The development of the ancient City of London was based on its role as a trading centre, and entrepreneurship was a cornerstone of this success. Both the Company of Merchant Adventurers and Society of Merchant Venturers perpetuated the distinct craft of entrepreneurship in York and Bristol respectively, but there was, in recent history, no comparable extant organisation in London.
In the early 21st Century, in many ways the City was recapturing some of its trading origins alongside its established global role in financial and professional services. The repurposing of once large banking halls, the growth of the business centre market and the development of technology were again making the City and the surrounding area more accessible to new types of entrepreneurial activity including media, textiles, communications, retail and leisure. This entrepreneurial activity was extending into neighbourhoods such as Smithfield, Shoreditch, Spitalfields and Borough on the City fringes where small business growth was already being supported by initiatives from the City of London Corporation and its formal partners along with the Angel and Venture Capital market. The City was alive with business networks, investment clubs, technology meetings and associations, suggesting that there were many thousands of Entrepreneurs with an affinity with the City of London.
The leading proposer for the formation of the Guild of Entrepreneurs, the serial finance and communications entrepreneur Dan Doherty (a liveryman of the Needlemakers’ Company), had already founded and was running a successful informal group for Entrepreneurs called “Entrepreneurs – City of London Network”. The Network met regularly at the London Capital Club in the City, and had always linked its activities to promoting enterprise in and around the City, appreciated the City’s civic activities, supported charity and pro-bono work and hosted events in City venues. The membership of this group included a number of liverymen of the City’s Livery Companies, and from amongst them and others, the Founding Committee of the proposed Guild was drawn.
With able assistance from the Chamberlain’s Court and from Adele Thorpe (an experienced liveryman and Clerk of many years’ standing) a proposal document, accompanied by numerous letters of support from amongst the City Livery Companies, academic institutions and businesses, was drawn up and delivered to the Court of Aldermen. Approval was given for the formation of a new Guild on July 8th, 2014.
Formal working party meetings were held in August and September to approve the rules and suggested governance of the Guild, and on September 8th, 2014, the Guild’s first Court Meeting was held at the Old Bailey, with the following Founding Freemen elected to serve as Court Assistants:
- Dan Doherty
- Judith Donovan CBE
- Neil Fullbrook
- Rupa Ganatra
- Alderman Peter Hewitt
- Alderman Sir Paul Judge
- Rick Lowe
- Neil Partridge
- Lee Robertson
- Fiona Taylor
- Ian Taylor
Sir Paul Judge, who was at that time serving his shrieval year, had been the Guild’s sponsoring Alderman, and Dan Doherty proposed that Sir Paul be installed as the Guild’s Foundation Master. The Court approved this, and the following officers were elected to serve for the first year:
- Master: Alderman Sir Paul Judge
- Senior Warden: Dan Doherty
- Middle Warden: Judith Donovan CBE
- Junior Warden: Alderman Peter Hewitt
In addition to those elected to serve as Court Assistants, the Guild also recognised the support of the following Founding Freemen:
- Lord Bilimoria, CBE DL
- Ben Camera
- Dieter R Klostermann
- Cyrus Todiwala, OBE DL
- Pervin Toidwala
On November 17th, 2014, to coincide with Global Entrepreneurship Week, the newly established Guild of Entrepreneurs hosted its first annual lecture. This inaugural event was delivered by a panel of business and livery leaders at the London Capital Club (who had agreed to become one of the Guild’s foundation sponsors) who facilitated a very lively discussion on the “Art & Mysterie of the Entrepreneur”.
Days later on November 24th, 2014, the Guild had its official launch at Ironmongers’ Hall. In the presence of the Rt. Hon. the Lord Mayor, the Sheriffs, Masters and Clerks representing over half of the City’s (then) 110 Livery companies, as well as numerous guests, this historic ceremonial occasion lived long in the memories of those who were there – not least due to the rousing cheers of “Welcome Entrepreneurs!” that rang out that evening. It was on this occasion that the Foundation Master was installed, and the Wardens and Court sworn-in, and it is on or around November 24th each year that each new Master is Installed.