27 ways to get your MP behind your business

21. Championing causes

“I’ve been trying to get supermarkets to stock more local produce for years. It’s an issue close to my heart,” says Wilfred Emmanuel Jones, founder of The Black Farmer brand. Jones contacted James Paice, shadow minister for agriculture, and told him about the plight of British farmers.

In a speech at the Tory Party conference in October, Paice said: “Buying local food can be cheaper and of better quality, so we will ensure that British taxpayers’ money is spent on British food wherever possible.” Music to Jones’s ears.

22. Grant granted

When Kevin Smith, director of Cyden, the Swansea-based cosmetic laser manufacturer, organised a photo shoot with Andrew Davis, minister for economic development in Wales, he thought the benefits would end with local coverage.

“We took some photos of him next to our machines, hoping our profile within the business community would be raised,” says Smith.

The £3m-turnover firm was seeking funding at this time and had applied for alocal grant.

“The Welsh Regional Selective Assistance Grant is awarded not by the RDA but by the Welsh Assembly. The press coverage of us engaging with the minister may have influenced the speed with which the grant was awarded to us. We received £300,000.”

23. Avoid politicians in the US

“People in the US have a very low opinion of politicians,” says Freeplay Foundation chairman Rory Stear. “They are seriously unpopular as individuals. We chose Tom Hanks as our US ambassador instead. We approached him after he went on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and raved about our wind-up radios after filming Castaway.”

It was unsolicited publicity, and when the Foundation approached Hanks about a more formal arrangement, he was happy to be involved. A great coup for Freeplay.

“He was voted the most believable and plausible American by the US media,” says Stear. “People listen to what Tom Hanks says long before they’ll believe George Bush. And so they should.”

24. Take the initiative

FireAngel is one of the founding members of the “Wake Up” scheme, which raises awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning.

It’s a worthy cause but also a canny business move: “We are the sole manufacturer involved,” says MD Graham Whitworth. “So it’s fantastic exposure.”

An event was held at the House of Lords in October, attended by Annette Brooke, MP for the Liberal Democrats, and a host of media correspondents, including Dr RosemaryLeonard, Louise Rainer and Lorraine Kelly. “Our carbon monoxide detectorsare going to be featured on BBC Breakfast News as a result.”

25. Charity begins at home

Barry Sheerman, MP for Huddersfield, has a hands-on approach to fostering small business in his constituency. He founded the Enterprise Foundation with local businessmen Ian Pogson and Bill Macbeth.

The Foundation allocates funding from the Learning Skills Council and the European Social Fund to start-ups looking for support in the early days.

“It’s a bit like Dragons’ Den, except that we have no private interest in the companies,” says Pogson. “We’ve had 53 entrepreneurs come to us so far, and 38 of those havesuccessfully launched businesses following our sponsored workshops. Some ofus “Dragons” even mentor the entrepreneurs until they find their feet.” 

26. A nod from the PM can be a launchpad for business

When Tony Blair visited the Heath Business and Science Park, he saw the potential for the business model to be rolled out across the UK and said as much in his address: “What has been achieved at the Heath is quite remarkable and should be replicated across the UK.”

John Lewis, director at the Heath, took the PM at his word, launching “Project Fusion”, an independent consultancy for regeneration. A move that will “bringsubstantial rewards”, says Lewis.

27. Make them bring in the business

“We secured all our major clients as a direct consequence of having our local MP, Jamie Reed, open our new offices in Cumbria,” says Roger Turner, MD of £30m-turnover IT firm Capula.

“We specialise in nuclear power and utilities. The big players in the industry, such as the NDA, International Nuclear Solutions and BNG, all came along, purely because we had the MP there and nuclear power is such a contentious issue.”

It wasn’t even a struggle getting Reed to come along: “He was more than willing to support new business in Cumbria.”

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