Five minutes with…Paul Borroughs

It’s taken a while, but our Chair, Paul Borroughs, shares his thoughts on what makes him tick, what he loves about Felixstowe and why he signed up to the daunting task of leading our growing Chamber on its current and future journey. Here goes…

Why did you join Felixstowe Chamber of Commerce?

I started my own business in 1999 and joined Suffolk Chamber of Commerce soon after. They were our region’s British Chamber of Commerce-accredited member and gave me access to the export documentation services needed by my freight forwarding and logistics business. We also joined the Felixstowe Port Users Association, which was suited to my sector for networking and relevant information for our business activities.

I attended my first Felixstowe Chamber of Commerce event in 2019 to support a business partner operating in a non-freight sector to see if it would be beneficial in finding contacts to grow our new venture.

Soon after COVID hit, Felixstowe Chamber members and its Committee dwindled down and the Chair and Business Officer resigned in 2021.

A new Chair was elected and a new Business Officer was employed, but COVID was still a major hinderance, and both resigned in 2022.

During that time, I’d agreed to be Vice-Chair, but I made it clear that I had no interest or time for the role of Chair. But a new Chair wasn’t elected at the 2022 AGM. Other than myself, there was only one other original member remaining on the Committee, and he was dealing with some personal circumstances which meant that, understandably, he needed a break from his Chamber duties.

According to the records that I’ve found, Felixstowe Chamber of Commerce (known then as ‘Felixstowe & Walton Chamber of Trade’) was established between 1904 and 1914; clearly, a heritage that should be kept alive. And if I, too, resigned, it would probably be the final nail in the coffin.

Fortunately, a new Business Officer was employed and two new members of the Committee had agreed to join, following the exit of the previous Chair. But I (and the other remaining Committee member) had not met any of them!

Soon after the 2022 AGM, I arranged a meeting, explaining the challenging situation that the Chamber was in, and offered to lead us on the path to refocussing and rebuilding. However, that evening, one of the two new Committee members resigned!

Luckily, the other two members, Amanda Oliver and Rachael Jackson, decided to stick with it and joined me in the quest. And I’d say that we are succeeding. We now have around 80 members and a Committee of 10. We’re stronger and more useful to our local business community than ever before.

And we’re still growing, improving and looking for ways for Felixstowe Chamber of Commerce to be the asset that our town and business community rightly deserve.

What would you describe as the key strengths of the Chamber?

We’ve changed considerably over the years, and now have strong representation from all the vibrant business sectors in our town, from haulage, logistics and shipping, to HR, recruitment, travel and tourism.

I’ve usually found business events too formal, rarely interesting and attended by people I’m not interested in working with. So, we make a big effort to do the exact opposite; fun, interesting, not too ‘stuffy’ and a mix of all kinds of people, ages, trades and industries.

We try to keep the locations varied, interesting and current. As commitments prevent some people attending at certain times of the day, we host breakfast, brunch and soiree events.

Our Committee involves itself in various forums, including the influential Policy Groups run by Suffolk Chamber of Commerce – Economy / Transport and Infrastructure / Suffolk Business Women / Net Zero / International Trade / People and Skills – so that we can keep our members of up-to-speed on any important changes on the horizon.

And we seek a variety of speakers to inform, inspire and create debate on a wide range of issues that affect the business community, from mental wellbeing to menopause to emergency First Aid in the workplace.

Aside from the Chamber, what other interests do you have?

Loads, but primarily, my family, keeping fit through martial arts and my businesses.

What do you like most about Felixstowe?

I like that we have a microclimate. It’s usually drier and warmer, but with the sea breeze; a little cooler during the heatwaves.

I also enjoy the fact that Felixstowe is almost like a village and you can go out and about and bump into people you know.

With easy access to nature, the beach, the countryside and the rivers.

And, of course, our Port and the business opportunities that it’s given me during my career.