The Cornish Embassy will be a cool and welcoming home from home in London for business people to relax, meet and promote their businesses, together with the cultural and economic interests of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
The challenges faced by the businesses of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (CIoS) to compete on the national and global stage, whether attracting investment, winning export business, or developing channels and partnerships are well understood.
Our initial research suggests that between one and two thousand CIoS business people are in London every day in pursuit of these goals. Whether they land at Gatwick, arrive at Paddington or drive in, they instantly disperse to customer’s offices, cafes or other informal meeting places.
Opportunities for meetings and organised events held in a dedicated environment that showcases CIoS’ products and services do not exist.
Many other UK regions and international jurisdictions have a presence in London that supports SMEs and larger businesses. Scotland has “The Caledonian Club” in Belgravia and “Liverpool in London” has a London Hub in Finsbury Park.
Using this model, with a wifi-enabled café/lounge area and access to amenities, meeting rooms and regular events, the plan is to create a “centre of gravity”, where CIoS business people can conduct business in London, invite guests, meet each other, hold events to help generate new business opportunities.
In time, we plan to host regular events themed around business sectors (technology, produce, retail, tourism, marine, food and drink, manufacturing etc.), as well as receptions for influencers, investors and potential partners. We have looked closely at the successes and learnings from “Liverpool in London”, and such things as mail forwarding, subsidised accommodation, a London Business Address and online promotion and social media are all being explored.
This initial wave of crowdfunding for £30,000 (£25,000 plus VAT) will contribute towards the critical Research activity we need to undertake to help shape the proposition as a reality, as well as under-pinning the Cornwall Development Company's (CDC) bid for matched funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to support local SMEs.
We will be undertaking an extensive piece of research, interviewing 1,000 Cornish Businesses, to understand precisely what the appetite, needs and preferences of the CIoS Business Community are, to finesse the proposition and make it as relevant and valuable as possible.
If we manage to fundraise the initial target and the ERDF bid is successful we will undertake a series of larger Crowdfunder campaigns to raise in excess of £330k over the next 3 years, to deliver the private sector contribution to match the funding from the ERDF.
Inspired by James Staughton of St Austell Brewery who came up with the idea to open a pub in London called "The Cornish Embassy", local Business people, Martin Nixon, Dickie Trant and Robert Salvoni have picked up the baton (alongside their existing responsibilities) in response to a clear need for Cornish businesses to be better promoted and represented “up country”.
Since then, The Cornwall Development Company (CDC), The Council, Invest in Cornwall, The Chamber of Commerce, the LEP and many others have all expressed their support, and James, as well as other local business people and representatives of these bodies are helping to shape the idea as an informal "steering group".
If this is the first you have heard of it, please don’t feel left out! The idea is in development, and we welcome all your input as we strive to create something of sustainable and tangible value to the Business Community of Cornwall.
So far, we have received generous sponsorship contributions from the following;
Why call it an “Embassy”?
To be honest, this is a little tongue-in-cheek! However, as the intention of an Embassy is to promote the cultural, business and economic interests of its country it felt like a good fit. With all members being “Ambassadors” of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, we hope to further the interests of the County in London and beyond. Unlike a traditional stuffy Embassy, it is intended to be an environment reflecting the cool and relaxed culture of CIoS.
OK. So who will be The Ambassador then?
We believe that we all have a role to play in promoting both our own businesses and the County itself. The plan is that all members of the Embassy will be Ambassadors!
What will the Corporate Structure be?
We have created a Community Interest Company called “The Embassy of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly CIC”. A CIC is a social enterprise that uses its profits and assets exclusively for the benefit of the community which it serves. Our Articles of Association (published at Companies House) define this community as The Business Community of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and explicitly precludes dividends or profits going to Directors or shareholders.
Working with The Cornwall Development Company (CDC), the arms-length economic development company of Cornwall Council and Invest in Cornwall an expression of interest to enhance the Invest in Cornwall offer and create an in-market presence in London was submitted in November 2017 in response to a call for proposals for funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to support SMEs in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. We are hopeful that, following a review by the ITI Board that we will be invited to submit a full bid to secure EU funding for a three-year period.
Where is it going to be?
It is still early days, and we would welcome your ideas. Clearly, somewhere both convenient for business purposes and easy to access from the typical routes into London (such as Paddington Station, Victoria (for the Gatwick Express), West London for drivers……) would be ideal. London is an obvious first location, but we already have ideas for the future, including early interest from China!
What about existing Membership Organisations?
The Embassy is not intended to compete with existing membership or networking organisations such as CCoC, FSB and the LCA, but rather, as a physical location, it will provide a venue for both public and private sector to increase economic prosperity
Does this relate to the independence movement in Cornwall?
Absolutely not. The CIoS Embassy initiative is all about developing the opportunity for Cornwall’s business sector to for export from a launchpad in London. It has no Political agenda or slant whatsoever.