Business West celebrates 200 years of supporting the region’s businesses with new campaign

June 21, 2023

Business West, one of the UK’s largest chambers of commerce, is celebrating 200 years of leading and supporting businesses with a campaign entitled 200 Years of Future Thinking.

Marking two centuries since the Bristol-based Chamber of Commerce was founded, the campaign coincides with a new-look brand image, pictured, below, on a banner with members of the Business West team, fit for the future, designed by Chamber member, designer Tony Stiles of Bristol-based Studio Stiles. 

He said: “I wanted to get across Business West’s core purpose and values with the visual identity.

“The colour palette of green and blue is a nod to the green and blue economy of the South West and the sustainable future the organisation is passionate about.

“The Business West logotype incorporates two characteristic graphics of ‘signpost’ elements – the triangle and the rectangle to reflect the direction that the organisation provides to businesses – guiding them on the best path for success.

“The triangle always points West, emphasising Business West’s passion for this region.”

In 1823 Bristol was suffering from an erosion of overseas and local trade – despite a major reconstruction and upgrading of the docks 14 years earlier. 

Now, the city is basking in its rejuvenation, not least in its modern-day port.

This rejuvenation has been brought about In recent decades through the involvement of the Chamber of Commerce – now part of Business West – along with The Bristol Initiative, a venture established in 1988, which merged with the Chamber in 1992.

The 200 Years of Future Thinking campaign will focus on extracting information and interesting stories around key topics of international trade, skills and innovation that would have been important in 1823 and will also massively impact business over the next 200 years.

An additional theme of sustainability – which would not have featured 200 years ago – has been included as it has become crucial in the past few decades and is now, perhaps, the key business driver of the future. 

Business West managing director Phil Smith, pictured above, said: “In 1823, a forward-looking group of businessmen, recognising the potential of connection, collaboration and innovation, set up Bristol Chamber of Commerce.

“Over two centuries we have built on their passion for this region, nurturing entrepreneurship, innovation, and radical thinking to make this a great place to live, learn and work.

“So much has changed since 1823. We have learned lessons from the past, have adapted over time and spread our influence to the wider region.

“We recently became a B Corp which, together with our values, gives us the mandate to continue to be a force for good. It enables us to continue 200 Years of Future Thinking for a better future for all.”

He said the organisation was relevant today as it was 200 years ago, supporting 20,000 businesses in the region to thrive and grow through trading overseas, innovating, upskilling their workforces and taking action against climate change.

“It is fitting that in our 200th year, in keeping with our legacy, we will be announcing long-term transformational projects,” he added.

“They range from a project to help all of the city’s communities benefit from the economic success that is Bristol, and which will also help find much needed talent for our business members, right through to a major urban regeneration project that will transform the eastern flank of our region.”

Darran Marks, pictured above, Business West Initiative member and managing director of technology college Swindon IoT, said being a member of Business West had been fantastic and had supported the college to access more local employers, who had gone on to become anchor partners.

“Business West has led on the Local Skills Improvement Plans and has helped connect us to employers, which has been invaluable in helping us to address the future skills needs of business,” he added.

Mimi Avery, pictured, Business West Chamber member and brand ambassador of Bristol-based Averys Wine Merchants, has been a member of the Chamber for 23 years now.

She said the personal interaction with other businesses was invaluable.

“It’s been a fantastic place to meet people. If I needed help with exporting for example, I knew where to come. The networking opportunities have been great. They’re fantastic facilitators,” she said.

Nick Hounsfield, pictured right, founder of The Wave, the inland surfing lake based near Bristol – and also a Business West Chamber member – said having a network of people who you could trust and rely on and pick up the phone to was important as a business owner.

“I feel people are starting to care in business more,” he added.

“People are more conscious around issues such as diversity and equality and that’s why being part of a strong business community is so important because you can have those complex discussions together.” 

Poku Osei, pictured right, a non-executive director of Business West and founder of Babbasa, the Bristol-based social enterprise that supports young people with their professional aspirations, said businesses needed certainty to be impactful, whether that certainty was provided by chambers of commerce or government supporting businesses to plan.

“The second thing needed is access to talent. I think that’s key. We need business voices to be strengthened by bringing them together through organisations like Business West, unconstrained by politics,” he said.

“It’s only when we have that voice that we can start to see the picture of where  our economy can be and how subsequently that can impact the society that we all live in.”

For Greg Pilley, pictured right, founder of Gloucestershire’s organic Stroud Brewery, being a member of Business West Chamber as a B Corp allowed the firm to share good practice and learn from others, multiplying the benefits that it could improve on in the region.

To find out more about the history of Business West and the origins of Bristol Chamber of Commerce, click here.

Nick Hounsfield photo by Matt Porteous

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