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What can our class of 2018 look forward to from membership?

Prison Voicemail founders Alex Redston (right) and Kieron Ball. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Prison Voicemail founders Alex Redston (right) and Kieron Ball. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

The hunt for the region’s most ambitious and inventive companies has concluded for another year with the unveiling of the Future50 Class of 2018.

Funnells Kitchen's new second kitchen based at Ashwellthorpe for corporate clients. Head chef Iestyn Thomas, centre, with Lewis Hubman, chef, and Donna Akerman, operations assistant, with some of their food for business meetings. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Funnells Kitchen's new second kitchen based at Ashwellthorpe for corporate clients. Head chef Iestyn Thomas, centre, with Lewis Hubman, chef, and Donna Akerman, operations assistant, with some of their food for business meetings. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The new members were unveiled at a conference at the University of East Anglia last week, where a crowd of nearly 150 people heard from speakers on scaling up, entrepreneurship, disruptive innovation and digital security.

But what do these entrepreneur-led businesses have to look forward to from the initiative?

Nick Phillips, managing director of Funnells Kitchen, says his business has seen a number of benefits since it became a Future50 member in 2016.

He said: “It has given us access to like-minded people and has heightened the exposure of our business. We have met business people like us who are forward-thinking as well as businesses that could be potential clients.”

Prison Voicemail founders Alex Redston (right) and Kieron Ball. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLY Prison Voicemail founders Alex Redston (right) and Kieron Ball. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Funnells operates from a kitchen in Lowestoft as well as new premises in Ashwellthorpe in Norfolk which it opened earlier this year. The new launch was supported by a £35,000 grant from the New Anglia Growth Hub, which Mr Phillips found out about through Future50.

He added: “Future50 has provided some brilliant signposting to grant funding which has helped with the company. It’s staggering what is out there and what you can do.”

Prison Voicemail, founded by Kieran Ball and Alex Redston, also became a Future50 member in 2016. Its communications services for prisoners are now used in 86% of prisons nationwide – 106 in total – with overseas expansion in the pipeline.

Mr Ball said it was unlikely the company, based in Norwich, would have progressed as fast without the scheme.

Design agency Creative Sponge directors celebrates the launch of its new branding. From left, Philip Mann, non-executive chairman; Alex Tosh, managing director; and Scott McKay, director. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Design agency Creative Sponge directors celebrates the launch of its new branding. From left, Philip Mann, non-executive chairman; Alex Tosh, managing director; and Scott McKay, director. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“Future50 helped to raise our profile locally, putting us on a level playing field with some of the bigger players when it came to recruitment,” he said.

“We are a small company and we are incredibly dependent on finding good staff. Being able to say ‘we are Future50’ was very valuable.”

Alex Tosh, managing director of digital marketing agency Creative Sponge, says increasing brand awareness is one of the benefits of Future50 membership which the company has found most helpful since joining in 2016.

The Norwich-based firm rebranded and launched a new website in November, and has plans to double its workforce and turnover in the next three years.

Mr Tosh said: “We have also been to some Future50 networking events which helped us to build relationships with other members, which has been beneficial.”

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