Boost for budding entrepreneurs

A scheme to help entrepreneurs take their first step on the ladder to success will be rolled out into Wrexham in the New Year, a group of business professionals will be told this week.

Already 50 young business people in Flintshire have started their own firms under the Welsh Government backed scheme – more than double the planned amount.

Spearheading the campaign is Askar Sheibani, one of Wales’ most successful entrepreneurs and chair of Deeside Industrial Park Business Forum, who is already tipping some of the young start-ups as likely to follow in his footsteps.

Mr Sheibani began his first business venture when he was just a child in Azerbaijan and went on to establish electronics giant Comtek, which now has a turnover of £12 million and bases in Flintshire, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Reading and Belfast.

He will be among the guest speakers at a meeting of the Wrexham Business Professionals Group – made up of accountants and solicitors and others from the business community.

The meeting at Wrexham’s Ramada Plaza on Friday November 8 will be attended by Group members and their guests from the business sector.

Mr Sheibani  be joined by Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Minister for Local Government, and Coleg Cambria Principal David Jones, Chair of Deeside Enterprise Zone.

Mr Sheibani will talk about his journey from young entrepreneur to being Chief Executive Officer of a multi-million, multi-national company.  He will also share his views on developing the North Wales area and its relationship with Cheshire and Liverpool, plus talk about his role as an entrepreneur champion  for Welsh Business Minister Edwina Hart.

Wrexham Business Professionals is a group of solicitors and accountant who work together to raise the profile and expertise that exists in the region.

Gill Atkinson, a founder member of Wrexham Business Professionals who is also a Director of Chartered Accountants and Registered Auditors Coxeys, will closing the event.

She said: “I am delighted that Mr Sheibani is able to join us and to talk about his journey from his youthful business ventures, through his training in the UK and then his international success.

“I know that he has a strong commitment to working with local communities and in developing the regional economy to the benefit of everybody, so I am expecting a lively debate and some interesting contributions from our members.”

Comtek is the UK’s fastest growing multi-vendor IT and telecoms repair service, and is committed to extending the working life of legacy IT and telecoms equipment – irrespective of its age or manufacturer.

It helps customers to reduce unnecessary waste and to minimise the impact of IT refuse on the environment in a practical and cost effective way. Comtek also repairs and refurbishes a range of both current and legacy data networking and telecoms hardware.

Mr Sheibani recently lead  a round table meeting at Comtek’s Deeside HQ with Welsh Secretary David Jones MP and a group of key stakeholders to gather views on how improving the rail links between enterprise zones in North East Wales and North West England could benefit the local economy.

He said: “The pilot project in Flintshire has been a great success. Our aim was to  help 20 entrepreneurs in 12 months, especially those from in the more challenging areas of the county, and mostly young.

“We used a variety of methods, such as Dragon’s Den sessions, plus linking in to Communities First and the colleges.

“It has been highly successful and now 50 young individuals are in business, some as sole traders and others who aim to employ others. Some are already exporting via the internet and I can see that several of them have the ability to be really successful.  Nothing has happened like this before in Wales, or the UK.

“People have contributed their time as mentors so we’ve been able to do this for minimal cost  – around £1,000, mostly on tea and coffee!

“We now want to roll it out to Wrexham, in the New Year, and I will be meeting with stake-holders to discuss taking this forward.”

Mr Shebani grew up in Azerbaijan, where his first business venture was selling eggs to neighbours. He moved to the UK to study when he was 16, and completed a degree in electronics, followed by advanced studies in Wales.

He began his career working for a Reading IT firm but found his Azerbaijani background was limiting his promotion within the company, and so founded his own technology business from a £50 garden shed.

The business began to grow and moved into new premises and, when the recession of the early 1990s hit, rather than going backwards, he found himself doing very well.

“I was going to auctions and buying IT equipment at knock down prices from companies that had gone bust, refurbishing the products and selling them at a profit. Large organisations like ICL started to use us because they were under pressure to reduce costs,” he said.

In 1997, after acquiring a Dutch company, Mr Sheibani decided to move his headquarters from Reading to Deeside Business Park taking advantage of the area’s proximity to two major airports and the motorway, as well as lower overheads.

“We also found a very supportive council here,” said Mr Sheibani. “Flintshire County Council gave us a lot of help and support. That encouraged us a lot because we realised they appreciated us. In other places were just one of a number.”

As well as saving money for their clients, Comtek is also helping to protect the environment.

“Manufacturers have no interest in repairing faulty products, they just want to replace them with brand new equipment. The discarded products contain deadly toxins such as mercury and lead. The electronic waste often goes to landfills, leaching heavy metals into the ground water and soil, or gets burned, producing toxic airborne chemicals,” said Mr Sheibani.

“Our repair and refurbishment services help to decrease the worrying amount of waste and pollution from the IT industry. We are environmentally sensitive. We even re-use cardboard packaging to stop that from going to the landfill.”

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