Chocolate brand co-founder inspires the south’s business leaders

BUSINESS SUMMIT: Keynote speakers Jo Fairley, third right, and Anne-Marie Mountifield at the 2018 Solent Business Growth Summit at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton, flanked by, from left, Andrew Edmonds, managing partner of Smith & Williamsons Southampton office; Gary Jeffries, partner at Vail Williams; Simon Rhodes, senior partner at Trethowans and Gwyn Price, Santander Corporate and Commercial Bank South East and Solent regional director
BUSINESS SUMMIT: Keynote speakers Jo Fairley, third right, and Anne-Marie Mountifield at the 2018 Solent Business Growth Summit at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton, flanked by, from left, Andrew Edmonds, managing partner of Smith & Williamsons Southampton office; Gary Jeffries, partner at Vail Williams; Simon Rhodes, senior partner at Trethowans and Gwyn Price, Santander Corporate and Commercial Bank South East and Solent regional director
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CO-FOUNDER of a leading organic chocolate brand has been inspiring business leaders in the south.

Jo Fairley from Green & Black’s told attendees at the Solent Business Growth Summit they need to apply both a microscope and a telescope to their businesses in order to succeed.

The entrepreneur, journalist and author spoke about launching the brand with husband Craig Sams, founder of Whole Earth Foods, at her kitchen table in her London home back in 1991, to its acquisition by Cadbury in 2005 for £20 million.

Jo said: ‘The secret of good business is not rocket science. We had a good quality product and I sent chocolate out with every press release. I’ve always said one square equals a thousand words.’

Jo, who eats four squares every day, gave a full insight of the emotional process of launching a challenger brand with a £20,000 investment at a time when she had £20,034 in the bank.

She added: ‘The most important lesson I learned was from US businesswoman Martha Stewart, who pointed out that you need the microscope to get the detail right and the telescope to be able to stand back and look at things from afar.

‘Basically that’s what I think events like today are for – it is an amazing opportunity to stand back from the fire-fighting and enjoy a brief window of telescope time.’

The breakfast summit was held at the Ageas Bowl’s Hilton Hotel in West End and backed by Santander Corporate and Commercial Bank, accountancy, tax and investment management group Smith & Williamson, law firm Trethowans and property consultancy Vail Williams, which merged with long-time summit sponsor Hughes Ellard earlier this year.

Simon Rhodes, senior partner at Trethowans, said: ‘I am delighted that the four founding sponsors of this event are still together five years later, working in partnership for the benefit of the region as a whole.

‘It is also hugely encouraging to see so many businesses attending the summit and continuing to talk about ambition and growth.’

Anne-Marie Mountifield, chief executive of the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, also spoke at the event and gave an overview of the region’s economy – the most urbanised area in the south outside London.

She said there were signs of positive growth, particularly in activity driven by ports, but there were also challenges ahead in terms of infrastructure, transport, congestion, productivity and fibre technology.

A draw to win a business mentoring session in London with Jo Fairley raised £500 for Naomi House and Jacksplace, the hospices supporting children and young people which are celebrating their 21st anniversary this year.