FEO began in late 2009 in a seafood restaurant when a local entrepreneur David Kilburn invited a small peer group together to discuss his future concerns for the region of Hull and East Yorkshire. It was recognised by the ten who attended that the success of a region depends very much on the strength of its economy.
Hull and East Yorkshire had not fared well over three decades and the region had seen a long period of managed decline. The world was changing rapidly, and northern regions generally faced a strong risk of falling further behind. The region would need to compete and punch above its weight to survive.
Producing opportunity and retaining talent, creating better and higher paid jobs, dealing with issues of deprivation, the changing face of industry and retail - the problems are many fold but central to any answer lay the need for a strong economy.
David introduced to everyone a guest, David Hall, who had worked with groups of entrepreneurs elsewhere in the country and identified a few models - one in Scotland, another in the North East and one in Wales. All three had been successful at boosting enterprise by bringing entrepreneurs together and developing peer to peer support.
Did we want to do something similar here? The mood over dinner was encouraging and the group decided to go away and think about it over a few weeks, then come back together and each bring another guest to build the groups numbers and richness.
The second get together went ahead and concluded to keep the group informal and non-corporate. A plan was hatched to put on a launch event at a forthcoming Bizweek in the June of 2010 and to invite more local entrepreneurs along. In a room at the KC Stadium, guests listened to great stories from Jonathan Elvidge and the late Paul Dixon. The originators then presented the idea for a peer to peer support group.
Later, the University of Hull and their Bill Walker, who have always been very supportive, offered the use of their modern Enterprise Centre as a base for the group. The early day gatherings of the group were all held there. These gatherings took the form of a local entrepreneur giving a talk and lots of idea sharing and provision of help to others. For example, directing each other to helpful sources of support and reading materials.
The group began to grow members led by a steering group. It was then decided to create four subgroups to deliver an enterprise message to four distinct audiences – young people in schools, those people starting businesses, those growing businesses and those presenting barriers to business.
Members were encouraged to join a subgroup and volunteer time to helping others.
Up to this point, the group had little formal structure and a part time secretariat was generously supported by David Kilburn of MKM and Thomas Martin of Arco. It soon became apparent if the group was to grow to become more effective, there was going to be a need for an executive function and a more formal organisation. A number of founder members all agreed to put in £5,000 to kick things off.
The group decided to form a Community Interest Company – For Entrepreneurs Only CIC and to recruit a full-time manager. Much of this work was done by Andrew Horncastle and Paul Sewell and the Sewell Group’s Financial Director. This would require internal funding annually, so a decision was taken to charge scaled member fees and to look for key partner organisations from the corporate business, professional services and business support sectors.
Rules were set to qualify members – a member had to have their own money at risk, be someone seeking to grow their business and create wealth and jobs. Importantly, the group resolved the organisation would not do what other organisations were doing already, instead focusing solely on delivering a unique FEO offer.
So, it was the origins of the Education Group, FEO Bootcamp, Growing Businesses Group and Breaking Down Barriers Group.
I was recruited in 2012 when membership totalled 37 and later another role was created to support me with Education and FEO Bootcamp activity. Here again generously supported by MKM and Arco.
Whole group meetings continued with many brilliant events.
In 2015, the organisation set out a 2020 vision with objectives. These have been central to all activity in that period. The original groups have adapted to today now comprising NxGen, Ignition, 360 & 360+, Growth and FEO TV. In addition, lots of peer to peer mentoring and bespoke events goes on.
Recently, FEO has moved to a new office base within the Business School at the University.
FEO is supported currently by 6 Key Partners, Cranswick plc, Gosschalks, KCOM, MKM Building Supplies, Smailes Goldie and The One Point
Despite the current COVID-19 crisis, the group is now resolved to creating a vision to achieve by 2025.
“A rising tide will make more boats float”.
Our goal is to boost the local economy in Hull and East Yorkshire and to create more entrepreneurs and private sector prosperity by lifting regional aspirations.
Our modus operandi – Entrepreneurs helping Entrepreneurs to start, adapt and grow businesses.
We intend to do this:
In Schools / Colleges - By promoting an enterprise vision to stimulate young people to want to start their own businesses and fulfil their dreams.
In supporting start-ups - By providing a hand up to those who have their idea and want to get it out of the blocks.
In helping small businesses - Giving peer support to the business owner who often finds themselves in a lonely place. Helping them navigate their journey to success.
In helping growth - Actively providing the building blocks and peer support to those with ambitions to grow businesses