Chamber Blogs   
It was suggested I brief the Chamber on COP26 in Glasgow, as I spent two weeks there in early November. I was not part of the negotiations, which happens in the blue zone, but I was there with several hats on, as a local councillor looking at how we could inject climate finance into our borough and to better understand the issues we are facing globally, as a trustee of a Rewilding charity, and to run an event for Make It Your Business, an entrepreneurial charity for women. 
I spoke to, and heard from many people – members of the Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group, COP High Level Climate Champions, MPs, those fighting for Climate Justice, architects, professors, and activists. 
The event I chaired was held in the Glasgow library and online, with a really dynamic conversation between four remarkable women who are at the forefront of sustainability. 
Jo Hand of Giki Zero , Jan Stannard of Heal Rewilding, Zarina Ahmed a climate change and environment officer, and advocate for climate , and Yewande Akinola MBE, a chartered engineer, designer and innovator. She is an ambassador for clean growth and infrastructure., and represents Innovate UK. 
(Photo: Jan Stannard, Jo Hand, Zarina Ahmed, Donna Stimson) 
Jan Stannard and I had rented a small apartment in St Vincents street, and the peaceful marches with young and old, and fabulous drums came passed almost daily. It was peaceful and civilised, but it felt somber, with acknowledgement now that 1.5 degrees is now in “intensive care”. The problem with COP is there is very little accountability. So countries are not obliged to come to the table, they are just requested. As you could see from the despair on the face of COP President Alok Sharma when the text re coal was changed at the last minute, some countries are not willing to participate fully. 
COP aims to achieve four main goals. 
- to reaffirm the net zero by 2050 target 
- Keep 1.5 degree warming alive 
- To protect communities, natural habitats in adapting to climate change 
- To mobilise the finance for the developing countries 
Whilst we are not there yet, I believe remarkable progress was made at COP26. New agreements with coal, methane and deforestation, and the GFANZ, and clean energy. Thanks to Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough, the persistence of the High Level Champions and Alok Sharma, a global movement has been created, and climate justice is better recognised. 
For those of you who are interested in the detail, here is a snippet of it: 
Coal - more than 40 countries agreeing to end their involvement in coal, at home and abroad 
Deforestation – more than one hundred countries set to stop and reverse by 2030 (different from the first one where we didn’t succeed is in 2014 in that 85% of the major countries with forests are behind it and there is money behind it - $19 billion) 
Methane agreement - more than 90 countries agreeing to reduce by 30% by 2030 (this is important as methane has a much stronger affect on global warming but also breaks down more quickly in the atmosphere so we can get a real quick win – drawing down the temperature, as compared to carbon dioxide, which can be in the atmosphere for decades, even hundreds of years) 
Global Energy alliance - people and the planet – committing $10bn to ensuring that green energy becomes an affordable and accessible to all, not just the richer countries 
GFANZ (the Glasgow Finance alliance) $130 trillion being lined up – of private funding, and insurers, being lined up from 45 countries. That’s 45% of all the capital in the world today. It’s an example of how the momentum is growing. This is not just empty words and promises – the Bank of America, for example, will be going to all of their clients, and demanding a plan, for how they will get to net zero by 2050, with a science based target, and how they will meet interim targets along the way. This will really put the pressure on business 
COP leaders are meeting again next year to review progress. 
With students, a teacher and supporters from the Royal Borough at the Extreme Hangout 
With Phoebe Ibison, a student who is passionate about sustainability and lives in the borough, who attended a day of Climate Action at the Sustainable Innovation Forum with me at Glasgow. 
Councillor Donna Stimson 
St Mary’s Ward 
Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Sustainability, Parks and Countryside 
Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead 
Town Hall, St Ives Road, Maidenhead, SL6 1RF 
We’re really excited to share with you some businesses that have recently joined the Chamber. Here’s a snapshot introducing three of our newest members, so you can get to know more about them and of course their respective businesses. 
Guv & Sonika - Elitemii 
Earlier this year Elitemii won a local MyWorkSpot competition for new businesses and along with an office for a year they received an additional package of support from several other local businesses, The Maidenhead Advertiser and the Chamber. Since winning Guv & Sonika from Elitemii have experienced a real confidence boost. It has really spurred them onto grow their business to enable them to reach their full potential. 
Guv & Sonika launched their business last year during the first lockdown and have created their CBD brand, Elitemii, which has a line of natural products . Since launching, their achievements include customers recommending their products and providing a knowledge gap in the UK market. Guv & Sonika also told us that there is massive potential in this growing industry and is estimated to grow from millions to billions in the next four to five years. This really excites them to build on and grow their business. 
We also asked Guv & Sonika what advice would you give someone who’s interested in starting their own business? They responded with “Be prepared for the highs and lows, trust the process, give time to yourself & your business and final don’t give up!”. 
Finally, Guv & Sonika told us that leadership, organisation, being grounded and believing in yourself are all top qualities for a business owner. 
Connect with Elitemii: 
Alison Rusted - The Presentation Coach 
Alison has recently joined the Chamber as one of our new members. Alison’s business as a coach is all about helping people maximise their communication skills so that they can connect and engage with people effectively – whether it’s via a presentation, a pitch for new business, a media interview or hosting a webinar. 
Alison spent twenty-years at the BBC making programmes for a variety of audiences before leaving to run her own coaching business, working across a wide range of industries. Prior to Covid, Alison worked with people face to face on site, but now also offers coaching using video conferencing programmes such as Zoom and Teams. 
While it is very exciting for Alison to win new clients, one of her biggest achievements is having a number of clients who have remained with Alison for a number of years. 
Alison also told us “I’m excited that technology offers people new ways of communicating and that the so-called “soft skills” of communication are becoming recognised as vital to creating and maintaining successful business relationships.” 
Alison’s advice for someone who is interested in starting their own business is “Be passionate about what you do because it can become all consuming!”. 
Finally, we asked Alison what top qualities you should have as a business owner and what her biggest inspiration is business is. Alison responded with 
“For me, it’s placing your clients’ needs and priorities at the heart of your business and making their success a journey you are both involved in. I’ve been influenced by a few people that I’ve worked with throughout my career – less by any specific skill they may have but more by the values, beliefs and integrity that shaped and underpinned the way they conducted their business.” 
Connect with Alison 
Lisa Osborne - Oasis Graphic Co 
Finally, we interviewed Lisa from Oasis Graphic Co which is a large format printing and graphics production company specialising in Events, Exhibitions, Retail spaces and Workplaces. 
Lisa told us that her biggest achievement since launching was “Purchasing our first large format direct to media printer back in 2008. It was a nailbiting thing to do as the recession hit – but we haven’t looked back.” 
Lisa also told us that “The pace of our industry is exciting, especially with Exhibition and event with it’s very short deadlines. We also work in a very creative industry - one day we might be printing metres of wallpaper for HMRC offices, the next we’re cutting wooden Ercol logos for a major store roll out – theres so much variety in the projects we’re involved in – there’s never a dull day!” 
We asked Lisa what advice would she give someone who’s interested in starting their own business and she told us “Be prepared to diversify (especially considering the last 18 months) 
Also, forget hierarchy, don’t shy away from rolling your sleeves up to help out.” 
Finally, we asked Lisa what top qualities you should have as a business owner and what her biggest inspiration is business is. List responded with “Lots of resilience, Be open minded and Motivate your employees. 
In terms of business owners I would say Martin Lewis, I’m always using his website for tips and deals, he doesn’t want consumers to over-pay for anything – an approach we have adopted in our business - we always want our clients to get the best deal. 
My two girls who are 11 and 8 also inspire me – when the going gets tough they motivate me to keep going and not dwell on issues we encounter in business. They both hope to work for Oasis one day too!” 
Connect with Lisa 
As we are becoming more aware of sustainability here in the Royal Borough. When we found out that Filling Good, a new, focused, sustainability business was coming to Maidenhead, we decided to interview them to find out more about their business. 
Tell us about your business 
Filling Good is a not for profit community zero waste shop, run by volunteers, and owned by locals. Nelly Semaille started Filling Good as a pop up in 2019 but then decided to make it a community project which is when Sophie came on board. Our aim is to inspire a sustainable lifestyle, providing products which are the most eco-friendly, local and ethical as possible. We sell loose foods, cleaning liquids, and other sustainable and ethical goods without packaging; the idea is that people bring their old containers rather than buy products in new containers, thus reducing the amount that ends up in landfill. Many of our suppliers take back the containers to use again. 
What’s been your biggest achieve since launching? 
Making more people aware of the benefits of shopping in a more environmentally friendly way. Being told how wonderful our shop and volunteers are and how pleased they are to see us in Maidenhead. 
What excites you about your industry? 
It is growing and more people are following this way of living. We are definitely part of the future way of doing your groceries, bringing more sustainability in the whole supply chain as well as in the individual lifestyle that people choose. This is absolutely key as we are now in the middle of a climate emergency and biodiversity collapse. 
What excites you about being in the centre of Maidenhead? 
Maidenhead is changing and we are delighted to add a friendly, welcoming shop with lovely foods and gifts to come and visit. Our unique offer makes the town center more attractive to many people so we help the local economy thrive and the high street to be more lively. 
What advice would you give someone who’s interested in starting their own business? 
Persevere, if you believe in it then make it happen. It has been a struggle with Covid and lots of delays, but we were determined to see Filling Good on the high street to help the people of Maidenhead live a more sustainable, eco friendly lifestyle which will lead to a better environment to live in. As a cooperative run business, we can definitely underline the benefits of a social enterprise, and confirm that there is a great sense of community in Maidenhead, which is a great ally against tough economic times. 
What top qualities do you think you should have as a business owner? 
Understanding the needs of your customers, being friendly, welcoming and listening to them. Taking the people you work with along with you, create a nice work environment. Business planning and benchmark within the industry is also key to prevent you from failing. 
Who is your biggest inspiration in business? 
David Attenborough is one of our biggest inspirations, as is Suma, a cooperative with high sustainability and human values. The Waltham place is another inspiration of ours because they are a local and ethical biodynamic farm, selling gorgeous products and inspire more people to regenerative agriculture and gardening. 
Generally, all the businesses who are making tremendous efforts to protect our planet. If your own business is willing to take a step in a sustainable direction, don’t hesitate to contact us for a collaboration! We have a lot of options on how to help on this journey, here in the Royal Borough.  
Follow Filling Good 
On Behalf of the Maidenhead & District Chamber of Commerce, Pointis Solutions Ltd recently delivered a very successful virtual e-Commerce Accelerator Programme for 20 extremely attentive attendees. 
The programme was a result of a collaboration between Maidenhead & District Chamber of Commerce, MyWorkSpot Ltd, London Bridge Project and Pointis Solutions Ltd. Pointis have written the following guest blog to share news of the aims, how the programme was run and share feedback from those involved. 
“Our aims were to introduce e-commerce sales for local shops who are hesitant to start selling online or would like to improve their sales offering and reach out to new markets across the UK and even into new countries. 
Our High street is suffering from dramatic changes in shopping habits accelerated by the pandemic! e-commerce is becoming a threat to the conventional shops who have not engaged with new customer expectations. Shop owners are often not sure where, how and which platform to start, and what to do to survive or grow in the new, changing economic ecosystem. 
The e-Commerce Accelerator Programme commenced on 14th April by introducing participants to the different e-commerce business models which include Dropshipping and Print-on-Demand, Retail Arbitrage and Private Labelling. Our participants also had an introduction to the largest marketplaces in the UK which include Amazon, eBay, Etsy and Wayfair. 
Week two was all about building an e-commerce business model and participants learnt how to narrow down their niche, by thinking about key elements such as type of product and source-ability. We then went into detail with Marketplace Ads and the advantages of using these and how to use them effectively. 
Finally, in week three we covered how to use social media for e-commerce business, branding, the importance of trademark, accounting and tax matters. It was important for us to give programme participants an introduction to the e-commerce world and to give them the confidence to create their own business model to get stuck-in. 
Feedback from one participant, Yasin said “Thanks for your team's time in the preparation and presentation of such valuable information about e-commerce.” 
Aaron Sarac, CEO of Pointis added “It was really joyful for me to see people benefit. We went over how to start, how to list, and how to spread the word across Social Media. Being a part of MDCC is really a great thing to reach people.” 
Pointis, is an e-Commerce company with it's own brand, products, operations team, logistics and production. We are able to offer a partnership, allowing you to sell your products within the UK and EU through our know-how and expertise when it comes to setting up operations, the purchasing power to get you started and finally, the suppliers to help meet your demand. You can find out more about our company by visiting our website.” 
We are excited to announce that the DWP have approved our Kickstart Gateway application and we are very much looking forward to welcoming young people into work placements and supporting them with their career path and goals. 
Our role within the Kickstart scheme will be to coordinate and monitor the scheme’s execution. We will: 
• Administer Kickstart member reimbursement 
• Guide and support the designated in-house champions 
• Source and present workplace orientation programmes; including the onboarding of beneficiaries 
• Facilitate the placement of Scheme beneficiaries where participant members are unable to accommodate them as permanent employees 
It’s all change again for everyone as England has moved into a second lockdown and in particular for small local businesses. All is not lost though as there are many ways in which we can come together and support our local businesses during this challenging period and on an ongoing basis. 
Turning to Social Media 
Supporting small local businesses through social media is critical during this time. Here are a few different ways you can do this: 
Follow them on social media (if you don’t already). 
Leave a Facebook review on their business page. 
Leave a Google review. 
Recommend them to others e.g. a recommendation request in a Facebook group. 
Share their business page to encourage your friends and family to ‘Like’ their page. 
Top tips on supporting a small local business 
Support your local high street, a lot of shops are selling essential products and therefore still able to open. 
Many businesses are offering click and collect or delivery services. So check-out their website, drop them an email or give them a call to see if you can still get what you need from them. 
Now is the perfect time to discover new brands, with the Christmas season on the way, a lot of businesses are promoting online events such as markets and food festivals. 
Turn to online marketplaces such as eBay and Etsy, so many small businesses sell on these sites. By buying on these sites you can also leave a review after your delivery. 
Tips on how to keep your local business going 
Carry on marketing your business and let people know you are still open or still taking orders. 
Communicate and engage with your customer base. 
Promote special offers for your customers. 
Celebrate your achievements. 
Spend this time writing a few blog posts that you can post out over the next couple of months. A blog post can be share through your social media and can really help engage your audience and tell your customers about your business. 
Review your business plans, consider whether there are alternative products or services you can offer and ‘pivot’ what you currently do. 
If you are unable to operate or demand is lower than usual right now, perhaps it is time to tackle that mountain of admin or those tasks that you have been putting off or streamline your processes. 
Your Chamber is always here to support our members and at the present time we are willing to extend that support to any business in or around the RBWM area too. If you would like to talk through your business issues with somebody who will understand and provide good advice, either write to or telephone 01628 670573 and our President, Mike Miller or one of the other directors or executive team will contact you. 
A warm welcome to the Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce blog. To kick start our blog, we felt it was only right that we interviewed the President of our Chamber of Commerce Mike Miller. Mike has worked and lived in both South Africa and England and is one of the founders of the South African Chamber of Commerce (SACC) UK and is now an honorary life member of the SACC having retired as a director last year. Mike is Managing Director of Business Fit International Ltd, working with a team of consultants to assist entrepreneurs in successfully launching their businesses into the SA or UK markets. We wanted to find out more about his journey as president and how the Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce has adapted since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. 
Welcome Mike, thank you for joining us, tell us about your upbringing? 
I was born in Hillingdon on the outskirts of London. I’m what’s known as a “baby boomer”. My father was a telephone engineer and he moved the family to South Africa on a South African government engineering contract when I was nine. He renewed his contract several times before taking up a permanent position in South Africa. It was seventeen years later before I returned to England on a corporate working trip with Beecham, now GSK. I was educated at New Forest High and then the University of Natal in Durban, now part of UKZN. After I graduated my education continued when I joined Unilever’s marketing department in Durban before joining Beecham five years later. 
Tell us about your journey with The South African Shop and how this led to your involvement with the Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce? 
I was keen on setting up and owning my own business using the skills that I had learnt in the corporate world to train and help people. In 1997, while working in South Africa, I was approached by retailers in the UK who wanted to import South African consumer goods. They gave me a combined order for a wide range of South African consumer products and on May 30th 1997 we packed our first container at Makro in Woodmead in north Jonannesburg. I then set up South African Products International (Pty) Ltd in South Africa and registered a similar company in England which subsequently became SAJE International Ltd t/a Sapro. We opened The South African Shop in Maidenhead in August 1999 and then successfully expanded online as In 2011 we sold the stores to Jumbo Importers who own several other stores around London. 
As owner of The South African Shop I was invited to become a member of the Maidenhead & District Chamber of Commerce and join the Chamber Executive Committee. This showed me how effective a local Chamber could be in representing members, providing information on local initiatives, supporting members in disputes with central and local government, providing educational opportunities to members on new technology and boosting employment. I was asked to join the Presidential team by the then President Cllr Andrew Jenner and Took over as President myself in 2010. The Chamber was incorporated a few years later and I became a Director of the Chamber. Upon the resignation of Mark Jones as President in 2019 I took over as President again. 
What’s been your  proudest moment  as President of the Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce? 
Re-forming a Chamber Executive that focuses on RISE, Representing, Informing, Supporting and Educating the Chamber members by using the expertise available to us and our close relationship with the RBWM Leadership, working in partnership to achieve common goals. We now have a tight knit cooperative team. We have been very instrumental in helping RBWM businesses to find their way through the Covid 19 minefield. Working closely with RBWM and FSB. 
What inspires you as President of the  Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce? 
Helping businesses in RBWM to develop and grow to the benefit of the local community and other members. 
How would you like to work with local businesses in the future? 
To continue what we are already doing but build the membership to enable members to focus on and offer their expertise when dealing with both other members as well as non-members. We have recently launched our “Trust Your Chamber Members” campaign which is to encourage both Chamber members and non-members to find the goods and services they need via the Members’ Directory on the Chamber website. 
What’s your favourite thing about Maidenhead? 
I have lived in Maidenhead and surrounding areas since the early seventies, working in South Africa in the interim. I returned from South Africa in late 1997 and set up The South African Shop in Brock Lane because Maidenhead provided easy links to Reading and London via the M4 motorway, the M40 and Wycombe via the A404, and the fast, regular train service to London as well as Reading and the west of England. In addition an easy link to Heathrow Airport and surrounding towns led to customers coming to the store from all over England as well as Europe. We realised that we had chosen the Maidenhead location well. Other companies both large and small have been able to take advantage of these benefits too. The closeness to the Thames and the new Waterway has been a major drawcard for the town. 
Since Covid-19, how do you see the Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce adapting in the future? 
We will be continuing with the benefits of the RISE model for our members and local businesses in general. We will be assisting businesses to recognise their strengths and giving them the support and strength to believe in themselves when rethinking their business strategy with the help of the Chamber experts. 
Finally, how has the Chamber supported members and businesses over the last few months? 
We have helped businesses to make contact with RBWM to get their grants and other business support during the lockdown and beyond. I have had frequent video calls with RBWM trying to work through the Business Grant minefield, and have met and communicated with Theresa May MP and her team. Our new Members Directory initiative, “Trust Your Chamber Member” will help the Chamber to become the business conduit that it needs to be. 
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