Forge Care first to receive funding from WRIF
"We are over the moon to announce this package of support from Warwickshire County Council's WRIF program. This new facility will enable us to go out with a clear mandate to improve the lives of looked after children across the county."
A business which supports children who have experienced early disruption to their development has become the first to receive funding from the Warwickshire Recovery Investment Fund (WRIF).
The innovative £140 million fund is part of Warwickshire County Council’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan to help new and existing businesses with their recovery and growth.
Forge Care has been loaned £1million under the Business Investment Growth (BIG) pillar of the fund, which provides debt finance to growing medium and larger businesses.
The funding will enable the business to open a flagship establishment in Nuneaton for children who have suffered early childhood trauma.
Forge Care offers children a therapeutic community which includes artfully-designed homes, gardens and spaces to enjoy sports and leisure. It was founded in 2020 by the Miller family, headed by chief executive Gavin Miller and his business partner, chief operating officer Dave Hughes.
"Our Therapeutic Community has been shaped around the complex needs of trauma-healing, providing an environment enabling positive impact within the day to day lives and experiences of all members," said Mr Miller. It also benefits from Creative-Expressive Therapies and Life Story alongside therapeutic parenting.
"Forge Care is dedicated to helping children make sense of their pasts and develop trust in themselves and others, as well as a belief in their own skills for their future. Our Model of Care is based on neuro-developmental, trauma-resolution principles and positive attachment practices and is framed by the Sanctuary Model®.
“We are over the moon to announce this package of support from Warwickshire County Council's WRIF program. This new facility will enable us to go out with a clear mandate to improve the lives of looked after children across the county. It’s also a real shot in the arm for the local economy as we are creating 80 new jobs at our new homes in Nuneaton and this wouldn’t be possible without the support of Warwickshire County Council.”
Councillor Peter Butlin, Deputy Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Finance and Property, has been spearheading the WRIF.
He said: “We are pleased to announce that our first loan under the BIG strand will enable Forge Care to expand their fantastic work to support children and their families across the county.
"This first investment made by the WRIF also has so many benefits for the region. It is supporting a family-run business in the children's care services sector, creating brand new jobs and benefiting the local supply chain with the construction of the site.
"I would urge other businesses to contact the County Council to discuss their scale up and business growth plans and find out how the WRIF can support them.”
Together with other support from the Council, the Warwickshire Recovery Investment Fund is expected to create more than 3,000 new jobs and safeguard many thousands more. The Fund was launched last summer to stimulate the county's economy and comprises three pillars of support: Business Investment Growth (BIG), Local Communities & Enterprise and Property & Infrastructure.
The WRIF aims to distribute the £140 million fund over the next five years to help new and existing businesses in the county with their long-term recovery and growth.
For more information about the WRIF and how it could help your business, please visit https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/wrif or telephone 01926 412709 or email email@example.com
New LCE fund will plug a gap in the loans market for small businesses
"Warwickshire has a wonderful breadth of small businesses and they are integral to our county's economy and communities. The LCE will support those businesses which are seeking to consolidate and grow post-Covid and also help other entrepreneurs to turn their ideas and skills into new small businesses."
Warwickshire County Council is launching a new loans scheme designed to help small businesses start up and existing ones to grow.
The Local Communities & Enterprise Fund (LCE) will fill a gap in the loans market at a time when mainstream lending is difficult to access.
The new scheme is part of the Council's £140million Warwickshire Recovery and Investment Fund (WRIF), created to aid the economic recovery of the county post-Covid. The LCE will help stimulate the local economy and represents a significant investment by the council to help new and small businesses obtain the finance they need to start up and grow.
Delivered for the council by Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust (CWRT), the LCE will bring vital support to smaller and early phase businesses, and social enterprises. Its principal focus is micro businesses (fewer than 10 employees) and small businesses (fewer than 50), but applications will be welcome from medium-sized enterprises of up to 250 employees.
The fund is open to all business sectors, but priority will be given to those particularly significant within the Warwickshire economy. These include Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering; Digital Creative & Digital Technologies; Culture, Tourism & Hospitality and Low Carbon Technologies
Other key sectors which the LCE will support are Retail, Community-based enterprises, Creative Industries, Health & wellbeing and Social Care.
The LCE's key objective is to enable businesses and social enterprises to start up, become established and grow, thereby enhancing their communities, safeguarding jobs and creating others, including apprenticeship opportunities. The Fund will also support transition to a low carbon economy and climate change adaptation.
Applications from under-represented groups, including female-led businesses, young people, care leavers and from minority communities will be particularly welcomed and given additional weighting when proposals are being assessed.
Warwickshire County Council Portfolio Holder for Economy & Place, Cllr Kam Kaur said: "We are very excited to launch the Local Communities & Enterprise Fund which is an integral part of our ground-breaking Warwickshire Recovery and Investment Fund.
"Warwickshire has a wonderful breadth of small businesses and they are integral to our county's economy and communities. The LCE will support those businesses which are seeking to consolidate and grow post-Covid and also help other entrepreneurs to turn their ideas and skills into new small businesses.
“This is also an excellent example of putting our community powered approach into action. We are stepping forward to support businesses and social enterprises to make a real and lasting impact within their communities.”
Coventry & Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust chief executive Sheridan Sulskis said: “Local businesses play such an important role in society by creating and sustaining jobs for local people and supporting local economic activity. Yet many sustainable small businesses in these communities cannot access mainstream finance and remain underserved.
“CWRT is an ethical lender and takes a transparent, fair and relationship-based approach that meets the needs of our customers. We know that accessing the right support and finance can be transformational to the business owners and their employees from the local community.
“We are proud to be working alongside the WCC to deliver this inclusive and accessible finance package and look forward to supporting start-ups, existing businesses and social enterprises across Warwickshire.”
Keely Hancox, operations manager at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: "In the current economic climate, access to finance can be an obstacle to individuals who are considering setting up a business and to smaller businesses aiming to grow.
“Warwickshire County Council's new LCE Fund is a very welcome investment, targeted at micro, small and early stage businesses."
The LCE runs parallel with another element of the WRIF, the £90 million Business Investment Growth strand which offers debt finance to medium and larger businesses (more than 250 employees) and was launched in Summer 2021
* For further information on the Local Communities & Enterprise Fund, please visit https://www.cwrt.uk.com/wrif-lce-fund or call 02476 551 777..
Full WRIF information can be found here https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/wrif
"Superb" council support takes Go Cotswolds to next level
"This whole process has opened our eyes to all the different support that is available. When you are running a business, sometimes you think that it's all down to you, but there is actually a lot of support out there."
A Warwickshire tour guide company is "almost overwhelmed" by bookings after enhancing its customer experience with support from Warwickshire County Council.
An Adapt & Diversify grant from the council enabled Stratford-upon-Avon-based Go Cotswolds to take its business to the next level.
Go Cotswolds director Tom Benjamin rates the council support as "superb" - not just in terms of the financial fillip, but also the advice and signposting to other potential avenues of help that came with it.
"This whole process has opened our eyes to all the different support that is available," said Tom. "When you are running a business, sometimes you think that it's all down to you, but there is actually a lot of support out there.
"The Adapt & Diversity grant has been ever so beneficial in several ways. The funding itself was really important. On our minibus tours we used to hand out hand-drawn, paper maps but the grant enabled us to get a graphic designer on board and now we have very polished, attractive booklets which really improve the customer experience.
"We also used the grant to enlist a videographer and well-connected marketing guy who have taken our social media and graphic imagery to the next level. The impact has been amazing - we are almost overwhelmed by bookings at the moment.
"As well as the grant, we took part in the county council's Future Skills project where they made us fantastic videos to showcase our businesses. At some stage soon we will be looking to recruit and Heather and Niki at Warwickshire Skills Hub will be our first port of call.
"Overall the support we have received from the county council is superb."
Go Cotswolds is one of many SMES to have strengthened in the last year with the support of a grant from the Adapt & Diversify scheme which awarded a total of £1.5 million to 118 business.
Warwickshire County Council Portfolio Holder for Economy & Place, Cllr Kam Kaur, said: "The Adapt & Diversify scheme has been an unqualified success in helping more than 100 small businesses to thrive in challenging times.
"I am delighted to hear that Go Cotswolds are enjoying such growth and success following the grant and also that they place such a high value on the range of support from the county council and the way it was delivered."
Go Cotswolds have also benefited from the business support delivered by CW Chamber of Commerce as part of Project Warwickshire. This programme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council, provides a range of support opportunities to the tourism, leisure and hospitality sector including one-to-one business coaching, workshops and networking opportunities.
Queens Award is pinnacle for business achievement
"To earn this award has been a massive team effort. We employ 110 people, some of whom have been with us for 20 or 30 years, and this award is for every one of them."
The Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire, Tim Cox, and Deputy Lieutenant of the West Midlands,Louise Bennett OBE, are urging Warwickshire and Coventry-based companies to apply for a Queen’s Award for Enterprise (QAE).
The QAE is the highest accolade available to UK businesses and brings unparalleled prestige, exposure, and credibility to a company as well as pride and inspiration to employees.
Successful companies can fly the Queen’s Award flag and use the emblem on marketing materials for up to five years. They are invited to a Royal reception and presented with their award by the Lord Lieutenant, The Queen’s representative in the county.
The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are presented for outstanding achievement in four categories: Innovation, International Trade, Sustainable Development and Promoting Opportunity (through social mobility). Key benefits include improving opportunities to break into new markets, attracting new investment, raising awareness of brand and products, attracting new talent, and raising employee morale.
One business which is already enjoying those benefits, having recently received a Queen's Award for Enterprise inInternational Trade 2022, is MNB Precision on the Warwickshire/Coventry border.
In the last six years, the family-run engineering firm has increased its exports from five per cent of its turnover to 75 per cent.
MNB director Luke Benton said: "We are immensely proud to have received a Queen's Award for Enterprise. The moment that I found out is one that, as a business owner, I will look back on forever.
"This has been a massive team effort. We employ 110 people, some of whom have been with us for 20 or 30 years, and this award is for every one of them. Without them we could not have achieved the growth we have and to see their hard work rewarded with such a prestigious award is fantastic. I would encourage all businesses to think seriously about applying for a Queen's Award.”
Businesses can find out more about what is entailed at a free Queen’s Award Masterclass event at Woodland Grange Conference Centre & Hotel, Leamington Spa on the afternoon of May 12.
The event has been organised by the Warwickshire Lieutenancy in collaboration with Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Warwickshire County Council, and Warwick Manufacturing Group.
The Warwickshire team has prepared a locally focused brochure on the benefits of the QAE and the appropriate steps that can be followed to apply for a QAE, which is available at https://api.warwickshire.gov.uk/documents/WCCC-1980322935-2072
Tim Cox said: “I am keen to see more Warwickshire companies applying for The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise. They are the highest accolade available to UK businesses and offer unparalleled prestige, exposure and credibility to your company.”
Louise Bennett OBE said: “There is not a stronger accolade for a business, voluntary organisation, or charity than to achieve a Queen's Award. The enrichment to a company’s brand and how it can open doors to new markets and new customers is unrivalled. It also enhances your reputation and can be a real positive for staff."
Cllr Kam Kaur, Portfolio Holder for Economy and Place, said: "Warwickshire has a very proud record of innovation and, increasingly, the county is at the heart of development in sustainable technologies.
"The County Council works closely with many of these enterprises, and I am pleased that we are looking to collaborate again to help them gain this accolade and grow their business and its prestige."
To book a place to attend the free QAE Masterclass event on 12 May 2022, visit: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/queens-awards-for-enterprise-masterclass-tickets-303407729687
To find out more about The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, visit www.gov.uk/queens-awards-for-enterprise
Duplex Fund pumps more than £1million into local businesses
"The loan has been a tremendous help in enabling us to level up in scale with our demand, streamline our goals for sustainability and create another stable source of income."
An innovative loans and grants scheme funded by Warwickshire County Council has made payments of more than £1million to small businesses in Warwickshire in just over two years.
The Duplex Investment Fund was launched in January 2020 to help finance capital investments by local businesses.
It combines public sector grants and loans and is aimed at businesses which are unable to generate sufficient funding to progress with an otherwise viable investment project.
The Fund. delivered by Coventry & Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust on behalf of Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council and Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, has now made payments of £1.14million.
Among businesses to have benefited from the support is Hemp Whole Foods. The Warwick-based company received a £40,000 loan towards its plans to upscale to meet rising demand and director Ed Burman says the support has bolstered the business on several levels.
"The loan has been a tremendous help in enabling us to level up in scale with our demand, streamline our goals for sustainability and create another stable source of income.
"It has not only made the business more secure and productive but has played a key role in the reduction of our carbon footprint which is exactly the direction we wanted to head in.
"CWRT have enabled us to do this in a much shorter space of time making all of our products that bit more sustainable. The process of applying for the loan was also very clear and manageable with the excellent guidance and assistance of our CWRT advisor Leah Blocksidge."
The Duplex Fund project was initially funded by £3.9 million of grants from the Government’s Local Growth Fund and the CWLEP. Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council each invested a further £2million in the scheme which will be managed by CWRT.
Loans between £30,000 to £100,000 are available and up to 40 per cent of the expenditure could be available as a grant, allowing businesses to manage their cash flow flexibly.
Chief executive of CWRT, Sheridan Sulskis said: "Our whole ethos is about filling that gap in the marketplace, whether that's through our commercial or Duplex loans or our business support activities.
"I would urge businesses based in Coventry and Warwickshire to take advantage of this comprehensive financial package available to help them to grow, diversify, innovate, address skills challenges, and become more low carbon.”
Warwickshire County Council Portfolio Holder for Economy & Place, Cllr Kam Kaur, said: "It is great to see that the Duplex Investment Fund has achieved such success in its objective of giving businesses the financial support which they need but otherwise might struggle to access.
"At Warwickshire County Council we are constantly striving to make business support fit the evolving needs of businesses and the Duplex Investment Fund is a great example of this."
For more information, please visit: www.cwrt.uk.com/duplex
Grant sparks growth for Godiva Granite
"The grant really pushed us along...the support from the county council meant we could move forward before we otherwise could have done."
A kitchen worktops business near Rugby has taken on three staff and is planning to recruit further after its growth was assisted by a grant from Warwickshire County Council.
Godiva Granite, in Wolston, needed to invest in order to meet high demand for its bespoke granite products.
The business, founded in 2007, was faced with the dilemma of whether to commit to a major investment in order to continue its growth.
The required hi-tech machinery, a computerised CNC Processor, came in at more than £150,000 a sum which would stretch the budgets of any small business.
But it was needed, so the company went for it - and a £35,000 Small Capital Grant from Warwickshire County Council gave them precious support which enabled the purchase, and associated recruitment, to go ahead sooner rather than later.
"The grant really pushed us along," said director Martina Fryer. "The machine cost over £150,000 and we would have struggled to find that, so the support from the county council meant we could move forward before we otherwise could have done.
"The purchase has transformed the business. It has computerised a lot of tasks that we were previously doing by hand so we can now do more jobs in house whereas previously we had to outsource.
"It has sped up our production line and really allowed us to grow our business further. Since the grant we have taken on three people and we will probably have to recruit again soon."
The Small Capital Grants scheme is part of a package of support from Warwickshire County Council's which has seen the council make loan and grant payments of more than £2.28million to businesses in the last year.
Hundreds of businesses have been fortified by it during the last two difficult years and for Godiva Granite, a family-run company which manufactures granite, marble, quartz and slate surfaces, specialising in kitchen worktops and bathroom cabinets, the benefit was not just financial.
"We had to put a business plan together with projections for the next three years," said Martina. "That was a big job but a good exercise for us and really interesting because it made us look closely at the business's history and analyse what we have been doing and what we might do differently.
"Sim Lee, at the council, was great, talking us through the application and in every way we felt very supported."
Warwickshire County Council Portfolio Holder for Economy & Place, Cllr Kam Kaur, said: "I am delighted that our support has helped Godiva Granite to take the next step and acquire the machinery needed for it to grow the business and to recruit more staff.
"Our Small Capitals Grants scheme has proved extremely popular and is an integral element of the wide range of support available from the County Concil and its partners in the Coventry & Warwickshire region. I urge all businesses to visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/business-support to see how we can help them."
* The access to finance advice was delivered as part of the CW Business: Start, Grow and Scale project which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
* For more information about support with accessing finance, please visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/cwbsp or call 01926 412709.
Employers sign up to Skills Hub's Fair Chance programme
"We believe the Fair Chance Employer programme will enhance our established team and management on site and in turn will provide essential skills and opportunities for candidates looking to return to work."
Five employers have already signed up to a Warwickshire Skills Hub programme for businesses wanting to become an inclusive employer and recruit in an inclusive way.
The Fair Chance Employer programme is designed to support organisations to demonstrate and celebrate inclusive recruitment while also helping employers to fill many of their skills gaps.
Five businesses - Chin Badger Media, Forest of Arden Golf & Country Club, Goodflex Rubber Co, Ocado and Premiumify Ltd have now signed up and are benefiting from the arrival of new talent in their teams.
More than 30 young people have taken up career opportunities at Forest of Arden whose Human Resources Manager, Charlie Papworth, said: "We have become a Fair chance employer as we really want to connect with our local and wider community. We have fully supported the Kickstart programme and have assisted 32 young people back in to the workplace.
"We believe the Fair Chance Employer programme will enhance our established team and management on site and in turn will provide essential skills and opportunities for candidates looking to return to work."
Chloe Millage the Careers and Employability Programme Manager for The Warwickshire Skills Hub said: “It is great to see employers buying into the Fair Chance Employer programme. It really is a unique programme and one which is moving at speed to incorporate different supportive strands in response to everyone’s needs.
"Inclusive recruitment is something we hope all employers will consider and we are more than happy to take them on that journey through the Fair Chance Employment programme.”
The programme offer employers:
* A dedicated Skills Advisor to carve barrier breaking and inclusive roles
* Advice on Salary Support and Incentive Schemes
* Unique jobs board
* Funded recruitment films
The programme offer those looking for work:
* Employability support
* Job and interview coaching
* WCC training support package
* Travel support
If you would like to explore how the Fair Chance Employment programme can help your business, then please contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org
JumpStart workshops will give entrepreneurs the advice they need
“The workshops are a must-attend if you’re from the Warwickshire area and are looking to take the next steps in your business career."
Providing important advice on the fundamentals that help turn a business dream into reality is the theme running through a series of upcoming free courses for Warwickshire-based entrepreneurs planning to set up their own business.
The latest round of business workshops run by Coventry Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust (CWRT), part-funded by Warwickshire County Council as part of the JumpStart project, is taking place across late April and early May.
Planned topics include action planning and goal making, market research, business planning, cashflow forecasting, how to register for HMRC and a designated social media day, with aspiring entrepreneurs encouraged to attend and pick the brains of the business experts in attendance.
Sheridan Sulskis, chief executive at CWRT, said: “These JumpStart workshops will give Warwickshire residents the opportunity to gain an insight into the many areas of business management that need to be mastered to give their business idea the best chance of success.
“The six workshops allow the opportunity for those considering setting up a business to meet in one space – learning together, sharing ideas and networking.
“We’re proud that so many local people have gone on to great things in the county and beyond after attending our workshops. We’ve seen over 20 businesses created since 2020 and are excited to help some new faces tread the same path.”
Matt Fitzgerald, founder of O.G.Fries, a new Leamington Spa-based business that is set to launch this summer, has recently attended the CWRT JumpStart workshops and picked up some valuable tips to establish and progress the business.
Matt, 30, has returned to the region after working as a chef in France for five years, and through the launch of OG Fries, is hoping to replicate the success of popular friteries across the Channel in the Midlands.
He plans to offer five or six different street-food style fried chip options, showcasing flavours from across the world. Alongside the opportunity presented to Matt to attend the last round of workshops, CWRT also gave Matt financial support, in the form of a start-up loan.
Matt said: “In preparation for my anticipated July trading date, I thought attending the JumpStart webinars was the next logical step in the development of my business idea. I’m glad I took the plunge. It opened my eyes to everything and put me on track.
“The statistical side of a business is key to its success, and I’d encourage my contemporaries to make the most of these upcoming workshops. I came away stronger on areas like social media, cash flow monitoring, locations and research than when I entered the first session.
“The workshops are a must-attend if you’re from the Warwickshire area and are looking to take the next steps in your business career. They really helped me believe in myself. The aim for OG Fries is to keep expanding, and I’m confident that CWRT have helped point me in the right direction.”
The JumpStart initiative provides support to people from the early stages of deciding whether to set-up their own company through to producing a business plan and getting to grips with the financial element of running a fully functioning and operational business.
Warwickshire County Council Lead Commissioner (Business & Economy), Matthew Epps, said: “Warwickshire County Council is pleased to continue to support Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust with its efforts to assist Warwickshire residents to set up new businesses. OG Fries is just the kind of new business that the JumpStart project is designed to support.”
To book a place, or to secure one-to-one mentoring sessions with a business support specialist, which are available upon request, please call 02476 551 777, email email@example.com or message CWRT on social media by searching ‘JumpStart Project’ on Facebook.
Innovation Masterclass workshops for SMEs
A series of Innovation Masterclass workshops for SMEs has been arranged as part of the Coventry & Warwickshire Innovation Programme.
Any SME in Coventry & Warwickshire area which is in the process of developing new products, services or technologies is eligible to attend the free workshops on how to build their business and launch innovative products and services to the market.
Each Innovation Masterclass is a two-day event from 9am-4pm each day with a free lunch and refreshments provided.
The first one took place this week at the Eliot Park Innovation Centre, Nuneaton, and places are still available for the other two, at The View, Stratford-Upon-Avon, on May 24th and 25th and at the Ramada Hotel, Coventry on June 28th and 29th.
The workshops, delivered by Coventry University Enterprises Business Solutions, are part of the wider Coventry and Warwickshire Innovation programme in which Warwickshire county Council is a partner.
A range of support is on offer from the programme including:
- Innovation grants of up to £50,000 to develop products or services that will be new to the market. Grants offered will be at an intervention rate of up to 50% of eligible project costs
- Usability support for developing and testing innovative assisted living, community healthcare and e-health products
- Access to a range of specialists who are experienced in developing innovative products
- Referrals to other specialist innovation support programmes
- Access to the local innovation supply chain
- Networking opportunities with other innovative businesses and 1-to-1 support
The programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and it is delivered and funded by Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council and Coventry University Enterprises Ltd.
Esports Futures – levelling up digital skills through games
Warwick Skills Hub and the University of Warwick have teamed up to deliver a life-changing programme for economically inactive young people aged 16–25 in the county to learn digital skills through esports.
Approaching its last few sessions, the Esports Futures opportunity is calling for up to 70 more young people to join them on a special one-day opportunity on the 25th May. There is no cost to anyone that takes part, as travel and catering is fully covered by the programme, which is part of the UK Government's Community Renewal Fund.
Many parents and carers share a concern that video games are having a negative effect on young people, especially with engagement in this industry vastly increasing across the pandemic. However, the esports and games industry has quickly grown to eclipse the music industry amongst other creative markets in its global revenue.
Comfortably worth over £1billion world-wide, video games have created thousands of jobs in the UK and is continuing to do so at a very quick pace. The University of Warwick is already supporting students and the local community in this area, with its nationally leading esports teams and state-of-the-art Esports Centre, which is where the Esports Futures activity take place!
To use this exciting world of work and this area of interest for so many young people as a catalyst to learning, Warwick Skills Hub are providing a careers experience delivered by the University of Warwick. Normally a two-day experience (with one more standard session available on 23-24th May), the benefits and learnings have been consolidated into one afternoon of digital skills at the end of May, with the following day, Thursday 26th, being a showcase, open to all participants, teachers, and parents/carers that have been involved across the last few months.
On the programme, the participants have created an esports tournament, played in the competition that they have created it, and then learnt how to market an event like that through graphics design and video editing. These designs and movies will be consolidated into a short film and shown at the University of Warwick’s Arts Centre, broadcasted on their brand-new cinema screens. To celebrate the achievement of all that have taken part, students will also receive talks from industry leaders and an opportunity to network with leading esports and gaming professionals.
The programme focuses on teaching these highly transferable teamworking and interpersonal skills as well as building up the foundations of using high-level free-access editing software which each person can continue their graphics design and video editing after the programme. Added in with the opportunity to meet industry leaders, the goal of Esports Futures is to provide long-term learnings for each participant, not just to work in games but to understand the need for digital and interpersonal skills in all worlds of work.
Supporting the next generation of event organisers, hospitality workers, or esports players, this innovative learning experience is nearing completion but there is still an opportunity to sign up. Find out even more and sign yourself, your young people, or your college students up at https://warwick.ac.uk/esports/programmes/esports_futures, or get in touch directly with our Esports Outreach Officer Bianca.Buhaev@warwick.ac.uk
If you are a teacher or other educational provider reading this and thinking that a similar programme would be great for your students or young people, then please get in touch. We are also delivering a similar programme for Year 8s with the Skills Hub and can provide bespoke experiences for any organisation that wants to work with the Esports Centre. All enquiries welcome at https://warwick.ac.uk/esports/
* The Warwickshire Brighter Futures project has received £1.1 million pound from the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund. The UK Community Renewal Fund is a UK Government programme for 2021/22. This aims to support people and communities most in need across the UK to pilot programmes and new approaches to prepare for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. It invests in skills, community and place, local business, and supporting people into employment. For more information, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-community-renewal-fundprospectus
Government help and support if your business is affected by COVID-19
The following support is available from HM Revenue & Customs on the gov.uk website to support your business if it’s affected by COVID-19: https://bit.ly/3EVJ6eY
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Rebate Scheme
A video is available here which covers the COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme 2. This video looks at making payments to employees who are off sick or self-isolating because of coronavirus on or after 21 December 2021 and what employers can claim under the scheme.
How to report COVID-19 taxable grants and payments
A video is available about how to report COVID-19 taxable grants and payments at COVID-19 support schemes – declaring your grants on your Company Tax Return (CT600)
How to declare your grants on your Company Tax Return (CT600):
Register for the next live webinar by HMRC on Thursday 12 May to find out more about declaring your grants on your Company Tax Return (CT600). This webinar will cover:
· how to report COVID-19 support payments and grants on your Company Tax Return
· what happens if you’ve claimed too much
· records you need to keep
Please use HMRC’s digital assistant to find more information about the coronavirus support schemes. You can also sign up for email alerts about the support available if your business is affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).
Online retailer built on grandparents' principles
“Building a business can be quite a lonely place at times and having someone who can support you and give you the confidence to let you know you are on track is really helpful and important."
An online retailer that sells and celebrates a range of British manufacturers’ products is set for significant growth after receiving support from a programme connected with the University of Warwick Science Park.
Sir Gordon Bennett was established by Stratford-upon-Avon based entrepreneur Dan Colagiovanni, and his business partner Neil Elliot, to offer a platform for high-quality, well-made British products with the goal of promoting more environmentally sustainable shopping and supporting UK brands.
The pair built the company’s website in 2017 and made the first sale in December 2018, since when interest has continued to grow.
In 2020, the company was on the hunt for investment and met Alex Toft, who heads up the Minerva Angel investor network, facilitated out of the University of Warwick Science Park (UWSP).
Whilst the business ultimately secured funding from a different source Toft, made the introduction to the Business Ready programme, also delivered by UWSP, and is which financially supported by Warwickshire County Council and the European Regional Development Fund as part of the CW Business: Start, Grow & Scale Programme.
The business has received one-to-one guidance from Business Ready adviser Gaynor Matthews and Dan believes this help will prove invaluable as Sir Gordon Bennett aims to grow by five times over the next year.
Dan said: “Neil and I had been discussing starting a business for some time. Neil has a strong background in advertising and that was going to be key to us building a memorable brand.
“We settled on the idea of really celebrating British manufacturing and craftsmanship. It’s not in any way jingoistic or anti-overseas-products, but recognition that when you go abroad, people have a real respect for high-quality British-made goods – more so than we do in this country.
“On top of that, we wanted to get back to some of the principles that guided our grandparents where they would make a sustainable choice based on quality not price. We could help the move away from disposable retail that has become the norm in recent years.
“The website gives a platform to manufacturers and makers from all corners of the country and with a whole range of items, from clothing to accessories and from homeware to garden products.
“We now have more than 90 brands online and hundreds of products. The ambition is to open physical stores because many of the things we sell are very tactile and we want customers to be able to touch and feel them.
“The website will continue to grow alongside that. We're aiming to have 200 brands by the end of December 2022 and we will be the go-to place for beautiful, well-made British craftsmanship goods.
“Gaynor Matthews from Business Ready has been hugely supportive. We’ve been working with her for around 18 months and we have been able to tap into all of her knowledge and experience as an entrepreneur. Gaynor has also got a lot of contacts in this sector too, which has been a big help.
“Building a business can be quite a lonely place at times and having someone who can support you and give you the confidence to let you know you are on track is really helpful and important. But Gaynor also knew when we might need that kick up the backside and that was what we needed sometimes!”
Sir Gordon Bennett is now looking to take on new staff through apprenticeships and the Government Kickstart scheme.
Gaynor said: “I love what Neil and Dan are doing through Sir Gordon Bennett and the ethos that it stands for. I’ve really enjoyed working with them and I believe they are on the road to great success with this brand.”
For more information on the company, please visit www.sirgordonbennett.com.
Region's economy remains robust despite challenges
"Coventry and Warwickshire’s overall economic outlook index indicated a robust local landscape as the pace of expansion increased."
The economic outlook in Coventry and Warwickshire improved slightly in the first quarter of the year – but a gap is opening up between manufacturers and service sector businesses when it comes to confidence.
They were the findings of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) which measures how firms across the patch are performing and how they feel about the months ahead.
The survey suggests that the economic outlook has improved since the final quarter of 2021 despite a range of issues that are affecting companies across the city and the county.
The survey, which is delivered in partnership with Prime Accountants Group, is analysed by the Economy & Skills Group at Warwickshire County Council. Its analysis uses a similar score to the national Markits Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) where 50 is the balance and anything above means the majority feel positive and anything below means the reverse. As well as giving a barometer for the local economy, the results are fed into the British Chambers of Commerce’s national QES.
The overall outlook for the region jumped from a score of 57.9 to 59.6 but while the service sector showed improvement, manufacturing had taken a dip.
When it comes to confidence, the service sector leapt from 71.3 to 83.7 but in manufacturing it slipped from 55.8 into negative territory of 46.1.
However, there were signs of improvement in overseas sales for manufacturers – from 40.5 up to 45.0 – and also in investment and cashflow which moved from 44.0 to 49.7.
Plans to recruit dropped in both the service sector and in manufacturing.
Sunny Parekh, of Warwickshire County Council, said: “Coventry and Warwickshire’s overall economic outlook index indicated a robust local landscape as the pace of expansion increased, with the index score moving further past the 50-mark in the first quarter of 2022, representing overall levels of optimism and expansion amongst local businesses.
“The first quarter of the year presented local businesses with a unique operating environment, creating a deviated picture between the local sectors.
“Geopolitical unrest in Europe meant that existing price pressures intensified as raw material and energy prices surged and inflation hit record heights. The latest QES show that the manufacturers’ economic outlook became subdued as business confidence declined amidst ongoing price pressures.
“Despite such headwinds, the impact of the Omicron wave of Covid-19 was brought under control and remaining restrictions on the economy were lifted, resulting in significant expansion and optimism within the local service sector. This offset the decline seen in the manufacturing results. Business confidence levels amongst local services reached significant heights in Q1, indicating positive expectations for 2022.
“Looking forward, the coming quarter points towards further surges in inflation and increases to the cost of living, painting a difficult picture for the local business landscape.”
Sean Rose, head of policy at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The small increase in the overall economic outlook for Coventry and Warwickshire is a positive sign, particularly when we have to consider the variety of issues that are hitting businesses.
“The outlook is broadly in line with the rest of the UK and, as it remains above the 50-point mark, this suggests the regional economy will continue to grow.
“There is a clear divide between the confidence of our service sector businesses and our manufacturers – driven, most likely, by the fact that our manufacturers are much more affected by the rising prices across the board.
“It is vitally important, therefore, that we continue to raise these issues with decision-makers, that we keep pushing for further support and also getting the message across that the Chamber is here to help businesses to grow – even in difficult times.”
Lord Coe outlines business opportunities from this summer's Commonwealth Games
"It was where I achieved my first ever top three finish in a race, as part of a Warwickshire schools’ competition at the age of 10."
The 2022 Commonwealth Games offers an "extraordinary opportunity" to businesses in the Warwickshire and West Midlands region, believes Lord Sebastian Coe.
Lord Coe spoke to more than 300 businesses at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s BIG Business ‘Thank You’ Lunch.
A multi-Olympic medallist, who headed up the London Olympics in 2012, he highlighted to businesses the major commercial and social benefits that the Games brought to London. He believes the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games is set to bring a similar boost to Coventry, Warwickshire and the wider West Midlands.
The lunch event, held at the IXL Events Centre in Southam, had been postponed on two occasions as a result of the pandemic and was held as a ‘thank you’ to the business community for supporting the Chamber of Commerce.
Lord Coe also spoke about the impact Warwickshire had on him in his formative years and the important role that Chambers of Commerce plays in regions across the country.
He said: “It’s such an extraordinary opportunity to host an international event such as the Commonwealth Games, and not just for Birmingham but for the whole region.The potential legacy after the games is very exciting, but it will challenge a region in a way nothing has challenged it before.
“People should not underestimate the impact this area connecting with the Commonwealth Games will have. It will be a great vehicle for change and things will happen immediately afterwards – for example in London, the Olympic games were worth nearly £17 million in overseas trade in the year afterwards.
“Companies that had a successful involvement and partnership with the games were then able to go out and sell their services.
“I’m absolutely convinced this region will make the most of this opportunity that sits in front of you. The great role the Chamber of Commerce can play as a conduit between the public and private sectors will be important.
“Partnerships we set up between public and private organisations in the London boroughs are still delivering great services in those area, and so often it was the Chambers of Commerce that facilitated the creation of those relationships.”
Lord Coe lived in Warwickshire from the age of one, in Alcester and then Stratford-upon-Avon
“My father ran a manufacturing business in the region," he recalled. "It was also where I achieved my first ever top three finish in a race, as part of a Warwickshire schools’ competition at the age of 10!.
“As a young MP, the Chamber of Commerce were really helpful in introducing me to commercial organisations, which would probably have taken me a term of office to understand the nature of local business without the Chamber.
“I know I will echo many when I thank the Chamber of Commerce for keeping spirits high in business over the dark months and years we have been through. The Chamber is always there and it has an even greater role to play moving forwards.”
Donated digital equipment is a lifeline for David
As part of Coventry and Warwickshire’s Wellbeing for Life campaign, a call has gone out to businesses for donations of old laptops or tablets which can be repurposed and delivered to vulnerable residents across Warwickshire.
The internet is being used increasingly across all areas of life and yet there is a growing digital divide, leaving many households and individuals unable to access education services and support.
The offering of digital equipment and support will:
* contribute towards reducing social isolation, for example, those with mental health needs who require access to therapy
* increase accessibility to education platforms for the many children and families without access to a device or connectivity at home
* lower the risk of COVID-19 by offering other ways to interact aside from face-to-face.
To be donated, equipment must be in working order and able to run Windows 10. In order to repurpose the equipment for use in the home, Coventry & Warwickshire Co-operative Development Agency will be supporting the initiative by wiping clean the hard drive before installing a basic operating system. Onward support will also be offered to help residents get used to their new devices and access services online.
For more information about the initiative please contact Alistair Rigby at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you are an individual or a company with a laptop to donate, please contact. email@example.com. Collection of laptops can be arranged.
If you are a practitioner or professional that is working with a vulnerable client that would benefit from a donation of a recycled computer, then follow the link below IT Referral Form
Among those to have benefited from the scheme already is David, a 53-year-old man with a visual impairment. He applied to join the ‘It’s About time’ project to learn to create a podcast.
Unfortunately, David had no computer at home and so without support from the Warwickshire County Council Recycled Computers project, he would have not been able to take part in the learning.
Thanks to support from staff at Coventry & Warwickshire Co–operative Development Agency, he was able to set up an email account and access Zoom for meetings and to call friends.
David said: "The laptop helped me a lot. The whole process with the Podcasting project has been great, all the staff have been supportive and have been lovely. Being visually impaired - creating and listening to podcasts is the best way for me to use and enjoy the internet.”
Access to have a computer means that David can now also access CW Mind online for support with his mental health needs and is now able to continue with his Adult Education courses.
Do I need a fire risk assessment for my business premises?
Any premises where a business operates must undergo a fire risk assessment.
It is a legal requirement to record it if your business employs more than five people but, even in cases of fewer than five employees, maintaining a record is still good practice. On one hand, it helps you keep track of what actions you need to take to ensure your premises meet fire safety standards. On the other, recording your fire risk assessment provides evidence that one has been completed and thereby demonstrates compliance.
In the Fire Protection department, we constantly get the question: “How do I know if my premises complies with fire safety legislation?” The answer? Fire risk assessment!
The purpose of a fire risk assessment is to identify any fire safety deficiencies and provide recommendations as to how they can be rectified as well as a timeframe for completion of the required actions based on their urgency. In other words, a good fire risk assessment is essentially a work schedule, which, if it is adhered to, makes your premises safe from fire.
So what exactly is a fire risk assessment? The Home Office defines it as “an organised and methodical look at your premises, the activities carried on there and the likelihood that a fire could start and cause harm to those in and around the premises.”
How detailed your risk assessment should be depends on a number of factors, for example, the size and complexity of the premises, the activities that take place there and the vulnerability of occupants. Such factors usually have an impact on the level of risk.
Regardless of the nature of your premises however, a fire risk assessment should be based on the steps below:
- Identify the fire hazards.
- Identify people at risk.
- Evaluate, remove or reduce the risks.
- Record your findings, prepare an emergency plan and provide training.
- Review the fire risk assessment regularly.
More information on fire risk assessments can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/workplace-fire-safety-your-responsibilities/fire-risk-assessments
To ensure that your fire risk assessment has adequately considered all the risks, including those you may miss due to being familiar with the premises, it is recommended that you employ a professional fire risk assessor. You can search for fire risk assessors in your area on the Institution of Fire Engineers’ online register: https://www.ife.org.uk/Fire-Risk-Assessors-Register