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Exhibitions supplier receives Coronavirus Business Grant with the Growth Hub’s assistance

Friday 23rd October

The GBSLEP Growth Hub has helped an exhibitions supplier to receive funding and business support to recover from the coronavirus crisis. Icon Exhibitions and Display is a full-service exhibition stand contractor, operating with a vast array of companies across many sectors and around the world.

The events industry took a massive hit due to COVID-19, leaving Icon Exhibitions & Display in dire need of business support. Wayne Ball, Managing Director of the company said, “we have a great big hole in cash flow, we lost our first big job at the end of February and since mid-March we haven’t built an exhibition stand and that’s been for seven months now.”

It has become very apparent that having industry conferences, exhibitions, or tradeshows in 2020 will not be viable. Wayne explained, “we have people cancelling jobs for January and February [2021] and we’ve already had jobs for October, November and December [2020] cancelled. I’ve got seven months in front of me where I’ve got no exhibition projects… and we don’t know when this is going to end. Our work is seasonal, and we will not be commercially workable again until perhaps next September.” 

That will be over a year and a half of barely any business for the company, which is a barrier to survivability, let alone growth. One of the many upcoming challenges for the events industry is that it is difficult to re-organise an event when there isn’t a timescale to work to.

Icon Exhibitions & Display decided to seek funding to help with the business’ cash flow, “I did receive the Discretionary Business Grant from the council which was £10,000 but the week we received that money was the week we had to make three people redundant, and the redundancy cost far exceeded the money we were given.” – Wayne Ball, Managing Director.

Redundancy was another issue that the exhibitions company faced. Wayne further explained, “We couldn’t keep people on furlough leave as we were only generating 5% of our turnover, so we had no choice but to make people redundant.”

All of these factors encouraged Wayne Ball to seek business support. He contacted the Growth Hub, where he spoke to one of our expert Account Managers, James Roberts. “Three or four months ago, James was on the other end of the phone and listened to my story and he was sympathetic. He was the first person to actually listen to what I was saying.”  

James is one of our Business Resilience Account Managers, he provides tailored advice and guidance, offering practical and focused solutions for businesses. Wayne was very impressed with how receptive James was when speaking to him, “at a time when no one else was listening, James understood the gravity of what I was saying. He kept reassuring me that my situation was being fed back to the relevant people and I believed that he was doing that and that really helped me. James’s advice helped us to get the Pivot and Prosper grant.”

The Pivot and Prosper grant is designed to help organisations adapt their business models in reaction to the changing economic climate caused by COVID-19. The funding helped Icon Exhibitions and Display pivot into new markets. Wayne Ball, Managing Director: “we used the Pivot and Prosper grant to buy the CNC machine, so that we can use it to operate in new markets and that’s the only lifeline that we’ve got at the moment… a chance and an opportunity to go into new markets.” These new areas of business include campervan & marine interiors, air conditioning parts, furniture, displays and merchandising, and more.

James further helped Icon Exhibitions and Display by providing information on the Small Business Leadership Programme, “He mentioned other help including the small business leadership course. A lot came from speaking to James.” The programme was set up to help business leaders of SMEs to enhance their business’s resilience and recovery from the impact of COVID-19.

Going forward, Icon Exhibitions and Display is focusing on utilising its extensive skills base, “we’ve looked into what our core skills are, and the fact that we can design and we can manufacture, we have chosen markets to match those skillsets” (Wayne Ball, Managing Director).

Speaking on his experience in working with Icon Exhibitions and Display, James Roberts, GBSLEP Growth Hub Account Manager, said “When I first spoke to Icon Exhibitions at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear to me that Wayne and his team were determined to find a way to turn the business around, despite the events industry being shut down overnight. It has been extremely rewarding to see how the Pivot and Prosper grant award has enabled the business to repurpose its skills in product design, workmanship, marketing and supply chain management to develop a huge array of new market opportunities. It makes my job worthwhile to see the difference we can make to the real-life prospects for businesses during these challenging times.”

Wayne is looking forward to working with the Growth Hub in the future, “I think James has been really proactive and I’m hoping he’ll offer more solutions. He’s been really great”. The Growth Hub continues to help businesses recover from the ongoing effects of the coronavirus and become more resilient. -  watch Wayne Ball, Managing Director of Icon Exhibitions & Display, discuss how the Pivot and Prosper grant has benefitted the business. 

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