Community support at the heart of region’s success
The power of communities to support those in need was vividly displayed during the pandemic...and businesses played a huge part in that uplifting effort.
As we all seek to move forward from the pandemic, Warwickshire County Council has launched, Community Powered Warwickshire, an initiative to sustain and build on that brilliant community spirit - and businesses large and small will have a major role to play.
WCC's Strategy & Commissioning Manager (Economy & Skills) Alison Robinson explains.
During COVID, Warwickshire’s incredible communities played a vital role in preserving, as much as possible, normal life, supporting vulnerable people and generally helping our progress towards recovery. The county’s businesses also played their part, adapting and rising to the challenges and often going the extra mile to support good causes around them.
It was utterly inspiring to see.
So let's keep that going... and build on it.
During the pandemic, and long before it, many Warwickshire businesses have quietly, without fuss or publicity, offered wonderful support to those in their area that need it. Thank you all!
Now let's enhance that brilliant effort and get even more businesses to join in and 'Think Community.'
At the county council, we are looking at how we can empower communities to do more and embrace the public spiritedness which has soared during the last 18 months. There was a huge surge of goodwill - so how do we encourage that to remain?
This will be discussed at our Community Powered Warwickshire conference on Thursday 4th November between 10am – 1pm. It is a virtual conference and we would love to hear from businesses who can tell us what they do and how they help those around them.
Many businesses do great stuff in their communities. Are you one of those? If so, we would love you to get involved and explain at our launch event what you do and how to set up connections with the people and organisations who need support.
We want to spread the word that there are sound business reasons to get involved. Engagement with the area where your employees live demonstrates a commitment to your locality. It can improve the welfare of your employees and their families and supports their wellbeing.
It is well known that if you invest in your employees, they will invest in you because they can see you are committed to your community. Economic benefits lead to health benefits with employees in better health taking less time off sick.
Community support from businesses can take many forms. There is much that businesses can do to offset their carbon emissions and there is loads to be done in schools and by funding local endeavours and community projects.
If you are a small business already doing this, please join us on November 4th and share your experiences and knowledge. You would be really helping us all to fully understand what businesses can do.
Some small businesses may not realise how much help they can provide with no or minimal cost to them. They may have redundant items lying around that would be of immense value to a good cause. Recycled laptops were precious cargo during the pandemic.
The pandemic bought the power of communities to the fore. Community Powered Warwickshire is designed to harness that feeling and help sustain and build upon it.
Everyone is part of the community somewhere, but businesses can provide a real lead. Please come and join us on November 4th.
To register for the conference, please follow this link https://crm.newlocal.org.uk/civicrm/event/register?id=371&reset=1.
Business stepping forwards after grant help
“I have never previously received a penny in grants for my business but when I was contacted by the Growth Hub they suggested the Survive, Sustain and Grow programme as a way forward to take the business to the next level."
A Warwickshire woman who has twice been forced to change her career due to significant health problems is stepping in the right direction after receiving a grant from Warwickshire County Council to help with her business’s post-Covid recovery.
Julia Mitchell was advised by doctors in 2000 to re-consider her career in IT – which involved a great deal of driving or sitting at a desk for hours – after being diagnosed with a form of rheumatoid arthritis which was causing her spine to fuse into a curve.
She retrained at Warwickshire College while still working full-time and, in 2004, launched a successful floristry business which included working with Warwick Castle, Le Manoir in Oxfordshire and Blenheim Palace. Despite easing her back problems, she encountered further medical problems due to standing up for long periods of time – and needed a full knee replacement.
Julia started attending Tai Chi classes and it left her feeling so invigorated and calm, she decided to undergo an instructor training course and in 2019 launched classes in Warwickshire at Wren Hall in Wroxall and Shrewley Village Hall, Shrewley Common, as well as securing a number of corporate clients including Birmingham Business Park.
In 2020 and 2021, she also completed IAFPD Certificate in Coaching and IAFPD Primary Certificate in Health & Wellbeing Cognitive Behavioural Coaching from the Centre for Coaching in London.
During the pandemic, Julia invested in a new laptop to hold webinars and Zoom classes for her business, Healthy Steps by Julia Mitchell. She also completed her instructor training course with British Nordic Walking, adding an outdoor wellbeing activity to the services that she offers.
Through the Socially Shared Women’s Business Support Network, Julia contacted the CWLEP Growth Hub who put her in touch with Warwickshire County Council to apply for its Survive, Sustain and Grow programme.
Healthy Steps by Julia Mitchell was one of 223 businesses supported by the County Council’s Survive, Sustain and Grow programme to develop an economic recovery plan with the assistance of a specialist consultant. 57 businesses were awarded over £400,000 of recovery grants also funded by the County Council.
Julia self-financed her rebranding which was completed by Rebecca Jones of Glory Design, Coventry.
After receiving a £3,500 grant, Rebecca also supplied Julia’s e-commerce website with help from Anita Dinnes, Julia’s assigned business mentor.
Julia said: “This has given me the image I wanted. It has video content, people can make enquiries or make bookings and there is information about Nordic Walking, Tai Chi, Well Being and the Corporate Experiences that I offer.
“I feel so well now compared to the pain I was in, and the amount of medication I was taking in my 30s and 40s, this led me to set-up this business. I wanted to share that knowledge with people working in a corporate environment. There are so many ways that we can take really small steps every day to improve health and wellbeing.
“I have never previously received a penny in grants for my business but when I was contacted by the Growth Hub they suggested the Survive, Sustain and Grow programme as a way forward to take the business to the next level.
“The grant has been a massive help and I can’t thank Warwickshire County Council enough because, without them, I wouldn’t have been able to afford the new e-commerce website.
“It has also enabled me to outsource some of my marketing and administration while I deliver the sessions which is another fantastic outcome.”
Adam Plumb, CWLEP account manager, said Healthy Steps by Julia Mitchell has a new focus and a new look after receiving financial assistance from the Survive, Sustain and Grow initiative.
“Julia was steadily building up her business after launching a year before the pandemic and, despite flexing to providing online classes, she wanted to rebrand her business and improve her website to bring all the different elements together but needed financial assistance,” he added.
“At the Growth Hub we are here to make businesses of all sizes aware of the grants that are available and Julia’s business is now in a position to secure new business in the corporate market to help its growth.”
Cllr Kam Kaur, Warwickshire County Council’s portfolio holder for economy and place, added: “The Survive, Sustain and Grow grants were put in place not only to help small businesses through the incredibly difficult period of lockdowns but also to make sure that they had the means to put in place future-proof improvements.
“This is a brilliant example of what we hoped the grants would achieve. Now that Julia has the online presence, she can grow the business and look to create employment opportunities for others with a sustainable business model that we hope will thrive in the coming years.”
Caption: From the left, Cllr Izzi Seccombe (Warwickshire County Council), Julia Mitchell and Adam Plumb (CWLEP Growth Hub)
Campaign to improve workplace wellbeing by The Mental Health and Productivity Pilot
A Midlands-wide campaign helping improve support for mental health in the workplace has seen more than 800 employers taking the first steps to make positive improvements in their organisations.
The Mental Health and Productivity Pilot (MHPP) led by Coventry University, launched its Bridge the Gap, Start a Chat campaign to reduce stigma around talking about mental health at work and to help employers start their own mental health campaigns in their workplaces boost staff mental health and ultimately improve productivity.
Warwickshire employers who would like to know more about the free support available from MHPP can request an online meeting with their regional MHPP contact.
Since its launch in August, over 800 businesses and organisations across a range of sectors have downloaded the free employer resource pack that guides them through the first steps in implementing their own mental health campaign in their organisations.
In addition, almost 600 employers have signed up to free workplace mental health initiatives such as West Midlands Combined Authority’s ‘Thrive at Work’ programme, or Mind’s ‘Mental Health at Work Commitment’.
And the campaign has reached more than 3 million people online since it launched.
One organisation that got involved with the Start a Chat campaign was disability support charity United Response, with offices in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
Laura Hughes, Senior Service Manager at United Response, was particularly impressed with MHPP’s earlier online showcase, which gave attendees lots of insight into the campaign and other ways organisations can improve workplace mental health.
She added: “MHPP has a wealth of resources – I am going to be discussing the ‘Every Mind Matters’ app and the ‘This Is Me’ initiative with managers to look at how we roll these out.
“The resources and support available to us through MHPP will greatly enhance the support we already offer to employees and support our teams to start conversations about our own mental health, further bridging the gap with the people we employ.”
Caroline Geraghty, MHPP Project Manager at Coventry University, added: “We launched our Bridge the Gap, Start a Chat campaign to encourage Midlands business to start conversations around mental health at work, to help reduce stigma and to show employers that there are simple steps they can take to support their staff.
“It’s absolutely fantastic that we’ve seen so many organisations take those initial steps to improving workplace mental health. Our free employer resource pack is full of great advice for those looking to get started.”
MHPP is funded by Midlands Engine and is led by Coventry University in partnership with the University of Warwick, the West Midlands Combined Authority, mental health charity Mind and the universities of Birmingham, Derby, Lincoln, Loughborough and Nottingham.
To find out more about the #StartaChat campaign and download the employer resource pack, visit https://mhpp.me/startachat/how-to-have-a-conversation-about-mental-health/
Major awards open to small businesses
Small businesses across Warwickshire will have the chance to compete for a coveted national prize as a major award ceremony returns.
Britain’s biggest business representation group the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has launched its 2022 FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards, and Warwickshire businesses are invited to enter a wide range of categories as part of the West Midlands Awards.
FSB’s Celebrating Small Business Awards is the largest event of its kind in the small business calendar.
On average, over 8,000 small businesses register, and both FSB members and non-members can enter for free, with regional category winners having the chance to compete for national prizes.
The West Midlands winners will be announced at an award ceremony on Thursday, March 17, 2022 at the Forest of Arden Marriott hotel in Meriden. The closing date for entries is Sunday, January 30, 2022.
The regional winners then progress to the UK Final, which is held in May 2022, with a chance to be named the national winner in their category and vie for the accolade of FSB Celebrating Small Business of the Year.
Warwickshire businesses can enter 12 FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards categories.
Categories are: International Business of the Year; Environmental / Sustainability Award; Business and Product Innovation Award; Micro Business of the Year; Start-up Business of the Year; Family Business of the Year; High Growth Business of the Year; Young Entrepreneur of the Year (Aged 30 and under); Wellbeing Award; Self-employed / sole trader of the year; Digital / E-Commerce Business of the Year; Community Award (Regional level only).
Hollie Whittles, FSB regional chair for West Midlands said: “Over the past 18 months small businesses have faced an incredibly tough time.
“While there have been many challenges faced by small firms, we have also seen lots of inspiring stories and successes from small firms across the West Midlands whether they have just started out on their journey, or have adapted, diversified or seen their business grow over the recent period.
“The awards are an ideal opportunity for small businesses to bounce back and we would love to hear about their recent achievements.
“It is a great opportunity to reward the unbelievable resilience, resourcefulness and innovation from businesses during the past year and half and I’d therefore encourage small businesses across the West Midlands to enter the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards.
“SMEs are a vital part of the West Midlands – and the awards give everyone the chance to join in and celebrate how they contribute the economy and how vital they are to the local community.”
Cllr Kam Kaur, portfolio holder for Economy and Place at Warwickshire County Council said: “We always have a fantastic showing from Warwickshire as part of the West Midlands awards given the variety and strength of businesses in the region and we are looking forward to seeing them go up against the best across the country.
“We recognise the value that small businesses play in our communities, creating both employment and a sense of identity. Our support for them through grants and training throughout the pandemic has shown our commitment. We are encouraging all local businesses who take pride in their work and want to represent the region in their chosen category to enter and are backing them to go all the way.”
Kevin O’Toole, Managing Director of Sky Connect, Headline Sponsor said: “The resilience, innovation and creativity that small business owners have shown over the last 12 months is awe-inspiring.
“At Sky Connect our mission is to help small businesses succeed, stay connected to their customers and bounce back even stronger post-pandemic.
“We’re thrilled to become headline sponsor of the FSB’s Celebrating Small Business Awards and help recognise and celebrate their vast achievements.”
For more information and to apply visit www.fsbawards.co.uk
For sponsorship opportunities please contact Karen Woolley, FSB Development Manager at Karen.Woolley@fsb.org.uk
Businesses can get inside track on HS2
Warwickshire businesses will have the chance to meet the contractors behind the construction of Britain’s new high-speed rail and hear how they can become part of the supply chain as part of two virtual events next month.
Potential suppliers can apply for virtual one-to-one meetings with Tier 1 Joint Venture Contractors ahead of future procurement opportunities within Phase One of HS2 as part of two Meet the Contractor Events taking place in November.
The sessions, which will run from Monday, November 15 until Wednesday, November 17 and Monday, November 29 until Wednesday, December 1 to discuss stations and main works respectively, will include the latest on the wider project, procurement pipelines and how suppliers can become part of the HS2 supply chain.
Guests will also be able to participate in webinars and round-table discussions as well as engage with current Tier 2 subcontractors to ensure future opportunities from the HS2 Supply Chain are understood and accessible to the market.
Potential suppliers who are not successful in being allocated a one-to-one meeting will therefore still have the chance to meet, network and engage with the HS2 supply chain and other suppliers within the market.
Phase One will establish a new high speed rail link between the West Midlands and London, which is set to feature four brand new stations and two new depots across 140 miles of track.
Cllr Kam Kaur, portfolio holder for Economy and Place at Warwickshire County Council, said: “These events are a great opportunity for local businesses to be part of a major nationwide project and network with other suppliers and contractors who are already helping to bring Phase One forward.
“With the project now visible across many parts of the region, it would be great to see suppliers making use of these two virtual events to explore the possibilities of getting involved and generating employment locally in the first phase of HS2.”
Potential suppliers can register their interest in virtual one-to-one meetings ahead of future procurement opportunities by visiting www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/Register_HS2_MTC2021
For more information visit www.hs2.org.uk/building-hs2/suppliers-and-businesses/meet-the-contractor-2021
West Midlands Gigafactory news welcomed
Warwickshire County Council’s portfolio holder for economy and space has welcomed news of a £2.5bn investment to jumpstart the UK’s renewable energy future, creating thousands of jobs in the region.
Cllr Kam Kaur has spoken about plans unveiled by West Midlands Gigafactory, a public private joint venture between Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport Ltd, to develop the UK’s largest battery Gigafactory as it continues to explore investment opportunities with battery manufacturers from around the globe.
The project is set to create up to 6,000 highly skilled jobs directly and thousands more in the wider supply chain in Coventry, Warwickshire and the surrounding region.
The Gigafactory, located in the epicentre of the UK’s automotive industry, will begin supplying high-tech batteries for electric vehicles from 2025.
It will be powered by a planned major boost to the local energy network, giving the Gigafactory access to a 100% renewable electricity supply from a combination of solar power and grid-supplied renewables.
It will also be able to recycle used batteries as well as build new ones in an industry leading approach known as “cradle to cradle.”
The investment is an imperative for the UK’s electrified future, especially for the automotive industry which will stop producing petrol and diesel engines from 2030.
West Midlands Gigafactory has support from a unique alliance of West Midlands industrial groups, local government and academic institutions including the West Midlands Combined Authority, Warwick District Council, Warwickshire County Council, Rugby Council, Warwick Manufacturing Group at University of Warwick, Coventry University and the Manufacturing Technology Centre.
Commenting on news of the investment, Cllr Kaur said: “This is wonderful news for the whole region as there will not only be many jobs at the Gigafactory but also the supply chain in the surrounding areas.
“Alongside creating a vibrant economy with employment opportunities for our residents, the County Council is committed to tackling carbon emissions and electric vehicles will play an integral role in how we reduce our carbon footprint.
“This project will make a very significant contribution to achieving both of those ambitions.”
The new Gigafactory, which will command over half a million square metres of space – equivalent to 74 full-size football pitches, will be one of the largest single industry facilities of any kind in the UK and at full capacity will be capable of delivering up to 60GWh of production per year.
Mike Murray, West Midlands Gigafactory Project Director “The West Midlands Gigafactory has a singular mission to create a state-of-the-art battery Gigafactory in the heart of the UK automotive industry.
“It will provide a huge cash investment in the area, leading to thousands of well-paid jobs and creating crucial new skills for this country.
“The Coventry Airport site is perfectly located to do just that, being ideally positioned to supply the UK’s leading automotive manufacturers who need access to world-class batteries on their doorsteps.
“We need to make these advanced lithium-ion batteries where we make cars and there is no better place than in the West Midlands.”
Based at Coventry Airport, the Gigafactory will be adjacent to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, part of the UK’s Faraday Challenge.
The Centre provides a critical link between research at laboratory or prototype stages and the mass production of new battery technologies.
These links will be hugely important to the future development of the Gigafactory in the West Midlands.
Margot James, Executive Chair at WMG, University of Warwick comments "The West Midlands is already home to 28% of the UK's automotive sector talent, with an established skills ecosystem and supply chain.
“The proposed Gigafactory will bring a wealth of opportunities and high skilled jobs to the region. WMG is a centre of excellence for battery technology research and development alongside UKBIC, making the region a natural home for the proposed Gigafactory."
Careers Corner calls for vacancies update
Warwickshire County Council has called for local businesses to get in touch with their latest vacancies and apprenticeship opportunities as it prepares to launch the next instalment of its biannual careers update.
Nikita Takhar, Employability and Skills Project Officer at Warwickshire County Council, has highlighted the work that the Warwickshire Skills Hub has been doing to promote links between secondary schools and employers, and is looking to hear from organisations across all sectors ahead of the edition of Careers Corner.
The November edition of the e-newsletter will reach all secondary schools across the county, as well as a number of partners.
She said: “We have been working throughout the year to share vacancies and opportunities for our young people via our Skills Hub social media channels and now have created Careers Corner as a great way to highlight some of the most exciting opportunities in the region.
“We are always looking to communicate with employers across Warwickshire, and are urging any businesses with apprenticeship vacancies, work experience opportunities or any other opportunities for secondary school pupils or school leavers to get in touch with us to see how we can support sharing that information.
“As Warwickshire Skills Hub we are always looking to share the most up to date employability and skills information with our young people to help them realise the opportunities available in Warwickshire”
For more information visit skillshub.warwickshire.gov.uk or contact Nikita Takhar on firstname.lastname@example.org
Birmingham 2022 Cycling Road Race route announced
With nine months to go until the Games begin, Birmingham 2022 has announced the full course for the Cycling Road Race. The announcement comes 12 months after it was revealed that the event, which will be held on Sunday 7 August 2022, would start and finish at St Nicholas' Park in Warwick.
The Road Race will see the women complete seven laps of a 16km course, whilst the men will complete ten laps. The course will involve the riders cycling past the Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick town centre, as well as Victoria Park in Royal Leamington Spa, the venue for the Birmingham 2022 lawn bowls and para lawn bowls competition. The final part of the course will cross the River Avon, where the cyclists will be treated to a stunning view of Warwick Castle.
Councillor Heather Timms, Warwickshire County Council Portfolio Holder for Environment, Climate and Culture, said: “We are very proud that the location of the Birmingham 2022 Road Race will be Warwick and that, with our partners in the District Council, we will be hosting this incredible event next year.
“Having studied the route for the Road Race, we are very happy that it showcases so much of the historic splendour of the town of Warwick and that it will provide a challenging course for competitors in August 2022.
“Warwickshire has been building an international reputation as a venue for world-class cycling for years since the county first hosted a stage of the Women’s Tour and, later, of the Tour of Britain. This is another opportunity for us to shine in front of a global audience.
“The Games coming to our region is truly a once in a lifetime event and I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing Warwick abuzz with spectators next year to enjoy a thrilling day of road race cycling.”
Birmingham 2022, organisers of the Commonwealth Games, have also revealed today that the latest and final venue for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games is Victoria Square in Birmingham city centre, which is where the marathon athletes will cross the finish line for the gruelling 26.2 mile event.
The square will be a welcome sight for the finishers in all four races that will be held on Saturday 30 July 2022, with the men’s marathon, women’s marathon and the men’s and women’s T53/T54 events all taking place on the same course which will start at Smithfield, another Birmingham city centre venue that has previously been announced as the home of beach volleyball and basketball 3x3 and wheelchair basketball 3x3 during the Games.
Birmingham 2022 has also unveiled the courses for the Cycling Time Trial which will start and finish in West Park in Wolverhampton and the Triathlon and Para Triathlon events which will be held in and around Sutton Park, six miles north of Birmingham City Centre.
Matt Kidson, Director of Sport for Birmingham 2022 said: “We are pleased to be able to publish all of the courses for our road events today. These routes will help to profile some fantastic landmarks from across the region and showcase the West Midlands and Warwickshire to the world.
“Publishing these details with nine months still to go until the Games begin also means that local residents, businesses and other organisations have plenty of time to make plans for when these one-day events are staged in their local area.”
Full course descriptions and course maps are available now at birmingham2022.com where frequently asked questions for each of the events have also been added, to provide local residents and businesses with as much information as possible. Community engagement teams from all of the local partners for each event are also now reaching out to people in each local area, to share all of the information that is currently available.
Engagement with residents and business owners in each local area will continue over the next nine months and full details of road closures and traffic management plans are expected to be available in spring 2022.
- Full course unveiled for the Birmingham 2022 Cycling Road Race
- The course will showcase Warwickshire to millions of TV viewers across the globe
- The event will be free to watch for many spectators, with tickets only required for the start and finish at St Nicholas Park
- Engagement with residents, businesses and stakeholders to take place over the next nine months, providing detailed information about the course and how the event will be delivered
- Courses for the Cycling Time Trial (Black Country), Marathon (Birmingham) and Triathlon/Para Triathlon (Sutton Coldfield) have also been revealed – details available at birmingham2022.com
Councils show support for Stratford Town FC
The chairman of a community-oriented football club has commended the behind-the-scenes support of local councils as television crews head to Stratford to cover an historic tie.
Jed McRory, chairman of Stratford Town FC, has praised Warwickshire County Council and Stratford District Council for helping the club to increase its impact in the community on its way to reaching the FA Cup First Round for the first time in the club’s 80-year history.
The Bards, who sent Boston United out of the competition with a late winner, now await an FA Cup First Round clash against League One side Shrewsbury Town at the Arden Garages Stadium on Sunday, November 7 at 3pm.
The game will be broadcast live on ITV4, and Jed has thanked those who have helped the club on its way to domestic cup success.
Jed’s hometown club faced financial difficulty when he took over as chairman in 2018 with the aim of making it financially stable by turning it into a pillar of the community, and improving relationships with organisations away from the sporting world.
Warwickshire County Council provided support to Jed and his team initially via the Survive, Sustain and Grow Programme.
The club also secured funding to refurbish its 3G training pitches and replace floodlights, while improving transport connections for people in the local area thanks to its enhanced relationships with a variety of organisations across the region.
The club operates as a Community Interest Company (CIC), and while it has boosted matchday attendance and launched successful women’s sides, it has also helped 60 young people in Stratford gain the equivalent of four A-levels via BTEC qualifications whilst playing in a regional education league in the last year.
Its sports education programme is aimed at young people who do not have the required Ucas points to go to university and are less likely to find a job, giving them opportunities to earn a place in higher education and improve their prospects whilst playing competitive matches and learning crucial life skills.
Jed said: “The support we have had from Warwickshire County and Stratford District Councils has been instrumental to the club’s growth in recent years.
“We have seen really inspiring progression with a number of our students going on to study at university, finding employment, or staying with us as we continue our exciting project.
“To see our impact in the community grow as our footballing credentials have risen has been incredible, as we have a huge community focus at the club with a desire to make a real difference to people in the Stratford area.”
Helen Brewster, owner of ATL Solutions, provided one-to-one business support to Jed and Stratford Town FC to improve their links to other local organisations, generate access to funding, and provide strategic advice in the running of a CIC.
She said: “What drives Jed is extremely rare, he has an incredible passion to push the club forward, and their latest achievement on the pitch is a testament to all the hard work behind the scenes.
“We are delighted to have played a role in helping the club achieve such a dramatic turnaround in a relatively short space of time alongside Warwickshire County Council. It shows how businesses of all kinds can benefit from hearing another perspective.”
Warwickshire County Council grant helps La Casa Loco adapt to changing industry
A business support grant has helped a popular Rugby restaurant serve up post-lockdown success as its owner prepares to celebrate a landmark festive period.
Shirley Gale has served high-quality Mexican fare to generations of Rugby locals and is now looking forward to a new era at La Casa Loco after a Warwickshire County Council Growth Fund grant helped the restaurant to adapt to industry-wide changes.
The Dunchurch resident has thanked the council for providing up to 35 per cent match-funding to help the Little Church Street eatery overcome a range of challenges faced during the Covid-19 pandemic and thrive in the build-up to her 30th Christmas at its helm.
Shirley got in touch with Warwickshire County Council in September 2020 as the hospitality sector began to open up, after finding that the restaurant had got so busy that the kitchen didn't have the capacity to cope with the volume of takeaway orders when combined with dining covers.
The funds, provided as part of the Growth Fund’s Small Capital Grants programme, allowed Shirley to capitalise on changes in customer behaviour by creating a second dedicated kitchen purely for collection meals and renovating the bar to offer cocktails and relaxed tapas-style dining.
She said: “We did our best to make sure La Casa Loco stayed busy during first two lockdowns, but the fantastic support we have had from people in the local area meant that we saw a huge increase in demand once in-person dining returned.
“We are not used to asking for help but I am so glad that we did, as the changes at La Casa Loco have meant that we have been able to keep pace with changing times and build an establishment that caters to a range of customers without sacrificing our high standards or our amazing connection with the community.
“Like all businesses, we have also faced a lot of staffing issues with key members falling ill or being forced to self-isolate, so we would love to hear from anyone who wants to be part of the next chapter at La Casa Loco.
“I’d like to thank the people of Rugby for their understanding as we continue to navigate unfamiliar territory and supporting us when things have gone slightly off plan, as well as Warwickshire County Council for helping us get the support we needed to adapt.”
La Casa Loco pivoted to takeaway and home fajita kits in the early stages of the pandemic, ensuring that the business kept ticking over which allowed Shirley to retain all of her staff.
The new layout has enabled Shirley to make the most of takeaway and eat-in orders after being forced to turn off delivery apps at peak times in the face of overwhelming demand.
Cllr Kam Kaur, Warwickshire County Council’s portfolio holder for economy and place, said: “With so many small businesses facing such desperate hardships during the lockdown, it’s great to see one that is actually expanding its offer having learned so much from the pandemic and adapted to make it more sustainable in the changing market place.
“I’m very pleased to see that they applied successfully for grant support from the County Council. This is one of the ways that we are working towards creating and sustaining a vibrant economy in Warwickshire – through supporting small local businesses with the finance they need to not only stay afloat but actually look to grow.”
For more information visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/directory-record/1/warwickshire-county-council-growth-fund-small-capital-grants
Fair Chance Employement scheme to be launched
There are many signs of positive economic recovery within Warwickshire and unemployment rates remain one of the lowest in the region. Employers however, are experiencing the negative impact of vacant jobs, facing increasing challenge to attract employees using traditional methods of recruitment.
Warwickshire County Council is tackling this issue head on by creating a programme which supports employers to shape inclusive employment opportunities across all areas of the labour market.
The Fair Chance Employment Programme is designed to work collaboratively with education providers and employability groups, helping employers to “level up” their opportunities by offering Warwickshire residents with supportive needs equal access to careers.
The scheme, which will launch in November 2021, aims to promote and celebrate inclusive employment and will call out to employers who would like to become a Fair Chance Employer and engage with high-priority talent pools keen to access work opportunities.
The programme aims to unlock more than 200 jobs to jobseekers who experience mental health, disability and learning barriers, as well as women and Armed Forces veterans returning to work, young offenders, young care givers and care leavers.
By addressing emotional, learning and workplace barriers, making reasonable adjustments to recruitment methods, and providing enhanced induction training to bridge skills gaps, the programme will allow employers to be more inclusive and attract more candidates to their roles.
The Fair Chance Employment Programme will be led by a dedicated Warwickshire County Council Business Skills Advisor who will work with employers to increase awareness of inclusivity and diversity in the workplace, whilst creating opportunities for work experience, internships and apprenticeships to support progression into full time employment.
The Warwickshire Skills Hub, home to the Fair Chance Employment Programme, will also launch a digital jobs board, creating a platform for Fair Chance Employers to list their jobs and interact with potential candidates in a less formal way.
Cllr Kam Kaur, portfolio holder or economy and place at Warwickshire County Council, said: “We are delighted to be launching the Fair Chance Employment Programme to give many of Warwickshire’s high priority talent pools an equal chance of finding a career and we’re also proud to be playing an active role in supporting businesses to find the right skills as the economy works hard to recover.
“The Fair Chance Employment Programme is a really innovative piece of work which will deliver a number of workshop sessions we think businesses, employment coaches and careers leaders will find fascinating. The team are really going to enjoy promoting such opportunities of inclusion and helping businesses and some of our priority groups of residents to find meaning full employment.”
The digital jobs board will offer a safe place for Q&A and a platform for employers to post a film showcasing their business and careers they have to offer.
The interactive online platform will make the job search more accessible and give jobseekers the confidence to build a rapport with employers, discuss any adjustments needed and shape potential interview experiences to meet their needs.
Once a successful candidate has been found, a Business Skills Advisor will be on hand to support the creation of a training and development plan, while the Warwickshire Skills Hub will promote access to funded training support programmes and qualifications.
If you are an employer who is recruiting and would like to explore how the Fair Chance Employment Programme could help your business then contact the Warwickshire Skills Hub team on email@example.com
Home deliveries drive Eskuta growth
A Nuneaton company has become the UK’s market-leading e-cargo vehicle manufacturer and supplier – working with the likes of Domino’s and Just Eat – after receiving support.
Eskuta, which has recently expanded into a second unit at Warwickshire County Council’s Bermuda Park Innovation Centre, designs and manufactures electric bikes and scooters which have proved to be a hit with fast-food delivery firms.
The company, which employs 14 people, chalked up more than 2,500 orders last year and is on course for more after a series of new developments.
Eskuta, started by managing director Ian O’Connor in 2015, is now working with Booker – the company behind convenience stores such as Londis and Budgens to start supplying electric bikes for the delivery of groceries.
And, such is the potential for growth for the firm, it’s now exploring international opportunities with distributor deals signed in Dubai, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
On top of that, the consumer market is set to take off after an agreement to sell Eskuta products through 24 Apple stores in the UK and Ireland.
The company has been on an upward curve since being introduced to University of Warwick Science Park’s Business Ready programme, where it was given advice and support by adviser Ian McFarlane-Toms.
Business Ready is a fully funded programme that delivers customised support to tech-based organisations looking to grow and scale. Managed by the highly experienced support team at the University of Warwick Science Park, together with a cohort of subject matter and sector specialist Growth Advisers, it is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council as part of the CW Business: Start, Grow & Scale Programme.
O’Connor said: “I started the business after becoming disillusioned with the fashion industry and discovered e-bikes and e-scooters when I was over in China and believed there was the potential for a business here.
“It’s been hard work to get to where we are today and Ian and Business Ready have been a huge help.
“I met him about two years ago and, at that time, I was just looking for grant funding to see if it could support our growth but he’s brought much more than that.
“He’s supportive of what we are trying to do and understands the direction we are trying to take. If we ever need anything, Ian just opens his contacts book and always knows the right people to speak to.
“He has also got a background as an accountant so has given us great financial advice and guidance. With Ian’s help, we’ve been able to bring in more stock and that means we can offer even better service to our customers.
“We’re growing and the possibilities of where we can go next a huge. We’re now the market leader for e-cargo vehicles, working with the likes of Just Eat, Domino’s, Papa Johns, Subway and Dixy Chicken.
“Grocery deliveries is another area of the market with huge potential, then there’s international and the consumer market too. We believe this has the potential to be a real success story for the area.”
McFarlane-Toms said: “Eskuta had a great product and a massive potential marketplace when I first met them.
“The company just needed support on how best to finance its growth and with some of the fundamentals of growing a new business.
“It’s been great to be able to help them reach this point and there is so much opportunity for growth in a range of markets. Ian O’Connor has assembled a really great, hardworking team which shares his enthusiasm and passion, and it is an exciting time for the business.”
And Cllr Kam Kaur, portfolio holder for economy and place at Warwickshire County Council which runs the business centres, added: “One of the many benefits for companies based in our buildings is that they are at the heart of a fantastically well-connected community.
“Our business support offer is delivered through colleagues at Warwickshire County Council and also a range of partner organisations such as Business Ready.
“As the Transforming Nuneaton programme gathers pace, I’m delighted to hear of businesses in that area prospering. Offering high-quality employment opportunities in the area is key to the programme and I hope that Eskuta’s is just one of many success stories in the area in the months to come.”
New national Investment Atlas highlights two major opportunities in Coventry and Warwickshire
An online platform that maps high priority investment hot spots across the UK has identified two Coventry and Warwickshire opportunities to international investors.
The Department for International Trade has launched a new Investment Atlas on the eve of COP26 to highlight dozens of nationwide strategic investment opportunities with a strong sustainability element – including two in Coventry and Warwickshire.
The launch has been timed to coincide with the Global Investment Summit (GIS) in London, attended by 200 global CEOs and international investors, looking at the role of the private sector in reaching global net zero and achieving green growth.
The two opportunities are testament to Coventry and Warwickshire’s strength for developing and deploying net zero transport technologies as green transport drives the UK towards net zero.
They also highlight Coventry and Warwickshire as a global centre of future mobility research and development across many sectors, including aerospace, automotive, rail, marine propulsion and last mile delivery.
The opportunities include: ‘Net zero transport in Coventry and Warwickshire’, which provides a guide to the first-class research universities with strong links to industry, the leading cluster of public and private R&D assets, and the opportunities here to connect with a robust supply chain of transport technology businesses.
‘CAM modelling and simulation in Oxfordshire and the Midlands’ focuses on the opportunities around CAM (Connected Automated Mobility) Testbed UK, a globally significant cluster of R&D and test facilities for autonomy in transport technology.
According to DIT, the global market for CAM technologies will be £100 billion by 2035 and £6.4 billion in the UK, while CAM Testbed UK comprises six nationally significant facilities located between London and Nuneaton along the M40/M42/M1 corridor, with three of these located in Coventry & Warwickshire.
It offers investors access to an advanced, comprehensive, and coordinated CAM testing ecosystem, a world-class academic research community, a growing industry cluster and an impressive talent base.
A number of Coventry and Warwickshire institutions are well represented on the atlas, with the local universities, HORIBA-MIRA, University of Warwick Wellesbourne Campus and local supply chain featured.
Cllr Kam Kaur, Warwickshire County Council’s portfolio holder for economy and place, said: The launch is well-timed for us as it comes as we are prepared to move on with the Warwickshire Recovery and Investment Fund. The GIS Investment Atlas is closely aligned with our aims and ambitions for the WRIF – to stimulate the county’s economy, create jobs, support local businesses and bring investment into the county.
“It is very exciting that the national recognition of the region as a priority investment area highlights its readiness to expand and take the lead in providing a base for these critical sectors. We have the talent pipeline, the expertise and the infrastructure in place. Now we have the recognition to attract interest from far afield and, in conjunction with that, the WRIF allows us to work with businesses and help them to expand, taking advantage of our growing reputation.”
To coincide with the Global Investment Summit, the Prime Minister also announced that at least 30,000 new jobs would be created around the UK thanks to £9.7 billion of new foreign investment.
This included investment from Prologis, which is developing manufacturing and logistics space locally at Hams Hall and Ryton.
International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “The UK is the best investment destination in the world and our Investment Atlas will help to drive more investment into green industries across the UK, and make it easier for businesses to make decisions on where and what to invest in.”
The Investment Atlas is available here.