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3 businessmen on running a company and their involvement in the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership

PUBLISHED: 15:38 10 July 2017 | UPDATED: 15:38 10 July 2017

Rupert Holloway swapped his careeer as a quatity surveyor to become a gin maker

Rupert Holloway swapped his careeer as a quatity surveyor to become a gin maker


Kate Williams talks to three of the county’s businessmen about running a company and their involvement in Dorset LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership)

Jim Stewart: CEO of Poole Harbour Commissioners
Living in Bishops Caundle, a little village just south of Sherborne, Jim Stewart is CEO of Poole Harbour Commissioners (PHC), the statutory harbour authority for Poole Harbour, Europe’s largest and - in Jim’s opinion, most beautiful - natural harbour, which is home to 7,500 yachts.

Previously acting as Chair of British Ports Association and Chair of Maritime UK, Jim sits on the Dorset LEP board and acts as chair of Connected Dorset, the transport committee of the LEP. “Connectivity is very important to ports, especially ferry ports as roads link our customers with the ships that carry their goods,” said Jim. “I have always been involved with organisations that look at the bigger picture, such as the LEP, Maritime UK and the Dorset Chamber of Commerce, which I was proud to serve as president.”

Jim says the best part of being a businessman is making positive change and creating new employment opportunities, such as their latest project due for completion at the end of 2017. “PHC is in the process of building a new deep water quay at the Port of Poole, which will bring more commercial ships to the port. We are already taking bookings from large cruise ships which will benefit the port and the wider economies of Poole and Dorset.”

And the worst part of being a businessman? “Having to rationalise organisations in order to ensure their survival; this can involve making difficult decisions regarding jobs but the aim is to safeguard the long-term future of a business.”

Even though his position as CEO of Poole Harbour does bring pressure and responsibility, Jim describes it as his dream job. “Poole Harbour is one of the most stunning features of the UK coastline, and I feel very lucky to work in the most beautiful county in England.”

Rupert Holloway: Conker Spirit, Southbourne
Southbourne-based Rupert Holloway launched his award-winning business, Conker Spirit, two years ago with the help of Dorset LEP. “We are essentially a gin distillery and have recently branched out into producing the UK’s first Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur. We sold our first bottle of the Dorset Dry Conker Gin in April 2015.”

Rupert, who at the age of 28 swapped his job as a quantity surveyor to become a gin maker, worked with Dorset LEP to secure a £10,000 grant, which he described as “the essential funding needed to get Conker off the ground.” At the end of his first year of trading Conker Gin won Best Drinks Product in the Dorset Magazine Food, Drink & Farming Awards and then won Gold in the Taste of the West awards.

Rupert feels that being a man who runs his own business can be difficult because there is no real separation between work and home life. “While it is difficult to properly step away from work, there is a lot of pressure on your available downtime with the family. I do think that this is also a blessing because for me there is no longer a division between work and play.

“I had always previously felt that I lived two separate lives – the work me and the play me. These days they are one and the same!”

Keith Reilly: Alfatronix LTD, Poole
Poole-based electronics boss Keith Reilly has had a long-standing relationship with Dorset LEP, benefitting from grants and support over the years.

His firm, Alfatronix Ltd, was set up in 1979 and has grown significantly into a flourishing electronics manufacturing company. Based at Newtown Business Park, Alfatronix manufactures high-voltage converters for large vehicles, mains power supplies and battery chargers as well as USB chargers used in bus seats enabling passengers to charge devices.

Alfatronix, which exports around 70 per cent of its production, has received help from Dorset LEP via Export for Growth and the Department for International Trade, as Keith explains: “Over the years, we have had grants to help with exports and product development and these have been a great help to the business. Part of this is also psychological. It’s good to know that others care about what we do, that exports matter and that jobs matter too.”

The best and worst parts of being a businessman are, essentially, the same for Keith. “As a manufacturing business, operating in an increasingly international world, we are pitching what we can do against the best in the world. This is exhilarating. But it’s like a great big game of Monopoly, one that lasts many years. The game is always changing.”

Keith says running your own business can be feast and famine, and it also can impact on you social and home life. “You might work 40 hours in the week, but you are MD for 168. However, I am fortunate now to have time off with my family. But, socially, I think you can feel a little isolated at the top.”

What does Dorset LEP do?

• The Dorset LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) is comprised of a board of private sector leaders from a variety of businesses, who work alongside local government and further and higher education.

• The board combines the power and influence of both public and private sectors to work together to define the strategic economic priorities for Dorset, seeking to eradicate barriers that prevent growth.

• The LEP bids for capital investment for the Dorset economy through Government funding streams not available to other bodies.

• The LEP’s key priority is to create jobs and growth in Dorset through tackling the skills, housing and infrastructure priorities for local businesses.

• Dorset LEP has secured £98.46million from the Government’s Local Growth Fund to support economic growth by delivering projects that address these priorities.

• The LEP’s Growing Places Fund also enables businesses to access finance to address their own specific capital project requirements for growth.


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