Your royal highness...
It’s not often you get an email saying something along the lines of “You’ve selected as one of six companies in Gloucestershire to go to Buckingham Palace to meet Prince Andrew”.
But that is what happened and Neon Play had been invited as part of the Gloucestershire Enterprise Partnership to discuss the work they are doing to promote business development in the region.
So Oli Christie, our CEO, dusted off his suit and headed up to the bright lights of London. Amazingly, we were allowed through the gates right at the front of the Queen’s home and after a security check with two coppers slightly lacking in humour, we parked our car to the side of the palace and headed into the Palace.
There were lots of footman loitering around as we all stood patiently in the waiting room, which was a bit like a dentist’s waiting room, except there were a lot of priceless paintings and furniture - and no copies of Grazia or TV Quick.
We then got summoned upstairs and we walked up a very smart carpeted staircase with stunning gold framed oil paintings, winding around a central lift (did you know there were lifts in Buckingham Palace?). And then we went into a biggish room with a large dining table and all sat down with name places to sit at (with royal crest).
Prince Andrew then came in and we all said "Good afternoon Your Royal Highness". After that, you must call him "sir". And we had a good, one hour long discussion about business in Gloucestershire, challenges in the lack of education and preparation for the job market, local enterprise schemes and lots of other interesting things.
Here is a pic of Oli in the car park at Buckingham Palace (you weren't meant to take photos, so this nearly caused a trip to the Tower of London).
Here is the official press release...
Gloucestershire's Local Enterprise Partnership has received backing of the highest order after meeting His Royal Highness The Duke of York at Buckingham Palace.
The LEP and five Gloucestershire businesses were invited to meet The Duke of York on Thursday, April 26, to discuss the work of local organisations that are supporting and promoting business development and entrepreneurial activity in the area.
Inward investment, apprenticeships and the work of the Gloucestershire Local Enterprise Partnership were on the agenda and His Royal Highness was particularly interested to hear about the efforts of local businesses to develop the skills of young people through on the job training and apprenticeships.
Chair of Gloucestershire's Local Enterprise Partnership Diane Savory said: "Since the Local Enterprise Partnership was set up in May 2011 we have been working hard to ensure that Gloucestershire is ahead of the game and its economy is growing. Getting the chance to visit The Duke of York at Buckingham Palace shows that we are being taken seriously and that Gloucestershire's LEP is leading the way."
David Owen, Chief Executive of GFirst, said: "The Duke of York, like us, is passionate about export and apprenticeships to help sustain future growth in Gloucestershire's economy. His Royal Highness was interested in some of our current initiatives and work with county businesses. We have some great companies in Gloucestershire and it was fantastic to be able to showcase some of them to The Duke of York on this visit."
Five businesspeople along with Diane Savory, David Owen, Keith Rog and Claire Edwards from GFirst, which drives Gloucestershire's LEP, were able to meet His Royal Highness.
The Duke of York held the meeting to recognise and support the good work that organisations such as GFirst are doing to help develop local business. His Royal Highness was delighted to meet with some of the county's business leaders and was keen to highlight the importance of apprenticeships and skills for young people in particular.
Roman Cooper, CEO at leading security installation and fire safety firm Allcooper Ltd and board member for Gloucestershire's Local Enterprise Partnership said: "It's reassuring that the GFirst team have been recognised for their hard work and effort. A high profile meeting like this shows that GFirst is attracting attention at the highest levels and that its work in driving economic growth in our county is having an impact."
Oli Christie, CEO of Neon Play based in Cirencester, said: "It's fantastic to have met The Duke of York who showed his support for this talented and vibrant county. There are some incredible companies in the area and Neon Play is proud to be one of the lucky few to have some face time with him. His Royal Highness was impressed with the iPhone and iPad games we showed him and it was a proud moment in our short two year history."
Pete Hutchinson, Managing Director of AGD Systems in Staverton, said: "His Royal Highness's insight and experience in helping us to focus our efforts in exporting our high tech engineered products gave us the real boost in confidence needed to realise our plans."
Pia Cato, owner of The Vanilla Pod Bakery in Cheltenham, provided some of her renowned cupcakes for the discussion.
She said: "It was a great honour to meet The Duke of York and talk to him about the challenges of having your own company. As a small business I rely on word of mouth to get me noticed and this is my best endorsement yet."
Paul Sadler, Director of Calcot Health and Leisure Ltd, said: "It was a great pleasure to have the opportunity to discuss the current state of the economy with The Duke of York and how it directly impacts on the hospitality industry, which is the country's fifth biggest employer. We were able to discuss the challenges and the opportunities that have been created in this time of uncertainty and how the tourism and hospitality industry has the potential to grow hugely if given the right stimulus and support from government."