By Daniel Hunter

The Federation of Small Business (FSB) held its first Small Business Summit on Wednesday, 23 October at Liverpool John Moores University's (LJMU’s) John Lennon Art and Design Building.

More than 150 entrepreneurs registered for the summit, which combined keynote speakers and panel sessions aimed at bringing into focus the key barriers facing small business growth with practical seminars and workshops to help delegates overcome them.

It was hosted by Mike Southon, FSB member and author of the bestselling ‘The Beermat Entrepreneur,' and featured speakers including Chris Maguire, Editor of North West Business Insider, and the FSB's National Chairman, John Allan.

Delegates attended workshops in various business skills including finance and funding, with a session on how to approach banks and investors from Nick Montague of Funding Store and another on the psychology of money management from FSB Liverpool and Knowsley Chairman Brian Sweeney of Babecs Ltd.

There were also seminars on business development. These included a workshop on business growth from entrepreneurs Noel Guilford and Olivia Stefanino and an informative and entertaining presentation on how to innovate courtesy of The Up and Under Group’s Andy Fewtrell.

The third theme was sales and marketing — notably featuring a small business PR training session with the BBC's Maxine Mawhinney and the FSB's Head of Media, Leisl Smith, in addition to an export markets panel. The panel was chaired by ‘T-Shirts and Suits’ author David Parrish and the panellists were Karen Bellion, of Liverpool firm Parcours Llp, Fred Berner from Strategy and Action International GmbH and Nick Owen of The Aspire Trust.

The subject of education played an important role in the summit. There was a presentation on Liverpool City Region’s employer ownership of skills and skills for growth bank initiative, an opening welcome from the university’s Pro-Vice Chancellor Robin Leatherbarrow and an engaging seminar on graduate skills and LJMU’s World of Work Programme delivered by Director of Graduate Advancement and Employer Engagement, Terry Dray.

In the afternoon, a ‘question time’ session Chaired by Mike Southon and featuring Maxine Mawhinney, the FSB’s Trade and Industry Chairman Clive Davenport, former Mail on Sunday Economics Editor Dan Atkinson and Liverpool Lord Mayor Gary Millar took place.

There were also numerous exhibitors, including HMRC, the Government's Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) — which also delivered a support seminar - and Liverpool Vision.

The summit was held as part of the legacy of Liverpool's Accelerate 2013and will take place again in the city during the International Festival for Business (IFB) 2014, alongside the FSB's National Council and Executive Board meetings. Liverpool Vision's Phil Southward gave a presentation on what the IFB holds for small businesses, Liverpool City Region and the UK, before John Allan closed the event.

John Allan, FSB National Chairman, said: "Our Small Business Summit, which is the first the FSB has held and, I think it's fair to say, the first of its kind in the UK combining debate and discussion of the key issues with practical support and guidance delivered on the day, will be a key part of the festival next year, not least because there is a recognition at all levels of government that much of the targeted economic growth in the UK will derive from smaller enterprises and from entrepreneurs setting up and growing businesses.

"The IFB is certainly going to be a fantastic opportunity to showcase to the world the very best that businesses in this City Region, across the North West and throughout the UK have to offer."

FSB Merseyside Chairman, Elaine Moore, said: “It is fitting that the FSB’s Small Business Summit is being launched in Liverpool because this city is famous for being home to entrepreneurial innovators and has a very strong, diverse small business community.

“It is also a city that is experiencing its own renaissance and there are some exciting times ahead. The International Festival for Business will take place here in June and July 2014 and will be a window on UK commerce, which is why our second summit is also being held in Liverpool during the festival.

“Our aim is simple: to bring the main issues into focus and also help and support business owners in their growth ambitions, sharing the insights and experiences of a host of fabulous entrepreneurs who have been there, done it and want to pass on what they have learned.”

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