By entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs

Connect Board

Nick Butler Nick Butler, Connect Gazelles CEO
Nick having trained in the City, worked for many years as a corporate lawyer at DLA Piper in Leeds, during which time he dealt with mergers and acquisitions, floatations and VC transactions culminating in the award of the Dealmaker of the Decade title by Insider magazine in 2001. In 2001 he co-founded Connect Yorkshire as a not for profit organisation and created the Connect Gazelles in 2011 which enables Yorkshire's ambitious companies to learn from over 40 of Yorkshire's most successful entrepreneurs and grow. Nick was shortlisted for the Yorkshire Ambassador Award at last year's Business Masters Yorkshire awards.
Neil Ewin Neil Ewin, Connect Gazelles Chairman

While researching for his MPhil at Sheffield Polytechnic during the mid 80s, Neil became involved with a local law firm and developed a conveyancing system for them. On completion of his Masters, Neil formed Solicitec (later renamed Visualfiles) to further develop and sell legal application software. The company grew to become the UK’s largest legal software specialist and was purchased by Lexis Nexis in 2006. Neil continued to work for the US parent company as VP of Information technology strategy until 2008 when he formed EW Development LLP with his previous business partner Mark Woodward with the aim of providing early stage investment and development advice to Yorkshire companies. Through EW Development, Neil has made a number of investments in fields as diverse as Drug research (Retrogenix Limited), Fine Furniture design (Neal Jones Furniture), High efficiency lighting solutions (Carbon Reduction Technology), Software (Intuitive Business Intelligence), Construction (Oaklands Properties Limited) and a French restaurant (Le Box, Boston Spa).

Jacqui Hall Jacqui Hall,

Jacqui joined CNG (Contract Natural Gas) in January 1998 when it had a turnover of £2m, became the interim CEO in 2004, the CEO in 2006 and since then has taken CNG to a current turnover of £240m with 104 staff and a 4% share of the commercial gas supply market. The company has grown by 20% pa and is the 8th biggest commercial supplier of gas meters in the country. In 2011 Jacqui led a management buyout from the family of the founder, the last stage of which was completed early in 2013. Supplying throughout the UK, CNG’s aim is to be the business gas supplier of choice - the real alternative to the BIG 6.

David Longbottom David Longbottom,

From a modest start at his father's butchers shop in Bradford, by 2005 David had built Pro-Pak Foods Limited into a business turning over £30m. After leaving school and college he joined a food processing business in Malton and became their factory manager by the age of 25. He and a colleague at the factory set up Pro-Pak and started by slicing meat as a sub-contractor but after 2 years managed to accumulate enough cash to be able to buy and slice their own meats at a much better margin. It was a highly competitive market so they moved into ready made meals which they sold mainly to small shops and convenience stores; their products had a shelf life of 21 days as opposed to most of the other ready meals only had 10 days shelf life. In 2001 he bought out his partner, moved into a new factory and in 2005 sold the company. David worked for the purchaser for 3 years and since leaving them has invested in several ventures.

Richard Moran Richard Moran,

Named by Chambers as one of the leading corporate lawyers in mergers and acquisitions, Richard is the head of business services at law firm Clarion where he has been a key member of the Clarion team for over 20 years. He has built a professional services offering around being trusted adviser to a significant number of corporates and entrepreneurs. 

Paul Rose FIoD Paul Rose FIoD,

Paul P Rose FIoD - CEO – Rixonway Kitchens, Paul’s background is Sales and marketing and he has over 30 years’ experience in manufacturing businesses in the building products sector. Paul joined Rixonway as Sales and Marketing Director in 1992. He was a key member of the management team that exited 2 VC’s during the mid 1990’s and in 2006 he led the MBO of Rixonway Kitchens, as CEO the business has more than doubled in size, employing 460 people and with a turnover of c£40m. In December 2014 Paul and the PE backers sold the business to the large Swedish Group Nobia in a deal worth £34m. 

Gerard Toplass Gerard Toplass,

Gerard Toplass started his career by becoming the youngest chartered accountant in England and Wales. After a few years in corporate finance at KPMG buying and selling companies, Gerard worked in industry for several years before he met Colin Chisholm and they went into partnership in Chisholm Computers. Gerard started selling computers on the phone and they eventually built Chisholm into a major supplier to the education sector with a factory in Hull making two thousand computers a month, employing 90 staff and turning over £20m before selling it in 2005 in an £8m deal. More recently Gerard acquired Claughtons Office Furniture, which primarily is a supplier to the education sector and in 2014 he created Frillo, an online supplier of all that businesses need. Gerard now invests and mentors businesses in the Education or IT sectors.