Would you like to join a business team which really makes a difference? Read on...
The Economy & Skills team at Warwickshire County Council is recruiting as it seeks to strengthen in order to supply the best and broadest possible support for businesses and the local economy. Alison Robinson, WCC's Strategy and Commissioning Manager for Economy and Skills joined the team last year...and is loving being part of an organisation which makes a difference in so many ways.
“I am really proud to be part of an organisation that does so much to make Warwickshire the best it can be.”
Alison Robinson and her team at Warwickshire County Council (WCC) have a broad spectrum of responsibilities including business and economy, employability and skills and the council’s business centres, as well as spearheading investment in the county’s core industries (such as automotive, advanced manufacturing, digital and creative).
The Economy and Skills team looks to support businesses to locate and grow in Warwickshire which in turn creates job opportunities for residents and boosts the economy. They are responsible for managing business support programmes to drive economic recovery and growth – such as the £1.5 million Adapt and Diversify grant scheme which supported a variety of businesses most affected by the pandemic. They have a strong focus on improving employability and skill levels across the county, working with business, schools and colleges to develop skills-centred initiatives along with careers and employment activities. The team also looks after the council’s business centres which provide flexible and affordable spaces from fully serviced offices and conferencing facilities to light industrial and warehouse space.
Alison said: “We’re quite a specialist team but we impact across the whole organisation. The Economy and Skills team – made up of just over 30 people – is diverse and the links between the different areas of the council is so important. For example, we work closely with transport to help ensure people can get to and from their jobs, and we work with education to get information to children and young people about their future careers.”
Before joining the council 10 months ago, Alison spent more than 20 years in the private sector in a range of commercial roles including contract management, marketing, strategy and finance within the Energy industry. After leaving the sector just before the pandemic hit, Alison had some time to think about what she wanted to do next.
“I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I wanted to do something that made a difference to the community I live in," she said. "When I came across this role, I thought it was the perfect blend of utilising my business skills but in a way that benefited other people and made a difference to the whole community rather than just the organisation I was working for.”
"The scope of the role was also part of the attraction for me. I have been amazed by the amount of breadth and support that WCC and our partners offer for residents. I look at what my team alone does – I had no idea about the number of schemes and programmes that existed – and then I look at the wider council, and I can honestly say I am really proud to be part of an organisation that does so much to make Warwickshire the best it can be.”
Alison could not have joined the council at a more challenging time.
“I started during the pandemic and it was immediately clear that everyone at the council was pulling together to try and boost the economy and help employers to survive. The team had to work tirelessly behind-the-scenes to find innovative ways to support businesses and boost the economy during such an unprecedented time.
“Soon after I joined, I realised the pandemic has taught us that a strong economy leads to good wellbeing and health. If we can provide good quality jobs for residents, it’s good for their wellbeing. The link between wellbeing and the economy is really what’s motivating me going forward in my role. It’s a real responsibility knowing that the economic health of the county is key to people’s health and wellbeing.”
Alison regards the Warwickshire Recovery Investment Fund (WRIF) as one of the most exciting developments since she joined the council. The WRIF aims to distribute £140 million over the next five years, offering loans and other financial investments to existing and new businesses in Warwickshire to help their long-term recovery and growth following the pandemic. It will stimulate the county’s economy, create over 3,000 jobs and safeguard many more, support local businesses and bring investment into Warwickshire.
Alison said: “The WRIF is revolutionary for Warwickshire and is a fundamental part of the Council’s wider COVID-19 Recovery Plan.”
Looking forward, the Economy and Skills team will be making sure that Warwickshire has got a sustainable future, which includes the climate change emergency and helping businesses to become greener, as well as ensuring there are a variety of future employment opportunities for residents.
Alison said: “There is strong evidence that people in employment live longer and have better health as they have a greater sense of worth, so making sure there are plenty of good quality job opportunities in Warwickshire is really important. Generally speaking, there’s a big incentive to make sure people are in good, sustainable employment.”
Talking about what she most enjoys about her role, and what she would say to anyone thinking of joining the council, Alison said: “I was attracted by the forward-thinking approach to agile working – work is what you do, not where and when you do it – and the technology available to support this.
“Everyone has also been so welcoming. I’ve been really impressed by the culture. I was really keen to work in an organisation with strong female leadership with both the CEO and Leader of Council being female and I’ve found the senior leadership in general to be really authentic - it just makes you want to do good for the organisation and the county. I genuinely feel that all my colleagues at the council aren’t working here for personal gain, but to make a difference.
“Anyone who wants to work in an environment where there’s a really clear link how to better your local area, you can’t do better than WCC.”
The Economy and Skills team is now expanding following a challenging time for the county’s economy and business community. If you have business and commercial skills and you want to use them in a place that matters to people and communities, please view the current vacancies below, including Funding Lead, Inward Investment Senior Advisor and Funding Lead - Employability & Skills.
The council is continuously recruiting for passionate people to contribute to making Warwickshire the best it can be. To find out more about working for Warwickshire and to view all vacancies, please visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/jobs.
'uxplore' programme supports more than 200 businesses
“This is a fantastic opportunity to help businesses develop their projects using 5G and digital connectivity.”
More than 200 small and medium sized businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire are being supported as part of a £3.8 million scheme.
‘uxplore’ is a project led by Coventry University, in partnership with the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub and Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce.
It has been set up to increase the demand for new digital products and services enabled by broadband, 4G, Wi-Fi and 5G, and it will also allow small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) to benefit from wireless communications and provide space to test and explore new applications of 5G.
‘uxplore’ is aiming to provide a range of digital support programmes to pilot new products, services, and business models by using these methods of connectivity.
The free programme will enable SMEs to have access to 5G grant funding, mentoring for new businesses and a programme on digital connectivity and frontier technology.
For the 5G grants stream of the project, match-funded grants of between £4,000 and £10,000 are available for SMEs in Coventry and Warwickshire – which are defined as having less than 250 employees. With match funding, these projects will range from £8,000 to £20,000 in total value.
The funding is intended to support businesses with proof of concept activities for the development of products, services and processes which will create opportunities through the use of 5G.
Businesses must be trading in Coventry and Warwickshire and be able to fund the remaining project costs themselves to be eligible for a grant. Projects need to involve a new approach for the company or industry and use 5G. Applications are now open and businesses are encouraged to apply.
The ‘uxplore’ project also offers 12 hours of business mentoring for SMEs which have been trading for less than 12 months, with tailored digital and/or entrepreneurial support depending on the business’ needs.
Businesses will also be offered a two-day programme on digital connectivity, focusing on 5G, including workshops, industry case studies and development activities, designed to demonstrate the potential applications of this exciting technology within local SMEs.
Workshops will demonstrate potential applications of the cutting-edge connectivity technology, giving a broader understanding to those businesses who may not have considered 5G before.
Running until June 2023, ‘uxplore’ will also see a refurbished 5G digital hub open on Coventry University Technology Park this autumn as part of the project. The hub will include state-of-the-art communications infrastructure, co-working and collaboration spaces, a demonstration space and meeting rooms.
The aim of the space is to create an innovative hub where SMEs have access to 5G networks and can see the 5G demonstrator equipment in action.
Craig Humphrey, Managing Director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said: “We are keen to hear from small and medium-sized businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire who could benefit from this excellent programme.
“As well as valuable mentoring for new businesses, workshops about the newest connectivity technology and the cutting-edge 5G digital hub coming later this year, there are grants of up to £10,000 available to support new products and services which take a novel approach to using 5G. This is a fantastic opportunity to help businesses develop their projects using 5G and digital connectivity.”
Warwickshire continues to excel at supporting 16 and 17 year olds
“Ensuring all of our young people in Warwickshire have a bright future and access to opportunities for rewarding employment is one of the county council’s key priorities."
A recent publication from the Department for Education (DfE) has shown that, once again, Warwickshire County Council (WCC) is one of the most successful local authorities in the country for ensuring 16 and 17 year old residents are either in education, employment or training.
The DfE require all local authorities to collect and report information about a young person’s post-16 activity on a monthly basis. Warwickshire’s numbers of young people either not in education, employment or training (NEETs) are currently standing at around two thirds of both the regional and national average.
This year, Warwickshire has 2% of 16 and 17 year olds in a NEET situation and 1.9% whose activities were not known. This gives a combined score of 3.8% which compares to the West Midlands average of 5.7% and the England average of 5.5%.
This marks a trend in which Warwickshire has been excelling in recent years and the county is now placed amongst the highest performing areas of England, based on comparable local authority areas (size/population etc). Since 2017, Warwickshire has consistently reported significant improvement in the reduction of the numbers of young people who were NEET, including those 16 and 17 year olds whose activity is not known.
All local authorities are required to collect and report information on a young person’s post-16 activity, so that the government can publish a national reports and an overall scorecard.
The DfE can then monitor those 16 and 17 year olds who are not taking part in education, employment and training, (known as NEETs). The department also introduced a new headline measure in 2016 to include those young people whose activity is not known.
Warwickshire is also firmly bucking the tend in how it performs in keeping young people with special education needs and disabilities (those with an Education, Health and Care Plan - EHCP) in education, employment or training.
Participation in education, employment or training for 16 and 17 year olds with a plan currently stands at 93.5%. The median for the West Midlands is 89.2%, an identical figure to the national average.
Cllr Jeff Morgan, Warwickshire County Council Portfolio Holder for Children, Families and Education, said: “Ensuring all of our young people in Warwickshire have a bright future and access to opportunities for rewarding employment is one of the county council’s key priorities.
“I am delighted that the government’s most recent report shows we continue to have such a low proportion of 16 and 17 year olds who are not participating in education, employment or training.
“It shows our systematic approach, our robust tracking and our excellent partnerships with schools, colleges and training providers is proving very successful. It also shows that we have not rested on our laurels following recent successes but have built on that progress. While I am delighted with this year’s performance, I hope that the trend will continue in Warwickshire over coming years.
“I am similarly thrilled that the excellent performance is reflected in our cohort of young people with SEND as well.
“I would like to thank, both personally and on behalf of Warwickshire County Council, all the schools, colleges and training providers across the county who offer a fantastic range of education and training provisions that engages our young people and ensure that these figures are consistently low.
“This achievement is made all the more profound in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic when other local authority areas both in the West Midlands and England have seen their NEET figures increase as a direct result of the pandemic.”
More information about Warwickshire’s support for NEET children in Warwickshire can be found online: https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/neet
Towns Network Programme helps lift Coleshill cafe's profile
"I started to understand a bit more of theory behind posting and using things like hashtags. I suddenly went from a couple of hundred views of a post to getting thousands."
A Coleshill couple have been serving up meals and treats to the local community over the past 18 months – after receiving support with their online presence.
Tina and Dale Glastonbury have run the Café on the Hill in the town since starting the business at the beginning of 2019.
Just a year after launching, Covid hit and, for a fortnight and like many other businesses across the region, they went into a state of shock. But once they started to come to terms with the crisis, they started to look at opportunities to keep the café serving customers during lockdown and for any support available.
They’d already built up an online following on social media and, through that, started delivering to customers in the town including everything from Sunday lunches through to afternoon teas for special occasions.
Tina also found about digital support available and that was a key breakthrough in helping Café on the Hill reach more people. The workshops were delivered by Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and Stories Marketing, on behalf of Warwickshire County Council through the Warwickshire Towns Network Programme. The workshops shared insights into how businesses can use social media and other digital tools to grow an online community.
Tina said: “We’d just started to get the business where we wanted it to be after a year and then the pandemic hit. For a fortnight, we just didn’t know what we were going to do. We were in shock.
“We both love Coleshill and it was our dream to open a business here and to move here. We had our first date in the town 30 years ago – just over the road from the café – and then went on to get married. So, we couldn’t stand by and let the business go under, we knew we had to try everything we could to survive and look for all the support we could get.
“I attended three online group sessions with Stories Marketing to help improve my digital skills and then had a one-to-one session and it was really useful. I started to understand a bit more of theory behind posting and using things like hashtags. I suddenly went from a couple of hundred views of a post to getting thousands.
“We were very well known in the local community, but more and more people got to know about us and it definitely helped us survive the crisis.”
Some of the innovations will continue, despite restrictions being lifted. The Café on the Hill delivered 40 Sunday lunches to customers on a recent weekend and has even ventured into event catering. Such is the success, they’ve taken on their first member of staff.
Keely Hancox, from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Tina and Dale have so much personality and they’ve found a way to make that shine through online. They’ve shown a real fighting spirit to come through the crisis by diversifying and that, coupled with Tina’s enhanced digital skills, has seen Café on the Hill become even more popular despite having to close their doors for so much of the past year and a half.
“It’s great to see that those skills and those changes are not going to be cast aside now that restrictions are lifted. On the contrary, they are using everything they’ve learnt over the past 18 months to not only keep going but to get the business growing again.”
Warwickshire County Council portfolio holder for economy & place, Cllr Kam Kaur said: “The pandemic really made an instant difference to how businesses would have to operate and the County Council, along with our partners, offered an extensive range of support. What was key to our thinking was not only in solving the problem to help businesses stay operational but also to enable them to grow and develop beyond the immediate crisis, in the changing market place that the pandemic brought.
“The Café on the Hill is an example of this. We have supported them to broaden their skills base, reach new customers and engage with local residents. I am delighted to see how well they have adapted and grown. This is precisely the kind of outcome that we were looking for and long may their growth and success continue.”
More courses will start this September which are available to Retail, Hospitality and Tourism businesses. For more information, please visit https://www.cw-chamber.co.uk/business-support/digital-retailer-workshops
Start-up support gives new lease of life to the Dungeon Master of Dordon
"The support I received from the Chamber helped me to enhance my ability to connect with new customers in ways that would have never crossed my mind."
An emergency services hero turned professional games master is capturing the imagination of players from Atherstone to Arkansas after adapting to the need for online meetups.
While many children dream of growing up to fight fires and save lives, Into Adventure Ltd has been helping fans of one of the world’s biggest board games on both sides of the Atlantic fulfil fantasies of their own.
Richard Mortimer, from Dordon in Warwickshire, has spent the last 20 years protecting communities across the West Midlands as a firefighter, but has been playing Dungeons and Dragons in his spare time since he was 16.
Richard, now 46, has served as a Dungeon Master for the popular fantasy game across North Warwickshire for more than a decade after he originally founded Into Adventure Ltd to support his local library in the wake of funding issues by hosting D&D sessions.
Like many businesses, Richard was forced to operate almost exclusively online throughout the last 18 months due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The video conferencing software used by Richard in his online sessions, however, has allowed him to host games like never before by visually transforming himself and his guests into orcs, elves and other fantasy creatures, while taking advantage of digital marketing has enabled him to expand his customer base.
He has since been able to access markets across Scotland and Ireland and, most recently, the United States after seeking advice from Warwickshire County Council’s start-up service which is delivered by Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce.
The programme for start-up businesses is part of the CW Business: Start, Grow and Scale project which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Warwickshire County Council, North Warwickshire Borough Council and the other District and Borough Councils.
Richard said: “The pandemic highlighted the ways that not having an online presence can severely impact the potential of your business, and the support I received from the Chamber helped me to enhance my ability to connect with new customers in ways that would have never crossed my mind.
“The Chamber put me in touch with other business owners to exchange advice on how to be flexible and deal with the challenges of operating across different countries and states, and I have since enrolled onto their digital training programme with a view to boosting Into Adventure’s Online presence.
“There is a huge demand for Dungeon Masters across the UK but also a very strong following in the local area, including three of my crew members at Tamworth Fire Station.
“It would be great to hear from even more players across the UK who might have been unable to play with their friends over the last year or so.
“Our games are always extremely fun and held to a very high standard, and the ability to appear as a range of characters adds a whole new dimension to the experience.”
Hardeep Sandhu, Enterprise Manager at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce said: “The team at the Chamber can offer a range of support to start-up and early-stage businesses to help them not just survive but grow.
“It’s been great to see that Richard has made the most of the support we offer and started to see the material results in the growth of his business.”
The Chamber will be holding online clinics for individuals thinking about starting a new business and those candidates that have started a new business in the past 24 months.
Hardeep added: “People need to be almost ready to start their businesses, as the start-up programme is geared up to supporting those that have a business idea, are clear about what they want to do and need guidance on how to start and what to do.”
Anyone interested should email Rita at firstname.lastname@example.org, with an overview of their business and contact details and include in the subject, ‘North Warks Clinic Booking Request’. Clinic dates are September 7, 14 and 21 and take place between 9.30am and 2.30pm, all sessions are delivered online and meeting links will be sent out after the initial phone call. For more information visit www.cw-chamber.co.uk/business-support
Warwickshire business ready to unleash the dinosaurs
"Gaynor has been really helpful,” said Malcolm. “We approached Business Ready in around August of 2020 and as well as supporting us around the way we can market ourselves, she has been a really big support from a business mentorship point of view.
A Warwickshire company is planning to open its own immersive experiences after supplying international entertainment giants for more than 15 years.
Meriden-based Hollywood Gaming has become a market leader in providing effects using its hardware and software solutions working with the likes of Hasbro, Paramount Pictures, Sony and EA on games distributed by Sega Amusements to arcades and family entertainment centres around the world.
Now, following support from the University of Warwick Science Park’s Business Ready programme, the company, led by directors Malcolm Barnes and Mark Evans, is developing a new area of the business, Immersive Hollywood, where it will open venues of its own and provide unique multi-sensory visitor experiences.
The Business Ready programme delivers support to expanding businesses and is managed by the business support team at the University of Warwick Science Park. It is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council as part of the CW Business: Start, Grow & Scale Programme.
Hollywood Gaming, which was founded in 2005, is currently mapping out that expansion and will look to raise around £800,000 in investment to get that side of the business off the ground and is already scoping locations where it could open its own venue experiences.
The business is working with scriptwriters to help create the narratives for the new experiences, which Malcolm forecasts will cost around £30 per person to play. The experiences currently being mapped out are a safari, alien invasion and dinosaur world. Each would use the same physical props but, by tailoring the VR and other 4D elements such as smells, motion and wind, every experience would be different despite taking place in the same place.
Malcolm said: “We believe that our experience and skills in this area give us a great platform to create our own venues and our own experiences. The plan would be to make them interchangeable – so you could have a horror game running for one group of visitors and then change that to be something children friendly using the same props but with a different narrative and different reality experiences.
“As well as extended reality, our games will be brought to life with props and also tapping into other senses such as touch and smell, which is what helps to set them apart from ordinary virtual reality experiences.
“This kind of experience is normally reserved for major cities like London but we want to bring it to the masses both through location and through our price points, which make them much more accessible for people.
“It won’t just be a 30-minute experience, the story will start before visitors have even arrived and will offer a great day out for family and friends.”
The company has plans to expand into strategic locations in the UK before expanding to Europe and North America.
Gaynor Matthews, a Business Ready adviser, has worked with Hollywood Gaming on how to position itself within the marketplace and better explain what it does to different groups – whether that’s Business to Business or Business to Consumer for its new venues.
“Gaynor has been really helpful,” said Malcolm. “We approached Business Ready in around August of 2020 and as well as supporting us around the way we can market ourselves, she has been a really big support from a business mentorship point of view.
“I am big believer in tapping into other people’s knowledge and specialist skills and Gaynor has been great at introducing us to other mentors for support, which has helped to move us onto this stage. We are grateful for the help we’ve received from Business Ready in getting us this far and can’t wait to launch our first venue.”
Gaynor said: “We are delighted to have supported the team at Hollywood Gaming as it embarks on its expansion. Business Ready is here to help companies which are ready to grow and take that next step. Hollywood Gaming is a great example of that.”
£5million of grants helps tourism amd hospitality sector weather "perfect storm"
"Tourism and hospitality is a sector that is so often overlooked but is a huge contributor to UK GDP...looking forward, there needs to be proper long-term funding for the visitor economy..."
Nearly £5 million of grants has been awarded to tourism and hospitality businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire in the last nine months to help provide support from the ‘perfect storm’ affecting companies in the current economic climate.
Tourism and hospitality is the focus of the latest Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub SmartRegion report which gathers information from its business engagements as well as statistics and data from Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council, the CWLEP and other organisations.
Coventry and Warwickshire’s business support organisations have provided a wide range of financial support including almost £1.5 million from Warwickshire County Council’s Adapt and Diversify scheme. Almost £200,000 was allocated quickly to businesses in the visitor economy from the European Regional Development Fund Specialist Grants awarded through the CWLEP Growth Hub with Coventry City Council acting as the accountable body, and over £3 million was lent to businesses in the sector by the Coventry and Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust.
The Government has launched the Tourism Recovery Plan to encourage greener, innovative, and more resilient hospitality and tourism businesses with a range of measures including reducing VAT, business rates relief, introducing a spending voucher scheme, and domestic tourism rail products to increase demand.
Helen Peters, chief executive of Shakespeare’s England, the Destination Management Organisation for South Warwickshire and the surrounding areas, said businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry had reopened later than any other sector and had operated under restricted capacity for many months despite facing ongoing fixed costs, persistent low revenues, dwindling cash reserves and the potential closure of businesses.
She said: “The hospitality industry was the first to be forced to close and has been the last to re-open. Even now, businesses are very aware that to re-grow confidence in both staff and customers, they potentially need to keep many of the mitigations in place like social distancing and the wearing of face masks and coverings.
“International visitors had represented roughly 30 per cent of our visitor base. We are unlikely to see many international visitors back until 2022, but VisitBritain anticipate it being 2024 before we realistically return to pre-pandemic levels.
“Increases in domestic visits via ‘staycations’ and ‘daycations’ will help, but international visitors on average spend three times that of a domestic visitor, so the negative economic impact will still be significant.
“Tourism and hospitality is a sector that is so often overlooked but is a huge contributor to UK GDP. Looking forward, I think there needs to be proper long-term funding for the visitor economy with all local authorities providing a percentage of grant funding for their Destination Management Organisation, proportionate to the economic impact tourism drives to their area.
"I think having a designated Secretary of State for Tourism, Hospitality, Culture – The Visitor Economy would also be helpful because it is currently covered by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, and the Department of Transport, which often leads to a lack of clarity and no coherent overarching strategy for our sector.
“Finally, our sector should be seen as an ‘aspirational career choice’ recognised by the red-brick universities and industry alike to highlight senior management roles.”
Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said the monthly SmartRegion report was also monitoring a range of issues which are merging into a perfect storm, threatening the reset and recovery of the region’s economy during the remainder of 2021.
He said: “The Growth Hub is continuing to gather evidence to gain more intelligence, experiences, and insights from local businesses to report back to the Government since it is clear that these issues are not just happening in Coventry and Warwickshire although the degree of the impact varies between different areas.
“Problems range from supply chain difficulties which is leading to significant price increases or stopping production to the well documented shortage of skilled and semi-skilled labour, and from the phasing out of Government support to self-isolation rules and the ‘pingdemic’.
“All of this is contributing to re-opening plans being disrupted for many businesses of all sizes, with some having to reduce hours or services and some being forced to close."
Businesses' perspective sought to help shape the future of bus services in Warwickshire
Businesses have been asked to make their views known as plans are drawn up to improve the provision of bus services in the county.
The Government has earmarked £3 billion towards improving bus services throughout England. Following this announcement, Warwickshire County Council is working closely with bus operators to develop an ambitious Warwickshire Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) aimed at encouraging more people to travel by bus.
The BSIP will set out Warwickshire's ambitions for bus service improvements and help secure a proportion of the funding to benefit people living, working and travelling in the county.
A crucial element in developing the BSIP is gathering the views of stakeholders to ensure the opportunity to improve the network is maximised for everyone’s best interests. So it would help the county council enormously if a representative of your organisation could take a few moments to complete the stakeholder engagement survey (below).
Your involvement will help to ensure the plans outlined in the Warwickshire BSIP align with what people you represent actually want, helping us to understand the current views on the bus network and highlighting the priority order for improvements.
The survey can be accessed here...https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/WarwickshireBSIPEngagementSurvey/
Please note that the closing date for responses is 19th September 2021.
Guidance for SMEs offered by EU transition support clinics
Small and medium-sized business in Warwickshire have help at hand in dealing with the complexities of trading through the EU Transition process.
Five EU Transition support clinics will be delivered in September by the West Midlands Growth Hubs in partnership with the Department of International Trade to help clarify some of the issues facing SMEs.
The clinics will focus on VAT, Import and Service Sector-related queries. Businesses are encouraged to take advantage of this free advice to talk through the challenges and issues facing import businesses since the end of the transition period.
To register for a clinic your business must be registered in the West Midlands region and have Import queries directly related to the UK's exit from the EU, and have not previously participated in these Import clinics.
For more details and to book a place, please visit the links below:
9th September IMPORT 121s https://www.wmgrowthhubs.co.uk/events/brexit-clinic-import-onetoone-sessions
14th September VAT 121s https://www.wmgrowthhubs.co.uk/events/brexit-and-vat-clinic-specialist-advice-clinic05
22nd September IMPORT 121s https://www.wmgrowthhubs.co.uk/events/brexit-clinic-import-onetoone-sessions01
28th September VAT 121s https://www.wmgrowthhubs.co.uk/events/brexit-and-vat-clinic-specialist-advice-clinic06
29th September IMPORT 121s https://www.wmgrowthhubs.co.uk/events/brexit-clinic-import-onetoone-sessions02
Bears keen to engage with Warwickshire business community
England legend Ian Bell was the guest of honour when Warwickshire County Cricket Club held an Q&A in Leamington Spa as part of their drove to build engagement with the district.
The business community was well-represented in the audience at the event hosted by Clements & Church tailors.
Alongside Bell on the panel were the two men currently at the helm of Warwickshire cricket; director of cricket Paul Farbrace and chief executive Stuart Cain.
Bell spoke about his record-breaking career, cited his personal favourites from his 21 Test centuries and shared some memories from his five Ashes-winning Test series and former teammates. He also gave his views on how the current Warwickshire side, who are top of the County Championship table, is improving all the time.
Farbrace was questioned on his experiences of coaching both Sri Lanka and England at international level and how these experiences shaped his coaching style. Cain spoke on his first year as the Bears' chief executive and the direction he sees the club progressing in the future. The Hundred was also discussed by all the panel and how they see the county game evolving in the near future.
The event gave local businesses such as InvestGrow, IWUK, Honesberie and The Warwickshire (golf centre) an exciting opportunity to network with other businesses through Warwickshire County Cricket Club. It will provide a starting point for more events within the county of Warwickshire that will build the Bears' engagement with the communities in which they have so many supporters.
Beauty platform launches with help from Business Ready
“We are delighted that Business Ready helped to connect us altogether and, by combining our skills and experience, we are much stronger for it.”
A new online platform is aiming to transform the beauty market after launching with the help of a business support programme at the University of Warwick Science Park.
Counter Culture is working with independent beauty entrepreneurs and boutique brands to offer consumers sustainable and ethical products from a single web platform.
The business, which is run by fellow directors Mark Wisniewski and Wendy Martin, was launched this summer after support from the University of Warwick Science Park’s Business Ready programme with 22 brands already selling close to 180 different products on the site.
Business Ready is a programme that delivers support to expanding businesses which is managed by the business support team at the University of Warwick Science Park, and is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council as part of the CW Business: Start, Grow & Scale Programme.
Mark, who has a technical IT background, was introduced to Wendy, who has nearly 30 years’ experience in sales, marketing and e-commerce, by Business Ready adviser Gaynor Matthews when it was clear that their combined skills and experience would help grow the business quickly.
Mark said: “My background is in renewable energy and software development. Sustainability has always been important to me, as has making a positive impact on the world. Between Gaynor, Wendy and myself, we’ve all got different backgrounds and brought different skills and experiences to the table.
“It was a real meeting of minds around this opportunity to create something that offers beauty entrepreneurs and boutique brands – particularly those established by women – to sell their ethical and sustainable products to a market that has a real appetite for products that are good for them and the planet.”
Business Ready adviser Gaynor Matthews had been supporting Mark through the programme, initially for another business.
Mark then helped Gaynor with her own business WOW HOW – a makeup app – from a technical perspective and this sparked his interest in the beauty space from a clean and sustainable perspective.
He came up with the idea of creating a niche market place after his research identified that his target audience wanted to buy ethically and this was then key to his business strategy.
Gaynor said: “I was able to offer advice and support as well as being a sounding board for Mark – especially for the areas of the business that were outside his comfort zone.
“I then introduced him to Wendy who is an expert in the field of marketing and how you build an e-commerce brand and a customer-base, so it was the perfect fit.”
The Counter Culture platform has been designed to help sellers benefit from the brand and sell more of their products. With research showing that 88 per cent of consumers want brands to help them shop more ethically and sustainably and 41 per cent of consumers feeling guilty about the environmental impact of their beauty products, the company is responding to this rise in ‘conscious consumers’.
The company is also utilising the stories behind those businesses to build interest and loyalty in Counter Culture.
Wendy said: “There is not an exact definition for sustainable and ethical beauty. At Counter Culture, we focus on boutique brands that create high-performing beauty formulated to be kind to people and the planet.
“Brands that are striving to do the right thing in terms of the products they create and the business practices they adopt. It’s very much a journey not a destination.
“There is an individual story behind our brands and we want to be a champion for each of them. People are keen to hear about founders and what’s inspired them as well as learning about the product itself so we want to tell those stories – particularly where we are working with female entrepreneurs – so that we can become a network for our sellers as well as a platform for them to sell from.
“We are delighted that Business Ready helped to connect us altogether and, by combining our skills and experience, we are much stronger for it.”
Delivering our future together - the power of Local Enterprise Partnerships
Chair of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Sarah Windrum, believes the LEP has a critical role to play in shaping and delivering the area’s economic future.
For ten years, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) have been driving forward inclusive economic growth across the country. They have harnessed the energy and expertise of leaders from 2,000 businesses, 180 local authorities and 250 Higher/Further Education organisations.
As we look ahead to life post-Covid, Sarah Windrum believes the role of LEPs is more important than ever and that they should be central to the delivery of the economic recovery and levelling up.
In the Midlands, LEPs have delivered £4.1 billion of Government investment, unlocking a further £11.1 billion of match funding from private, public and Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VSCE) partners. From City Deals to Local Growth Deals, trade and investment to skills training and business support, LEPs have put local people and local places at the heart of its work. LEPs’ flexible and agile response to Covid-19, the EU Exit and future skills challenges has been made possible thanks to the unique way the LEPs have brought public, private, and academic sectors together to create joined-up solutions.
Together, the Midlands LEPs have driven forwards locally informed and sustainable investments to create over 75,000 jobs so far and are on target to create over 200,000, as they collectively support the Covid-19 recovery and develop opportunities for inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
The Midlands is home to over ten million people and has a £238 billon economy, generating over 12 per cent of the UK’s Gross Value Added. Building on the strengths of the LEPs’ partnerships and its Growth Hubs, Midlands LEPs have supported over 135,000 businesses to enable them to grow and prosper. Through LEPs’ locally-driven insight and collaborative approach with schools, colleges, universities, training providers, employers, and career professionals, they have supported over 40,000 learners to ensure the regions can respond to the future skills needs and that everyone has access to opportunities, no matter what their background.
As the birthplace of the industrial revolution, innovation is a defining characteristic of the Midlands economy, and collectively the LEPs have invested over £100 million in research and development. The Midlands LEPs have worked with universities and businesses to develop innovative products and services to drive international trade, growth and productivity.
With the government’s ambition to evolve the way it supports local growth and levelling up for the long term, LEPs have a critical role to play by building on their legacy to ensure they collectively maintain its focus on the region’s prosperity and drive forwards the government’s ambitions of a green recovery through improved productivity, skills development and business support for everyone.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) has brought £191 million of investment to the area which has been match-funded by £407.4 million since 2011. This has led to the creation of 17,504 jobs and the CWLEP is on target to deliver a further 13,858 jobs. Alongside the CWLEP Growth Hub, 2,285 learners have been supported with an additional 3,942 people expected to be helped.
Over the last decade, a total of 5,464 business have been helped by the CWLEP and CWLEP Growth Hub and they are on target to support a further 4,065 businesses.
The CWLEP Growth Hub has dealt with just under 6,000 businesses in the last two years, has nearly 3,000 registered businesses on FinditinCW which has promoted over £20 billion of tender opportunities and has had 28,000 site visits since launching CW Employment Solutions.
Sarah Windrum, Chair of the CWLEP, said: “The figures demonstrate the massive impact the CWLEP has had in the last ten years in Coventry and Warwickshire. We have driven investments across the region to enable the creation of jobs, apprenticeships and learning opportunities as well as supporting businesses to grow and innovate, whether they are an SME or global company.
“We have assisted businesses and learners through the intensive day-to-day operations of the CWLEP and the CWLEP Growth Hub – which continues to play a pivotal role among Growth Hubs in the region – while Coventry & Warwickshire Champions has had a vital role in promoting the area to highlight our innovation.
“All this has led to attracting inward investment and building world-leading facilities such as the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre as we cement our reputation for being pioneers in battery technology, automotive and manufacturing excellence.
“Before Covid, we were among the top three best performing LEPs in England and the best in terms of economic growth. Key to our success has been the fantastic private-public partnerships we have built throughout Coventry and Warwickshire and these will be vital in implementing our Strategic Reset Framework as we create the conditions for enterprise and innovation to flourish and play our part in delivering the nation’s net zero target.
“The CWLEP has a critical role to play in delivering our future ambitions and resetting our local growth trajectory to continue our pro-active future and drive the economy forward in all parts of Coventry and Warwickshire.”