Karelia Network Solutions – a Colbea Success Story

Stephen’s business benefited from “Business advice and affordable, high-quality business premises”

“I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have been able to get to the point I am today of having an office within six months, employing people within a year, without the existence of Colbea.”

Stephen Warne started Karelia Network Solutions, an IT business offering infrastructure monitoring and management, in April 2013. Within two and a half years the business can already boast long-term managed service contracts with four major NHS trusts, as well as a host of consultancy work within a wide range of industries including aviation, communications, finance and legal.

Stephen first spoke to Colbea early in 2013.

“I was introduced to Business Advisor Keith Powell. We talked about the structure of the business, and he introduced me to the whole concept of a business plan and financial planning.”

Stephen’s next step at Colbea was to join the Business Improvement Group (BIG), “You get to hear a lot of expert speakers on a whole variety of subjects. That has been extremely useful, as it’s covered everything, from marketing to social media, time management, financial planning, advertising, a huge range of subject matter, which in the early days was very very useful. I’m still a member, and I’ve done a 10-minute pitch of my own business there, which is another advantage, you get to know what/how other people in the same boat are doing. The BIG group has also been the beginning of some enduring business relationships.”

It wasn’t long before Karelia was ready for its first office.

Stephen Warne Benefited from Colbea's Free Colchester Business Training

“Originally I traded from home, but I could see that things were starting to ramp up and that I would soon need to take people on, and I starting looking around at offices. Just everything about the North Colchester Business Centre was right for my business. The location, the price, the support, the availability of meeting rooms, a kitchen. The actual place itself for a high-tech business such as ourselves, compared to some of the other premises that I’d been looking at, it was absolutely the right environment. The whole facility is perfect for a growing IT business.”

Having grown quickly into one of Colbea’s success stories, Stephen was asked to represent Colbea at the launch of Dengie Enterprise Support. Speaking about the positive impact Colbea has had on the business, he labelled Colbea a “Business enabler” and was delighted to find himself quoted on MP John Whittingdale’s website.

As a provider and advocate of training, Colbea is delighted to learn that Stephen attributes a strong proportion of success to staff training, citing “the amount of my time and energy I’ve invested into it.” “My staff receive pretty much a Rolls-Royce training programme, both internally and externally. One of them has attended a training course in Lucerne in Switzerland while myself and another employee have attended a weeklong conference with a major software vendor in Las Vegas.” But it wasn’t all a big party, according to Stephen. “It was hard work actually; you would not believe. There’s people making sure you turn up to the training courses and events!”

This success has allowed Karelia and Stephen to start giving back to the local business community that supported them in the early days. Having had great success in taking on graduates from the University of Essex, Stephen has since built a partnership with the University, taking a judging role on their computer science final year project awards two years running, as well joining a collection of local employers from the technology sector asked to give input towards a resume students can produce for prospective employers, guiding the next generation in finding their career in the industry.

The Mayflower Project is another area in which Stephen and Karelia have been able to give back to the community. “The Mayflower boat, on which the Pilgrims sailed from Plymouth to America in 1620, was actually built in Harwich. The Mayflower Project is building a replica to sail to America in 2020, following the journey of the founding fathers.” Karelia has transitioned the project to a new email system and is providing continuing general IT support. “We’re keen on the project. It’s generating lots of training opportunities for young people in Harwich.” Karelia is also a corporate sponsor for the Mercury Theatre, combining supporting local organisations with Stephen’s keen interest in the arts.

What has been the most useful aspect of Stephen’s Colbea experience?

“A combination of the advice and the affordable, high-quality business premises. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have been able to get to the point I am today of having an office within six months, employing people within a year, without the existence of Colbea. I think this could have taken a lot longer without Colbea. Unless that support is there, it is very difficult to take an office and get the ball rolling.”