Purchasing a car is viewed as one of the least enjoyable practices around, mostly due to the outrageous prices, information overload, and persistent salesmen. But with the breakthrough of the internet, one London innovative entrepreneur has been able to change this and utilise the theories behind such phenomenons as EBay. This creation is, founded by Amin Saleem. AutoeBid is the first-to-the-market reverse auction for new car buyers in the UK.
How it works: consumers specify their chosen car model and their maximum price - suppliers nationwide then start a bidding war for their business. does not take a commission from suppliers. "This allows us to retain our independence and offer buyers the most competitive prices and the quickest delivery times," explains Amin. Instead, successful buyers pay a finder's fee.

Amin has worked hard to achieve the recognition and success that Autoebid now holds. Through the mentoring scheme provided by Centa, Amin has been guided in his ability to effectively use Affiliate Marketing, Online Advertising, Search engine optimisation, PR, amongst others and has optimised the World Wide Web to capture AutoeBid's prime target market.

"Mentoring was an idea I did not seriously consider until I read an article in the Times about its benefits. Being a one-man band I found it very difficult to be able to bounce ideas around in confidence. With mentoring now not only could I bounce ideas but I also got consultancy at a fraction of the market rate".

On 6th October 2004, AutoeBid was the winner of the DTI Regional and National e-Business Start-up Award. Along with these prestigious recognitions, has been gaining considerable press attention, sales, and a large supplier base. They have already achieved their first 12 months target and are currently experiencing strong continued growth.

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Axess Information

In October 2004, the Disability Discrimination Act came into force requiring all businesses to make reasonable efforts to provide the fullest possible access to services for the UK's 8.6 million disabled people. This can prove expensive if the business is a heritage site such as a 15th century stately home, unable to alter a listed building, or to afford structural changes such as widening corridors or installing lifts.

In response Axess Information has identified a market niche by presenting a cost-effective solution in the form of digital 360 degree Panoramic tours on CD-ROM, which it has branded “Time And Again” tours. By presenting a CD tour at Reception on a basic PC or laptop, heritage sites can help disabled, frail and elderly visitors to easily access Britain's heritage including art collections, furniture and gardens previously off limits.

Visitors can select a route using a mouse control or be guided by a steward, and can pan and zoom in for greater detail. Panoramic Tours literally “open doors and windows” to those previously excluded, and provide equality of visitor experience.

The Axess mission is to help improve quality of life for those with disabilities but needed the expertise offered by Centa Business Services to make this mission a reality. Axess took advantage of Centa’s New Entrepreneur Scholarship (NES) which offers business advice, training, networking, and a grant to help new businesses launch their ideas. Axess used NES funds on interactive editing software for presentation of digital images, audio and video.

The help provided by Centa through the NES scheme has been invaluable. A mentor is an essential part of the process providing experienced and objective advice critical in the realistic assessment of any business in terms of planning and management.

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The funny thing about becoming a top professional in London is that many times your personal life is ignored so that professional success is the top priority. Jolanta Skevington was a trader with a top City firm - JP Morgan Chase – and often found it hard to find people of the same calibre or with the same interests. Recognising this essential need in her life and the lives of fellow Londoners, Jolanta left her job to launch her solution: has created an easy way for single high-fliers to meet others who are just like them by providing a psychometric online matching system, which if filed in truthfully - guaranties 100% compatibility. also offers personal dating advice and organizes get togethers and speed dating events regularly. Through all of these services, Jolanta has accomplished her goal of helping her friends and others find love.

For Jolanta the greatest challenge she had to face was building the actual website.

This is where Centa helped out. “I am so very grateful for all the help I received from Centa via consultant James Walsh. I have not only been advised on how to successfully market my services, but have also networked through them and was put in touch with other relevant entrepreneurs. Another very beneficial service Centa provided was to award me with a professional website review, which enabled me to maximize the potential of my site. This has helped me to gain countless new users as the website became much more user friendly and appealed more to my target group.”
Recently, is doing extremely well.'s joint initiative with the British Red Cross – Teddy Bear give away to celebrate National Dating Day last September - was a success and other events are in the works.

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David Scholtz

David has a 3 year diploma in Jewellery making from South Africa and from there went into the trade.  He has been in the trade for 13 years and now works in Hatton Garden. 

David is a mounter and works independently in Hatton Garden.  He sub-lets a workshop space from a fellow jeweller, Stuzanne, who was also on the Jewellery Connections project and who initially introduced David to the project.

David wanted to take part in the project for a number of reasons:

First, David has wanted to design and produce his own range and to diversify his business from solely trade work for many years, he has dreamed that his future will include his own designed collections, and he felt this would provide him with a greater sense of achievement and satisfaction in his career. However he also felt he lacked the confidence and drive to achieve this. 

Second, David explained that as a mounter you do not tend to network with the trade, rather you are one stage in the production of a piece of Jewellery, you rarely see or meet the other trades people in the process or get to view the final product, and you almost never meet the client.  As a consequence David believed that could lead to a lack of confidence;

“As a mounter or any trades person you can become very isolated in your professional world.  You sit at the bench and work, there is no networking other than going to the pub on a Friday night….  Sitting at the bench day in day out you can lose inspiration, years go by without knowing and exploring new avenues”

Finally, David noted that mounters get paid by the hour and as there are standard hourly rates in the business you will only ever be able to earn as much as you work, there is no added value in his trade work, which limits his ability to increase his earnings.  He sees design-based Jewellery as a way of increasing his earnings potential which could have a positive impact on his work life balance and standard of living.

David felt that JC helped him address the following issues:

  • Lack of confidence and belief in his abilities to design a collection
  • Lack of motivation to produce his first collection
  • Lack of finance to fund his first collection
  • Lack of awareness of the Jewellery design market
  • Lack of experience in marketing and promotion
  • Lack of knowledge of trade contacts and networks
  • Lack of experience in networking with the jewellery design community

Benefits/lessons learned of being on the project:

  • Created and exhibited a range of Jewellery, which would not have materialised without the project.
  • Provided him with confidence and helped to ‘exploit my own ideas’, through working with the project managers who were ‘supportive, encouraging and driven’
  • Met other designer-makers who were already doing what he wanted
  • Became more involved with the industry than before through networking and attending seminars
  • Created a sense of ‘venturing into the unknown, which was exhilarating’
  • A belief that you can do it if you allow yourself the freedom and space to try
  • Important to choose easy pieces to start with
  • Getting ‘something’ out there to be seen is really important as a first step
  • JC generated additional potential collaborations with designers who wanted mounting skills
  • Started contacting galleries and boutiques with new collection


“I have been in industry for 13 years and dealing with the trade for the most part. I have never had the opportunity to meet new people in the industry.  The project opened the door to new people in the design world and a new playing field in terms of contacts and new colleagues.” David Scholtz

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Many people get frustrated with websites because of one main problem - usability.
These types of websites are designed for flashiness or eye appeal and usually give little thought at all for what users really need and thus, provide no real value to the user.

Any company with a website should ensure theirs is user-friendly: doesn’t present difficulties for their online customers, or damage the company's public perception. A badly designed website can quickly harm a company’s image and credibility and easily become a deterrent for new or returning customers. Increasingly, usability is becoming one of the key differentiators for successful online business.

This problem, found frequently on the web, can be solved using e-bility; web usability and accessibility specialists. This new company offers a range of services, including user-centred design research and reviews, accessibility audits, and behavioural analysis. e-bility is business focused as well as user-focused in their approach, and their staff are experienced in the entire web development process, from design conception to launch.

As a new company, e-bility needed to cover some basic business information in order to perform at an optimal level. That’s where Centa lent their expertise. “Centa provided all essential grounding information and support required for a new business through their website, workshops and one-to-one mentoring. Centa also helped by recommending professionals, such as accountants.”

e-bility’s contacts and reputation within the industry have helped them to quickly grow and add new clients. They have seen steady progress this past year and have plans to keep adding to their client portfolio, while making their name more well-known in the market. Their mission to create websites that are more user-centered and accessible will no doubt make surfing the web a more pleasurable experience for both business and consumers.

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t. 020 7385 7182

What do you do with an old computer? Do you sell it or give it away? What about the personal data it contains? If it cannot be sold or given away, should it just be left for junk - or are there more creative solutions?

With an idea to recycle old computers and protect personal information from being used illegally, Ryan Mcmanus began developing Ecochip. His business is a social enterprise which focuses its activities around economic, social, and environmental improvements while reinvesting the generated surplus to support social aims.

Ecochip does its part in helping the economy through the establishment of a business and employment of labour, helping the environment by recycling old computers, and helping society by providing refurbished computers for those in need. Ecochip also donates a portion of their proceeds to charity.

Since 2005, Ecochip’s operations have been in full swing. New forthcomings for Ecochip include sustaining successful operation of the 1000 sq. foot premises over the next 24 months; progressively employing more staff. Future endeavours for Ecochip involve branding of refurbished computers and opening up franchises nationwide.

Director Ryan Mcmanus said: “James Walsh (business adviser at Centa Business Services) has provided excellent interactive support in establishing a working business plan and providing vital contacts especially within the Camden borough. Such contacts have enabled Ecochip to secure affordable premises and even some initial grant funding. Centa has also provided Ecochip many useful ad hoc business tips and know how to face the challenges ahead”.

Ryan also states, the greatest challenge that he encountered in starting Ecochip was, “procuring affordable premises, for which Centa has acted as a powerful catalyst.”

Ryan devoted hard work into planning and executing his idea of a highly ethical computer recycling and data destruction service, and added help from Centa Business Services has got his social enterprise off the ground.

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Errands Etc


For enquiries, please contact Jennifer on 020 7060 3234 or email:

Jennifer Kabaaga has built on the concept of 'virtual' and 'concierge' assistants with her unique service: Errands Etc. Starting a business was a lifelong ambition for Jennifer, who decided to make the leap from accountancy while raising four children under 5 years old. The business idea came when Jennifer found there was not enough time in her lunch hour to do everything she wanted to do.

Prior experience in accounting gives Jennifer the edge when it comes to managing her own business, but also meeting the needs of many business people who want this element of their business put into trustworthy and reliable hands.

However, as well as more traditional business services, Errands Etc staff queue up at the post office, collect items from shops, deliver dry cleaning, queue up for tickets, collect Visas, grocery shopping, collect urgent forgotten items, pay for parking licenses... The aim is to dedicate 'personal messengers' to people, who can be 'on call anytime'.

Jennifer says: "I checked on Google for any enterprise agency in Central London and I found Centa. I made an appointment to get help with my marketing query at Centa that afternoon. I found the service very convenient; I decided to get all my business support form Centa. I got direct help from Centa to get the NES grant and help in refining my business plan."

Jennifer is very determined and has not let early obstacles stand in her path. She says: "Everything that can go wrong did go wrong - I was initially unable to open a bank account, my domain name was already taken and I would have had to pay over £10,000 to get it, without finance the technology project stalled for four months. Every little plan took three times longer than originally planned."

"I have high ambitions for the business and I am planning a fast growth business. In 12 months time, I would like to have secured at least 10 contracts with different companies. The hard work goes on."

So, has it been a help or a hindrance to have a dedicated business adviser? Jennifer says: "My business advisor, Jason has been there all the way suggesting ways to raise finance or to simply speed up things. He sent me ideas on how to include a particular global positioning technology in the errands software, and this is being looked at for the second phase of the errands technology project."

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Everlasting Castings


Everlasting Castings
237 Kentish Town Road
London  NW5 2JT
t. 0870 020 3593

Seeking flexible work hours to fit with a young family, Tamera Peters entered the New Entrepreneurship Scholarship (NES) programme offered by Centa Business Services in 2004.  The six month course, business grant, and Tamara’s advisor James Walsh helped her learn about marketing and business planning while providing start up costs for her business that produces belly and baby casting kits and silver fingerprint jewellery for expectant and new mothers.  Centa also provided ongoing advice and regular free seminars for Tamara and her business.

Belly casting is a very new idea and Tamera has capitalized on the growing demand for such services.  She has also expanded her business to include home kits that allow customers to produce casting from the comfort of their home.  Tamara’s goal is to double her turnover in the next 12 months. 

Tamera knows from first hand experience that running your own business is hard, time consuming work.  However, the rewards far outweigh the costs and Tamera says “there is freedom of choice, creativity, it’s never boring and every day is different.”

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Expression Studios

Orod & Dessy Ohanians are celebrating an incredibly successful first year of trading for Expressions Studios, based in Kentish Town. These new dance studios offer deluxe facilities – including sprung floors, sound systems, shower and changing facilities, and a hugely successful café – aimed at all levels of dancers. Currently Expressions has three studios with 32 different types of dance available.

Despite her business degree, Dessy, has dedicated the last ten years of her life to dance  She admits that teaching dance and running a business are two completely different skill sets and there were areas of the business where she needed specific help so she approached Centa Business Services.

“Our business adviser was great – giving us advice on writing our business plan reflecting our long-term aim to franchise out our business idea, and helping us to raise the finance we needed to fit out the studios – a huge job as the building was a total shell when we took it over. He also showed us how it was possible to do some of our accounting, payroll and public relations to save money.”

Expressions Studios also runs a café, which has taken both Orod and Dessy by surprise with its success.
“It’s been a real ‘cash cow’ in our first year of trading, as there is nowhere else locally for people to eat hot food,” she explains. “We’re finding that half of Kentish Town now comes to lunch with us each week - it’s certainly helped our cash flow and established us as a local business.”

Whilst Dessy and Orod are still keen to progress with their franchise plans when the time is right, they’re currently concentrating on developing their successful studios even further before branching out elsewhere.

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Friendship Beauty Shop



Friendship Beauty Shop
G2, 19 Newport Court
London WC2H 7JS
t. 077 6521 7632

Centa has been supporting Black and Asian Ethnic Minority businesses with business planning to finding premises to raising finance for their business. Small businesses in the community for over 2 decades.

Friendship is a health and beauty shop with a mission “to supply services and products which enhance our clients' physical appearance and mental relaxation” . Owner and founder Eng Tan, of Chinese origin, approached Centa Business Services in October 2005 for support in developing his business idea. Eng had a vision in establishing a health and beauty shop selling perfumes, aftershave, quality fragrances, and skin care products. He wanted to deliver an excellent service, great value and create an enjoyable atmosphere.

Eng worked with Stephen Anderson, the BAME Business Adviser at Centa, over a series of meetings. Although English is Eng’s second language, to draw up a plan of action to include the business plan, the start-up process, financial analysis and marketing strategy, as well as an application for a business loan.

With Stephen’s help, Eng received a grant of £7,500 from One-London, which led to Eng opening his shop in 2006.

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Hollistic Business: all the ingredients for business success


For information, please telephone Lucan Richards 020 7278 5757 or email:
(Attendees to any of Centa's events are required to sign a short form. To learn more about this, click here.)

Holistic Business series provided therapists and health clinics with practical tools to gain greater success in a crowded market place, a chance to network and build relationships with other therapists, and the opportunity to access one-to-one business advice - at no cost.

The service provided:

  • Business skills training from specialists in marketing, PR and internet technologies.
  • Quarterly networking events, in conjunction with Networking4Therapists.
  • One-to-one business advice with a SFEDI-qualified business adviser.
  • Registering for self-employment.
  • Online advice and access to Partner resources: if we can’t help you we will know someone who can.
What did people say about these events? 

Holistic Business was sponsored by Alliance and Leicester Commercial Bank.

Supported by the London Development Agency and the European Social Fund.

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Island Therapy

Remah Joseph has a clinical training background specialising in aromatherapy and over many years has treated clients, even those with depression and mental ailments, with her revolutionised massage techniques and therapy oils. Through her natural evolution of products and technique, friends and clients alike could immediately differentiate the superb quality of Remah's products and requested her to create a product line that could be made widely available.
Remah came to Centa without any knowledge of how or where to begin and has since been helped, along with her daughter Omileye, to launch the business to great fanfare.

"Centa has provided a lot of support through advisor Kevan Dunne. Last year when we experienced a loss in the family, we were at a point where we had lost motivation. But Kevan continually encouraged us in these times and made the business a reality. He gave great advice for the development of our business plan and helped us to be successful in our acceptance into the New Entrepreneur Scholarship (NES) programme"
Omileye Joseph-Achikeobi (Creative Director of ISLANDTHERAPY).

The overseas launch of the ISLANDTHERAPY range took place in the Caribbean with the help of the British Trade Commission, and proved to be a roaring success.  The team also secured an exclusive deal to supply their products to the five star Escape Hotel and Spa.

ISLANDTHERAPY has now established itself as a supplier and creator of healing products with a strong therapeutic value. Just as their logo and company ethos implies, every product and service is first and foremost provided with care and love.

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Kings Cross Hotel Network

The main objective of the King’s Cross Hotel Network (KCHN) is to offer business support and advice to hotels in the King’s Cross area in order to equip them to offer the best welcome to customers as the area's tourism increases. Many need to modernise, improve their service offering or marketing presence to capitalise since the arrival of St Pancras International Eurostar terminal and many other new businesses and retail outlets flocking to the zone.

1) Staff Training
Having a well trained work-force is key to providing an excellent experience to hotel guests but this is often an area that can be overlooked. The challenge for many hotels is that it is difficult to schedule time away from duties to provide staff training and also that staff turnover is high.

Initially a consultation took place with each hotel manager to find out what type of training the hotel is interested in and for which members of staff. In depth conversations took place in order to get a clear picture of what was needed.

A period of observation took place to monitor the staff in action before a training proposal was drawn up. Training was usually delivered at the hotel at times that best fit in with the shift patterns and working practices. The range of training included: customer service, train the trainer, time management and sales techniques.

The Ambassadors Hotel (click here to play video) has recently refurbished to upgrade from a 3 to a 4 Star hotel. Manager Christophe Belare said: "We were aware that we needed to provide training to ensure all the staff were up to speed. The KCHN project offered the right mix of flexibility and knowledge to deliver the training we needed at exactly the right level. Our staff are now better equipped to deal with any challenges ahead."

2) Quality Audit
Customers are becoming more sophisticated, taking shorter more frequent trips and their requirements are constantly evolving. To avoid losing market share or becoming old-fashioned or shabby it is important that hotels continually update their offer.

As part of the quality audit, experienced KCHN staff look at the whole experience; from the first impressions of the hotel from the outside - through to looking at all the bedrooms and public areas. A report is produced that details the current quality of the accommodation on offer and the improvements that could be made in the short, medium and longer term. The purpose is not to be critical and judgemental but to sit alongside the hoteliers to encourage and support them in making improvements.

Manager Hans Jaffer from the Mabledon Court Hotel said: "It was really useful to get an objective view of the hotel and how we match up to the competition. I found the advice and recommendations to be useful and easy to put to practical use. The whole audit was a positive experience encouraging us to move forward with the development of the hotel."

3) E-Commerce and Online Marketing

The Di Popolo family have a portfolio of 4 hotels in King’s Cross, run by different family members, and one website which represents all their properties. The family wanted to improve their website so KCHN initially analysed its effectiveness in terms of usability, functionality and design.

Improvements, such as an online booking system, were made and the next focus became the marketing of the website. KCHN provided ongoing support in how to evaluate the results of existing and new 'Google Adwords' campaigns and make the most of the hotel's marketing budget.

Manager Assundina di Popolo said: "The advice and support that I have received through the project has really helped me to focus on our website and online marketing. With so much to think about everyday when running hotels it is great to be able to call in some expert advice for certain areas. Having online bookings is something we had wanted to do for a while but had not had the time to research the best option, with this project all the work was done for us."

For more information, please contact: James Walsh at Centa on 020 7278 5757 or email:

Delivered in partnership with:

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All women are justified in wanting to find undergarments that fit. Properly fitting undergarments make a difference in how your clothes fit and can dramatically effect your overall appearance. Sheila Holdsworth saw a real need to establish a business that could help women and embarked on the creation of KnowKnockers in 2004 with Alison Hoyland.
KnowKnockers is not the typical lingerie business, first of all, they are based online; utilising the efficiency of the Internet to receive orders, save costs, and deal with their suppliers. Secondly, they specialise in smaller bra sizes, but they do provide knickers in all sizes.

KnowKnockers has been a Centa client from the outset. Sheila and Alison both have had no formal business training, and in working with Centa they found the right advice, support, and encouragement they needed.

"Our business advisor is Kevan Dunne. We feel he's really guided us every step of the way. He's provided us with an enormous amount of info and was always on the other end of the phone or an email. He has been nothing but supportive but with a sense of realism of what it's really like out there in the big bad world."

Sheila and Alison have been overcoming all of their challenges with consistent motivation. They have just won the 2004 Tycoon Idol Competition run by the Oxford Brookes University's Business School in association with Take a Break magazine. They were awarded a £1000 cheque, one year's free mentoring by the business school, a place on the Business Boffins support programme for small businesses, a celebration lunch, and tea with Prime Minister Tony Blair!

KnowKnockers has done an outstanding job this past year and from the looks of it, will continue to repeat their early success in years to come.

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Noise London

Noise London
t. 020 7307 7090

“No business entrepreneur should be afraid to embrace what they can’t do well – there are always people like our business adviser at Centa Business Services who has the knowledge and skills from which we can learn to run our business properly.”

Aiden McCarthy, NOISE London

With a successful track record working for other companies designing sound tracks for films and high-end TV dramas, good friends Aidan McCarthy, Karl Mainzer and Jeff Richardson had the industry credentials but wanted the freedom to use their creativity within their own business. They established NOISE London, a new audio post facility, and after just a few months of trading, the company is already working on an increasing number of high profile projects for blue chip clients.

But the first few months before launch were anything but easy, so Aiden decided to seek the help of Centa Business Services because he admits that he lacked the business skills he needed to run the company properly.
“We needed clear aims and objectives to project ourselves into the future, and our business adviser, James Walsh is currently helping us work on this”.

 “I’ve learned that whilst it’s wonderful to be caught up in launching a new business, the reality of a successfully-launched business is a proper strategy, planning and efficient administration – which is where the independent advice I’m receiving from Centa Business Services is invaluable. I have the ability to plan and implement a business style that has integrity at the heart of its operation. I feel privileged to be able to own, manage and be part of something that really is transformational and inspirational.”

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Camden-based IT Consultants founded Onlico as a one-stop shop providing support for every aspect of IT for small businesses. Onlico found itself in a useful niche simply because they will deal with absolutely everything IT-related – while other IT companies are generally more specialized.

However, the company was expanding at such a rate that founder David Brooks-Wilkins found himself with insufficient staff, creating difficulties in delivering to his clients. He turned to Centa who carried out a review of his business and helped him formulate a growth plan. David said his advisers demonstrated a real understanding of his business and as a result Onlico is in an excellent position to meet customer requirements at every stage. Financially, the company is strengthening and is confident of meeting its goal of £1 million in revenues in the next two years.

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Precious Online

Foluke Akinlose is the founder and editor of Precious, an online lifestyle magazine for women of colour. She has always been passionate about writing and developed a love of magazines early on in life. However, as a teenager she noticed that information in these magazines hardly pertained to girls of colour. This imbalance caused her to commit herself to creating a magazine specifically aimed at Black women.

While the cost of running a print magazine was an obstacle, the development of the Internet provided a way to achieve her goal by making it cheaper and easier to connect women of colour from the UK and around the world.
Precious became the first of its kind and provides helpful information on various topics such as art, business and careers, culture, and the latest trends. In addition, there are feature stories on women in the real world.

As a start-up company, there are many challenges that can be potentially discouraging to any owner. However, by using Centa’s services, Foluke was able to understand how Precious could be run as a business. She received advice in many areas, from finance to advertising. “Centa have been very encouraging, which is important when you are a start up. You need to know that someone is on hand to offer help and support.”

Precious has seen tremendous growth in the past years. In 2002, the nomination and subsequent TV appearance for the Carlton TV Achievement Award was a tremendous help in publicity for the magazine. Foluke was also the winner of the 2005 Global Women Inventors and Innovators Awards for “exceptional creativity”. The website attracts thousands of visitors a month and is truly an informative and creative way to encourage Black women throughout the world.

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Pure California


Pure California
39 Beak Street
London W1F 9SA

With the radical surge of fitness trends, the inception of a fast food outlet that encompasses health and convenience has begun to take-off. This lifestyle trend that has already caught wave in the United States is now beginning to break into the UK.

Pure California was designed to include all aspects of convenience, health and affordability in their store. Other smoothie companies market their products on the basis of nutritious appeal, yet many consumers are unaware that the added ingredients used in their food to enhance the taste no longer make the meal as nutritive. Pure California differentiates itself in the market by offering a truly health conscious menu in all areas.

“We go to extreme measures to ensure that every ingredient meets our standards of no unnecessary salt, sugar, fat or preservatives. Our goal is to build a relationship with the customer so that they trust that everything they buy in our store is healthy, tasty, and affordable.”

Centa provided invaluable support and knowledge to help directors Greg Castle and Spencer Craig to bring this fast growing trend to the UK market. Centa assisted them with their business plan and bank funding proposal. With the contacts that were set up through Centa and through attending meetings with the banks, HSBC ultimately agreed the loan request of £100,000 towards getting the business open under the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme.

With big plans to roll out 7 additional stores by 2008, Greg and Spencer are reaching their initial sales projections and are surfing towards a sunny future.

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Quality Eye

Quality Eye was established in September 2004 to provide focus group and mystery shopping services to companies with the aim of helping to improve customer satisfaction and customer retention.

Starting up her own business has enabled Linda Lindsey to have the flexibility and freedom she craved after a 20+ year career in the public sector. Linda wanted a career that would enable to create a better work life balance.

Linda’s 40th birthday was a milestone- she began to investigate business ideas and programmes. This brought her to Centa and the New Entrepreneur Scholarship (NES) programme, which awarded Linda a grant and has helped in teaching the practical skills in business planning and setting up her business.

Linda utilised her enjoyment of technology and experience as a project manager to set up several corporate websites to keep costs to a minimum. Using a ‘viral marketing’ approach, Quality Eye built a database of 7000 respondents utilising word of mouth and recommendations from those who had taken part in market research projects.

In October 2005, as part of a nationwide selection process from the successful NES Scholars, with the dedicated help of Centa adviser Matt Garner, Linda won a place (out of only 5 in the greater London area) to take part in the Babson College Exchange, hosted by Babson College, a Boston based University which has consistently ranked in the top 10 internationally for business schools.

Linda comments: “I was extremely pleased to have been selected and learnt many valuable lessons from successful US entrepreneurs, which I am currently implementing in my business.”

Linda operates Quality Eye now with one employee and with the help of 3 freelance associates. Quality Eye is always looking for new people from all walks of life to take part in market research projects.

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SEW/ Steve Wager


Steve Wager entered the trade in his early teens and worked for Asprey’s for 25 years. Steve was made redundant from Asprey’s in 1992 following a dip in the market caused in part by US buyers stopping flying to the UK after 9/11 and a dip in the Middle East market.

Steve’s company, SEW Ltd., was established in 2003 and provides master craftsmen Silversmithing skills primarily for high-end jewellers and silversmiths such as Asprey's. Steve is based in South East London and shares a workshop with another Silversmith.

Steve had been involved with the Change Act Share project in the past and had signed up on to the CAS database. The project team informed Steve directly of the Jewellery Connections project and had encouraged him to apply. Steve did not think he would be eligible for the project as he was not located in Hatton Garden and was delighted when he was accepted. Steve felt that Silversmiths were not often targeted for support so was doubly impressed with his selection onto JC.

For some time Steve had wanted to develop his own brand around his craft and had previously tried to explore ways of doing this. Steve’s aspiration was to design a diffusion range of silverware products with a more contemporary style for a lower value market, to target young professionals with beautiful products at reasonable prices. His past attempts at contacting designers to collaborate on this with him met with little response and he was very excited about the possibility of the Jewellery Connections project introducing him to consultant designers with whom he could collaborate.

Steve Wager hoped the Jewellery Connections collaboration would help him to achieve something completely different to his existing work, which is fine, bespoke and handcrafted Gold and Silverware and Jewellery and to inform and challenge the way he thought about design and production.

Steve wanted to meet new people who could inspire him and to support his efforts in producing a new product range under his brand name. Steve anticipated that if successful the diffusion line could account for a 5-10% uplift in his business and he would most likely take on an apprentice to undertake this work. Steve also wanted to promote his craft, Silversmithing, to a wider audience by creating more affordable, contemporary products for a younger audience.

Steve was paired with Joslyn Burton who he believed to be the best silver designer in the county. Steve’s intention for the collaboration with the designer was to push the boundaries of their existing design work, to produce cutting edge, modern and contemporary pieces using highly skilled creative and craft techniques. In practice this took longer than the 20 hours of support and Steve put in more hours than he had originally planned, however, it was proving to be a successful project, he hadn’t expected the collaboration to be simple and he was enjoying the challenge.

Outcomes and lessons learned:

• Made contact with designers who are keen and willing to work with Silversmiths
• Pushed the boundaries of understanding of design and production between the two parties which was both challenging and hugely rewarding
• Being on the project meant spending more time in Hatton Garden meeting colleagues and consequently has a firmer understanding of current market conditions.
• Working through the design concept takes considerable time and shouldn’t be rushed

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Snowcarbon is an independent website dedicated to helping skiers and snowboarders reach ski resorts by train from the UK. Founded by two travel journalists, Daniel Elkan and Mark Hodson, it pulls together all the information needed in one easy-to-use resource. The site has a wide choice of great ski resorts, each convenient by train, with journey details, booking guides and booking forms. The snowcarbon philosophy of enjoyable, low-carbon travel is one that they believe will benefit skiers, snowboarders and the entire winter sports industry. They aim to be a catalyst for change, encouraging and co-coordinating travel improvements to make rail journeys to ski resorts ever more convenient.

They offer a seamless online interface to book travel and have 100s of travellers who use their website each year resulting in significant carbon reduction. Over 95% of the customers who use SnowCarbon are committed to preserving ski resorts and are environmentally conscious travellers. For more information see

"The business support provided by Centa has been instrumental in our progress. They helped make sure that our carbon reduction strategy was built on solid foundations rather than assumptions. The carbon reduction assessment has ensured that we lead by example and set the standard that we ascribe others to follow to help ensure the long term future of ski resorts throughout Europe". Daniel Elkan, Snowcarbon Co-founder.

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SpaceHub Design

Anchor Brewhouse
50 Shad Thames

Business start date: October 2010.

Before starting the business, I was a director of a large landscape architect firm. They were going through a major restructuring exercise so I decided to take the leap and start my own company. I knew how the business worked and was determined to improve the client experience and build innovation in to projects as standard. I was inspired by a few great companies I had collaborated with over the years such as Make Ltd and relished the chance to further develop those relationships in a way that used my skills and background.


I started out in furniture design and loved the process of customer liaison, design and making to final delivery to the customer.  As a director of a large scale public realm landscape practice, i have managed projects up to £25m within multidisciplinary teams.


SpaceHub is a landscape Architect practice with a focus on the public realm. we work closely with many disciplines including architects, engineers and surveyors to create unique spaces that work well for people to work, rest, play and enjoy

Our knowledge of the industry is combined with skilled practitioners. We aim to increase the satisfaction of all stakeholders throughout the process. We offer a dedicated project management service as part of large scale public realm developments which significantly reduces quality and compliance failures and creates a significantly better end product.  


Tas Gooden, from Centa was recommended to us from one of our partners.  

We had started the business shortly before meeting with Tas and had already won out first contracts. What we really needed was to identify the best way to grow a sustainable and profitable business.  He introduced some clear ideas on how we could do achieve this. We looked at integrating practices that would ensure innovation was at the heart of things such as a engaging in networks, creating and marketing new services and building sustainable business models. Centa have also provided timely guidance on topics such as profit share schemes and signposting specialist legal advice.


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Swoop Media

Swoop Media
82 Holloway Road
London N7 8JG

For Ike Okosa, things should be simple: customers should be able to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to quality assistance and accommodating business solutions. He built Swoop Media as a ‘one-stop shop,’ combining reliable service with a vast array of options to give clients great support at affordable prices.  Ike believes that “success means providing a reliable service to our clients while also saving time and unnecessary cost.”

Just as Swoop Media provides their customers with a wide selection of options, from helping with flash websites to printing business cards, so too did Centa provide them with advice for their business. Ike Okosa came to Centa to gain information about grants and advice on tendering within the Islington Council as part of the Procurement Development Programme. They have just been awarded a £5,000 grant from the Islington Council in partnership with Centa and the London Development Agency to provide aid in crime prevention through the Islington community. As Swoop tries to bridge the gap between new media, internet, design and print solutions for their clients, Centa has helped to link businesses’ present operations with ideas for the future.

With Centa’s help, Swoop Media has experienced rapid growth by catering to businesses of various sizes and backgrounds since 1998. They are planning on opening a new branch on the High Street to better serve their clients within the area.

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Tam and Rob


Inspired by a lack of stylish ethical clothing, Lucy Robinson and Lucy Tammam set up Tam and Rob in order to give customers clothing that would be both ethically and aesthetically satisfying. They sell a wide range of clothes aimed at the 23 to 35 year old womens wear market. Tam and Rob are a unique because they are ethical in every process, only uses accredited fair trade suppliers, sources organic cotton, uses organic packaging and offsets the company’s carbon emissions. They also donate 10% of their profits to projects in UK, Nepal and India. 

Tam and Rob first came to Centa in need of support for start up businesses and funding opportunities. Centa entered them into the National Entrepreneurs Scholarship (NES) programme. With guidance and support from their business advisor, Ony Okosa, then completed the course and successfully applied for the £1500 grant. Ony also raised a further £3500 for Tam and Rob through the LDA start up business project.

“Ony has been fantastic help to our business. She also put us forward for a second grant for start-up businesses in Camden, and introduced us to lots of people who may also help our business. Centa has been massively supportive throughout the start up of our business. They have provided us with advice on preparing a business plan, financial planning and writing a marketing plan.”

Tam and Rob have created two test collections in the last six months that have been extremely successful and all but sold out. The official launch will be in February 2007 with their Spring collection. Currently a web based company, Tam and Rob aspire to open a store in central London before the end of year one.

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0870 2000 711

Andrew Murphy realized that moving large objects is a difficult task for all of us so he established Taxi-Vans in the summer of 2004. Taxi-Vans provides the customer with unique van and man service that lets you make that quick move to a new flat, without the hassle of paying fees and deposits associated with renting a van and including experienced movers to help.

Taxi-Vans also has a unique, cost-effective delivery option called ‘The Standby Board.’ This innovative service allows customers to use the free space in vans that are already scheduled for delivery across the UK at heavily discounted prices. This is an interesting choice for someone who found that great deal online, but doesn’t want to blow all of the savings on shipping fees.

Taxi-Vans had already been in business for a year when Andrew came to Centa to asses his business’s strengths and weaknesses.

“[Centa provided] business mentoring; a very useful service. [To be] a dedicated mentor to drive a business forward as well as act as a sounding board for ideas is a really valuable role.”

Andrew, together with Centa’s Matt Garner, was able to receive advice on many aspects of his business; from increasing sales to defining a clear vision for his firm. Similar consulting could have set him back thousands of pounds at a private firm, but Andrew was given professional help by Centa at a fraction of the cost. Six months later, Andrew still visits Centa for his routine check-ups.

Founder Andrew Murphy is always looking towards the future. Taxi-Vans hopes to expand its fleet this summer and has already signed major contracts with well-known stores like Conran and Decathlon.

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Teamtouch Unisex Salon







Teamtouch Unisex Salon
214 Kilburn Burn High Road
London NW6 4JH
t. 020 7372 7774

Patricia Tagbajumi has always dreamed of opening up her own business and, after receiving mentoring and one-to-one advice from Ony Okosa at Centa, she is delighted to now be her own boss.

Patricia really does have the cutting edge when it comes to hairdressing; offering her customers a range of Afro-Caribbean and European hairstyles including everything from cuts, perms, and colours to nails, skin care, massage, and beauty therapy. Patricia said: “Although the focus of Teamtouch Unisex Salon is hair services, we do offer our clients the convenience of these other services in one location. Our business atmosphere is a relaxing one where clients can kick back and be pampered, so I am hoping to attract a lot of customers."

The salon is located at 214 Kilburn Burn High Road NW6 4JH, covering the upper part and the lower parts of Kilburn, West Hampstead, Brondesbury, Willesden and Cricklewood. The location is strategically situated on one of the busiest streets in Kilburn which is a high profile area, with easy access to all London transport and parking.
"My business adviser, Ony has provided me with a great deal of help and support and I would strongly recommend other people who are looking to start up in business, to access Centa’s services."

(Left to right: Centa's own Ony Okosa with client Patricia Tagbajumi, Ony Okosa getting the full treatment makeover)

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The Hairforce

Dee Wright of The Hairforce came to Centa for guidance in the launch of her business in 2006. Centa’s James Walsh provided help and support in refining the business plan; constructively commented on its content and revisions; assessed the research and marketing plans; reviewed and challenged the financials; and facilitated introductions to specialist advice and networking. James Walsh also successfully assisted The Hairforce in applying for a start-up grant, which they received in December 2006. Centa has also helped Dee through networking opportunities and promoting her business across Centa's network of public sector organisations, as well as training seminars.

For Dee working with Centa has been a positive experience, “Not only have they provided tangible assistance, the intangible support cannot be underestimated – the ability to just call and ask an opinion or share an idea is very valuable, as is the call to see how you are and how the business is coming along.”

This innovative company is already doing well, with a good customer base and a constant flow of new business. With aspirations for the The Hairforce to spread nationally and globally, Centa has helped to guide Dee and her company down the right path to achieve this goal.

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Welcome to Lara's World

Welcome to Lara's World
t. 078 1117 4350

Inspired by a close friend’s confidence and motivation to start her own business, Lara Tremayne entered the New Entrepreneur Scholarship (NES) programme offered through Centa Business Services. The programme, along with Centa’s advisor Jason Walden, provided Lara with start up costs, business training, and advisory meetings for her business which includes art classes, workshops and parties, and recycled bunting-making for parties and festivals. 

Lara had previously been made redundant in her job as a part time office administrator and she says, "I wanted to be more in control of my career and freedom to decide on the course of my artistic future so, feeling at the right place in my life to do so, took the bull by the horns and went for it."  ‘Welcome to Lara’s World’ has been in operation for six months and Lara enjoys playing a number of different roles to cover all the aspects of starting and running a creative business.

With the continued support of Centa, Lara aims to increase her number of clients, hire more staff and reap the benefits of turning her passion into a successful venture.

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Touchpoints Massage Therapy


Touchpoints Massage Therapy
t. 07984 084 460

The desire to shape her future was the driving force behind Tunde Oshodi’s determination to create Touchpoints Massage Therapy Ltd. Touchpoints provides massage therapy services and wellbeing consultancy to businesses in London, Touchpoints provides tailor-made treatments for employees that are either wholly paid for or subsidized by their employers. Professional, qualified therapists give the treatments and offer ongoing advice and information to empower the client to make positive health choices. The service is an innovative and cost-effective solution for tackling the ever-growing psychological and physiological effects of work-related stress, poor workplace ergonomics, and other HR issues.

The New Entrepreneur Scholarship (NES), a programme offered through Centa Business Services, equipped Tunde with the skills necessary to start and run her own business, including how to write an effective business plan and allowing her to develop a personal network of like-minded people.

Tunde has recently returned from the prestigious Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, where she was one of 20 NES graduates who participated in the New Entrepreneur’s Transatlantic Scholars (NETS UK) course – an executive entrepreneurship programme that builds on the skills gained through the NES.

“Participating in the Babson programme has added value to my businesses and opened up new opportunities,” said Tunde. “Since returning, I have begun to implement the techniques I learned and now have a better understanding of how to grow a successful business.”

Tunde has big plans for Touchpoints’ future. The company is working with corporate clients in Holborn in London and plans to subcontract to freelance therapists as the workload increases. Future activities include the ‘Massage in Schools’ programme, which has many benefits in primary schools, including improved cognitive development and reduced incidences of aggression.

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Wedge Salon

Wedge Salon
177 Caledonian Rd
London N1 0SL
t. 020 7833 2228

Opening hours: Mon-Sat 10-8pm

Centa's Ony Okosa and Wedge owner Sarah Desrosier

Sarah Desrosiers has always dreamed of owning her own upscale hairdressing salon, but she knew that as a first time entrepreneur she would need some assistance in getting started. It was at Centa that Sarah received first-rate business planning, information on market trends and mentoring for her new business on Caledonian Road in Kings Cross: Wedge.
Centa’s business consultant Ony Okosa helped Sarah’s dream come true by raising £12,000 for the start up.

Sarah’s background includes 15 years at a salon in Portobello, where she gained a loyal client base, yet it had always been her ambition to become an entrepreneur and launch her own venture.With Centa’s expertise Sarah was able to realise her dream when she unveiled a one-stop shop for hairdressing, eyebrow shaping, colouring and hair extensions in March 2006. Working women can benefit from a central location (5 minutes from Kings Cross), extended business hours and internet access while you wait.

Clients can relax in a “modern, vibrant and trendy” where Sarah’s staff delivers an “excellent service, quality products at an acceptable price.” Alongside competent staff and a solid client demand, this salon holds great potential for the future.

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Yunus and Eliza


Artist Yunus Ascott and Sculptor Eliza Higginbottom launched Yunus & Eliza in early 2009. They work from a workshop in a specialist Foundry in London.

Yunus and Eliza initially met with the project team and discussed their ideas for the project in Spring 2010. After some changes they decided on using the technical support offered through the Jewellery Connections project to perfect the production of some of their existing designs. Soon after, London Fashion Week (BFW) took place where Yunus and Eliza were very successful and received large orders.

Following LFW they chose to commission 12 masters of their work and collaborated closely with Lloyd Baptiste. Lloyd helped in raising the quality of their pieces by filling in tiny holes in the work and having them professionally polished.

The pair found it hard initially handing over their work to an unknown Jeweller and this was a ‘leap of faith’ to begin with, but their belief paid off as the outcome was very good and they believe that their orders might not have been fulfilled without the help of the JCP. Since then they have commissioned Lloyd to do other work for them.

Yunus and Eliza agree that they would never have thought to sub-contract without the JCP and that they were provided with the opportunity to invest the time to explore this, “ [we] thought we had to do everything ourselves, but Sally linked us up with people and it feels easier to do it know.” Following “being hooked up with people” from consultants and the project staff they believe that they will definitely sub-contract more in the future and that it was a very important part of the project’s outcome for them.

They attended many of the seminars which they felt were very useful and although they still haven’t got their environmental credentials on the website … “it’s been good to spend more time on it and to have more information on resources/sources.”

Yunus and Eliza felt that it was difficult to measure the quantitative impacts to their business as they did not commission a new piece of Jewellery through the project but moving forward they believed that, “if the quality is raised on our products then more stockists will stock them [which leads to] more money”. They also felt that if they did it again and didn’t need the immediate help with existing products for LFW they would probably be a bit more experimental with new product designs, which could lead to exploring new markets.

In terms of less tangible impacts Yunus and Eliza felt that the project opened their eyes to fully understanding quality standards and that sub-contracting was the way to go for them in the future.

Other benefits included:

• How to access the right person for the job
• Developed a new language for communicating with industry suppliers
• Learned to ask the right questions
• Greater understanding of production on a larger scale
• Will investigate more about CAD in the future
• Gained lots of new contacts/services through the project team and the consultants such as casting, polishing, enameling, diamond cutting
• Help with orders being fulfilled for LFW “We were very pleased with the outcome and got a lot out of it, [we were] amazed that that was on offer and we wondered, “what was the catch!”

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