Our Directors

Colchester Business Enterprise Agency Directors

Colbea is a not for profit organisation dedicated to business start-up help. Colbea’s aim is to help improve the economic prosperity of the region. Led by Chief Executive Ashleigh Seymour-Rutherford, the team of directors give up their valuable time completely free of charge in order to help manage the tactical and strategic aspects of the Business Enterprise Agency. They are drawn from local business life and represent a wide gamut of skills and experience. The Board is collectively responsible for the long-term success of Colbea. Together they allow Colbea access to a level of management expertise that is seldom found in any organisation.

John Russell - Colbea President

Throughout his banking career John always maintained a keen interest in encouraging the growth of small businesses in the local economy. On his move to Colchester in 1987 he became a Non-Executive Director of Colbea, a position he held for 25 years. For fourteen years John was Chairman of the Board, retiring from his second term in 2001. During his time on the Board he secured the continuous  growth and standing of the Agency in the local area. In recognition of this the Central Colchester Business Centre ,when it opened in 2001, was named John Russell House. John was elected President of Colbea  in 2012.

Roy Gover - Colbea Chairman

Managing Partner of GCG Consulting

Roy Gover is a Chartered Accountant and Principal of GCG Consulting specialising in M&A and Franchising. Following a post-qualification career in international banking, Roy was appointed to head up Legal and General’s estate agency acquisition team. Since establishing GCG in 1990, he has worked with most of the major financial institutions with estate agency interests as well as many smaller firms both in the UK and overseas. Since moving to Colchester in 1996, Roy has been involved with COLBEA in a wide variety of guises, variously a tenant, sponsor, non-executive director, financial controller and now Chairman. Speaking about his appointment, Roy shares his vision for the future of COLBEA, saying; “It’s exciting for me, but there’s a still lot to do. Almost my entire career has involved start-ups in one-way shape or form – so of course, I’m passionate about new business! COLBEA has an outstanding track record of nurturing local start-ups since it began in 1982. Let’s shout this out loud, do more of the same and ensure COLBEA remains a sustainable service provider and effective conduit for new Essex enterprise. “Outside of work, his passion for music, he presents the Classic Rock Show on Hospital Radio Colchester, is shared with time out entertaining friends and family on ‘Muddy Waters’ – a Great Ouse riverboat. 

Ashleigh Seymour-Rutherford - Colbea CEO

Chief Executive

Ashleigh has spent four years in business support arena as Assistant CEO of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, where she led the business development team as well as establishing the Suffolk Young Chamber brand, which ‘bridged the gap’ between business and local schools. Her time working within the Chamber network also encompassed a fellowship with the Policy team at the British Chambers and has led to a passion for both business support and supporting young people into business.

Prior to working in the counties, Ashleigh worked in the City in financial services for 12 years, the last six of those spent at Seymour-Pierce where she was part of the team that listed Supergroup – known better as the brand Superdry. Ashleigh has worked with and within many different industries throughout her professional career, which has given her a well rounded view on what makes a business successful.

Richard Davies - Colbea Director

Senior Partner of RDP Accountants

Richard was appointed as a Board Director in December 2012 and as Colbea’s Finance Director in June 2013. He founded RDP in 1997 with colleague, Derek Ponsford. The firm employs 20 staff and has offices in Colchester, Ipswich and Chelmsford with further satellite offices in London and Sudbury. Bob Baggalley, Colbea’s Chief Executive, has known and worked with Richard since 2007 when his accountancy firm RDP first became a sponsor of the Agency. Since then Richard has always shown a keen interest in helping the new start businesses at Colbea. His accountancy skills, allied to his proven successful business development expertise, are valuable additions to the Colbea Board.

Simon Cudmore - Colbea Director

Area Business Manager - Barclays

Having joined Barclays in 1988 I have a wealth of general banking experience having undertaken various roles within the bank. I have always worked in and around the Clacton and Colchester area and I feel that I know the area well. I was a Business Manager and looked after a vast array of clients with different businesses and needs in the Tendring & Colchester area, and I now lead a team of 15 Business Managers across North Essex & Suffolk. I feel that North Essex has so much to offer. and some amazing businesses that we need to support and help grow in the right way. and by spending time with the business I am able to support the client’s growth plans.

Tony Friedlander - Colbea Director and Head of Sponsorship Portfolio

Managing Director of Friedlander Associates

Tony joined the Colbea board in 2003. Tony has worked in IT since the late 1960’s. He set up Computerwise Limited in 1980, and it became a leading provider of advanced business software, training and services throughout the south east. Tony sold the company in 2005 and was asked to stay on until 2007. In the early 70’s, Tony was one of the first Open University students to gain a BA in Systems Engineering, which led to a special interest in how human factors affect successful implementation of new systems and the consequent effect on the clients’ companies. In 2007, Tony developed a successful methodology selling and acquiring IT companies for other owner managers in the capacity as a broker. Since then he has become active in the provision of business broking and advisory services through other collaborative ventures, both in IT and in other areas, helping entrepreneurs develop and realise the value of their own businesses. As a Colbea director he brings his extensive business and IT experience to the board and has actively helped shape the Agency’s strategy throughout periods of great change in the Enterprise Agency landscape.

Sian Taylor - Colbea Director

Commercial Property Lawyer - Birkett Long

Sian Taylor is a qualified solicitor in the Commercial Real Estate team at Birkett Long and is based at the firm’s Colchester office.

Sian knew she wanted to be a lawyer from a young age and joined Birkett Long after graduating from the University of Essex with a first class degree and completing her LPC with a distinction at the University of Law in London. Sian acts on all aspects of commercial property transactions, including acquisition and disposal of commercial property, leases, landlord and tenant matters and secured lending.

Sian prides herself on providing a quick and efficient service to her clients, in addition to her legal expertise, Sian brings enthusiasm and professionalism to the board.

Robert Singh - Colbea Director

Deputy Director - Enterprise at the University of Essex

Robert is The Deputy Director of Enterprise at the University of Essex, responsible for a team that manage relationships with business and external organisations to provide access to specialist knowledge within the university. He has worked in university technology for 8 years and has extensive experience of intellectual property management and commercialisation, including licence negotiation and spin-out company fund raising. By background he is a scientist, having obtained PhD in biochemistry from University of Bristol followed by several years in medical research. This was followed by work for an intellectual property law firm before moving to a role at the University of Hull, where Robert completed an MBA. He has worked on projects in wide range of sectors, including semi-conductors and medical devices, and is currently a Director for the University of Essex spin-out company Metrarc and on the board of Essex Chambers of Commerce & Industry.

Katie Skingle - Colbea Director

Owner of KAT marketing

Katie has over fifteen years’ experience in B2B and consumer sales, and over ten years marketing and communications experience. Katie was one of the top 3 BA’s throughout the UK for the duration of her employment at Lloyds Bank, and she gained her event management experience by working for the Saudi Arabian Royal Family. Katie is the owner of KAT Marketing, which has been successfully trading for over a decade, and she is also a well-known fundraiser and Chairwoman for the Colchester NSPCC Business Group. Katie brings with her expertise in all areas of communications and business at Board level.

Dan Tidswell - Colbea Director

Owner of Pretty Good IT

Dan is the owner and MD of Pretty Good IT, a boutique consultancy specialising in project management and disaster recovery for the SME sector. Dan gained his experience working in various IT roles for NatWest, RBS and agencies in the IT Security industry both in the UK and abroad. As a director he brings more than 20 years of IT experience to the board and a creative vision that will allow COLBEA to take advantage of emerging technologies that will expand the reach and scope of the organisation.

Sarah Reed - Colbea Director

Owner of Reed Care Services

Sarah Reed, from Reed Care Services, has benefited from Colbea’s services on the way up. Having trained as a nurse at 16 and worked for a local mental health trust, Sarah built up first-hand experience in the care sector before becoming self-employed nine years ago when launching Reed Care Homes – first opening St Andrews Lodge followed three years later by a second home. Three years ago Sarah created Reed Care Services, a mental health care subsidiary.


Sarah says, “I’m incredibly proud to join the Colbea board, and have the opportunity to give something back to an organisation that has helped me in my own business. As a tenant at the Colchester Business Centre, I hope to act as a voice for other businesses and build on the nurturing environment we are lucky enough to have here.”

John Burton - Colbea Director

Senior Partner at Purcells

John was assistant to the practice’s founding partner Donovan Purcell.
Purcell was a great pioneer of the post-war conservation movement. The
skills John developed enabled him to care for some of the country’s finest
historic buildings and their settings. John has developed a strong bias
towards the conservation and repair of historic structures, and ecclesiastical
buildings in particular. John’s career achievements were recognised in the
2013 Queens Birthday Honours list when he was awarded the MBE for
Services to The Conservation of Historic Architecture.