WALKING into the Business Innovation South Expo (#BIS2021), you were hit by the buzz in the room and the sheer joy of meeting face to face once again. 

After such a challenging 20 months and with so much support from the original exhibitors and sponsors, founder Lara Bull admitted she was completely focused on delivering a safe space where business could be done - and with such positive feedback from those who were there, it’s clear she succeeded in her quest.     

“The aim was to create a covid safe bubble providing the opportunity for businesses to showcase themselves – a vibrant event where old acquaintances could be renewed and fresh contacts made,” she said.  

“With the uncertainty of how the winter will pan out in terms of Covid cases, I am truly grateful to all the visitors and exhibitors who showed their support for the event – I think we all mentally drew a line and stepped over because we go into this winter in a very different position with a huge number of the population double vaccinated, a top-up being rolled out for over-50s and now a single vaccination for children above 12."

Nearly 70 exhibitors covering more than 45 sectors/services showcased the latest technology, products and services at the Business Innovation South expo #BIS2021 held at the Hilton at the Ageas Bowl, with highlights including IBM, the Energy and Climate Change Group, Education Innovation UK CIC and a Tomorrow's Business World section. 

Craig Ormerod, business development director at TUV SUD, said his company was delighted to be involved. 

“After a long wait it was great to be back at the Business Innovation South Expo. The event location was excellent, and it proved to be a great opportunity for meeting up again with local companies and seeing first-hand what exciting innovation is happening right on our doorstep," he said.

"We were pleased to be supporting the Tomorrow’s Business World zone at the event, although we work with a range of global clients, we feel that it is important to support local business and universities to ensure that through collaboration we can help drive innovation to ensure the future of industry.” 

Ashley Fernandes, managing director of Colva Tech, said: "As Headline Sponsor it was a great opportunity for us to showcase Colva Tech and the IT support services we offer. The event was incredibly well organised from start to finish and the COVID safety measures were excellent." 

Danielle Stevenson, operations manager at Netshell, who created the app for #BIS2021, said: “This is our second year exhibiting at Business Innovation South and it was fantastic to be back meeting other business owners and potential new customers in person. 

“We’ve had some brilliant conversations which have turned into interesting opportunities since the show.” 

Clare Ede, co-owner of Madfrog, said: "Madfrog were delighted to be given the opportunity to be the Digital Campaign Sponsor for the Business Innovation South Expo. It was the first exhibition we have done since 2019 and it was great to be back.  

“We had a really good day and spoke to lots of people, many of whom we have been connected with on platforms such as LinkedIn or met via online networking events and we came away with a number of interesting leads to follow up.” 

Emma Sly, creative services account manager at Greenhouse Graphics, said: “This was our first time exhibiting since Covid and the measures Lara and her team took for the Business Innovations South Expo made the whole experience feel incredibly safe and in turn extremely relaxed and friendly, everyone we spoke to on the day was really pleased to be there and to be able to meet and talk to people face to face.  “We were delighted for the opportunity to sponsor the print element and also showcase our sustainable exhibition stand made from completely recyclable materials, which attracted much attention and great comments; and having produced many of the graphics for the show itself also using sustainable materials, it was great for us to be able offer some advice and ideas to fellow exhibitors looking to improve their carbon footprint and stand out from the crowd.” 

Steve Hathaway, chief executive of FeverCheckerPro, said: “Having personally been responsible for attending exhibitions both nationally and internationally for several decades, Lara and her team undoubtedly are shining lights and a leading example of slick organisation, infectious enthusiasm and genuine care to create a wonderful exhibition experience at Business Innovation South.  

“The attention to detail by all of the team from entry to refreshments and networking was exemplary with their ‘nothings too much trouble’ approach. Well done and a very big ‘thank you’ to Lara and all her team.” 

Looking back on the event, Lara said: “There was a wonderful buzz that settled instantly upon the expo hall from 7am, and it was great to know that I created that opportunity – as companies booked stands I could see the growing potential for business to be done amongst the exhibitors themselves before any visitors had walked through the door, it is huge, and should not be underestimated and this is why I created the exhibitor portal as a permanent benefit – it allows exhibitors to create a company profile and reach out directly to each other both before and after the event.” 

And looking ahead, Lara is already planning for #BIS2022. 

“It has been a tough time being such a small company, i.e. just me, as I fell through every safety net put out by the chancellor and then like many insurers, mine would not pay out on business interruption,” she said. 

“Having 15 sponsors was amazing and the exhibitors have been so supportive with date changes and how the event evolved and now here we are planning #BIS2022, with potentially three new zones, a waiting list of companies looking to book when we launch and companies approaching me to be involved as sponsors – I couldn’t be happier and look forward to having a small rest and getting straight back into planning a bigger and even better expo for next year,” she said.