The conference market is growing rapidly in the UK, which means there is a far wider choice of venues. But which is the right one for a particular company, or individual's needs?

An unsuitable choice could be a disaster for you, your staff and, most importantly, your customers, so it must be right first time.

Now a new firm has set up, dedicated to finding the correct location for all manner of business events from seminars to full-scale conferences.

Swift Venue Finders is the brainchild of Rachel Guard and Dawn Hadfield. Both were previously employed by Oxford-based Four Pillars Hotels - Ms Guard as sales manager and Ms Hadfield as business development manager - and have many years in the hotel trade behind them.

As the name suggests, Swift finds a location for a client - and it is free of charge.

Ms Guard explained: "The client comes to us with a brief, for example asking for a conference for 50 in London, and we come back with three venue options - we do all the running."

Swift's income comes from charging the venue commission.

"We have lots of hotels that know us and 99 per cent of them are used to paying commission."

Much of Swift's current client list has come from networking, for example, at breakfast meetings.

Ms Guard said: "In the first week, I met someone involved in the training industry. He does not want to be bogged down with trying to find a venue and, by using us, he is free to concentrate on his business without costing him anything."

Contact has also been made at business parks across the country. Swift has been set up as a limited company, meaning its directors are employed by the firm, and are taxed at source.

Although Ms Guard, 35, admits moving away from working for an established company is a major change, she is enjoying the challenge and the partnership with Ms Hadfield, 46, is working out well.

"We have always worked together - it is not as if we are friends just starting a company together and we bring different strengths to the business."

Most of the time the duo are not physically working together at all. They are based at Wallingford and Witney, but keep in constant touch by telephone and e-mail.

"Communication is definitely the key - there is no point running in one direction if your partner does not know about it," said Ms Guard.

Swift's biggest expense so far has been the £4,000 spent on the company's website which was designed through Finstock-based Marketing Team Direct, which was also responsible for brochures, business cards and letterheads. But the investment is paying off with a lot of enquiries coming via the Internet, allowing Swift to spread its wings quickly.

And, of course, a key venue it recommends is the Four Pillars Hotel group. But Ms Guard does not miss the corporate life and is enjoying running a small business.

"If I was on my own it would be hard to be motivated but I always have Dawn on the end of the telephone and I am getting so much more done than I did before."

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