St Neots: early success for creative venture

THE first fledgling business from the �2million Creative Exchange in St Neots has spread its wings and flown as far as a barn in Abbotsley.

THE first fledgling business from the �2million Creative Exchange in St Neots has spread its wings and flown as far as a barn in Abbotsley.

But, in spite of keeping a foothold in its nest on the Longsands campus, the award-winning website and design company has taken with it major contracts with software giants Microsoft and Apple and market-leading hardware manufacturer Cisco.

Blue Prawn, which was an award-winner in last year’s Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Business of the Year Awards, had already moved from the spare bedroom of founder and managing director Mark Davis’s home into what was then the brand-new Creative Exchange.

Then he colonised a second chunk of space before realising that, with blue-chip clients such as Microsoft and Cisco, the company also needed its own space.

There are now 10 businesses operating from the Creative Exchange, which was a brainchild of Huntingdonshire District Council as a cradle for new creative businesses, and was backed by Cambridgeshire County Council, the public-private Greater Cambridge Partnership and by the previous Government through the East of England Development Agency – now threatened with abolition in spite of its spectacularly cost-effective success.

The Exchange provides office space and shared workspace for businesses in the creative industries, delivering services such as web, software, visual design and marketing, and photography.

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The building has won several awards, including Best Sustainable Development for the region by the Local Authority Building Control East Anglia Building Excellence Awards; the Royal Institute of British Architects award for architectural excellence; and the British Construction Industry’s local authority award. It was also shortlisted for the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s better public building award.

An innovative new-business competition, run jointly by The Hunts Post and HDC, enabled the winner Matthew Ryan to start up his own business making and repairing boat covers and canopies.

As part of his prize, Matthew was given access to a �10,000 range of expert support in areas such as marketing and sales, legal advice, advertising and accounts, as well as free space at the Creative Exchange for the first year. His company, A & M Covers Ltd, is prospering.

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