Video: Festival hailed as the ‘Davos’ for enterprise

every year, the political and economic elite descend on Davos in the Swiss Alps to debate the key issues facing the world.

Sheffield is fast developing its own version in South Yorkshire, but for entrepreneurs, both new and established.

The MADE festival attracted around 3,000 people, including high-profile investors, up-and-coming business owners, ambitious teenagers from further education colleges and Government ministers.

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Delegates from a diverse range of backgrounds across the country gathered in the steel city for a programme of 30-plus events designed to provide inspiration and advice, featuring 60 entrepreneurs representing just about every sector.

Rupert Lee-Browne, the chief executive of Caxton FX, a £500m-turnover foreign exchange company based in London, described MADE as “Davos for entrepreneurs”.

He was one of 75 business people who travelled from London to Sheffield on board the Entrepreneur Express for Thursday’s busy schedule of speeches, discussions and, of course, networking.

Mr Lee-Browne explained: “Around the table at lunch we had some people who have reasonably small businesses, some people our size doing well and a couple of guys who had made it and sold out.

“It was the most interesting conversation I’ve had about business for a very long time.

“MADE is about getting people who are doing it together in a great environment and being able to share our stories and gain from other people’s experience. Successful entrepreneurs can always learn more.

“From a Londoner’s point of view, what’s great about this is that it’s not London, where the pressure is so great on your time. This is a much more relaxed atmosphere, a really fantastic atmosphere.”

Thursday began with the Yorkshire Post Business Breakfast, a lively panel debate starring Sarah Dunwell, the chief executive of Leeds-based social enterprise catering firm Create, Jonathan Elvidge, the co-founder and managing director of Hull-based gadget shop chain Red5, Darren Forshaw, a founding partner at Leeds-based private equity firm Endless, and Richard Kaye, the managing director of Huddersfield-based manufacturer Fired Up Corporation.

Ms Dunwell said: “Getting a group of entrepreneurs and business people together really sparks off some fabulous ideas. I’m hugely inspired by the company we are in today.”

Mr Elvidge said: “Entrepreneurs can benefit from coming to events like this massively because it’s about mixing with people who have done it and that’s often all you need to get going.”

The panel took questions from the audience about how they found success in business, whether entrepreneurs are born or made and the current economic conditions for start-ups.

Mr Forshaw said: “It’s tough to start a business today. Having said that, it’s tough to start a business at any time.” Mr Kaye said: “I’m hopeful. I’m an entrepreneur. We are delusionally optimistic and irrationally over-confident.

“We all accept it’s challenging times now and we cut our cloth accordingly. Events like this present opportunities for the future.”

Peter Jones, the star of TV’s Dragons’ Den, was probably the best-known entrepreneur at MADE, judging by the excited reaction he got from the youthful audience at Mercure Sheffield St Paul’s Hotel.

He told them that “entrepreneurialism is the new rock’n’roll” but, in more measured comments, warned of the cultural barriers towards starting up businesses in this country, describing the UK as “inspirationally reserved”. This was a view echoed by Doug Richard, the angel investor, who compared the environment for start-ups in Britain and America.

He said: “When you start a business in California, everyone wants you to win.” Speaking at a Coutts dinner, Mr Richard added: “We should be promoting young businesses. We need a lot more young businesses. A lot of those will fail.

“The ones that survive will create all the jobs.”

Mark Prisk, the Minister for Business and Enterprise, told the MADE audience to “go for it” and start their own businesses.

His boss, the Business Secretary Vince Cable, who appeared at a fringe event later in the day, said that Britain’s entrepreneurs and innovators would lead the fight back against “the economic equivalent of war”.

The festival cast included Luke Johnson, the former chairman of Pizza Express, Will Butler-Adams, the managing director of Brompton Bicycles, James Averdieck, the founder of Gü Chocolate Puds, and various candidates from The Apprentice TV series, including Wakefield’s Claire Young.