Acclaimed co-founder of the iconic Green & Black's chocolate brand, Jo Fairley, told the south’s business leaders they need to apply both a microscope and a telescope to their businesses in order to succeed.
Jo, a serial entrepreneur, award-winning author and the UK’s youngest ever magazine editor at 23, was keynote speaker at the fifth annual Solent Business Growth Summit. Hosted by Smith & Williamson, along with law firm Trethowans, property consultancy Vail Williams and corporate bank Santander, it is now firmly established as a major event in the region’s business calendar.
Jo Fairley told of her journey from launching Green & Black’s in 1991 from her kitchen table in her Portobello Road home in London with husband Craig Sams, founder of Whole Earth Foods, to its acquisition by Cadbury in 2005 for £20 million.
“The most important lesson I learned was from US businesswoman Martha Stewart who pointed out that you need a microscope to get the detail right and a telescope to be able to stand back and look at things from afar.
Jo began her address by admitting “I am a chocoholic” who eats four squares every day, is still associated as an ambassador with Green & Black’s. It is now estimated to be worth £100 million after the brand was acquired by giant foodstuffs conglomerate Kraft. Jo gave an insight into the emotional process of launching a challenger brand with a £20,000 investment at a time when she had £20,034 in the bank.
Jo developed the world’s first organic chocolate – still named as one of Britain’s coolest brands – with her business based on five basic tenets – a good product, branding and design, PR and marketing, customer service and ethics.
The Second speaker was Anne-Marie Mountifield, chief executive of business support organisation the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership. She gave an overview of the region’s economy – the most urbanised area in the south outside London with 1.3 million people and 42,000 businesses – and inextricably linked to the sea with 290 miles of coastline.
Anne-Marie said the four cornerstones of the Solent region’s future economy were to boost productivity and earning power; establish the area as the gold standard for eco innovation; get the region recognised as the global home of the marine and maritime industry; and build a digital society with a full fibre future.
Andrew Edmonds, managing partner of Smith & Williamson’s Southampton office, said: “It is always pleasing to see the region’s business leaders gather together and learn how their peers are dealing with global challenges while growing and evolving in the local economy.”
“It never fails to remind me what an absolutely brilliant area the Solent is in which to live and work.” Some £500 was raised at the event for Naomi House & Jacksplace, the hospices supporting children and young people and are celebrating their 21st anniversary this year.
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Notes to editors
Smith & Williamson is an independently owned professional and financial services group with over 1,700 people. The group is a leading provider of investment management, financial advisory and accountancy services to private clients, professional practices and mid-to-large corporates. The group has twelve offices; these are in London, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cheltenham, Dublin (City and Sandyford), Glasgow, Guildford, Jersey, Salisbury and Southampton.