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Homepage / The importance of big ideas: How small businesses can maximise their impact

The importance of big ideas: How small businesses can maximise their impact


Every year the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship hosts our annual entrepreneurship conference VentureDay. We are proud to have some small and medium enterprise (SME) owners on staff, including Heni Cloake and Gabriela Pearson, who share their SME journey below.

Heni Cloake, Team Administrator and Founder – The Refill, Leighton Buzzard.

“I set up The Refill during the 2020 pandemic as a market stall and mobile rounds business. It expanded to a small shop in 2021 and quickly outgrew that space. I’ve just opened a bigger shop – it was daunting with the current climate, but being part of the Cranfield community gave me confidence that it was the right move, and already it’s been paying off!   

“Engaging with big ideas has always been a key driver for my business. When I started the business, I listened to many podcasts to help inform the values and knowledge around sustainability and joined local networking groups. Even though we were growing in 2022, I started to feel stuck and burnt out by the increasing unpredictability of the economy and the pressure of how to be a truly sustainable business.

“Joining Cranfield and connecting with the wealth of experts at the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship and the Sustainable Business Group gave me fresh perspectives in an engaging way. The big ideas, backed with research and experience, unlocked a new wave of motivation for me in how I could make my business expand with resilience. More than that, building these relationships and having these conversations in person made me realise that growth in these uncertain times is possible.  

“I’m looking forward to VentureDay 2023 because of the range of topics it covers. Being a sustainable business, I’m curious about what will come up in the purpose and sustainability sessions. But I’m most looking forward to the session on ‘New technology frontiers – It’s not all about ChatGPT’ and ‘Staying ahead in digital – Strategies to win in competitive times’ to see how I can develop these skills and tools to connect our purpose to our target customers.” 

Gabriela Pearson, Communication Co-ordinator at School of Management, Co-founder, Chief Impact Officer – Foxy Wings, Bedford.

“Since joining Cranfield University in 2019, I have also set up my own business in Bedford. What started as a small lockdown project during Covid, a home kitchen, grew quickly. Now Foxy Wings is in its second year of business, in a 100-seater site on the river, employing 30 people and generating close to £1 million in revenue annually.  

“Being part of Cranfield University and having access to programmes such as Ready for Scale, countless Entrepreneurship Speaker Series, and Sustainability Network Speaker Series, and conferences like VentureDay have been crucial to the success of our small business.  

“This year, VentureDay tackles big ideas to move from survival mode to thriving. Every session is jam-packed with powerful research insights from our academics combined with years of experience and expertise from successful business leaders.  

“As a crowdfunded business looking to grow, I particularly look forward to the panel session on ‘Fundraising in a challenging market – Reimagining traditional approaches.’ And being in the hospitality industry that disproportionately struggles with mental health issues, I look forward to the session on ‘Promoting positive mental health – Building on solid foundations.’ 

“If your business is going through a period of growth like mine, I highly recommend this local conference as a chance to spend a day listening and reflecting. Attending an event like VentureDay is a chance to step out of the chaos of start-up life, be inspired, take control, and create the kind of company you are proud of.”

We invite entrepreneurs, investors, industry professionals, and students passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation to attend VentureDay 2023.

Sign up for VentureDay


Heni Cloake and Gabriela Pearson

Written By: Tammie Argent-Peters

Bettany Centre of Entrepreneurship, Cranfield School of Management

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