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Simone went into business with her brother Arthur and his university friend Alastair in 1991. Previously, Simone and Arthur’s father ran a thriving stationery and office equipment group, but sadly, just as it was gearing up for growth, the recession of the late 80s hit.
The company was put into receivership in 1991, so Simone, Arthur and Alastair stepped up to the challenge and relaunched as Commercial. At that time, they focused exclusively on business-to-business stationery, copiers and office furniture, starting life in a one-room, one-phone office.
Arthur had already been working in his father’s business, but Simone had to make some sacrifices. She’d been competing as an international swimmer since the age of 15, winning two gold medals in the World Student Games and another for the UK at the 1986 Commonwealth Games. After the Commonwealth Games, she embarked on a career in fashion but this had to be cut short when she was asked to join Commercial full time. The personal strength and tenacity she’d developed in her sport ultimately played a fundamental role in the company’s future success.
Fast forward 27 years to 2018, and the business now employs almost 300 people across three locations and offers a broad portfolio including IT services, managed print services, print, workwear, interiors and technology as well as office supplies. The three founders are still at the helm, and their personal characteristics are very much evident in the business.
Simone was responsible for steering the business ethos towards a more sustainable stance following her ‘Al Gore moment’ in 2006. After attending one of his An Inconvenient Truth lectures with longstanding client Sky, she arranged company-wide viewings of the documentary version and persuaded the Board that ‘sustainability and profitability had to go hand-in-hand’.
It was a critical turning point. Since those early days of C02 reduction, Commercial has made the transition to a leading light of sustainable business in the UK. This was firmly underlined in 2018 when the business won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development.
Today, environmental aspects of sustainability are still at the forefront of Commercial’s agenda. It’s currently in the early stages of an ambitious programme to eradicate single-use plastic from the supply chain, and it continues to take part in ground-breaking trials of low-emission delivery vehicles. But social sustainability takes an equal footing. In 2015, the business founded a social enterprise, Commercial Foundation, to help disadvantaged young people develop personal resilience and practical workplace skills via its NoLimits programme.
Commercial Foundation is close to becoming self-sufficient, thanks to the success of its print offering, We Do. Print where the young people benefit from life-changing work experience opportunities. Recently, the Commercial Foundation model has evolved again offering young people the chance to develop valuable technology skills. They work with IT Schools Africa to overhaul and upgrade computer equipment that Commercial IT Services’ clients no longer require after systems upgrades. The computers are then shipped to Africa where they enrich the learning opportunities of schoolchildren.
Simone recently took on the new role of Managing Director at Commercial, to focus her efforts as the business heads towards its £100m milestone target. Her achievements are testament to the fact that when strong values and strong business sense work in unison, the results can be transformational.
Wayne was born in 1961 in the typical seaside town, Morecambe.
Maybe not the most appropriate surroundings for one of Britain’s most acclaimed designers, but then Wayne never has been very appropriate anyway. Wayne’s earliest memories are of his mum and Nan dressing him up as Elvis, a Beatle or Tarzan and being paraded up and down Morecambe pier (evidence available!) or being held aloft in a wrestling ring by his Red Indian father, Billy Two Rivers.
These early child-modelling stints went some way towards influencing the youth who was forever experimenting with styles and cultures and reinventing himself whenever the next big “thing” came along.
In 1979 he went on to undertake another “inappropriate” move for a future fashion designer by gaining a Degree in Geography and Town Planning at University College, London. The move that sealed Wayne’s fate was taken to fuel funds for the band that he then played in (he says that he’s burned the evidence but we know where it is!). One day he decided to empty his wardrobe and that of his childhood sweetheart (now wife Gerardine) and took the contents to sell on Camden Market.
The realization that money could be made from fashion suddenly dawned. With Gerardine, Wayne built Red or Dead into a label that received global acclaim resulting in winning the prestigious British Fashion Council’s Streetstyle Designer of the Year Award for an unprecedented 3 consecutive years in 1996, 1997 and 1998. After 21 consecutive seasons on the catwalk at London Fashion Week, Wayne and Gerardine sold Red or Dead in a multi million cash sale.
In 1999, having sold Red or Dead they set up HemingwayDesign, which specializes in affordable and social design. The highest profile project is, The Staiths South Bank, a 800 property mass market housing project on Tyneside for Taylor Wimpey Homes where HemingwayDesign are involved from the master planning, the architecture through to the landscaping and marketing of this groundbreaking project. Over 400 homes are now lived in and The Staiths has won a series of high profile awards including Housing Design Awards (best large project) and Building Magazine’s “Best Housing-Led Regeneration Project” as well as a Building For Life and the highest rating of any large-scale scheme in a recent CABE audit.
Other housing projects include a new settlement of 3000 homes in Lothian and a city centre affordable apartment regeneration in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, The Birchin. Working with Taylor Wimpey and Broadway Malyan they worked on the masterplan for one of the first Thames Gateway schemes in Dartford and won against stiff opposition.
The “Bridge” scheme is currently in the second phase of construction, first residents have moved in and it continues to sell well.
Wayne is the Chairman of Building for Life, a CABE (Commission for Architecture and The Built Environment) funded organization that promotes excellence in the quality of design of new housing. www.buildingforlife.org.
He got an MBE in June 06 Queens Birthday List, is a Professor in The Built Environment Department of Northumbria University, a Doctor of Design at Wolverhampton , Lancaster and Stafford and a Fellow of Blackburn College (Just call him Prof Doc, Doc , Doc Wayne Hemingway MA, BSc Esquire).
Ed Gillespie is a writer, communications specialist, serial entrepreneur and futurist.He is the author of ‘Only Planet – a flight-free adventure around the world’ a book about his circumnavigation of the globe without getting on a plane, which the Independent said “Allow[s] the world’s flaws and beauty to seep into your soul”.
Ed’s core talent is to take the complex, interconnected, interdependent nature of the many challenges the world faces, from climate change to disruptive innovation, and make common sense of them for non-specialist audiences.
Ed is co-founder of Futerra, a change agency that specialises in business transformation and creative communications and campaigns. For the last seventeen years Futerra has become internationally renowned for it’s influential and award-winning work on some of the biggest corporate sustainability initiatives, from Unilever’s ‘Sustainable Living Plan’, through Mondelez’s ‘Coffee Made Happy’ to SAB Miller’s ‘Prosper’.
Professionally Ed is known for his own unique brand of authentic ‘insultancy’ – being strategically rude to clients, with judicious wit and wisdom to inspire them to greater heights and aspirations. He is highly adaptable, constructively challenging and pushes audience assumptions of business as usual, opening minds then mapping possible practical solutions and opportunities.
Ed is also actively involved in a number of pioneering businesses as a Director or Investor, from Zero Carbon Food, a renewable energy powered, LED-lit, hydroponic farm in a disused underground tunnel in South London, to Loco2.com a pan European rail-ticket agency that makes it as easy to book a trans-continental train as a plane.