Welcome from Mark Ryder

Hello and welcome to the December edition of Warwickshire Still Means Business.

This has been such a difficult year which has brought challenges to businesses and communities that nobody could ever have envisaged.

Those challenges continue, of course, at this time of great uncertainty, as we await the detail of a potential trade deal with the EU at the same time as dealing with the restrictions and challenges as a result of Covid-19. But as we reach the end of 2020, I think it is important to remember and celebrate how, throughout all those challenges, the resilience, strength and kindness of the people of Warwickshire has shone through.

Those attributes are something to truly admire and they are fully reflected in our amazing business community. This edition of WSMB contains plenty of examples which vividly illustrate that Warwickshire Still Means Business.

We were delighted to support Tecman with a grant which has helped them manufacture PPE which has supported health workers locally and across the country and Europe. The Bell Inn, Winchcombe Farm, Domino Style and InLoco are all facing the future on the front foot after harnessing support from WCC and our partner organisations.

The redevelopment of 1 Mill Street, Leamington Spa, as a base for ten new start-ups in the creative sector is a very exciting addition to Warwickshire's offer as a renowned leader in the games sector.

Also in this edition we welcome Alison Robinson as our new Strategy and Commissioning Manager (Economy & Skills). Alison brings many skills from her long career in business and is a great addition to our very strong team.

As Alison puts it, it is "a brilliant team...such a motivated bunch of people, all trying to do the right thing to make everyone's lives better." You can be assured that team will be working as hard as ever on behalf of businesses as we seek to rebuild the economy in 2021.

I hope you have the best possible Christmas.


Featured News

Tecman pivots to provide healthcare support and jobs

"This has ensured our ongoing global competitiveness by enabling us to increase output, reduce lead-times and add flexibility to our branding."

A small Leamington manufacturer is producing PPE for the NHS and healthcare systems across Europe after adapting swiftly to the demands of the pandemic.

Supported by a Warwickshire County Council small capital grant, after a referral from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Hub, Tecman has switched its expertise, previous applied mostly to the automotive sector, to the health sector.

Before COVID-19, Tecman dealt mostly with the automotive industry until the first lockdown saw over 60 per cent of their business disrupted. An effect of that, however, was the release of manufacturing capacity which gave them scope to adapt

The enterprise they showed has both shored up their own business and provided substantial support to the NHS.

"As an SME we are agile enough to make quick decisions and pivot,” said Kevin Porter, director at Tecman, in Berrington Road. "So we got thinking how we could adapt to best support the healthcare sector in its hour of need.

"We were already supplying ventilator gaskets and components for diagnostic equipment so investigated other ways we could support this industry. We settled on PPE after the shortages become apparent.

"We set about developing a face shield that could be manufactured at high volume to address the supply issue and also address the issues of comfort for the wearer. Within a week we had designed our face shield and by the following month had fast-tracked CE certification, in addition to sourcing all materials from UK manufacturers, helping to support jobs within the supply chain and our own community."

The company had hit upon a winner, but then came the associated issue of meeting very high demand. This is where support from the county council and Growth Hub was invaluable.

"Due to demand, we needed to ensure we could remain competitive on a global level," said Kevin. "It became apparent that we needed to invest in automation technology and new ultra-fast machinery."

Shan Wilkinson, Finance Manager at Tecman added: "During this time we were contacted by Martin at the Growth Hub and Sim at the county council. They provided invaluable advice and support with regard to grants for capital equipment and also sourcing personnel to support our manufacturing output.

"Thanks to the financial support from the county council, we invested in an automated ultrasonic welding system for our face shield production line. This has ensured our ongoing global competitiveness by enabling us to increase output, reduce lead-times and add flexibility to our branding.

"Sim and Martin were wonderful and innovative to work with and we are extremely grateful for their support."

Tecman's flagship face shield is now listed on the NHS supply chain, supplying into NHS trusts throughout the UK. They are also supplying into Danish and Norwegian healthcare systems, have multiple distributor partners in Italy and throughout Europe and are in contact with US customers with initial boxes of samples sent out in November.

Martin Nwangwa, account manager at the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub, said: “I contacted Tecman Speciality Materials during lockdown to discuss their plans for expansion and job creation to offer the assistance of the Growth Hub.

“I was impressed by their proposals to manufacture PPE items, particularly since the Growth Hub was involved with encouraging the supply chain in Coventry and Warwickshire to help the Government to expand the number of products available.

“I got in touch with Warwickshire County Council to discuss if there were any grants available towards Tecman buying machinery. We held a couple of meetings online to develop a framework to help Tecman apply for a grant which proved successful and we wish them the best of luck in the future.”

Warwickshire County Council business growth advisor Sim Lee said: "From our first point of contact, Shan and Kevin at Tecman showed great drive to push their project forward and play a key part in the UK supply chain for PPE. With grant support of £29,445 from WCC, we were able to capitalise on this opportunity and bring forward the investment, fast tracking their plans and bringing valuable jobs to the county at a much-needed time."

* For more information about WCC’s capital grants programme, visit here

* For information about other support to support your business, contact the CWLEP Growth Hub

The Bell set up for an exciting future after WCC retail and hospitality grant

"The grant has been such a help...it has been a really difficult year and, at a time like that, it is just nice to feel supported."

A Rugby pub has made improvements that will benefit customers far into the future thanks to funding from a Warwickshire County Council scheme designed to support the beleaguered hospitality sector.

Rachel Slatcher has run The Bell Inn at Hillmorton for 13 years but this year, with two lockdowns and multiple restrictions, has brought challenges like no other.

Those challenges go on, but Rachel and her team are facing them with greater confidence after upgrading the pub's outdoor catering space with support from the council's Retail and Hospitality Recovery and Investment Grants scheme.

The scheme is part of an initial £6 million package of funding earmarked by Warwickshire County Council to support the immediate economic recovery in the county. The rapid release of funding has made available grants of between £2,000 and £7,500 to provide long-lasting benefits for the businesses, their local communities and the local economy.

At The Bell, the funding has enabled improvements that will draw customers for years to come.

"The grant has meant that we have transformed our outside space," said Rachel. "We now have a large area, including four self-contained booths, which is covered, lit and heated where people can sit and eat in comfort.

"This will be brilliant when the restrictions ease, but also going forward in the long term. I am really excited about the future and what we can do next winter, for example,  perhaps with events round the Christmas market.

"The grant has been such a help. It has been a really difficult year and, at a time like that, it is just nice to feel supported. I have got an amazing team, including a wonderful apprentice, at the Bell and just want to keep their jobs as safe as possible and this is a big step towards that."

Like all pubs, during lockdown the Bell has had to close except to serve takeaways. It has been a very testing period but the pub has had good support from its local community and intends to remain part of that community for many years to come.

"Our regular customers have been great," said Rachel. "They can't wait to be back and we can't wait to have them back and the improvements we have made have put us in a very good place for when that happens.

"Those improvements, and the council support, have given me the confidence to stay open. I know quite a few pubs have looked at operating costs and potential customer-levels and not bothered to open...that is a road we never wanted to go down."

The first round of Retail and Hospitality Recovery and Investment Grants  saw 40 businesses supported with funding totalling £215,000. Businesses are now encouraged to consider applying for the second round which will open early in 2021.

1 Mill Street will provide perfect base for creative start ups

Ten new businesses will benefit from a new Creative Futures Accelerator Programme in Leamington Spa’s Creative District.

The project, which will also work with 500 innovators, will help business teams develop their entrepreneurial skills and test, launch and pitch their business ideas. They will also get six months of free space and support at brand new, state-of-the-art offices in Mill Street, Leamington Spa, to develop their enterprises.

The scheme is supported by the University of Warwick, 1 Mill Street, BT and Warwickshire County Council to hone the next generation of regional entrepreneurs and innovators as part of the University of th Creative Futures Incubator initiative.

Warwickshire County Council is sponsoring the Creative Futures programme which is being delivered on campus and from 1 Mill Street.

Over the next 12 months initially ten new businesses, selected by the University of Warwick, will have access to the new offices, meeting spaces and collaboration networks at 1 Mill Street. Each business will be given six months free access to work with the University to develop their business. Each will benefit from the transformation of the 12,000 sq ft Victorian building into a modern creative enterprise hub, incorporating flexible offices, dedicated desks and hot-desking, a video and sound studio, The Muse Coffeehouse, meeting areas and events space.

The businesses in the Creative Futures Incubator will also have access to the 5G network, from BT Group. BT recently switched on its 5G network on the university campus and surrounding areas, as part of the innovation alliance between BT, University of Warwick and Warwickshire County Council to accelerate innovation and economic growth for local businesses.

Warwickshire County Council's portfolio holder for finance and property, Cllr Peter Butlin, said: "We are thrilled to be part of this collaboration and support the piloting of 5G infrastructure. It enhances the county's offer as a centre of cutting-edge technology which is key to attracting the inward investment that will drive our future economic growth.

"I'm particularly pleased to see the coverage extending to Silicon Spa area in Leamington. This will be a real boost to the cluster of gaming companies based there which make such a strong contribution to the county's economy and which are a major employer of young people, whose employment prospects have been hardest hit by the pandemic."

Rachel Davis, Director of Warwick Enterprise at the University of Warwick, said: “1 Mill Street offers a glimpse into the collaborative nature of the future working world, and the time these micro-businesses spend here will no doubt serve as a launchpad for them to grow their organisations further.

“Starting a business is challenging and practical experience is vital in the early stages, so learning from other businesses, which they will be doing on a near-daily basis at 1 Mill Street, combined with guidance and mentoring from university staff will stand these entrepreneurs in good stead for the future.”

“This is also the first time that the University of Warwick will have had a physical presence in the heart of Leamington, and we are really excited to be involved in developing a community at 1 Mill Street.

"This new presence is a fantastic addition to the Warwick Innovation District. A large, open innovation ecosystem, powered by the University of Warwick; the District enables collaboration, networking, innovation and business growth to occur with a physical footprint stretching from the University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire, through Leamington to Wellesbourne."

Ready for growth at Winchcombe Farm

“The SSG programme allowed me to sit back and work through my plans for the business with Andy and make informed decisions on how we move forward."

Winchcombe Farm Holidays, based in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in south Warwickshire, has protected existing jobs and has an eye on creating new ones after participating in Warwickshire County Council’s Survive, Sustain and Grow programme.

The Survive, Sustain and Grow programme is part of the county council's £6million COVID-19 Recovery Plan and was launched by the council in light of the pandemic to support businesses in the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors.

Like many businesses in Warwickshire, Winchcombe Farm Holidays owner Jo Carrol has been impacted by Covid-19 and her growing business, in Upper Tysoe, was forced to close for the lockdowns, losing around 80 weeks of income on their holiday rentals.

Since 2018, Jo has diversified her farm location into five holiday units, one of which is a highly original tree house. Jo already employs 10 staff and approached the council to participate in the programme to seek help from one of the Survive, Sustain and Grow specialist consultants.

Jo worked with Andy Woodward, who has over 30 years’ experience in the tourism and hospitality sector and is one of WCC’s appointed consultants. Andy and Jo were able to devise a strategy to protect existing jobs, maximise their opportunities and create new jobs in the future.

Additionally, a much-focused marketing plan was agreed that would enable the business to attract a wider market of new guests and encourage previous guests to return. Importantly, they also identified the opportunity to hire a new administration team member, to allow Jo to work on the wider business and her marketing programme.

Jo Carrol said: “The SSG programme allowed me to sit back and work through my plans for the business with Andy and make informed decisions on how we move forward. We have a sixth cottage in planning which should be open for the summer of 2021, and the new plan will help drive business onsite while also supporting the local village shops, pubs and attractions in the area.”

Andy Woodward commented: “This is a terrific local business and offers employment to local staff. Ensuring the long-term success of the business will maintain the existing jobs as well as delivering further recruitment opportunities in the future.”

Jagdish Soor, Lead Consultant for the The Survive, Sustain and Grow programme, said: "This programme is an excellent initiative funded by Warwickshire County Council and is proving a terrific success. Being able to assist businesses like Winchcombe Farm Holidays not only secures their future but also provides much wider benefits for the local economy and supply chain.”

Prestige Games company appreciates warm welcome to Warwickshire

Warwickshire's thriving games sector has welcomed another major player after Fall Guys developer Mediatonic opened a new studio in Leamington Spa.

Mediatonic Leamington Spa will be headed by company vice president of Art, Phil Warner, and plans to hire across a range of disciplines as it continues to grow its headcount.

The Tonic Games Group developer is best known for Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout which took the games world by storm earlier this year. In August, it was confirmed that the title would make its way to mobile devices in China.

Mr Warner expressed his delight at the company's move into Warwickshire and paid tribute to the warm welcome they have received from businesses and Warwickshire County Council.

"More than anything, Mediatonic has always looked for a sense of community in our studio locations," he said. "That is something we feel is hugely important within our teams, but also in the way we engage with other local games companies and developers.

"We've already built some brilliant relationships with other games companies within the town, and we're hugely appreciative of the welcome we have received from both the industry and the local council.

"For our part, we are excited to join such a vibrant game development community and look forward to the opportunity to share expertise and stories."

Warwickshire County Council was pleased to help Mediatonic with their move into the region.

WCC's Digital Creative Lead in the Economy & Skills team Stacy O'Connor provided local information, introduced them to partners and other useful contacts locally and supported them on planning matters

"We are thrilled to have been able to support Mediatonic to establish a presence in the region," said Stacy. "They are a very welcome addition to our thriving games development community.

"They have taken some great space to start their journey in the region and we will continue to support them as their presence grows. They have already supported local activity such as the Interactive Futures event earlier in the year and we look forward to continuing to work together to support the sector as a whole."

Domino Style transformed in-store and online thanks to easy-to-access WCC grant

"The council has been so supportive of local businesses and I can't thank them enough."

A small independent fashion retailer in Stratford-upon-Avon has a new look and a much greater online presence with which to shout about it thanks to a Retail and Hospitality Recovery and Investment Grants from Warwickshire County Council.

Domino Style, in Henley Street, has long been part of the town's vibrant offer of small independent shops - and is now well-placed to bounce from this most difficult year in the future with a brand new look both in-store and online.

Shop owner Abigail Edmunds said: "We heard about these grants through social media so got in touch with the county council and it all happened really quickly from there.

"The grant was easy to access and Louisa Smith at the council was brilliant. She was always there to help and that in itself was really good because, in what has been a very difficult year, it is so nice to know that someone is there and is keen to help. The council has been so supportive of local businesses and I can't thank them enough.

"The shop was looking a little bit tired so we got another local company - Creative Events Support - in to do the work and they were fantastic.

"The shop looks great and is also much more comfortable for customers and staff. We have moved one of the two changing rooms upstairs so that they are not right next to each other anymore. They fit with social distancing requirements and there is more space all round.

"We also used part of the grant to improve our website and social media presence because that part of the business has really grown this year. We bought a camera which will enable us to put high-quality, bespoke images of all our stock online.

"Our Instagram profile is growing all the time and we know that social media and the online element of the business will be an integral part of the future...though, of course, there will never be anything quite like customers coming into the shop and seeing the clothes and getting that one-to-one care and attention from us!"

The first round of Retail and Hospitality Recovery and Investment Grants  saw 40 businesses supported with funding totalling £215,000. Businesses are now encouraged to consider applying for the second round which will open early in 2021.

Advice workshops open doors to customers online for Linda

“I went to two workshops and the practical tips and creative advice just gave me the confidence to have a go."

A childrenswear shop that began selling homemade girls’ clothes from a market stall in Rugby over 40 years ago has survived a second lockdown thanks to a move online with advice under the Warwickshire Towns Network Programme.

Linda Malik runs the family business, Eliza Doolittle Childrenswear, that was first set up by her mother, Isabel Gill. Initially trading on the town’s market, several premises later, it is now located on Albert Street and sells brands not available elsewhere on the high street.

With the rise of online shopping in recent years, Linda was aware of the importance of having a digital presence, but admitted that her self-confessed generational lack of knowledge of the internet meant it was not her top priority - until she was forced to close her shop when the pandemic forced the country into lockdown in March.

She then took the opportunity to sign up to a free series of digital workshops delivered by Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and Stories Marketing, on behalf of Warwickshire County Council through the Warwickshire Towns Network Programme.

The online workshops shared insights into how businesses can use social media and other digital tools to drive traffic to their website. With the help of a separate council grant, Stories Marketing created an e-commerce website for the Eliza Doolittle shop and provided training in managing the site independently.

And after receiving some practical tips, as well as some creative ideas for social media posts, it now has over 1,000 followers on a previously dormant Facebook page and is offering delivery, click and collect, and even hyper-local home delivery on orders placed through its website.

Linda said: “I was way behind the starting line as far as the internet was concerned. I set up a website and a Facebook page in 2016 but they were information only, I didn’t sell from them.

“It just wasn’t at the forefront of mind that I needed to try to be actively selling online. I had no experience or interest in the internet if I’m honest, I’m the wrong age for it to come naturally to me. But business has changed so much in recent years and having a traditional shop on the high street just isn’t enough anymore. Lockdown proved that. I knew I had to learn because with the way things were going, it’s essential to have more of an online presence.

“I went to two workshops and the practical tips and creative advice just gave me the confidence to have a go. The people running the workshop, Sam and Emma from Stories Marketing, had retail experience themselves, so getting working examples of what they had done made them easier to understand.

“Before the workshops, I could just about post on social media and I thought that was enough, but nothing really happened. It is demanding because the advice is to be active all the time and to interact with customers, but now I engage with my followers on Facebook just as I would if they were customers in my shop, and I’ve had more enquiries and more sales, so it has paid off.”

Keely Hancox, of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The digital training was designed to support businesses in building a presence online, from creating awareness on social media through to selling via the web. And when lockdown happened, businesses who had taken part in the training really saw the benefits and Eliza Doolittle Childrenswear is a great example of that."

Warwickshire County Council leader Cllr Izzi Seccombe said: “It’s so encouraging to hear of businesses adapting so quickly during the pandemic. We were delighted to be involved in the scheme and set aside funding in our recovery plan to support online and digital training, particularly for the retail market.

"Small businesses are integral to the local economy and this training will stand them in good stead not only during the pandemic but also in the future."

Focus will be on talent at Interactive Futures 2021

The renowned Interactive Futures event will return to Warwickshire for a third year in February 2021.

The annual Interactive Futures gathering has become a highly popular showcase event for the UK's games community.

It brings together games enthusiasts and the next generation of games designers and creative powerhouses to discuss developments and new releases and discover collaborations and  networking opportunities.

In essence, it is a celebration of the future of games development, with a spotlight firmly on the exceptional local businesses that make Coventry and Warwickshire a leader in the sector.

From February 16-20, 2021, the event will return in a slightly different format with all the content being showcased virtually, but just as inventively and engagingly as in previous years. The focus will be very much on talent and developing the future pipeline of potential game developers.

There will be lots of careers advice and also behind the scenes glimpses and industry insights aimed at both young people and their parents.

More information will be released shortly confirming dates and times and will be available on the website  https://interactive-futures.com/ 

InLoco streamlined and eyeing growth following SSG programme

"The programme not only allowed us in-depth business advice but also access to grant support which will form a huge part of our strategy planning and gives real optimism..."

An events company in Nuneaton is poised to bounce back from a devastating year for the hospitality sector thank to guidance from experts from Warwickshire County Council's Survive, Sustain and Grow programme.

InLoco Events Ltd, a venue-finding service based at Eliot Park Innovation Centre in Nuneaton, was founded seven years ago to cater for the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) sector. The company has since evolved to look after associations, host awards dinners and more recently incorporate InLoco Golf Events, catering for the corporate market and group golf travel.

Then came Covid-19 with its decimation of the hospitality, meetings and events industries. While golf has seen a relative rise in trade since the end of the first lockdown, this was mainly in club membership and visitor numbers. Group golf travel has been limited with many restrictions on travel and group size and the advent of the tier system.

Instead of 2020 being InLoco's most successful year, as forecast, it has turned out to be extremely difficult with much time spent rearranging or cancelling business - but, at the same time, planning for the future has also never been more important.

With larger meetings, conferences and trade shows hopefully able to resume next year and domestic golf travel market due to see growth from March 2021, a strategy to maximise those opportunities is vital. So InLoco engaged with the Survive, Sustain and Grow programme.

InLoco director David Tremmill said: "The programme not only allowed us in-depth business advice but also access to grant support which will form a huge part of our strategy planning and gives real optimism that 2021 will get us back on an even keel with growth forecast in the next three years.

"The grant will be utilised to update both our websites, transforming them from flat-level information pages to modern and interactive websites. This will mean we fully engage with existing and potential customers and provide the level of online support expected, in addition to what we provide as a team. Following the launch of these websites we will implement a new brand awareness and marketing campaign.

“The advice, help and support received from the team at Warwickshire County Council has been invaluable and made the process of applying for the grant a lot more manageable. The guidance and knowledge provided by lead consultant Jagdish Soor and sector specialist Steph Winter really allowed us to focus on what would help our business most to grow into the future."

Steph Winter, WCC specialist consultant said: “It was a pleasure to work with Inloco. They were very keen to re-evaluate how the business traditionally engaged with their customers. Together we came up with a new digital strategy to create online user experience and sales processes and generally streamline the business.”

Duncan Haldane, Business Centres Strategic Manager for Warwickshire County Council, said: "The intervention of the Warwickshire County Council's Survive, Sustain and Grow programme was very timely in assisting InLoco Events plan through the COVID-19 crisis and has been an enabler to allow the business to remain as one of our valued tenants at Eliot Park Innovation Centre in Nuneaton."

"Fantastic response" to new Peer Networks programme

A new website has beeen launched as part of a free programme to help SMES in Coventry and Warwickshire overcome the Coronavirus pandemic and achieve future success.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Hub has created a microsite on www.finditincw.co.uk for business leaders and entrepreneurs who are taking part in the Peer Networks initiative.

The nationwide project has been launched by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for Growth Hubs to run in their areas.

SMEs will be split into advanced manufacturing and engineering, digital/IT/new technology, professional services, retail, creative industries, hospitality, tourism and leisure, the High Street, construction and retail estate, transport and logistics, third sector, renewable energy and green business, and events and conferencing.

The CWLEP Growth Hub has appointed seven Coventry and Warwickshire businesses to deliver each cohort who will meet for a total of 18 hours through two-hour online sessions every fortnight to help business leaders grow and develop their businesses. There will also be individual one-to-one support provided as part of Peer Networks.

The microsite has been developed to enable delegates from their own group and the wider programme to inter-act and share information with each other through the Peer Network Forum.

The Forum will be the place for members to share their experience of the programme and to continue talking to cohort colleagues, facilitators, business advisors and industry experts. It is open to all businesses involved with the Peer Networks programme to help them network with other participants, share knowledge and work through ideas and challenges with the wider Peer Networks community.

Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said the pilot programme was proving popular in Coventry and Warwickshire.

“We have already had 68 SMEs sign up to Peer Networks which is a fantastic response and this is a great way through interactive learning to work through common business issues in a variety of sectors with people in a similar situation,” he said.

“We want to continue to help businesses get back on their feet and not only survive but grow to re-build their own companies and the wider economy.

“Peer Networks is a great opportunity to gain valuable feedback on areas which are affecting your business and how to overcome them as well as networking with SMEs throughout Coventry and Warwickshire.

“Whether it is HR, finance, marketing or sales, the experts running each cohort along with the other delegates will give valuable feedback to help SMEs overcome the difficult and unprecedented challenges which business owners are facing.

“This free course is also an opportunity to build trusted networks and provide support not only during the course but after it has finished which will prove invaluable to long-term success.”

Burgis & Bullock, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, Edale, FSB West Midlands, HR Dept, ibd Business Advice Group and Wright Hassall are running the cohorts.

Peer Networks is open to any SME that has operated for at least one year, has at least five employees, a turnover of at least £100,000 and an aspiration to improve and the course needs to be completed before March 31, 2021.

For further information or to sign-up, please email peernetworks@cwgrowthhub.co.uk

WCC Employee Assistance Programme extended to support more small businesses

"We hope the opportunity to access to the County Council’s own Employee Assistance Programme will be a big help to employees and owners of micro and small businesses in our towns.”

The upheaval and stress of the Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the mental health and wellbeing of many within our community.

While large businesses have the benefit of an HR department and a range of support services, many small and micro businesses don’t have the infrastructure in-house to provide support to employees struggling with stress and anxiety.

This is why Warwickshire County Council is further extending its successful internal Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to the employees and owners of independent hospitality businesses, and any micro and small businesses, with 10 or less employees, operating Warwickshire who may need help at this time.

Employees’ anxieties can be wide-ranging, including worries about their own health, the health of their families, the impact of the restrictions, financial worries, depression brought about by isolation and loss of freedom. Business owners also have to contend with these issues as well as the pressure of keeping their businesses going.

The Employee Assistance Programme provides access to practical and emotional support on a wide range of topics including work, career, relationship, family, money management, debt, health and wellbeing.

Cllr Isobel Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: “Mental well-being is always an important area of concern, but we are aware that now more than ever, it's an issue businesses are facing. We recognise this has been a particularly difficult time for micro and small businesses. While small businesses will be aware of how Covid-19 has affected individuals, they won’t have the HR support found in larger organisations, and may struggle to provide the appropriate support around mental health and well-being to staff during this time of ongoing upheaval and stress.

"We hope the opportunity to access to the County Council’s own Employee Assistance Programme will be a big help to employees and owners of micro and small businesses in our towns.”

Businesses can register their interest in this free service with no obligation to access the programme. They then make employees aware of the support and how to access the 24/7 helpline. The service can be accessed directly and confidentially without further manager involvement.

In the first instance, to register for the programme, eligible businesses should complete a simple form which can be accessed here

This initiative is just one of a package of measures to support local businesses recover from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The County Council has developed an economic recovery plan and allocated a budget of £6 million to support the immediate recovery of the local economy. This plan is supporting a number of new, or extended, activities to support businesses. To find out more about the County Council’s business support schemes, please visit: Warwickshire County Council Business Support

Enhanced online presence give The Cakery a bigger slice of the action

“Being online and on social media is essential, not only in the current climate but also because that’s where the potential customers are, and I’m really seeing the benefit."

A cake shop in Leamington has seen its sales rise despite the coronavirus pandemic — and it’s thanks to an increase in online orders.

Trade at The Cakery on Regent Grove in the town centre fell away significantly at the start of both lockdowns, but when the first set of restrictions hit in March, owner Gemma Diper decided on a digital re-tune to help the business that’s been in her family for 30 years.

Mum-of-two Gemma took over the well-established business, started by her mum in 1982, in 2011 and now has a team of seven staff. The bakery had a website, and pages on both Facebook and Instagram but, like many independent businesses, Gemma admitted she did not pay enough attention to its online presence.

And it was at a series of free digital workshops delivered by Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and Stories Marketing, on behalf of Warwickshire County Council through the Warwickshire Towns Network Programme that she refreshed her e-knowledge and picked up some tips on how to grow her following and online sales.

The online workshops share insights into how businesses can use social media and other digital tools to drive traffic to their website.

Gemma said: “When lockdown came, I had more time to think about social media and an online shop. I knew what I needed to do, but going to the workshops made me realise that I had to put proper resources into it. And it has paid off, especially when I look at the amount of trade I have done online over the summer...it was income that I just wouldn’t have had.

““There’s no doubt some of those new customers are solely because of having an online shop and driving people there through the social media pages. Now I’m regularly delivering to the local universities and getting orders from people who want to send cakes as a gift to others - that’s probably also as a result of not being able to see family and friends because of the restrictions. We’re posting out all over the country and even have had a few international orders.

“I have been able to open for this lockdown for takeaway and for online order collections, so the online shop has been essential for that too. We may well have struggled to keep going without it.

“I sell cakes so it’s quite easy to come up with attractive posts, but Sam and Emma, from Stories Marketing who delivered the workshops taught me it’s all about interacting with followers rather just posting a nice picture!

“Being online and on social media is essential, not only in the current climate but also because that’s where the potential customers are, and I’m really seeing the benefit. I’ve got my sister running the social media side now, so it’s become part of what we do day-to-day.”

Keely Hancox, of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “What the digital workshops have shown is that many businesses have an online presence but, because they are so busy, they tend not to use them to the maximum. What The Cakery has shown is just how much you can get in return if you apply some fairly simple tips and start to build a following. It’s great to see the success it has brought the business.”

Call to Chancellor to ring-fence funding to support businesses

“A vaccine is on its way, the end at last appears in sight - let’s not let more businesses fall at this final hurdle."

A business orgnisation in Coventry & Warwickshire has joined its partner Chambers in writing to Chancellor Rishi Sunak in a bid to ensure that more than £1bn in returned Covid-19 support cash is used to help the hardest-hit firms.

The letter from Chambers of Commerce calls on the Chancellor to ring-fence funds returned to the Treasury to support businesses in sectors significantly impacted by the pandemic - and those which have missed out on existing schemes.

It follows reports that supermarket giants Tesco, Morrisons, Lidl and Sainsbury’s have returned more than £1bn in business rates relief.
A number of smaller firms have also returned unused Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme funds.

The letter, signed by Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Louise Bennett, says: “Through recent media reports we have become aware that over £1bn in business rates relief alone is expected to be returned by Tesco, Morisons and Sainsbury’s. We are also aware of a small number of local businesses intending to return Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme payments.

“We appreciate that resources are limited and that the Government has already delivered an unprecedented package of support for impacted businesses. But these unprecedented times are not over yet. We believe these unexpected funds, which had already been allocated to supporting businesses, should be ring-fenced and used to support those businesses (and their suppliers) most impacted by the current economic climate and COVID measures and those excluded from current support schemes.

“As the Prime Minister himself recently said, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ and saving previously viable businesses and jobs through this short-term dramatic disruption will result in a stronger economic and social outlook (and associated higher tax returns and lower defaults on Government backed loans) for many years to come.

“A vaccine is on its way, the end at last appears in sight - let’s not let more businesses fall at this final hurdle. We urge you to use these unexpected funds to #BackOurBusinesses.”

Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce are calling on members of the business and civic community to add their support here.

Special Feature

Strong interest in Warwickshire at property market showcase

"During the three days, the Warwickshire booth was the most visited Midlands destination and the third most popular overall."

The Midlands UK Forum for Growth, a new online event showcasing £12 billion of investment opportunities in the Midlands across housing, transport, regeneration and green energy in the region, proved a resounding success.

As the first regional trade and investment event of its kind, the forum brought together public and private sector leaders from the UK and overseas, utilising the latest online conferencing technology from Swapcard.

It was led by the pan-regional partnership, the Midlands Engine, made up of the nine LEP areas of the East and West Midlands, with the objective to achieve the region’s vision for greater sustainable growth and economic prosperity.

As home to almost 11 million people - more than Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales combined - the Midlands region drives 22 per cent of England's exports and generates £239 billion for the UK economy each year, an economy the size of Denmark’s.

The event attracted over 500 registrations over the three days, with keynote speeches from Midlands Engine lead Sir John Peace, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and presentations from the nine LEP areas, including Warwickshire and Coventry.

Just as with a physical trade show, there were online booths for businesses and organisations to promote their locations and services. During the three days, the Warwickshire booth was the most visited Midlands destination and the third most popular overall. 

The event also included panel discussions on a range of topics. These included: Industrial and Logistics Driving Midlands Growth; Repurposing of High Streets; UK Commercial Property in the Aged of COVID -Trend and Forecasts; Cutting Edge Technology and Science Parks; Resilience and Sustainability - Moving Towards Zero Carbon; Revitalising the Visitor Economy; Skills and Education - Building a Brighter Future, and Coventry UK City of Culture 2021.

Panellists came from local Warwickshire and Coventry business and education, including Marion Plant OBE from North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College, Sarah Windrum from the Emerald Group and Martin Yardley from University of Warwick Wellesbourne Campus.

Midlands Engine, who part-funded the event, plans a showcase website where these presentations from Warwickshire and other Midlands destinations can be viewed online.

The strong interest shown in Warwickshire during the event followed on from positive market trends on the Warwickshire and Coventry area. Property information company EG reported last month that Coventry was the best performing commercial property market in the UK, with property enquiries up 119% between January and July. Growth was driven particularly by logistics.

Earlier in the year, Warwickshire was reported to be one of the strongest regional office markets as measured by enquiry levels, as companies looked at options to locate staff outside of main city hubs. Warwickshire saw the fifth highest surge in interest, up 79%, compared to 44% for Worcestershire, 21% for Leicestershire and 13% for Oxfordshire. Again Coventry led the UK with 112% growth in interest over the 6 month period.



Upcoming events

  Date Event Timings Venue
Recorded Events 2020.11.04 Building Digital Resilience in Your Business - with Nimbus DTI and Warwickshire County Council - CW Chamber AM RECORDING
2020.11.18 CENEX Low Carbon Vehicle Show - November 18th - 19th All Day RECORDING
2020.11.18 Building Workforce Resilience in Your Business - with AHR Consultants and Warwickshire County Council - CW Chamber AM RECORDING
2020.11.19 CW First Pro Awards 2020 PM RECORDING
2020.11.26 Midlands Forum for Growth - 24th-26th November 2020 AM RECORDING
2020.11.30 CWLEP Annual General Meeting AM Online
2020.12.01 Vehicle Electrification Expo 2020 - 1st-4th Dec - ONLINE EVENT All Day RECORDING
2020.12.07 COVID Secure - Hospitality Businesses - Getting Ready to Reopen AM RECORDING
2020.12.09 Coventry & Warwickshire Champions - from UKIC with Linda Jackson, EVP Brand Portfolio Development for Groupe PSA.
Jeff Pratt, Managing Director for UKBIC.
Phil Warner, VP of Art at Mediatonic.
PM Online
December 2020.12.18 COVID Secure - Hospitality Businesses Webinar 2 - Your Questions Answered
AM Online
January 2021 2021.01.07 DIT: Customs Declaration Training All Day Online
2021.01.14 Rugby Business Buzz - 10am-12pm 10am-12pm Online
2021.01.21 Warwick Business Buzz - 10am-12pm AM Online
2021.01.25 Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards PM Online
2021.01.25 Interactive Futures 2021 - 25th - 29th January 2021 All Day tbc
2021.01.27 DIT: Brexit- Planning Overview All Day Online
2021.01.28 Venturefest WM AM Online
Later 2021.03.04 Future Powertrains Conference March 2021 tbc All Day Motorcycle Museum
2021.03.09 Low Carbon Agriculture Show 2021 9-10 March All Day Online
2021.06.16 Rail Live 2021 - 16th-17th June All Day QRTC
2021.07.07 Vehicle Electrification Expo 2021 - 7th - 8th July - LIVE EVENT All Day NAEC
2021.10.26 Battery Technology Show - Oct 26th-27th 2021 All Day Ricoh Arena

News in Brief

A roound up of latest local news-in-brief....

US games giant makes £1bn bid for Codemasters

EA has sensationally submitted a last-minute £945m bid that would top the offer agreed in November with Take-Two Interactive Software, which makes the Red Dead game franchise. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2047036-us-games-giant-gatecrashes-codemasters-deal-with-945m-bid.

Battery-maker plans HQ and R&D centre at MIRA Technology Park

Britishvolt has announced the intention to site its new global headquarters in the West Midlands. The new facility, in the heartland of the UK automotive industry, will spearhead the development of battery technologies for future electrified vehicles. This closely follows the UK Government’s announcement to ban all petrol and diesel vehicle production by 2030. The new 5000 square metre facility, set to be fully operational by 2022, will be located at the MIRA Technology Park Campus near Nuneaton. https://www.ukspa.org.uk/member-news/britishvolt-plan-new-global-hq-at-mira-technology-park/

The Midlands ‘poised to become a world leader’ in engineering innovation

The Midlands is poised to become a world leader in engineering innovation, but only if it solves the longstanding productivity gap issue, according to a new report. Investment in digital manufacturing can turn the UK, and the Midlands in particular, into a science and engineering superpower, according to 'Manufacturing Confidence – a report by the Midlands Manufacturing Resilience Commission (M2R)'. Digital industrialisation could be worth as much as £455 billion to the UK’s economy over the next decade. In addition the UK manufacturing sector could grow by up to three per cent a year and create 175,000 jobs if the country’s industry embraces emerging technologies. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2047123-the-midlands-%e2%80%98poised-to-become-a-world-leader%e2%80%99-in-engineering-innovation

Projects making up bid for £25m of Government funding for Nuneaton agreed

The projects that will form the basis of a bid for £25m of Government funding for Nuneaton have been agreed. Twelve projects will be included within the My Town Nuneaton submission (Town Investment Plan). Nuneaton is one of 100 towns across the country that has been selected to bid for funding from the Government’s Towns Fund Initiative, where up to £25m per town is available. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2046907-projects-making-up-bid-for-25m-of-government-funding-for-nuneaton-agreed

Coombe Abbey to remain closed

Coombe Abbey Hotel in Warwickshire has announced that it will remain closed for the rest of the year. The venue shut its doors once again in November when the second national lockdown came into force and then stayed closed when Warwickshire was placed into Tier 3. The hotel said that “with all the uncertainty about the Government’s tier system and the number of Covid cases still being high across the county” its management has made the decision to stay closed. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2047141-historic-hotel-to-remain-closed-until-2021

Canadian coffee chain brews up expansion with latest venue launch

A global coffee chain is opening a cafe in Leamington town centre for the first time. Esquires Coffee has signed a ten-year lease at a ground floor 2,200 sq ft unit at 52-54 Warwick Street, which used to be home to the former Co-op store. The coffee chain is expected to open its doors by the end of the year – creating nine jobs – and comes soon after news that Dodo Pizza will be opening its doors in the neighbouring unit over the coming weeks. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2046595-canadian-coffee-chain-brews-up-expansion-with-latest-venue-launch

Stratford business pilots ‘click-and-collect’ food app at town’s market

Queueing for street food at outdoor events could be a thing of the past as a Stratford-upon-Avon business is trialling a new click-and-collect service at the town’s late-night festive shopping markets. Feast Streat – a Stratford event catering business – is encouraging customers to download its smartphone app from QR codes dotted around the market, which will be at Waterside on Thursday and Sunday evenings. Visitors can then use the app to order their food from Feast Streat’s many food stalls at the market in advance. https://www.cwlep.com/news/stratford-business-pilots-%E2%80%98click-and-collect%E2%80%99-food-app-town%E2%80%99s-market

Major improvement works to start at A46 Stoneleigh Junction as WCC announces award of construction contract

Warwickshire County Council and key strategic partners are pleased to announce the start of major improvement works to the A46 Stoneleigh Junction following a contract award to Colas-Siac Limited. The £38m scheme will be funded by Warwickshire County Council, The Department for Transport and the West Midlands Combined Authority with developer contributions from the University of Warwick and Whitley South Works through the Coventry & Warwickshire Development Partnership. The works between Kenilworth and Coventry will include a new bridge across the A46 and realigned slip roads forming the basis of a new signalised gyratory system. https://www.cwlep.com/news/major-improvement-works-start-a46-stoneleigh-junction-wcc-announces-award-construction-contract

Construction of housing scheme on historic former radio station site starts

The ongoing transformation of the former Rugby Radio Station site continues to progress with the delivery of 158 affordable homes now underway. The development, named Midland Heart at Houlton, forms part of the urban extension being brought forward by Urban&Civic in partnership with Aviva Investors. https://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/2046886-construction-of-housing-scheme-on-historic-former-radio-station-site-starts

New president for Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber

A new president of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce has been appointed.Tom Mongan, general manager of manufacturing company Subcon Laser in Nuneaton, has taken over from David Penn of Bromwich Hardy, who held the post for two years. Mongan said: "It really is an honour for me to take up this role. David has done an incredible job in difficult circumstances and I have big shoes to fill – and that includes those who have filled the role going back in time. https://www.insidermedia.com/news/midlands/new-president-for-chamber-of-commerce

The first official Coventry 2021 merchandise has gone on sale – just in time for Christmas.

Coventry City of Culture Trust has opened a ‘pop up’ shop at Coventry Transport Museum which will open every Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 4pm in the run up to Christmas. The merchandise includes everything from t-shirts and aprons through to mugs and coasters, which carry the Coventry 2021 branding that was first revealed earlier this year. There are also postcards available as well as a range of limited-edition Christmas cards. https://www.cwlep.com/news/first-coventry-2021-retail-items-go-sale-pop-shop

People Profile

Alison is proud to have joined a team which is committed to making a difference

"I have joined a brilliant team...I’m delighted to be working with such a motivated bunch of people, all trying to do the right thing to make everyone's lives better."

Alison Robinson has taken on a very complicated job at a very complicated time, but has hit the ground running thanks to a "brilliant" team around her.

Alison is settling into her role as Warwickshire County Council's Strategy and Commissioning Manager (Economy & Skills) at a uniquely challenging time for the county's economy and business community.

After more than 20 years in the private sector, in a range of commercial roles – contract management, marketing, strategy, finance - in the UK Energy industry, she sought a job where she could make a difference: where she could help people.

At the county council, Alison has such a job...and was delighted to find out that she has joined a team full of people driven by the same desire to support businesses and communities reeling from the pandemic.

"I have joined a brilliant team," Alison said. "I’m delighted to be working with such a motivated bunch of people, all trying to do the right thing to make everyone's lives better.

"Everyone I have met is so positive about their work. My team has worked so hard over the last nine months and is still giving. They have been through a lot, but are still pushing it. I am so impressed by them.

"It is a massive learning curve for me, but has been absolutely fascinating and everyone has been really generous with their time, getting me up to speed, as well as doing their own jobs so well. There is such a positive culture at the council and I am so pleased to be part of it.

"I really wanted my next role to have a tangible impact on the area in which I live and this job enables me to do that.

"When I saw the job spec, I thought 'wow'...that fits me! To have a job which allows me to help people with their businesses and skills is literally my dream role. I have a wide range of experience

and skills from industry and now I can use all my commercial experience to do some good."

Alison' strategic brief is broad: business and economy; employment and skills; the council's business centres; and supporting investment in the county's core industries (automotive and manufacturing and digital and creative for example).

To say the least, it is a busy gig, but that's the way Alison likes it - and she loves to see just how much is going on; how much support the council and its partners offer in so many ways to businesses and education-providers.

"I have had to hit the ground running but I like that," she said. "The need is there and the pull is there so you have to roll your sleeves up and get on with it. By having to be involved in it, I am learning more every day.

"The broadness of the role was part of the attraction for me. I have been amazed by the amount and breadth of support that is out there from the council and our partners for the people of Warwickshire. I look at what my team alone does and had no idea that many of the schemes and programmes existed, and then look at the wider environment and what the whole council does. I am really proud to be part of an organisation that does so much make Warwickshire the best it can be."

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