Little thinks big as ExecSpace wins two-year deal with Standard Life

Emma Little: aiming to recruit four further workers next year
Emma Little: aiming to recruit four further workers next year
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A FAST-GROWING business in Edinburgh that books venues for conferences and meetings has signed its biggest deal to date by winning a two-year contract with insurance and pensions giant Standard Life.

ExecSpace, which was founded by managing director Emma Little four years ago, lists blue-chip companies including Aggreko, Balfour Beatty and Cairn Energy among its clients. Now Little, 34, has sealed a UK-wide deal with Standard Life, which will see ExecSpace booking rooms for conferences, meetings and events for the Edinburgh-based financial services firm.

Little remained tight-lipped over the value of the contract but told Scotland on Sunday: “This really is the biggest break we’ve had. This is a real milestone for the business.”

ExecSpace – which counts Grant Thornton, Shepherd & Wedderburn and Vodafone among its customers – expects to turn over about £3.2m this year, up from £2.5m last year, and is targeting £5m of revenues in 2013.

Little, who has nine members of staff, aims to recruit a further four workers next year as she continues to grow the business.

After walking away from a six-figure business angel investment deal last year, Little revealed that she is now ready to start pitching for £350,000 of funding.

“I’ve always been committed to organic growth, but we’re now starting to approach the stage where an investment would help to take the business to the next level,” she said. “We could still grow without it but I think the time has now come to take on external investment.

“I still want to deliver the same kind of face-to-face service for our clients, but I’m also looking to bring in other experts from the events industry who will have their own contacts and will be able to help grow the business.”

Her expansion plans have already taken the business around the UK, with its main operations in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London, but also covering other cities such as Aberdeen and Birmingham.

Little said she spends time in London every six weeks visiting clients and looking at potential venues. Little came up with the idea for ExecSpace after seeing how much work her own personal assistant had to do to organise sales meetings, away-days and accommodation.

She gave up her job as a sales executive with Vodafone and started the business with £40,000 of her own cash.

Banking funding then came from HSBC after six other lenders had turned down Little’s applications.