded the company over £16,000 from its Small Business Capital Grant Scheme – a funding scheme created by Warwickshire County Council in 2015 which has now supported over 100 Warwickshire businesses.

The business invested in two new printers and a digital finishing table to improve its efficiency three months before the first Covid-19 lockdown.

After losing much of its business and staff during the pandemic, Greg Bruner, a director at Exhibition Equipment UK, contacted his accountant, David Murphy from Stratford-based Grenfell James, to find out if any funding was available to help re-build the business.

David pointed him in the direction of Jim Clark at the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub, who suggested the business should apply to Warwickshire County Council’s Small Capital Grants programme.

The result was a £16,400 grant from Warwickshire County Council’s Small Business Capital Grant Scheme and Exhibition Equipment UK has added a further £25,000 to buy a rollover application table and AV screens to hire for exhibition and events – which has already led to winning a new contract.

Greg said the grant was particularly timely and would help the business to diversify into new markets.

He said: “Many exhibition and event organisers are including the hiring of AV screens as part of their turnkey packages along with graphics and furniture. We work on a number of these small shows where we have been asked to provide all the infrastructure, and the goal is clearly to do more”

“In the past that has involved a third party for the screen hire but we will now be able to provide the televisions ourselves.

“It will give us access to other areas of the business such as corporate markets, weddings or funerals where people might want to hire a big screen for just a day or morning and locally we’re aware of opportunities for that.

“We have also used the funding to buy an illuminated table which will be a more efficient and economical way of applying graphics.

“Previously, applying the graphics by hand put a lot of strain on our bodies particularly with the bigger panels and often involved 2 people, something now we don’t have to worry about which makes a huge difference.

“The funding will make a great difference to our business. It has enabled us to create two new trading divisions Kickstart Signs & Display, and Simply Screen Hire both of which have shown already that there is requirement locally within a relatively short distance of ourselves for these services. Jim from the Growth Hub has taken us under his wing and his support has been fantastic. We wouldn’t have got off the ground in applying for the grant without his input and guidance. The same goes for the grants team at the council.”

Jim Clark, account manager at the CWLEP Growth Hub, said it was great Exhibition Equipment UK was further improving its high-tech facilities thanks to the funding.

“I have had plenty of communication and meetings with Greg over the last few months and I will continue to support him because this is a terrific family-run business,” he said.

“Adding the illuminated table to their kit means this previously specialist job can be done by anyone in the team which makes their workforce more flexible and is a bonus when hiring new members of staff.”

Cllr Martin Watson, portfolio holder for economy at Warwickshire County Council, said: “The Small Business Capital Grant is perfect for businesses with this kind of issue; where they need an injection of capital to enable them to make the next step and grow their business.

“It’s great to see Exhibition Equipment UK coming back after being hit so hard by the pandemic and winning new contracts again and, hopefully, offering job opportunities in the county. I’m really pleased we were able to help.”

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Caption: From the left, Simeon Lee (Warwickshire County Council), Cllr Martin Watson (Warwickshire County Council), Greg Bruner, Sharon Stephens, Lee Wakefield and Katie Brown (all from Exhibition Equipment), and Jim Clark (CWLEP Growth Hub)

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