Business West celebrates 200 years of supporting the region’s businesses

5th June 2023

Business West, one of the largest Chambers of Commerce in the UK, is celebrating two hundred years of leading and supporting businesses with a campaign entitled ‘200 Years of Future Thinking’, to mark the two centuries that have passed since the Bristol-based Chamber of Commerce was founded.

The campaign coincides with a new look brand image, fit for the future, designed by Chamber member, Tony Stiles of Studio Stiles.  

He commented: “I wanted to get across Business West’s core purpose and values with the visual identity. The colour palette of green and blue is a nod to the green and blue economy of the southwest and the sustainable future the organisation is passionate about.   

“The Business West logotype incorporates two characteristic graphics of ‘Signpost’ elements; the triangle, and the rectangle to reflect the direction that the organisation provides to businesses – guiding them on the best path for success.  The triangle always points West, emphasising Business West’s passion for this region.”


Back in 1823, Bristol was suffering, despite a major reconstruction and upgrading of Bristol Docks in 1809, from an erosion of overseas and local trade.

Now, Bristol is basking in its rejuvenation, not least in its modern-day port.

In recent decades this has been brought about through the involvement of the Chamber of Commerce – now part of Business West – along with The Bristol Initiative, a venture established in 1988, which merged with the Chamber of Commerce in 1992.

The ‘200 Years of Future Thinking’ campaign will focus on extracting information and interesting stories around key topics of international trade, skills, and innovation, which would have been important in 1823 and which will massively impact business over the next 200 years.

An additional theme of sustainability, which would not have featured 200 years ago, has been included as it has become crucial in the past few decades and perhaps the key business driver of the future.

Phil Smith, Managing Director of Business West, said:

“In 1823, a forward-looking group of businessmen, recognising the potential of connection, collaboration, and innovation, set up Bristol Chamber of Commerce.

“Over two centuries we have built on their passion for this region, nurturing entrepreneurship, innovation, and radical thinking, to make this a great place to live, learn and work. 

“So much has changed since 1823. We have learned lessons from the past, have adapted over time and spread our influence to the wider region. We recently became a B Corp which, together with our values, gives us the mandate to continue to be a force for good. It enables us to continue ‘200 Years of Future thinking’ for a better future for all.

“We are as relevant today as we were 200 years ago and these days support 20,000 businesses in the region to thrive and grow through trading overseas, innovating, upskilling their workforces, and taking action against climate change. 

“It is fitting that in our 200th year, in keeping with our legacy, we will be announcing long-term transformational projects. They range from a project to help all of the city’s communities benefit from the economic success that is Bristol, and which will also help find much needed talent for our business members, right through to a major urban regeneration project that will transform the eastern flank of our region.”

Darran Marks, Business West Initiative Member and Managing Director of Swindon IoT, a technology college based in Swindon, said:

“Being a member of Business West has been fantastic and has supported us to access more local employers which have become our anchor partners.

“Business West has led on the Local Skills Improvement Plans and has helped connect us to employers which has been invaluable in helping us to address the future skills needs of business.”

Mimi Avery, Business West Chamber Member and Brand Ambassador of Averys Wine Merchants based in Bristol, said:

“I’ve been a member of the Chamber for 23 years now. The personal interaction with other businesses is so valuable.

“It's been a fantastic place to meet people. If I needed help with exporting for example, I knew where to come. The networking opportunities have been great. They're fantastic facilitators.”

Nick Hounsfield, founder of The Wave, an inland surfing lake based in Bristol, and Business West Chamber Member, said:

“Having a network of people which you can trust and rely on and pick up the phone to is important as a business owner. 

“I feel people are starting to care in business more. People are more conscious around issues like diversity and equality and that’s why being part of a strong business community is so important because you can have those complex discussions together.”

Poku Osei, Non-Executive Director of Business West and founder of Babbasa, a Bristol-based social enterprise that supports young people (16-25) with their professional aspirations, said:

“Businesses need certainty to be impactful, whether that certainty is provided by the Chambers of Commerce or government supporting businesses to plan. 

“The second thing needed is access to talent. I think that's key. 

“We need business voices to be strengthened, by bringing them together through organisations like Business West, unconstrained by politics. It's only when we have that voice that we can start to see the picture of where our economy can be and how subsequently that can impact the society that we all live in.”

Greg Pilley, founder of Stroud Brewery, an organic brewery based in Stroud in Gloucestershire, said:

“Being a member of Business West Chamber as a B Corp allows us to share good practice and learn from others, multiplying the benefits that we can improve on in the region.”

To find out more about the history of Business West and the origins of Bristol Chamber of Commerce visit this page.

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