Welcome to Cornwall’s Top 20, our who’s who of some of the most influential business figures in the Duchy.
This is a purely subjective list. If you asked 20 different business people to come up with their own lists, you probably wouldn’t get two exactly the same.
But one thing is for sure, the following names all leave a deep imprint on the Cornish business scene. We suspect the majority you will agree with, while there will also be a couple of surprises.
Let us know your thoughts. Who would have been in your list of Cornwall’s most influential business figures?
Something of a visionary in the hotel market, Ashworth worked in the hospitality industry across the globe from Kenya to North Amercia, before returning home to Cornwall to take over the running of the family hotel in Watergate Bay.
As well as overseeing the extensive redevelopment and transformation of the hotel, Ashworth also played a key role in bringing neighbouring Fifteen to Cornwall, in 2006.
Most recently, Ashworth launched the Another Place hotel collection, which includes the Rampsbeck in the Lake District, and the Royal William Yard boutique hotel, which is currently being developed in Plymouth.
Ashworth is also the man behind the popular Polo on the Beach event at Watergate Bay.
As chief executive of Visit Cornwall, Malcolm Bell is very much the public face of tourism in the Duchy.
Tourism is a huge contributor to Cornwall’s economy, and over the years Bell has played a pivotal role in making Cornwall the #1 UK holiday destination.
Visit Cornwall’s future was thrown into doubt last year, however, when Cornwall Council ceased funding the tourism body as part of wider public spending cut backs. But with the support of other key players in the holiday industry, Bell helped save Visit Cornwall, relaunching it as a community interest company.
Professor Anne Carlisle
Professor Anne Carlisle has been vice-chancellor and CEO of Falmouth University since September 2009. During that time she has overseen significant growth, including the transition to full university status in 2012.
With more than 500 staff, some 4,500 students and an annual turnover of £50 million, the university is a major cog the economy. Professor Carlisle leads the strategic vision of the university has ambitious growth plans over the next four years, which include expanding the number of students and increasing research and innovation activities.
Professor Carlisle believes the university has a strong role to play in developing Cornwall’s knowledge economy.
Mike Carr/Henk Wiekens
Ok. The eagle-eyed and numerate among you will have spotted the Top 20 is actually a Top 21. But when it comes to Mike Carr and Henk Wiekens, the joint MDs of Falmouth-based superyacht builder and refitter, Pendennis, how do you separate them?
The Lennon and McCartney of the superyacht world, Carr and Wiekens have been the driving force behind Pendennis since a management buyout of the company in 1993, and have helped forge a truly global reputation.
Pendennis has also become one of Cornwall’s most important employers – with over 360 highly-skilled trades people based at its ten-acre water front location in Falmouth, with annual sales in excess of £35 million (Dec 2014).
For the past five years, Pendennis has also had a facility carrying out routine maintenance in the Mediterranean – Pendennis Palma.
Cornwall Chamber of Commerce
Kim Conchie is chief executive of the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, a role he has held for the past four years.
When it comes to business opinion and issues, as you would expect, Conchie very much has his finger on the pulse and can regularly be heard (and read) throughout Cornwall’s various media channels, as well as being a regular speaker at industry conferences and seminars.
Conchie sits on various committees and boards, among others Truro School, SWIG, Devon and Cornwall Business Council, Krowji, and BF Adventure, where he is a trustee.
Cornwall & Isles of Scilly LEP/Rodda’s
Take a straw poll of people from outside of county to name a famous Cornish food brand, and a big majority would, no doubt, say ‘Ginsters’. And while Ginsters pasties are more widely celebrated outside of Cornwall than in, the Callington company has grown to become one of the biggest private sector employers in Cornwall.
Mark Duddridge played a full part in this, spending 15 years in the MD’s office until last year. He has now swapped one iconic Cornish food product for another, becoming a director at clotted cream company Rodda’s, while his wider business influence is felt more acutely as chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, where he replaced Chris Pomfret at the beginning of the year.
Phil Geraghty is MD of Newquay-based Crowdfunder UK, which claims to be the largest crowdfunding platform in the UK.
Crowdfunding has become something of a phenomenon in recent years. While banks naturally have their place when obtaining business investment, crowdfunding has become increasingly popular and accessible for the masses.
Since launching three years ago, Crowdfunder has helped some 150,000 projects raise more than £14 million. And it recently successfully raised £1.3 million to fuel its own growth plans with plans to increase staffing levels from 25 to 39 by the end of the year.
Cornwall Food & Drink
The reputation of Cornish food and drink has grown exponentially in recent years, and no one is doing more to champion its cause than Ruth Huxley, chief executive of Cornwall Food and Drink – the sector’s only dedicated business network group – which she founded in 2010.
She has also developed the Great Cornish Food Awards and the Great Cornish Food Festival, which is the largest festival anywhere, purely dedicated to Cornish food and drink.
And she is set to take the Great Cornish Food brand on to yet another level, with the imminent opening of the Great Cornish Food Store, which will be located alongside the new Waitrose at the Tregurra Park & Ride to the east of Truro.
While British-grown tea is still very much in its infancy, it is nevertheless a market that is said to be going from strength to strength. The very first tea to be grown and marketed in the UK was down here in Cornwall, on the Tregothnan Estate near Truro.
Since supplying its first tea back in 2006, MD Jonathon Jones has rapidly grown the company into a £1 million+ business, exporting its high-end luxury teas across the world, even to such markets as China!
Jones sits on a number of boards, including the Cornwall Agri-food Council and Plimsoll Publishing, a world leader in business publishing.
It has been said that digital is the engineering revolution happening today in Cornwall. If so, then one of the main leaders of this ‘revolution’ must be Bluefruit Software director, Paul Massey.
Like many in the software industry, Massey started young, programming commercially since his teenage years and starting his own company aged 22.
Massey is a passionate advocate of the digital industry in Cornwall and is a co-founder of local industry group, Software Cornwall. He has also helped introduce a number of initiatives to get school leavers and students actively interested in a career in IT, with free coding schools, and ‘tech jams’.
He is also a director of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly LEP and is chair of its Employment and Skills Board.
St Austell Printing Company
When the St Austell Printing Company (SAPC) outgrew its premises in St Austell town centre, Peter Moody did what most MDs would do – look for larger ones.
Easier said than done, however, particularly when Moody wanted to stay in St Austell. So after a fruitless search, in 2008 he decided to build his own, the result being the hugely impressive £6.2 million St Austell Business Park and Conference Centre, which was opened in 2013.
SAPC has grown to become one of the most modern printers in the south west and most recently launched an online print shop.
A leading player in Cornwall’s rapidly expanding IT sector, Toby Parkins is founder and managing director of web development company, UKNetWeb, and founding director of software outsourcing specialist, Headforwards.
Since launching five years ago, Headforwards has grown rapidly into a 65-strong team, with plans for another 50 jobs over the coming 12 months.
Parkins is also a leading figure behind ambitious plans to develop a fibre park in Cornwall and a co-founder of Software Cornwall industry group.
He is also a director of the hugely successful Agile on the Beach conference, which attracts speakers and delegates to Cornwall each September from around the world and is president of the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce.
Cornwall & Isles of Scilly LEP
As chief executive of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Sandra Rothwell is in the front line of efforts to drive Cornwall’s economic growth.
Prior to taking the LEP hot seat, Rothwelll established her reputation as head of economic development at Cornwall Council, where she played a key role in the development of Cornwall’s Innovation Centres, as well as being responsible for the contract management of Cornwall Development Company and Cornwall Airport Ltd.
Ward Williams Associates
Andy Snapess is MD of Ward Williams Associates (WWA), one of the largest construction consultancies in the south west.
While WWA has its head office in Truro, where it was founded in 1974, Snapes had helped expand the company across the UK and most recently, into Saudi Arabia.
WWA has been involved in some truly iconic projects near and far – from the Pendennis Shipyard redevelopment in Falmouth to the Media Centre at Lords cricket ground in London and the World Trade Centre in Riyadh, where it is providing quantity surveying services.
St Austell Brewery
Chief executive and great-great grandson of company founder Walter Hicks.
Staughton joined the family business in 1980 and was named to the board eight years later, becoming MD in 2000.
He has helped steadily grow the business into one of Cornwall’s largest companies, with more than a thousand full and part time employees and annual turnover (Dec 2014) in excess of £125 million.
And its beers are increasingly enjoyed across the world, exporting to more than 20 countries. And most recently, it secured a deal with British Airways to be served on all its flights, both short-haul and long-haul.
The Seafood Restaurant
While he can sometimes be portrayed as a divisive figure in and around Padstow, the influence of celebrity chef Rick Stein cannot be overestimated.
Since opening the Seafood Restaurant back in 1975, there has been little looking back, with Stein developing it into one of the most iconic eateries in Cornwall.
More recently, the Stein empire has been expanding outside of Cornwall, with new restaurants in Winchester, Sandbanks (Dorset) and the latest one set to open in Marlborough. He also plays in a key role in developing the chefs of tomorrow with the launch of the Rick Stein Academy, in partnership with Truro and Penwith College.
Cornwall Airport Newquay
Listen to any business commentator in Cornwall, and he (or she) will tell you the vital importance that Newquay Airport, or Cornwall Airport Newquay as it has now been rebranded, has to the Cornish economy.
Al Titterington has been at the airport for the past ten years, six of which as MD. During that time, the airport’s fortunes have had their highs and lows, but Titterington has worked tirelessly in attracting new airlines and new routes.
And passenger numbers appear to be heading skywards once more. The airport carried more than 250,000 passengers this past year and the forecast is for over 370,000 for the coming financial year, making it fastest growing airport in the UK this year.
Classic Cottages Group
Simon Tregoning is chairman of Helston-based Classic Cottages Group, one of the south west’s largest holiday lettings businesses.
Tregoning has expanded the Classic business significantly in recent years, acquiring a number of local competitors including Aspects Holidays and Boutique Retreats and, most recently, Roseland Holidays.
In total, the Classic Group has more than 1300 holiday homes on its books, bringing in 100,000 visitors to the south west each year
Over the years, Trethowan has won a clutch of awards including Entrepreneur of the year at the Cornwall Business Awards, Institute of Directors’ Director of the Year for the South West and Cornwall Business Leader of the Year at the Hub Awards.
Since launching regulatory affairs company TRAC Services with her husband Jonathan in 2001, she has helped grow the company into 20-strong operation, working with some of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the world.
Trethowan has had a strong record in economic development activity since 2008, firstly as a non-executive director with CPR Regeneration and more recently with Cornwall Development Company. And she currently sits on the board of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP.
Federation of Small Businesses
While chairmen and directors come and go, one constant that remains in the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Cornwall is development manager, Ann Vandermeulen.
Ann Van, as she is commonly known in the business community, has been with the FSB in Cornwall for the best part of 17 years.
With some 4,500 members in Cornwall alone, the FSB is a powerful lobby for the small business community and Vandermeulen is right at the forefront, ensuring members’ concerns are heard.
This article was first published in the May 2016 edition of Business Cornwall magazine. To enquire about subscribing, click here.