Youngest Sheffield Chamber President encourages youth enterprise and entrepreneurship

The youngest ever Sheffield Chamber of Commerce President – and a former teenage entrepreneur – has taken the chains of office pledging to encourage youth enterprise.

The joint MD of Universal Office Products (UOP) Steve Manley took on the role at Sheffield Chamber’s AGM, with the 43-year-old outlining his plans for the coming year to the chamber’s members, board and patrons.

Steve accepted the chains of office from outgoing Chamber President John Hayward at the annual event, as he approaches his decade milestone of voluntary work with Young Enterprise, a non-profit organisation that specialises in working with schools and colleges to inspire the next generation of young entrepreneurs.

Speaking after the AGM, Steve said: “I became involved with Young Enterprise while a student myself at Loxley College in 1993/4. I was the MD of our Young Enterprise company, an office supply firm called Paper Chain – it’s how I got into what I’m doing now.

“As a result, I know the importance of championing young entrepreneurs and I’ve volunteered for Young Enterprise for nearly ten years, delivering talks to school and college Business Studies students about entrepreneurship and what it takes to start up your own business, as well as judging awards and mentoring student businesses.

“I spoke at the National Young Enterprise Awards in London where I won the Alumni of the Year in 2012 and over the years have met a lot of young people from across the region with some great ideas, so it felt like a natural fit for me to choose youth enterprise as a theme for my Chamber Presidency – especially as a former teenage entrepreneur myself!”

Post-college Steve spent eight years at a large office supplies company before the ‘burning desire’ to run his own business ignited as a student took over.

UOP was established by Steve and Mark Broadbent in Steve’s mum and dad’s spare room in 2002. Today it is the UK’s leading independent single source office supply specialist, with with a turnover of £7m, a 98% client retention rate, and 250 years’ collective office supplies experience across the workforce.

A lifelong Sheffield Wednesday supporter, Steve is married to Debbie and lives in Worrall, Sheffield with one child Harrison, and dog Hunter, a Nova Scotia Retriever. He is also an active kickboxer and single figure golfer, training out of the Paul Powers Martial Arts Centre in Stannington and playing golf at Hillsborough.

Steve said: “I’m a very proud Sheffielder. Say ‘Sheffield business’ to people and they often reply steel or manufacturing and of course we continue to make many leaps and strides advancing on our industrial heritage with developments like the AMRC.

“But during my time on the Chamber board I have met any number of entrepreneurs who’ve started companies in sectors like creative and digital, and I’ve been really encouraged by the number of businesses joining as members in the last 12 months alone that have said to me they didn’t realise what chamber membership involved and how we can help them.

“The perception is changing, and we have a great diverse Chamber team. The mix of a highly experienced management team coupled with the youth and exuberance works very well and it’s certainly changed dramatically over the last decade.”

As part of his focus as president, Steve also wants to see further and better collaboration across the Sheffield City Region.

“I really want to see all the important elements of the city region engaging more, including the Chamber, Sheffield City Council and the LEP. Teamwork is just as important on a wider scale as it is in the workplace and on the shop floor. It’s only when we work together as a city region community that we can really get more done.”

Richard Wright, Sheffield Chamber Executive Director said: “I’m very proud that over the last few years we have had our first ever female Presidents and now the youngest. We also have the first ever female Chair of Chamber Council.

I don’t think anybody can argue that this Chamber is not moving forwards and getting involved in things that properly reflect the diverse and changing nature of our employers and the economy.

“There is always more to do but Steve’s priorities clearly help us continue that journey. At the end of the day the Chamber President is a real figurehead of our business community and we are really looking forward to Steve bringing his own ideas to that role.”