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Fledgling South West businesses take to the skies
after winning bmi regional Seats for Start Ups competition

Winners of Seats for Start Ups’s gather at Bristol Airport.  L-R: Rich Woolley – Paperclip, Jamie Douglas – UKTI, Elaine Gibbins - bmi regional, Frank Mertens – bmi regional, Gemma Chapman - Wild Foresters, Brett Peterson - Bristol Aero
bmi regional, Engine Shed and UK Trade & Investment recently launched an exciting new initiative to get new businesses in the South West off the ground, both commercially and literally!  Three winners gathered last week at Bristol Airport together with two members of the bmi regional marketing team, Frank Mertens and Elaine Gibbins and a representative from UKTI, Jamie Douglas. The Seats for Start Ups competition is aimed at young enterprises in the South West who want to expand into new UK and European markets and for whom face to face access to their key markets would be a real bonus. 

Gemma Chapman of Wildforesters launched a forest school business and applied for the project to enable her to grow and franchise the business.  Commenting on her win, Gemma said: “We’re so excited to have been selected as one of the recipients of Seats for Start Ups.  We are hoping to visit a German Forest School to enable us to develop a link in Europe and with these flights we are now able to travel there without the cost – as any small business owner will know paying for things such as flights is often tricky on a small budget.  bmi regional flies to four different cities in Germany so this really is an amazing opportunity for us.”  

Rich Woolley is the founder of Paperclip, a mobile phone app which allows users to buy, sell, swap and freecycle. He said: “We’re currently working on a brand new version of our app which we plan to launch this year.  We recently opened a franchise in the Czech Republic and are hoping to gain a stronghold in Eastern Europe.  Our development team are based in Brno and with bmi regional’s links into Brno via Munich, we can easily get there from Bristol.  This will enable us to travel there without having to worry about costs, which is a massive bonus right now as we’re putting everything into the business to develop our technology.”  

Each month up to three new businesses can win return flights to Europe on bmi regional’s network from Bristol to Paris, Aberdeen, Milan, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg and Dusseldorf offering more than 150 weekly flights scheduled at optimised timings for business travellers.   

The competition is open to any local business that has been trading less than five years and with a turnover of less than £500k per annum.  So far six lucky businesses have been the recipients of the initiative, which as part of the overall package will also benefit from a one hour consultation with an expert coach at UKTI to provide invaluable advice about business growth.  

“UKTI is delighted to be partnering with bmi regional and Engine Shed to support the Seats for Start Ups competition to bring direct, practical support to some of the South-West’s most innovative and ambitious companies, helping them to implement their international growth plans, said South West Regional Director, Jason Carter.

How to Enter:
All businesses need to do to win the flights is to describe in less than 500 words who they are, where they want to go and what they hope to achieve by going there.  Applications are open now. Further terms and conditions apply. To enter, visit:

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