One of the highlights of my annual calendar is the Wales Start-Up Awards, which took place at the Depot in Cardiff last week.

As we all know, start-ups are increasingly important to the economic development of all nations with research showing that firms less than five years old create the vast majority of net jobs in an economy, are responsible for disruptive innovation across a range of sectors and are the regenerative force in many local communities.

With the private, public and university sectors working more closely than ever to encourage greater entrepreneurship, its importance has recently been recognised in Wales through the establishment of BeTheSpark, a movement that aims to stimulate and engage everyone in the Welsh entrepreneurial ecosystem to drive entrepreneurship across the whole country. 

But much more does need to done to raise the awareness of entrepreneurship across the Welsh economy and I am proud that the Wales Start-Up Awards has helped to do this over the last three years.

Indeed, one of the reasons for enjoying these awards is that they give new Welsh firms the opportunity to showcase their successes and demonstrate their contribution to employment, creativity and innovation in the economy.

But the event itself is also innovative and different as it takes place in a converted warehouse not a hotel banqueting facility, street food and local beer is the fare instead of wine and a three-course meal, and there’s not a dinner jacket or evening dress to be seen on the night.

However, the process leading up to the awards is also what makes it so special.

When I decided to launch the awards with Grapevine Events three years ago, a decision was made to follow the format we pioneered so well with the Cardiff Business Awards, namely to interview in detail all of the shortlisted finalists. 

This is a completely different concept to almost all other awards where the process consists of written submissions, many of which are written by experienced public relations experts which are then examined by a group of judges with a decision being made often without meeting any of the candidates.

Yes, it can take up to three days to conduct the interview process but nothing else captures the commitment, passion and entrepreneurial drive than a face to face discussion on how they started the business, their challenges in building it and why it has become so successful.

As with the previous awards in 2016 and 2017, all members of this year’s judging panel were again blown away by the sheer passion and pride of the shortlisted finalists and what they had achieved in a short space of time.

Indeed, it reminded us of the massive potential we have within the Welsh economy which is being driven by inspiring entrepreneurs who are making a difference both within their local communities and wider afield.

And whilst that is epitomised by all the shortlisted companies, perhaps the best example of that potential made real came from the Wales Start-Up of the Year, Freight Logistics Solutions (FLS)
Established in July 2016, Cwmbran-based FLS is a supply chain management company specialising in the logistics sector which was created with no financial support or outside backing from any source.

With an ambition to reach a turnover of £10 million within the first five years of operation, it is on course to achieve that milestone by the end of its third year of operations. It has also grown from three to twenty staff in its second year, doubling its office space in the process with the hope of doing the same soon to accommodate the additional staff needed for its future plans.

Its ultimate aim is to build to a global service, utilising road, air and rail transportation, that can offer a complete outsourced, embedded client solution to businesses transportation requirements and it is already delivering to thirty two countries across the globe.

Certainly, this is not the last we have heard of Freights Logistics Solutions and I believe they will continue to go from strength to strength in a traditional sector which is more than ready for disruption by an entrepreneurial forward-thinking business.

They, and all the other businesses which have been highlighted this year at the Wales Start-Up Awards are shining examples of what can be done through a combination of entrepreneurial ambition and creating the right environment in which such businesses can thrive.

And by supporting such businesses to grow further over the next few years, Wales can make massive strides towards becoming a successful economy where enterprise is at the heart of wealth and job generation.

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