Denys is chairman of Coventry and Warwickshire LEP, one of the first such bodies to be approved by the Government. Denys, 47, is an entrepreneur who in 1994 founded DCS Europe, a beauty company that distributes brands including those made by Unilever and Procter & Gamble to more than 70 countries.
Local Enterprise Partnerships are the Government’s much vaunted replacement for the Regional Development Agencies, which were scrapped in the 2010 Budget. The new Government funded groups are intended to be led by business, for business. Since the concept was launched, 24 have been approved and set up.
The firm also sells its own range of beauty products called Enliven and turns over £130million a year.
Through the LEP, Denys hopes to provide local firms and entrepreneurs with the support they need to expand their businesses and deal with relevant issues, such as access to finance. The partnership has held regular focus groups, targeting business sectors from farming to automotive, as well as forums on issues including planning and skills. It also holds breakfast meetings for firms to tell of their concerns, while a conference in October was attended by 300 businesses.
The partnership has set firms a series of five challenges, including between them taking on 100 apprentices within 100 days. But one of the first actions of the partnership was to set up an Access to Finance group, which includes representatives from all the major banks, an accountant, a business angel organiser and an invoice discounting specialist.
Denys says: ‘We all know access to finance is a problem for many small firms but we hope to change that by improving the relationship between banks and firms, and highlighting alternative options.’
Jane Scrivner launched her eponymous skincare firm alongside her spa appliance business Spapliance in February last year.
Jane, 47, and her partner Kevin McWilliams spent two years on research and development after receiving a grant and matched funding through Warwick University and the Manufacturing Advisory Service.
But as a start-up, finding finance to launch the actual business and products proved hard. The pair were turned down by High Street banks because ‘they said we were at too early a stage’, says Jane.
Jane, whose business is based in Stratford-upon-Avon, contacted Coventry and Warwickshire LEP. She secured funding through Minerva, a business angel group with a representative on the Access to Finance group. She now employs three staff and has plans for two new ventures this year. Jane says: ‘The LEP has proved a great source of knowledge and sounding board for us. Best of all we now have the money we needed to properly launch our business.’