Networking really pays off for Somerset business

Sandra Wilson, Ylem’s Managing Director, is currently Chair of the Somerset Chamber of Commerce. “Being recognised is good for business as people identify with other people. Networking has raised our profile and has brought us in the £1 million turnover over the years we have been here.”

Ylem relocated to Somerset 12 years ago, restarting its business from scratch after selling up in Oxfordshire.  “The local authorities in Oxfordshire did not want businesses in the villages, so planning was a problem,” Sandra explains. She and her husband Bill, sold their customer base to one of their distributors, and moved on their own to a small farm in Dulverton, Somerset. They set about renovating the outbuildings into work premises and rebuilding the business from scratch in a county which has more business start-ups than anywhere else outside London.

“The West Somerset District Council was very helpful.  It did not obstruct our plans with unnecessary bureaucracy and was supportive of the idea of having business in the area that wouldn’t impact on the environment but would provide employment. The council even put up some finger signs to our hamlet to enable people to find us.”

Sandra and Bill Wilson started their business as financial services advisors, with Bill developing a business software program for the industry. “We realised that not being industry specific would be more beneficial for business, and now we have customers in hire, construction, fleet management, trade counter, clothing, and food and drink sectors.

“We made sure we had good communications with access to up to 50MB SDSL. In 2004 we re-acquired our Oxfordshire business and since then we have grown from strength to strength with an annual turnover of £750,000 turnover and 13 staff,” Sandra continues. 

Ylem provides business IT and communications solutions, including Enterprise Resource Planning; hardware, networking; consultancy; project management; installation and training and system support.  In 2006 the company was voted Somerset Rural Diversification Business of the Year.

Every year 20,000 people relocate to Somerset, many of them from the south-east. The business services sector in the county is thriving with 31,600 employees and it has seen the biggest increase of all sectors, amounting to 37.3 per cent in the five years between 2000 and 2005.

Somerset particularly attracts mobile, knowledge-based employees because of its location, offering good road and rail networks and proximity to three airports plus a rural, more relaxed lifestyle. The county has excellent broadband connectivity and as has been proven with Ylem its business support network is second to none.

Into Somerset is funded by the local authorities. Acting Chief Executive, Rupert Cox, says, “Into Somerset is an innovative project encouraging inward investment and promoting indigenous business growth with the message that Somerset offers a wonderful lifestyle and opportunities for business development.”