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The Bold Venturers celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit in England’s North West


Lew Baxter and Guy Woodland

The Bold Venturers a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit in England’s North West

The Bold Venturers

a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit in England’s North West

ISBN 978-1-905547-05-0 Cities500 International Publishers Vice-President and Publisher: Guy Woodland Editor-in-chief: Lew Baxter Guy Woodland and Lew Baxter are hereby identified as the authors of this work in accordance with section 77 of the (UK) Copyright, Design & Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means – either electronic, photocopying, recording or otherwise – without prior permission of the publisher. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors alone, apart from where specified. Writing: Lew Baxter Principal photography: Guy Woodland Marketing: Marie Vidal Proof reading: Judy Tasker Printed and bound: Vivapress SL, Barcelona, Spain Additional writing as credited Additional photography as credited First published in 2007 by Guy Woodland in association with cities500 as a 21st Century Cities publication and a collaboration with Barge Pole Press Studio and Office: No 2 The Old Stables, Charles Road, Wirral, UK Tel: + 44 (0) 151 632 3280 Skype: +44 (0) 151 324 1273 e.mail: © cities500 November 2007

Photography Many thanks to Paul McMullin for his help, assistance and wonderful photographs Also to Ron Jones for his advice and photographs Special thanks to Jim Davis who supplied many of the beautiful and creative images from Cumbria Many thanks also to the following for their enthusiasm and wonderful images taken in and around the North West of England Jed Broadbent Paula Hutchinson Peter Mearns George Woodland Henry Woodland Matt Wright Additional photography Matt Faber Paradigm Digital/Tony Holker Reuters/Stephen Hird Tesco/Jamie Hughes Liverpool Daily Post LJMU Colin McPherson/LJMU Bernard Rose/LJMU Manchester Evening News Merseytravel Trinity Mirror North West NWDA image bank photographers Ben Barden Jill Jennings Ian Lawson Peter Lucas Lancashire Tourist Office McCoy Wynne

The Bold Venturers Contents

Introduction & Acknowledgements


Foreword – The Rt. Hon. John Hutton MP Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform


Foreword – Bryan Gray Chairman The Northwest Regional Development Agency


Commentary – Steven Broomhead Chief Executive The Northwest Regional Development Agency


Foreword – Stuart Chambers Chairman of the North West Business Leadership Team and Group Chief Executive of Pilkington plc


Overview – Lew Baxter Editor-in-chief Cities500 International Publishers


Professor Michael Brown Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive Liverpool John Moores University




Geoffrey Piper Chief Executive of the North West Business Leadership Team


Peter Heginbotham Chairman of Manchester Enterprises


The Bold Venturers Profiles

Tim Bacon Tom Bloxham Pippa Botting Stephen Broadbent David Brockbank Tony Caldeira Bryony, Cadi and Linnhe Catlow Steve Craddock Thomas Dawes Sarah Dunning Ajmail and Sudarghara Dusanj Joe Dwek Rob and Alan Fennah Mark Ferguson Norman Foster Dawn Gibbons Paul Heathcote Sharon Hilditch Marcie Incarico Matt Johnson Jude Kelly Bill Kenwright Vici Ladeji and Christine Colvin Terry Leahy Tariq Mahmood Debbie Moore Margaret O’Carroll Phil Redmond Trevor Ruddle Anil Ruia Nicola Schindler Lee Southern Helen, Lisa and Janet Tse Amanda Thompson Nicholas Wainwright Steve Watkins Annabel Williams Gerry Yeung * Anthony H Wilson – A tribute

31 34 37 40 43 46 49 52 55 58 61 64 67 70 73 76 79 82 85 88 91 94 97 100 103 106 109 112 115 118 121 124 127 130 133 136 139 142 146

Bold Venturers of the most extreme: The famous Red Arrows – acclaimed as the world’s premier air display team – are seen here flying over the sands at Hoylake, Wirral. The Hawk aircraft are assembled and flighttested at BAE Systems at Warton near Preston in Lancashire

Introduction & Acknowledgements Cities500 International Publishers


HE huge success of television programmes like The Dragons’ Den and Sir Alan Sugar’s The Apprentice highlight just what an attraction the world of business, commerce and making money has for aspiring entrepreneurs. Yet enterprise is more than just about the ability to run a company well. It is about boldness and daring, about dash and drive and the energy and passion to achieve a dream. It is about turning an idea into a successful venture. Mostly it is about having a go and taking the risk – and frequently having fun into the bargain. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is on record as saying: “We need to value, reward and celebrate young people who are involved in enterprise. How else can we inspire new talents to grow?” The government’s annual Enterprising Britain competition is a demonstration of the importance it places on finding new, exciting and innovative entrepreneurs who will maintain the UK’s position as a key player in the world’s business and commercial arena. Likewise, the Make Your Mark campaign is aimed at encouraging young people to make their ideas happen – a positive spin on helping to create an enterprise culture among young people across the UK. The Bold Venturers is a celebration of the spirit of enterprise that exists in the North West of England: a focus on a remarkable group of people of all ages and persuasions who are inspirational to others, and particularly to younger generations of ‘would-be’ entrepreneurs. Those profiled either operate in the region, or originate from it and many enjoy national and global reputations. The book puts the focus on people in various walks of life and business disciplines who have demonstrated proven entrepreneurial skills and flair: who have risen to the challenge, tackled the difficulties head on, faced formidable obstacles – and still triumphed. The profiles are a tribute to their determination and self-motivation, driven by ambition and exceptional talent. Some come from perhaps humble beginnings, like Tony Caldeira who began his working life as a barrow boy on his family’s market stall in Liverpool and is now one of the biggest manufacturers of cushions in the UK with a purpose built factory in China.


Others like Manchester-born architect Sir Norman Foster, who is now one of the world’s foremost creative individuals, and the property and regeneration maestro Tom Bloxham may not seem typical business types but they, like Lee Southern from Cumbria whose pet care firm now has franchises country-wide as well as abroad, have all been driven by the enthusiasm and determination to carve out their own destinies. Indeed some of those profiled in this book may have even looked to the others featured as role models. They have been chosen at random and not taken from any of the usual league tables of top earners or the rankings of organisations and individuals based on turnover or size of company or activity. It is an unusual and eclectic spread of people. There are a few household names like Sir Terry Leahy who heads up Tesco or Phil Redmond who created Brookside and Hollyoaks, and impresario Bill Kenwright – who just happens also to be chairman of Everton FC – alongside entrepreneurs who have both a regional and a national reputation like Gerry Yeung who owns the famous Yang Sing restaurants in Manchester, amongst his other activities. And Tariq Mahmood, who arrived in Britain with his brothers 20 years ago and from start-up funding of £15 have built up a multi-million pound international distribution company based in Rochdale. Then there is the media mogul Nicola Schindler, whose Manchester-based Red production company is one of the leaders in the television industry; or the remarkable Catlow sisters who run a globally acclaimed film animation firm out of the lovely Vale of Eden in Cumbria. And we wrap up this book with a tribute to one of the North West’s most inspirational The River Dee, Chester, Cheshire figures and a true entrepreneur, but one who admitted he never made any real money out of his string of ventures: Anthony H Wilson, who sadly died in August 2007. The Bold Venturers is published in collaboration with the Northwest Regional Development Agency, which believes that entrepreneurship is essential to a successful economy. The book stems from an idea first


The most extreme of the channel buoys in the Irish Sea

Hoylake, which was host to The Open in 2006, Wirral

mooted by Peter Mearns, the Agency’s executive director of marketing and communications. The importance of promoting an enterprising culture throughout the region at all levels, particularly amongst the young and the student populations, is one of the NWDA’s main platforms for driving the region’s growth in the 21 st century. We also acknowledge support from Michael Brown, vice chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University, where the Business Development Centre is one of the foremost in the region and the UK. There has also been tremendous encouragement from Geoffrey Piper at the North West Business Leadership Team, along with Mike Emmerich and Nick Gerrard at Manchester Enterprises, Jack Stopforth’s crew at the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, Peel Group and Stuart Chambers, chief executive of the Pilkington Group. Across the region business journalists and editors have also demonstrated their support for the book, with many supplying suggestions and ideas for profiles. In particular we’d like to thank Mike Hill, assistant editor of the Lancashire Evening Post; Michael Taylor, editor of Business Insider North West; Steve Brauner, editor of Crain’s Manchester Business and former editor of the North West Evening Mail; Sophie Freeman on the business desk of the Liverpool Daily Post and her boss Bill Gleeson, business editor; Martin Regan of Excel Publishing in Manchester; Tony Hall, syndication manager at Trinity Mirror North West; Ken Bennett, secretary of the North West branch of the UK Society of Editors and the society’s first ‘media ambassador’ for Blackpool; and last but certainly not least, Angie Sammons who is editor of the online magazine Liverpool Confidential. And we M53, Merseyside would also like to acknowledge a debt of gratitude to Bob Waterhouse, the former editor of the now sadly lamented North West Enquirer newspaper and to William Hall, its one-time business editor and former FT man in the North. November 2007


Fleetwood, Lancashire. Memories of days gone by when it was better known as a great fishing and seafood centre Š Paul McMullin

Foreword The Rt. Hon. John Hutton MP Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform


he entrepreneurs profiled in The Bold Venturers book epitomise the spirit of enterprise that Britain needs to exploit the worldwide opportunities of the 21st century. As the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform but also as the Member of Parliament for Barrow and Furness, I am delighted that the achievements of the people featured in these pages demonstrate that the North West of England produces many with ambition and talent. As the Secretary of State for Business and Enterprise in particular I am very much aware that it is Britain’s entrepreneurs and innovators who are the people who will make a difference to this nation’s future. Although this book focuses on a relatively small number of people, it pays tribute to the resourcefulness of all successful entrepreneurs who hail from or work in the North West of England. It acknowledges their importance to the region’s economic health and also their contribution to the UK overall. Established figures like Sir Terry Leahy and Tom Bloxham are featured alongside people like Professor Mark Ferguson and his trail-blazing research into wound healing, or Sarah Dunning whose family established and still operate in Westmorland, the only independent motorway service station in the UK. It is an eclectic and unusual group of people selected from the many who operate throughout the region or originate from it. The contribution they make to the success of our country should never be taken for granted.


Blackpool beach, Lancashire. Parts of the seafront are being reclaimed and extended as part of ambitious plans for Blackpool as it redefines itself for the 21st century

Foreword Bryan Gray Chairman The Northwest Regional Development Agency


Bryan Gray has been chairman of the NWDA since 2002. He is a member of the Liverpool Capital of Culture Board, a trustee of National Museums Liverpool, a member of Liverpool Cathedral Council and a director of Culture Northwest. Bryan was chief executive and deputy chairman of Baxi Group Limited, one of Europe’s leading heating companies and is now chairman of Baxi Technologies. He joined Baxi in 1993 having previously worked for ICI for almost 20 years.

HE importance of business leaders and successful entrepreneurs as role models for existing and future generations of entrepreneurs has long been recognised. No one will disagree that the North West of England needs young people with their energy, ambitions and visions and we want to encourage and inspire them to drive the region’s growth in the 21st century. Entrepreneurship is essential to a successful economy and the importance of promoting an enterprising culture throughout the region at all levels, particularly among young people, is one of the main platforms for the NWDA. The profiles in this book are a reflection of our – and the government’s – determination to increase entrepreneurship in the UK by inspiration, challenge and role models, through both the Enterprising Britain competition and Enterprise Week, designed as a national celebration of enterprise to inspire young people to make their ideas happen. This book is only a ‘snapshot’ of the entrepreneurial spirit that exists across the North West: and across the social, gender, age and racial spectrum. But, as well as being a celebration, I believe it will be a long lasting reminder of that success. Yet the North West still ranks in the bottom two-thirds of various indicator scales for business start-up and survival rates in Britain, and we need to stimulate others to take up the challenge. The NWDA is, therefore, committed to increasing the formation, survival and growth rates of enterprises in the region, as well as improving the availability of business finance and influencing government policy on small business regulations. We are committed to creating an enterprise culture that encourages individuals and businesses to take opportunities, start new businesses and make existing businesses become more innovative.


Ordnance Survey, Crown Copyright 2005, All Rights Reserved, GD 021102

Commentary Steven Broomhead Chief Executive The Northwest Regional Development Agency


Steven Broomhead was the chief executive of Warrington Borough Council until 2003. Prior to this he had an early grounding in education, as principal of Warrington Collegiate Institute, principal of a tertiary college in County Durham and the vice principal of Skelmersdale College in Lancashire. During his tenure at the NWDA, Steven has overseen rapid progress in the work of the agency as it develops a £106 billion economy to improve the quality of life for the region’s seven million citizens.

HE Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) was established by the government in 1999. The role of the Agency has developed over the years and the emphasis is now on providing strategic leadership for the region and helping to provide a catalyst for sustainable economic growth. The Agency has played a significant role in making a lasting impact on the regional economy; creating or safeguarding over 160,000 jobs since 1999; supporting entrepreneurs, investors and creating 12,000 new businesses; reclaiming 3,700 hectares of brownfield land; and levering in £2.1 billion of private sector investment. With a budget of £1.5 billion over the next three years (through to 2010), the Agency is responsible for directly influencing £1.2 billion of other public and private sector investment into the region to support the delivery of the Regional Economic Strategy (RES), the economic blueprint for the North West. The RES is the most important strategy in the North West and is absolutely crucial to the sustainable economic growth of our region. While its implementation is led by the Agency, the RES is the strategy for the whole region.  We have already seen progress on some of the region’s major projects. In 2007 the new Business Link Northwest service became a reality. The new service will now provide a high-quality, consistent and targeted service for businesses and work to stimulate new business growth long into the future. We have also made excellent progress on mediacity:uk in Greater Manchester, which will become an international media hub, with the BBC now confirmed as the anchor tenant. This project will attract innovative individuals and organisations at the forefront of technology, generating £1 billion in additional net value to our economy once complete. This year (2007) also saw a number of other significant NWDA-funded projects in the region coming to fruition, including Kings Waterfront, and the Cruise Liner Facility in Liverpool, Kingsway Business Park in Rochdale, Greater Manchester and the opening of the University of Cumbria – the UK’s newest university. In addition, key transformational programmes, including


Ancoats and the Oxford Road Corridor in Manchester, and Preston City Centre will be developed further. In 2008 Liverpool celebrates the title of European Capital of Culture. The accolade offers a unique opportunity to showcase Liverpool and the North West to the UK and overseas and the Agency is working closely with Liverpool Culture Company to ensure we make the most of the economic benefits it provides. It is clear that the economy of the North West and the level of entrepreneurial activity is growing. Recently, the largest annual survey of entrepreneurial activity in the UK, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, revealed that the North West witnessed entrepreneurial activity at its highest level for five years, but more work still needs to be done as the level remains marginally below the UK average. We want an internationally competitive economy that is driven forward by enterprise, innovation and high-level skills. This will require a new generation of entrepreneurs who will grasp the opportunities and join the ranks of existing entrepreneurs and enterprises who are working tirelessly to bring wealth to the region. We know there is a lot more to be done and challenges to overcome, but these are exciting times for the North West and the Agency will be ensuring that we seize the opportunities ahead to build a truly world-beating region.

Barbon, Lancashire


Foreword Stuart Chambers Chairman of the North West Business Leadership Team and Group Chief Executive of Pilkington plc

M Stuart Chambers became group chief executive of Pilkington plc in 2002. Before joining this globally focused company he held several senior sales and marketing positions with the Mars Corporation, which he joined from Shell. Amongst other directorships he is a non-executive director of Smiths Group plc.

Y view is that we have to tell the world that the North West of England is an excellent place to do business – or to start a business – and to keep hammering that message home wherever and whenever we can. Enterprise is often regarded in simple terms as ‘running a business’ or ‘being an entrepreneur’ but it is about much more than that. It is about turning ideas into a success, about being imaginative, creative and inventive, as well as having the skills and ability to problem solve on a daily basis. But it can also be about making things more interesting – and having a lot of fun into the bargain. My company is a large corporate body, but leadership as I see it is about being able to be clear when things are changing and making sure as many people as possible within the organisation can understand the signposts that represent where your company is going. This applies to enterprises and companies of all sizes and shapes alike. The North West Business Leadership Team is an influential ‘think tank’ of the region’s most senior business people – the Duke of Westminster is our president – and I believe it is our duty and responsibility to offer our advice and experience to a wide range of aspiring entrepreneurs and those keen to join industry and commerce to make a difference in the region. We all need role models who can inspire us and help us reach out to achieve our own goals. The North West can marshal its energy and resources by raising the standards of skills and business education and I am delighted that the region’s universities are taking up this challenge and offering wide-reaching skills in business and enterprise support.


Eaton Hall, Cheshire. This magnificent country estate on the banks of the River Dee has been home to the Grosvenor family since the 15th century

Reflections on the essence of England’s North West Lew Baxter Editor-in-chief Cities500 International Publishers

W Lew Baxter is editorin-chief of Cities500 International Publishers and also writes regularly for various newspapers and magazines on the arts, business topics, entertainment and travel.

AY back during the tumultuous social change of the Industrial Revolution – an era that was largely fired up in the towns and cities of England’s North West – not many of the mill-workers, factory hands and agricultural legions would have readily shed their tribal affinities or abandoned fierce rivalries held for generations, to engage in casual pleasantries with neighbours over the boundary wall, so to speak, if even a mere pasture apart. One only needs to ponder the huge conflicts of culture and dialect that still exist along stretches of the East Lancashire Road, where a St Helens or Warrington twang butts up against a Mancunian drawl and clashes with the guttural Scouse – often in the same street. Or just follow the A6 as it meanders up through Ormskirk and Preston and into the very heart of Lancaster and out again towards Penrith. In parts this grand old dame of roads runs parallel to the M6 motorway, at others weaves and skirts around the concrete ribbon that discourages most travellers from sampling the eclectic delights and differences that abound from village to village and town to town. History will relate how for decades convoys of lorry drivers – helping to distribute the nation’s wealth from south to north and vice versa – would warble the Manchester-born Ewan McColl’s wonderful folk song Champion at Keeping ‘Em Rolling as they thundered and clanked in low gear up the A6’s relatively narrow, and often traffic choked, strip of Tarmacadam towards the now fabled Shap summit, which in winter was frequently a snow-clad nightmare. In the border territories of Carlisle – where once ruthless Reivers on both sides pilfered and cattle rustled, terrifying folk from Langholm to Sedburgh – and further along the English side of the mighty Solway towards the quaintly ‘frozen in time’ Edwardian resort of Silloth, and down that ribbon of countryside that is flanked by the Irish Sea into Maryport and Sellafield, only a handful of daredevils would comfortably rub shoulders with the ‘richer’ folk inhabiting the glorious swathes of the Lake District national park.


The notion of a homogenous North West region is largely a vague abstract concept of our modern take on life, as it is essentially an amalgamation of opposing loyalties that would otherwise collide. Amongst those who tremble with the furies of pulsating passions at Old Trafford, Anfield and Preston North End’s Deepdale, or those sporting the blue togs of Everton, few would confide an affinity with the Holker Street stadium in Barrowin-Furness, whose booted heroes also wear blue. But holidays were a different matter and it was to resorts like Blackpool, Southport and Morecambe that families flocked in droves to relish each other’s strange tongues and habits. Those short ‘wakes weeks’ were carefree days away from the burdens of toil in forbidding factories, gloomy offices and shops in locations around what was then regarded as the economic engine of the UK – the North West. However, even with today’s modern communications and easy access to all parts of the region, people don’t normally – or easily – identify themselves as ‘North Westerners’; alliances are much closer to home and hearth. And yet the region is – as a Times survey in spring 2007 declared – a country within a country, with the overall economic clout of something close on £110 billion, putting other UK regions, apart from the South East – with its close

links to the capital and its Home Counties swagger – into the shade. The North West’s peoples also close ranks rather swiftly when crossing into ‘foreign’ terrain like Yorkshire, Northumberland, the Midlands and – heaven forefend – London, which, according to the Times survey, always distorts the picture: ‘If you step back and look at Europe overall, the North West is the next biggest cluster of businesses in Europe, not just the second in the UK.’ When faced with this metropolitan behemoth hogging the headlines, suddenly it is arms linked and Aintree Racecourse, Merseyside we are all those proud northerners who face west and gaze towards the Atlantic. Scotland for some reason is considered an ally – presumably because so many in the North West can trace their ancestry back to ancient Alba. And remember that when that reckless libertine Bonnie Prince Charlie was on the march south to reestablish the rightful Stuart crown of Scotland and England in 1745, his recruitment sergeants found enthusiastic volunteers in Manchester, where many lads of Lancashire and Cumberland – keen Jacobites all – happily accepted the Prince as sovereign and joined him on the doomed escapade. Indeed, the North West is a veritable mélange of nationalities traditionally culled from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales – the wild, anarchic Celtic blood that defines its personality in many ways – as well, of course, from vibrant Viking stock: themselves enterprising and adventurous, if a tad unruly. And today this wonderfully rebellious and rich cultural melting pot includes so many more

ICI Runcorn, Cheshire


comments: “In my view the creative industries will be increasingly perceived in the 21st century as the major force driving the economy, and never more so than in the North West. What’s more, I have never believed in a divide between cities like Manchester and Liverpool.” Perhaps Steven Broomhead, the chief executive of the Northwest Regional Development Agency – considered by many to display an entrepreneurial flair when flying the flag for the region, sums it up best: “We are never complacent and, fortunately, we have a very good public-private sector relationship. When it matters, we are all seen pulling together.”

varied communities that are a part of the very fabric; adding a terrific fusion of characteristics and splendid customs and rituals that are now an integral part of the region. Yet they were originally forged in faraway places like India and Pakistan, the West Indies, Africa, China and other parts of Asia, Eastern Europe or the Middle East. Often, they came seeking a new life – for whatever reasons – and a chance to enjoy a safe, comfortable existence and maybe to sparkle in commerce and academia. Many have – although the path of integration, tolerance and acceptance is not Encounter on the M53, Merseyside yet that well trodden. Regularly published statistics on regeneration and economic blueprints all indicate that the North West is on a roll, and it is an acknowledged fact that the region has spawned more than its fair share of successful entrepreneurs: people who have either stayed put to become affluent or found fame and fortune elsewhere in Britain and across the globe. What the few profiles of such spirited individuals in this book represent is a mere ‘snapshot’ of the guts, the guile and the gumption that the North West seems to foster and embrace – some who hail from the region and have stamped their mark on their chosen field and some from outside the area who have realised that this is the very spot where they too can cut a dash – either in enterprise and commerce, sport, education or in the hugely innovative arts and creative industries. Jude Kelly, the Liverpool-born, highly acclaimed director of London’s South Bank centre

‘We are never complacent and, fortunately, we have a very good publicprivate sector relationship. When it matters, we are all seen pulling together’

Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Merseyside


The University Launchpad Professor Michael Brown Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive Liverpool John Moores University


Professor Michael Brown DL is the vice chancellor and chief executive of LJMU. Under his leadership LJMU has, uniquely in UK Higher Education, applied the Excellence Model to the whole university, and in a 2004 report commissioned by the British government, the institution was commended for its approach to governance, management and leadership. Amongst his many interests he is the chair of the strategy and performance committee for Merseyside European Funding and chairman of the Liverpool Science Park.

S it possible to teach an individual to be enterprising – can you learn to be good at business? Some of the most outspoken business leaders in the world have said “no”, that you can’t simply learn how to be an entrepreneur – and I would broadly agree with them. You can, however, develop an environment and put in place programmes that can create a spark, nurture and nourish the ambitions of those with ideas and dreams and build structures from which those ideas will flourish into fully fledged businesses. Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) has been the springboard for people from all backgrounds and from all walks of life for 180 years, encouraging talented individuals to achieve their dreams in so many different ways. But if you want people to be entrepreneurial, then the organisation itself has to have that spirit, being prepared to take calculated and managed risks itself to achieve outstanding outcomes. A university is a hotbed of ideas and ambition. In LJMU we pride ourselves on our ability to stimulate and spark the nascent dreams of individuals and this can apply as much to our own staff as to our students. We have created an operational environment that encourages people to be brave, to have vision and to dare to voice their dreams. As a business we have invested in those dreams and today we are now able to see some of the tangible benefits of taking that daring step with our staff and with our students. Students come to LJMU with many different ambitions; all of them want to secure rewarding careers and some of them come to the university with the explicit objective of learning how to start their own business. For those with a clear plan from the outset, we help to guide them through the initial stages of setting up a business and taking their first tentative steps beyond their graduation. Providing a hothouse environment for new business is a great privilege for a university: in the old-fashioned sense we are the business angel, whether it is through placing their new companies in the Liverpool Science Park, of which we are a lead partner, or providing the creative atmosphere for talented individuals to make their mark in the new media industry we have helped to create in Merseyside.


For some students and staff it is very clear to see how they will venture forth. For example, our business students have a whole semester devoted to self-employment. They begin their module by coming up with an idea and within 12 weeks they are expected to launch their business with appropriate backing and business plans in place with short-term strategic aims and long-term profit forecasts. At the end of the semester, the students normally wind their businesses up and carry on with the rest of their degree programme. Except that some of those business ideas are still running with considerable success. We have helped hundreds of business students spin out their companies beyond their degree programme and they are not only now gainfully employed in those businesses but are employing new LJMU graduates to help their companies grow. Using the business studies model, we have developed enterprising programmes across the university so that students in engineering, health, computer science and even education can establish a business alongside their studies. Another example is to be found in our Faculty of Education. We provided a launchpad for our dance students to set up JMUpstart, the North West’s firstever student-led dance company. With artistic support from university experts, the company is designed to give students a real insight into how the dance industry operates. By the very nature of their studies, graduates from the arts are often selfemployed, whether they work in the traditional medium of paint and charcoal or through the digital platforms of new media, developing programmes for the multimillion pound LJMU established the North West’s first student-led dance company, games industry. JMUpstart © Bernard Rose/LJMU LJMU established the UK’s first business incubator for the digital industries in 2003, to encourage technology companies to base themselves in Liverpool. Backed by our internationally-renowned expertise in digital content and media production, we help companies shape their technological know-how into


The new Art and Design Academy will be a creative bridge between education and industry © Colin McPherson/LJMU

The University spins out 10 new companies every year, placing LJMU in the top ten education business incubators in the UK © Bernard Rose/LJMU

sound commercial applications. Our business incubation services stand out from other UK business incubators because we offer both targeted expert business support and managed workspace. Companies also enjoy the benefits of cross-fertilisation with LJMU’s ground-breaking research, the secret to innovation, particularly in this ideas-driven sector, as well as having access to our talented graduates. Indeed our new £24 million Art and Design Academy will be a creative bridge between education and industry, drawing on the expertise of both staff and our highly talented students and graduates. By creating a project-oriented, studio environment, students and graduates will be able to work on commercial briefs with real deadlines, from a wide range of clients. But what about scientists, how do you encourage dedicated and focused scientists to think beyond the traditional parameters of their profession? Targeted professional business advice and support for students with an idea is the key. For example, in 2004, two biomolecular science graduates established Sequence Biotechnologies Limited, a unique DNA testing clinic. With the help and advice of our student enterprise team, Nichola Lawton and Kellie McLoughlin secured funding and business advice to set up their company and within a year they had won the Shell Live Wire competition for young entrepreneurs. Sequence Biotechnologies, with outlets in more than nine cities across the UK, is a real success story for Merseyside and a great example to students who work in professions that are not normally associated with these enterprising initiatives. Actually, since we established student enterprise as a focus of activities, we have developed over 50 LJMU’s student enterprise programme helps students turn business spin-out companies, ideas into reality in which LJMU has a continuing interest, which now have a combined turnover of £16 million and are employing 347 people. The university now spins out 10 new companies per year, placing us in the top 10 education business incubators in the UK. And then there are the people who think really big …


Some years ago, our astrophysics team – a venerable bunch of world-class researchers, had a dream of creating the world’s largest robotic telescope. With the expertise, the capability and the right environment, the university was able to create a company to build robotic telescopes that now span the globe from as far away as China, India and Hawaii. The university has its own telescope, sited on a mountain in La Palma in the Canary Islands, which is operated robotically from our astrophysics department in Birkenhead. The dream didn’t end with owning a telescope. We wanted to do more than scan the night skies, searching for new stars and planets. We wanted to share our expertise and experience too – and who better to share it with than schoolchildren? Through our National Schools Observatory (NSO) project we are able to send images directly to classrooms in hundreds of schools across the UK, helping a new generation experience the excitement of discovering the solar system and new stars and novae. Such engagement is vital if you want people to consider a career in science. The experiences gained through the NSO are as close to real astronomical research as it is possible for schoolchildren to get. The story of this remarkable project gained momentum following a chance conversation with representatives from Merseytravel. The parent company of Mersey Ferries had an old car park on their hands at Seacombe which was crying out for redevelopment. With careful restoration, Merseytravel were determined not only to save the building but to give it a new purpose, and that’s where we came in. Using the platform of our expertise and knowledge in astrophysics, the idea of Spaceport was born. As a national visitor attraction, Spaceport A permanent Spaceport exhibit showcases how schools can join LJMU’s National Schools’ Observatory © Merseytravel needed to be exciting and fun, but we were also determined that it should be educational. It would seem we got the balance right and Spaceport is now one of the region’s major tourist attractions. It needed visitors of 65,000 a year to break even, and at the time of writing we are averaging a footfall of 250,000.


LJMU’s Liverpool Telescope in La Palma, Canaries, is operated robotically from Birkenhead

Spaceport harnesses LJMU’s expertise in astrophysics and public engagement in science to make this visitor attraction both educational and fun © Merseytravel

Ten years ago we could never have anticipated that our astrophysics team would have a telescope of their own, create a business supplying telescopes to countries across the globe and play a key role in developing a major tourist attraction. While many academic teams would be satisfied with being ranked in the top 1% of institutions worldwide for their space science research, our experts have continued to gain even wider credentials. In 2004, we were named DTI’s Chinese Exporter of the Year for developing the $4.5 million Yunnan Telescope for the Chinese government. And, in 2005, we became the first and only Merseyside institution to win a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Further and Higher Education in recognition of our astronomical excellence and public engagement in science. The Queen’s Anniversary Prize, which in the Honours System is equivalent to a Queen’s Award to Industry, is a fitting tribute to the high calibre and dedication of our staff and their ability to harness cutting edge research for both commercial ventures and to enthuse future generations with a passion for science and technology. As I said at the beginning, in order to be successful you have to be prepared to take calculated and managed risks. Liverpool John Moores University is the UK’s 15th largest university, with a turnover of £160 million; it is unusual for such a long-established and large organisation to be a hotbed of enterprising initiative, but we are. We are an organisation led and managed using leading-edge business approaches, but still achieving quality outcomes in teaching, research and consultancy and knowledge transfer. A feature of this approach is the need to encourage a particular mindset within our staff and students. We want our people to HRM the Queen and HRH Prince Philip present Professor Michael Brown and Professor Mike Bode with LJMU’s Queen’s Anniversary Prize think big – and if the business case is robust, the university will want to be right behind them. As we have proved time and again, you can’t really have a better friend and partner in business than Liverpool John Moores University.


The Bold Venturers a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit in England’s North West

Bidston Docks, Wirral. Peel Land and Property are undertaking a ÂŁ4.5 billion development of Birkenhead Docks to create an international waterside destination rivalling cities like Sydney, New York and Shanghai

Tim Bacon


Living Ventures

O help fund his college days Tim Bacon worked as a part-time cook at KFC in his native Tasmania but, unexpectedly, the call of the small screen beckoned and he shot to fame in the Australian television soap series Sons and Daughters. In the late 1980s he moved to the UK to expand his acting career and during lulls in the work took a job as a barman at one of the TGI Friday outlets. He was, though, soon back on television appearing on Terry Wogan’s fabled live chat show after winning a competition about bar tending, considered a highly professional job in both Australia and Ireland. The day after that appearance Tim suddenly found those skills in huge demand as a string of catering companies and others in the leisure industry begged for his help in training their staff. Abandoning the television career Tim set up a bar and restaurant consultancy – Bar Biz – in 1989 and quickly demonstrated the talent that was to see him acknowledged as one of the leading entrepreneurs in the industry. He began by training the staff at Mulligan’s restaurant at the Four Seasons hotel in Hale on the outskirts of Manchester. A few years later he set up his own operation, J W Johnsons, on Deansgate and, working with his partner Jeremy Roberts, he launched the small Life restaurant group – incorporating Via Vita and Life Cafés – in Manchester and Liverpool. They sold the group on to Whitbread before opening the first of what have become almost iconic venues known as The Living Room. It developed into a nationwide chain called Living Ventures, with 13 of the venues branded as The Living Room along with the popular Mosquito and Prohibition bars. The Living Rooms had a

contemporary look with a colonial twist and rapidly became firm favourites with the glitterati and ‘movers and shakers’ of the music, media, sports and entertainment sectors in all the cities in which they have opened. Two years ago Tim – who lives in Cheshire with his French-born wife Karine – was given one of the pub and catering industries’ highest awards – a Catey – after earlier chalking up the North West Entrepreneur of the Year award. In 2005, the dynamic young firm launched their flagship Living Room in London’s West End,

‘it was our intention to re-invent this classic restaurant style’ although Tim and his pal had already conquered the extremely gourmet-aware tastebuds and social graces of Edinburgh with their venue in the Scottish capital’s upmarket George Street. The pair sold on Prohibition in 2005 and Living Ventures then snapped up the popular Est Est Est Italian restaurant chain of 19 outlets, boosting their home-grown venture’s annual turnover to well over £50 million. Indeed, a listing in the Sunday Times ‘Fast Track 100’ in December of that year, followed, in 2006, by inclusion in the ‘Real Business Hot 100 Index’, positioned Living Ventures as one of the fastest-growing businesses in the UK. Under Tim’s stewardship Living Ventures has received over 70 regional and national awards, including the prestigious Retailers’ Retailer of the Year for ‘best turnaround brand’ in 2006 for the


Š Tony Holker/Paradigm Digital


revitalising of the Est Est Est chain, which was first launched in Knutsford in the early 1990s. At one stage, Tim reckons there were almost 2,000 people working for him in his wide range of restaurants and bars but confesses that the only time he gets to cook himself these days is at home. He lives with Karine in a beautifully renovated period house near Holmes Chapel: it was built in 1842 and was once, he reveals, used as a Baptist chapel. In the summer of 2007 Tim and Jeremy sold their Living Room chain of 13 bars and restaurants in England and Scotland to Ultimate Leisure for £28 million – a deal which apparently netted £20 million between three partners – and will now be concentrating on their Black House grill concepts. Their grills in Smithfield, London and Hale, Cheshire have already proved big hits and they opened two further restaurants last year – The Grill on the Alley in Manchester and the Black House Grill in Chester. Tim believes the concept will slot easily into a number of major cities across the UK – and maybe even further afield. “We have been working on the creative concept for the grills within Living Ventures for quite some

time and it was our intention to re-invent this classic restaurant style,” said Tim, who is renowned for hosting spectacular and unconventional summer parties at his home – the last on a ‘Wild West’ theme, complete with a saloon shoot-out.

acknowledged as one of the leading entrepreneurs in the industry

Manchester city centre - © Paul McMullin


Tom Bloxham


Urban Splash

F anyone else apart from the founder of the massively successful property and regeneration firm Urban Splash had offered the advice that entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid of going bankrupt they would probably have been laughed out of town. Yet Tom Bloxham has never been the kind of bloke easily pigeon-holed, although his remarks at the National Entrepreneur Scholarship graduation ceremony a year or so back did raise a few gasps of incredulity. The company, set up in 1993 with his architect pal Jonathan Falkingham, has won over 150 awards for design, architecture and urban renewal and boasts a property portfolio worth over £200 million, with an annual turnover in excess of £11 million. In the last decade or more it has been at the cutting edge of residential and commercial development in the North West, and has helped create over 3,000 new jobs, 1,000 new homes and more than a million square feet of commercial space. “Anyone can avoid making mistakes by not taking any decisions,” explained Tom. “But risk taking should be based on a sound knowledge of the market and the time to start taking risks is always now. You might lose money but you’ll gain vital experience,” he added. It is a mantra he understands from personal experience, from the time he began a business selling records from a market stall to supplement his student grant. “I was spectacularly unsuccessful at this, but noticed that the posters the record companies gave away to advertise their latest releases were more popular than the records. I had discovered a huge gap in the market,” he said. He took a lease on premises in Manchester’s almost legendary Affleck’s

Arcade which he then began to sublet – thus kickstarting his interest and fascination in property development. According to Tom there were hordes of youngsters looking for spaces to sell a myriad of weird and wonderful goods and he turned over a large chunk of his 6,000 square feet in the tumbledown building to their entrepreneurial flair. And it wasn’t long before he turned this initiative into yet another trend-setting endeavour when – in the early 1990s – he found an almost derelict

‘But risk taking should be based on a sound knowledge of the market’ building in Liverpool city centre, much akin to Affleck’s. He transformed it into a series of small retail shops linked by corridors that met a rickety staircase leading to pokey little offices that he had renamed The Palace. Within two years this Byzantine-style warren was home to fashion and jewellery designers and retailers, graphic artists, a recording studio, music and dance promoters, comic sellers and, ironically, stores selling records. A visiting Warner Brothers executive breathlessly described it as ‘the most exciting venue in Britain’ – and this was long before the regeneration bug bit either Liverpool or Manchester. It was during this period that he and Jonathan Falkingham joined forces and became involved in running bars, opening the Shed in Manchester and Baa Bar in Liverpool. The anarchic young Bloxham was on a roll and it’s no surprise that less than a decade later he’d been


Š Matt Wright

awarded an MBE for his services to architecture and urban regeneration. His company is acknowledged as the trailblazers of inner city living, not just in Manchester and Liverpool, but countrywide. An investment programme of over £1 billion has been poured into projects that stretch from Castlefields in Manchester, Altrincham in Cheshire, the Midland Hotel in Morecambe, Fort Dunlop in Birmingham, the Ropewalks in Liverpool city centre, Lister Mills in Bradford to the Royal William Yard in Plymouth. “My belief is that the only good business deal is one where everybody gets something out of it. I’m not interested in screwing anybody over,” he commented. Born in Hampshire, Bloxham grew up in south London but has lived in Manchester since he studied for a history and politics degree at the city’s university in the early 1980s. He is now chairman of Urban Splash and takes an active part in the creative industries throughout the north of England. He is chairman of the Arts Council in the North West and sits on the Arts Council for England, as well as acting as an adviser to the government on property

matters through its Urban Task Force, among other groups. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, as well as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Central Lancashire; and has the honorary degree of Doctor of Design from Oxford Brookes University. He has also been voted North West Business Insider magazine’s Property Personality of the Year, and is described by other media as the most influential business person in the North West.

‘I had discovered a huge gap in the market’

Morecambe Bay, Cumbria - © Peter Mearns


Pippa Botting



T is for sure a road long and well travelled from being born in a ‘dockers’ hospital in the industrial town of Birkenhead to rustling up a plate of fancies for Princess Beatrice, daughter of the Duke of York and Sarah Ferguson, at one of her birthday parties. And cooking up a gourmet banquet for the then prime minister of St Lucia, John Compton and the equally discerning equerries of Prince Charles could have been daunting, even for someone trained at the exclusive cordon bleu Tante Marie school. However, Pippa Botting was well used to mingling with royalty, politicians and business folk as her father was a British diplomat who spent a lifetime posted to countries such as Pakistan, Australia, Ethiopia, Portugal, Brazil and, of course, St Lucia where, as consul general, he hosted that famous dinner. Her Wirral origins hark back to the ancient rules of citizenship as applied to our wandering diplomatic corps – one that states only the first-born child can automatically inherit that British stamp. And, as Pippa’s brother had already claimed the right, her mother returned to her home of Irby for the birth. Within weeks, though, Pippa was heading back to Canberra in Australia, where her father was now working in the British High Commission. When she grew up Pippa was drawn back to Merseyside to complete her eclectic education at F L Calder – then a part of the old Liverpool Polytechnic, which later morphed into Liverpool John Moores University – studying home economics. She had always expressed a passion for cooking and a spell at the Mollington Banastre hotel near Chester persuaded her that whatever skills she had needed honing. She took off to study at the acclaimed

Tante Marie School of Cookery in Surrey and – as she confides – has never looked back. Today, she and her husband Nick own and run a string of restaurants in Cornwall that have won a well-earned reputation as fine family establishments, although one also incorporates an upstairs bar and night club. They are now looking at expansion plans, possibly along the M4 corridor, but Pippa, whose company now employs 120 staff, explains: “I had never really expected to be in business like this, or

‘And, while each new site presents us with a challenge it is certainly fun, if hard work’ even an instigator of good restaurant ideas. But I feel we have introduced a range of family-friendly restaurants that are filling a gap in the market. “And, while each new site presents us with a challenge it is certainly fun, if hard work.” Earlier on in her career she boosted and widened her culinary and catering skills by working for Thomson Holidays and Mark Warner, the specialist – and family-friendly – holiday company. She also filled in by catering for shooting and fishing parties; all of which, she says, gave her a solid grounding in the industry. Ironically, it was to escape their non-stop working schedule in London that Pippa and Nick fled to Cornwall and a quieter lifestyle, little realising that, in fact, their lives would be turned upside down. They met while she had a job in the capital setting up food purchasing systems in hotels and restaurants,


experience that was to prove invaluable, and Nick was running bars in the catering industry. Once in Cornwall their combined expertise was useful when they bought a pub – the White Hart – in St Keverne and later took on the Rising Sun Hotel in St Mawes. But still they felt there was something missing and decided to take a year out and conduct market research on restaurants. This took them to many European capitals, New York and, finally, Cape Town in South Africa, where they picked up on a style of catering that they felt was ideal for the UK. “It was like a jigsaw coming together and so we sat down with a blank piece of paper and drew up a plan for a concept restaurant,” said Pippa. The couple found an empty shell of a building in Penzance and created the Renaissance Café, which became a roaring success. They sold it on after three years and used the capital to fund their next venture in Falmouth, a place called, appealingly, Hunky Dory. They then used their combined ideas and particularly that South African influence for the first ‘steak’ restaurant that bore Pippa’s name.

“It feels strange but it has become something of a trade mark,” added Pippa, who quickly added to the portfolio with an even bigger development in Newquay that opened in 2006. And, just to keep her cordon bleu abilities finely tuned she and Nick recently opened the Indaba Fish restaurant in Truro, which has proved a hit with both locals and tourists.

‘It was like a jigsaw coming together and so we sat down with a blank piece of paper’

Martin Mere - © Ian Lawson/NWDA


Stephen Broadbent


Broadbent Art Works

F the fabled Liverpool sculptor Arthur Dooley – renowned for his communist affiliations – was still alive and shaping the clay he might well fall into an apoplectic rage that one of his favourite students is at the cutting edge of the creative muse by courting capitalism, albeit to a limited extent. The corporate world, after all, usually has the deepest pockets to fund visionaries. Over the last 15 years Stephen Broadbent has undertaken many commissions to design and manufacture quality presentation awards and sculptures that are used as corporate gifts by a wide range of companies and organisations in private and public sectors. Then again, as Stephen Broadbent points out, quite a few of Arthur’s own commissions came from the Catholic Church and the Church of England – organisations which would surely have ruffled his own political persuasions. “I watched Arthur closely as a mentor, but believe that my own style has evolved in a very personal way, yet his inspiring influence still enriches my work as a sculptor,” explained Stephen, who believes strongly that his creations should be directly relevant to human experience, and he is deeply aware of the responsibility an artist has to the environment. And Arthur Dooley would undoubtedly be as pleased as Karl Marx that much of Stephen’s work has a social and moral principle underpinning it – such as the trio of reconciliation sculptures that the Cheshire-based sculptor has created as symbols of peace and hope in Belfast, Liverpool and Glasgow. A theme he has also introduced to Richmond in the USA and the African city of Contonou in Benin as part of the Transatlantic Slavery Reconciliation Triangle initiative.

Broadbent was born in Wroughton in Wiltshire but educated in Liverpool and studied with the inimitable Dooley at his studio, a truly enlightening experience, says Stephen, as he was shown by one of the UK’s acknowledged masters how bronze and other materials could be crafted to beauty. Stephen’s first exhibition – featuring limited edition bronze sculptures and a smattering of gallery work – in London in the early 1980s brought him to the attention of collectors who have since become firm fans. He has long since moved into the arena of

‘I like to think that we can make meaningful visual connections with those who look upon the works to help create a sense of well-being for our cities and their citizens’ increasingly large – and challenging – public sculptures and urban design projects, many of which provide visual highlights in numerous cities in the North West and across the UK as well as abroad. A large-scale figurine – cast in Casablanca – is one of the eye-catching sights as visitors enter the King Mohammed VI Congress Centre in Morocco and his River of Life in Warrington – hailed as inspirational – was developed in the aftermath of the IRA bomb in the town in 1993. “The desire was to bring hope, freshness and new life to the devastated Bridge Street area and the community overall,” explained Stephen, whose studio is in Harthill near Chester.


One of Stephen’s main aims with his sculptures is, hopefully, to engage viewers as participators who can share his ideas and concepts. “I like to think that we can make meaningful visual connections with those who look upon the works to help create a sense of well-being for our cities and their citizens,” said Stephen, who believes that contemporary artists have a significant role to play in the regeneration of towns and cities. He works with a team of equally creative designers and adds: “We collaborate closely with architects, urban designers, structural engineers, metal fabricators and foundries, who all play a vital role in the ultimate realisation of our concepts.” Some of the team’s more startling work includes a piece called The Renaissance of Whitehaven and one of the latest is Drift Park, an integrated landscaping and art scheme designed to revitalise a relatively run-down area of the West Promenade in the north Wales seaside resort of Rhyl. He has also been commissioned to create a memorial sculpture that will celebrate the lives and achievements of Archbishop Derek Worlock and Bishop David Sheppard.

Stephen explains that the sculpture will take the form of two 4.5-metre high bronze doors and will be sited in Liverpool’s Hope Street, which links the city’s two cathedrals. And in Manchester’s Cathedral Gardens his family of artworks – entitled Manchester Seasons – is set within a new urban park alongside the Urbis Museum. The designer for the project was Melanie Jackson and Stephen and his team collaborated closely with the Building Design Partnership on a project that successfully integrates art within the city environment. He confides with a grin that his real dream commission, though, would be to design the new football World Cup.

He works with a team of equally creative designers

River Dee, Chester


David Brockbank


Staveley Mill Yard

S A visionary property developer and ‘maverick’ entrepreneur – as he’s often been described – David Brockbank would probably leave most of his contemporaries standing, particularly if he ever realises one of his fondest dreams: the building of the longest bridge in Britain, which would cross Morecambe Bay from Barrow-inFurness to Heysham. Mind you, he would resent the suggestion that it is a ‘dream’ as he believes passionately that this grandiose scheme – that would cost a minimum of £600 million – would recoup its development and building costs by harnessing wave and wind power to generate electricity. It will be, he insists, the world’s first ‘green bridge’. This kind of positive take on life saw him develop a redundant wood turning yard, close by the historic village of Staveley near Windermere, into a bustling hive of an industrial park that is now home to an eclectic collection of businesses, ranging from a stained-glass artist, a management training company, a traditional Lakeland café, a cycle shop, a copper engraver and a bakery, with plans also broached for a whisky distillery and a brewery. Brockbank – who was ‘unpaid’ chair of regeneration agency Cumbria Vision until late 2007 and, for three years, a board member of the North-west Regional Development Agency – inherited a family business at Staveley, which then employed 60 staff. “But I discovered that we couldn’t contend with the competition from overseas, where wages are lower, and as a consequence I had to close the mill,” he explained. He confesses that he could easily have just sold the four-acre, prime site and taken off to live a life of ease in the Caribbean. But Brockbank is made of

sterner stuff and has a passion for his native Cumbria that he has turned into a real economic boost for the region. Staveley Mill Yard has so far created 200 jobs thanks to the 36 businesses now on the site and David is proud that the initiative has helped this lovely Lakeland village remain active as a socially inclusive community, with a school, shops, post office and, as he point outs, a raft of amateur societies. It is in many ways, he thinks, the nearest thing to a model community, one that looks after the needs

‘The idea is to provide economic opportunities for other people to take advantage of’ of industry and commerce, provides employment and houses and, at the same time, is aware of the need for environmental protection. And he expects the number of businesses operating on the park to grow to 50 at least. “What we are doing is building a responsible community, which I would hope to replicate in other areas of Cumbria and elsewhere. It is now thriving and we even generate our own power from the river Kent using hydro-electricity,” explains David, reflecting clearly his much larger plans for the Cumbria Bridge project. Staveley is, declares Brockbank, a lesson for the whole of Cumbria and the North West in general – it demonstrates the need to develop a range of skills and new businesses. As chairman of Cumbria Vision he has helped steer the region’s economic agenda and its ‘umbrella’


role, incorporating the group of smaller agencies that were charged with assisting Cumbria, and thus using the £59 million annual budget to focus on job creation and enterprise. “The idea is to provide economic opportunities for other people to take advantage of and to use the public money as seed corn funding to lever more capital from the private sector,” he said. Educated at Sedbergh School, David later qualified as a chartered accountant and worked in London after taking a degree in economics at Newcastle University. He had vowed early on to avoid sitting on committees and yet, although he has a dislike of bureaucracies, he is very active in the public sector across the region. “As an accountant I hate waste and duplication, which is why I felt we had to bring in the other organisations to operate under the Cumbria Vision banner,” he said. In fact, even earlier, between 1988 and 1997, he was appointed to the Lake District National Park Authority by the Secretary of State and acted as chairman of development control for five years. He was also for a spell a member of Lancaster University Council and Cumbria Tourist Board.

And he admits that when offered the job with Cumbria Vision – even without pay – he couldn’t resist the challenge it offered to help drive this economically deprived area into the 21st century. “Cumbria Vision is just that – it is about the future. But we mustn’t be afraid to fail. If we play safe we won’t make the necessary changes. We have to be courageous,” he insists.

‘As an accountant I hate waste and duplication, which is why I felt we had to bring in the other organisations’

Lancaster, Lancashire - © Jill Jennings/NWDA


Tony Caldeira


Caldeira Limited

S the ribbons were cut and the bands played to mark the opening of Tony Caldeira’s sparkling new factory in the town of Hangzhou in China’s Yangtze River Delta, he must have reflected how far his dreams had been realised since the early days when he started work as a barrow boy on his family’s market stall in Liverpool. He must have felt the same when he launched a permanent showroom for his firm’s products on Fifth Avenue in New York in the spring of 2007; the location a base for his US subsidiary, Caldeira USA Inc, that includes a design and sales team. By the end of the year, Caldeira Limited had established itself as the market leader in the UK for the supply of cushions to volume retailers such as Next, Bhs, and Primark. The firm was listing profits of over £1 million on a turnover of £10 million and has close on 250 staff in the UK, China and the USA, with its founder feted the length and breadth of the business world. And it now sells to over 20 countries worldwide. The opening of his 250,000 square foot China factory complex – a two-hour drive from Shanghai – was the culmination of three years’ hard work after setting up Caldeira China Limited, known as Hao Sheng Textiles locally, with a Chinese partner; the pair investing over £1.5 million in the first phase of the project. There are those who say that Tony Caldeira – who left his parents’ employment to study economics and politics at Essex University – has quite adeptly reversed the trend that has seen the British textiles industry felled by the cheaper markets and workforces of the developing industrial nations.

The new premises were designed by the partners and many of the ideas were forged in Caldeira’s UK headquarters, a £1.5 million factory in Knowsley that employs 65 staff. Instead of chasing on the heels of his university pals to work in the City of London, Caldeira had returned to Merseyside and set up a company to supply independent retailers. His foray into China – he first opened a joint venture company in 2004 – was considered such a momentous event that Channel 4 television profiled his story in its hit prime time documentary

‘You have to recognise your strengths and weaknesses, and learn to delegate the things you can’t do well’ Brits Get Rich in China, and the media in the UK and China have penned column inches of paeans to Caldeira’s wily assessment of the growing Chinese economy. “I was grabbed by the work ethic of the Chinese people. There is so much entrepreneurial energy in the country and I don’t think most people yet realise the impact this will have on the world’s economy,” said Caldeira, who has been clearly influenced by his own family, who progressed from that early market stall to a manufacturing centre in St Helens. “One thing that affects many entrepreneurs is that they are good at getting things started but not very good at finishing the job. I’m a good starter but bring in others to finish the job,” Tony told Vision magazine – part of the Trinity Mirror stable – a few year ago.



“You have to recognise your strengths and weaknesses, and to learn to delegate the things you can’t do well. When entrepreneurs try to do it all themselves it slows growth.” This approach has seen his own enterprise – established in 1991 – grow from sales of £600,000 in 1998 to its present level of over £10 million; and, in 2004, Caldeira was listed as 24th in the Financial Times Inner City 100 of the fastest-growing companies in the UK. The same year Caldeira was recognised by the Daily Post Regional Business Awards as the Small to Medium Enterprise of the Year. And he picked up a further award at the Oxfordshire home of another visionary entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson, who was hosting the Sunday Times-Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 event, the definitive index of the UK’s fastest growing companies. Caldeira’s sales growth of almost 67% between 1998 and 2002 ensured the firm’s listing. The accolades have been flowing ever since and he scooped the North West Business in China award in 2006 under the auspices of China

Link, a business support agency that is part of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, but with a UK-wide focus, and sponsored by Alliance and Leicester. “The new factory in China will secure our supply chain and the long-term future of our UK operations. And it will be producing new and additional products that will be sold around the world,” said Tony, whose company is now acknowledged to be one of the most creative in its particular niche.

‘One thing that affects many entrepreneurs is that they are good at getting things started but not very good at finishing the job’

Fleetwood, Lancashire - © Paul McMullin


Bryony, Cadi and Linnhe Catlow


3 Bears Animation

O this day, Bryony Catlow still wonders with a smile how she and her twin sisters didn’t kill each other during the long production processes involved in their now internationally acclaimed film animation company, 3 Bears. She was reflecting on her own personal favourite film The Godson – a short that told the story about a racehorse that was decapitated and the family retaliation that followed. It was their pet project but was four years in the making as the sisters had also to pay the bills and were, therefore, forced to keep putting it on the back burner. Mind you, they had roped in a friend from the massively popular television series Red Dwarf to take on the voice of Don Ravioli in the film, based on the Italian mafia. They had earlier created what is known as ‘claymation’ sequences for a special version of Tongue Tied – one of the most popular moments from the BBC2 sci-fi comedy and included in the best-selling Smegs Out video. Robert Llewellyn, perhaps better known as the neurotic cleaning android Kryten, was delighted to help the sisters and the film premiered at the Bradford Animation Festival in 2003 to huge acclaim. After being inspired by a workshop run by Peter Lord, the creator of the Morph character on BBC, the girls figured they would like to try it and, after experimenting with a Super-8 cine camera, soon became addicted. They reveal that they are also great fans of the Wallace and Gromit characters created by the Aardman studio. The sisters grew up near Mold in north Wales but had moved to Cumbria before they decided to set up their own animation company, in 1996.

Operating from a studio in Kirkby Stephen, in the heart of the Eden Valley, they have won a string of awards for their stop-frame animations, used now in mainstream films, commercials, title sequences and other formats. In a little over 10 years the Catlow sisters – Bryony, Cadi and Linnhe – have made more than 20 films and won nine leading industry awards, including the Silver Arrow ‘Best Campaign’ at the British Advertising Awards in 2002. They had also been feted at the Manchester International Film

‘We just love what we do and, more importantly, we have developed a business out of it’ Festival two years earlier, winning Best Animated Film, as well as picking up a Royal Television Society award. But the future beckons and they are now at the forefront of the new world of computer animation, with Bryony using a special computer package for 3D animation while Linnhe is busy building websites and animating with Flash. It is Cadi who is continuing the work with Plasticine and stop-frame animation; one of the main projects being a sequel to the BBC Scotland Haunted Hogmanay film that was first shown on New Year’s Eve, 2006. Even though traditional animation is still in some demand Bryony says that they didn’t really have a choice about taking up computer-driven work. “It was either that or bankruptcy,” she laughed,


although after their success with memorable television adverts – such as one for Dulux – the girls have established a reputation for innovation and humour that would probably carry them over any hurdles. The advert featured a Plasticine man who lost his head so that a woman could match the colour of her paint. It took 10 days to make and was shown on television nationwide in 2002. But it caused something of a furore when several viewers complained that it was promoting violence in schools. Criticism aside, the success of that advert helped the young company win further lucrative contracts in the advertising world, producing amongst others short animated films and adverts for the National Lotto, Cumberland Building Society, ICI and Border Television, for whom they had created some characters for the children’s programme Nitty Gritty a year earlier. It may surprise some, but the only qualifications the sisters possess are driving licences. In fact, they didn’t attend mainstream school at all. Their parents taught them at home – their mother was highly

creative and fostered their freethinking spirits, and their father taught them other subjects such as maths. It must have worked, as yearly inspections by education inspectors gave them the all clear. They figured they could do the formal education thing later but, by then, had already set their hearts on careers in film animation. “We just love what we do and, more importantly, we have developed a business out of it,” said Bryony. “It is about determination and confidence in your own abilities,” she stressed, pointing out the importance of not taking the first 100-odd ‘Nos’ too personally.

‘It is about determination and confidence in your own abilities’

Whitehaven Marina, Cumbria - © Jim Davis


Steve Craddock



LDER folk will perhaps fondly recall from the distant memories of bucolic childhoods the distinctive, tingling aroma of pine disinfectant mingling with that of assorted soaps, the whiff of ochre polish and wax candles, while stumbling over stacks of knick-knacks and serried lines of long-shanked brooms, spades and aluminium pails – the very essence of an oldfashioned chandler’s shop. The owners were largely never enthused by modernity and you might think them all long gone. But a few still ply their trade, although Steve Craddock will declare that his store in Southport was destined to be a photographic supplies shop offering the full remit of professional services. He will, though, admit this was before the digital age has almost destined this kind of trade for the dustbin of yesteryear. Ironically, the empty premises he took over had been owned by a chandler for 40 years, but Steve was determined that he would follow his own profession – he had been trained as a photographer at Blackpool & Fylde College of Art and had worked for a spell with the legendary John Mills Studio in Liverpool. In fact, when growing up as a boy in Ormskirk his dream had been to work in photography and he even converted his parents’ bathroom – and later loft – into a darkroom where he experimented with processing the film he had taken. He recalls how his sister would wait patiently outside for hours while he fumbled with a Paterson processing tank and spirals, dousing black and white prints in trays of developer and fixer in the bottom of the bath. After school he took an art foundation course at Southport College, when he was still too young

for a place at Blackpool, also working part-time on a Saturday for a local camera shop owner – and general wheeler dealer, Steve reminds himself – who would frequently stock his shelves with obtuse craftworks or Spanish trinkets found on holiday. This was to be an important influence on his later career. While he relished his job with John Mills it soon dawned on Steve – who had quickly risen to the post of second shooter/cameraman on location projects – that it didn’t really matter how good he was: no one left the studio and it would have been

‘I’ll dust off the old Paterson tank, crank up the Hasselblad and annoy my kids by locking myself in the bathroom’ a matter of ‘filling dead men’s shoes’ if he wanted further promotion. “And I was also keen to earn a bit more money,” added Steve, who recalled those halcyon days at Hagerty’s where the owner’s ‘spirit of enterprise’ had actually been quite an inspiration to the young photographer. A property in Southport came on the market and Steve figured he could make a handsome living setting up a photographic business of his own. “Like any new business optimism was high, but often the pockets were empty,” he said. But every now and then customers would wander in and ask if he had this or that item – the odd clothesline or mop head, even perhaps a lampshade. “It dawned on me that I had actually bought the old chandler’s goodwill. So rather than let


these opportunities slip away I recalled my old contacts at Hagerty’s and started selling all kinds of electrical goods, tools and plumbing equipment to supplement the photography items,” he explained. A couple of years went by and the photography just began to fall off and became more of a hobby, which was rather ironic, he says. “I began to concentrate more on the buying and selling of general goods for the shop and business boomed. “It hasn’t been by design or calculation, but we have worked hard at it and I have to confess it’s been very enjoyable – and we’ve made a living out of it” added Steve. “I do try to focus on specialist tools such as spanners and light industrial equipment, but we still sell a wide range of hardware, such as nails, screws, hammers, brushes and even old-style steel mousetraps, that wouldn’t – of course – now be regarded as inhumane but they ‘do the job very effectively’ – and people still ask for them.” Today Steve says the business is at a point where he is hoping his son will take it over, while he hopes the extra time might allow him to return after many years to his first love – photography.

“I’ll dust off the old Paterson tank, crank up the Hasselblad and annoy my kids by locking myself in the bathroom for hours on end, just like when I was young,” he laughed.

‘It hasn’t been by design or calculation, but we have worked hard at it and I have to confess it’s been very enjoyable’

Runcorn Bridge - © Ian Lawson/NWDA


Thomas Dawes



S he entered his teenage years Tom Dawes already had his eye on the main chance: he was running a car-washing business with over 100 clients, then three years later was busy selling blackboards to pubs for their specials menus. “I had found an old warehouse in Trafford where I could buy them cheaply and in order to up the price I fixed chains to them so they could be hung from ceilings,” explained Tom, who recalls that they sold extremely well. At the time he was a pupil at Bury grammar school yet, although captain of the rugby team and the top army cadet, he confesses he wasn’t that keen on school as he never liked being told what to do. In the summer of 2007 his burgeoning aerospace supply chain management firm – Aerogistics – moved into a purpose-built base on Liverpool’s Estuary Park as part of a £2.4 million expansion programme that would create over 100 new jobs. It is acknowledged in the industry that he has been transforming the aerospace sector since he set it up in 2004 and he now employs 85 people, with Dawes predicting it will soon grow to a £20 million company with a staff of 300. Dawes may well have spurned grammar school but it didn’t stop him completing an honours degree in manufacturing engineering at the University of Liverpool, graduating in 1998. Then, while studying for his PhD, he went on a two-year ‘teaching company scheme’ to improve production planning and supply chain management at an aerospace SME. For five years he learned the craft: two years at Airbus UK and three years with Westland Helicopters before setting up his own company, spun

out of a programme at his old university focusing on advanced internet methods and emergent systems. “I developed the concept from my PhD research with the e-Business Research Centre at the university’s management school. He then negotiated to set up a joint venture with the University of Liverpool and the initiative – Aerogistics Systems – is part of a £6 million technology transfer programme at the university with a mission to commercially exploit the next generation of internet technologies. Tom explains: “We are a company that focuses

‘I believe entrepreneurs are lateral thinkers, risk takers and have the natural resourcefulness and flexibility to overcome obstacles’ on the clustering of engineering business to develop virtual organisations.” In partnership with North West Precision Forms – a precision engineering company based in Birkenhead – Dawes picked up contracts with First Choice Airlines, Airbus and Raytheon to provide a one-stop shop project management service. And, in collaboration with e-BRC, Aerogistics developed web-enabled solutions for Korean Aerospace Industries, Westland Helicopters and Airbus UK. In May 2005 the fledgling company acquired Bodycote’s Liverpool-based metal coatings firm King and Fowler and Dawes believes that Aerogistics – where he is managing director – will become one


of the leading world players in the sector, through acquisitions and strategic partnerships. “We are succeeding because our motto to customers is: ‘give us 100 parts that you want and we’ll use our e-software to manage the supply and get your products built’. When he first had the brainwave Tom concedes he needed back-up and support and turned to the then local Business Link on Merseyside to help get his company off the ground, in August 2003. Less than a year later he was voted Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the Shell Live Wire Awards. A string of awards has followed in the wake of that first one with Tom feted as Young Entrepreneur in May 2007 at a ceremony hosted by North West Business Insider magazine, in tandem with Professional Liverpool and sponsored by the Institute of Chartered Accountants. In fact, Business Insider editor Michael Taylor describes him as a ‘serial award winner’, with further accolades tumbling his way such as Best New Business in the Enterprise Champions contest of 2005; another Shell Live Wire award came the same year while in the Daily Post regional business

awards, in partnership with Alliance and Leicester Commercial Bank, in 2006, Aerogistics was spotlighted for innovative enterprise. And he was voted Liverpool Young Director of the Year by the Institute of Directors in 2006 and inaugurated into the Merseyside Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame the same year – one of the youngest entrepreneurs to be so honoured. He is pretty specific about what makes a good entrepreneur and told business guests at a Downtown Liverpool function recently: “Entrepreneurs visualise future opportunities and re-engineer existing business processes. “I believe entrepreneurs are lateral thinkers, risk takers and have the natural resourcefulness and flexibility to overcome obstacles. “They combine self-belief with stubbornness and selective hearing – if they listened to every negative comment and criticism then ventures would never be launched,” he added.

Blackpool, Lancashire - © Lancashire Tourist Office/NWDA


Sarah Dunning



HILE the rest of Britain’s motorway stops are firmly in the grasp of large corporate groups, in Cumbria, where the M6 sweeps majestically through the rolling hills towards the Scottish border, it will be heartwarming for tired tourists and motorists to learn that, at Tebay, they will be given a proper homespun welcome Indeed, the Dunning family have operated the services from the early 1970s and source a lot of the produce on sale in the cafés and restaurants on both sides of the motorway – at junction 38 – from their own 700-acre farm, specialising in lamb and Galloway beef. It is the only independent family business to have built and run a motorway service area in the UK. John Dunning was in charge until 2005, with support from his wife Barbara, but since then their eldest daughter Sarah has taken over the reins as chief executive after initially joining the firm in 1999. “But actually my younger sister Jane and I were hauled into the business at an early age as mum and dad would tell us to go and clear up the litter on the car park. Our payment was a lollipop each,” laughed Sarah, who says that although her dad has retired, he is still a non-executive director of Westmorland Limited and is also still very hands-on with the farm, which is run by a manager. “It was a momentous decision for me in some ways, and a bit daunting at first as it all happened at the same time as I was having my second child, Ed,” explained Sarah, whose husband Joel is a heart surgeon. “We made the decision to come north and I think I’ve now shown dad that his business is in safe hands as I know he would never have wanted to sell up.” In 2006 Sarah was voted Cumbria Young Director

of the Year by the North West branch of the Institute of Directors, confirming that she was surely taking the business – which employs 500 people – in the right direction. Westmorland has two motorway service areas and Sarah is proud to continue the tradition, begun by her parents, of promoting the local roots, culture and landscape. Each area offers a petrol forecourt with shop, a self-service restaurant, coffee shop, a retail store and a farm shop where customers can buy the best of local and British food. “We have a particular business ethos which I call

‘I took a post with Rothschild’s in London, where I learned about corporate banking for two years’ ‘the square’ that sums up our attitude,” said Sarah – part of which reads: ‘We are a small family business, home grown, down-to-earth, honest farmers who are always striving to be the best in everything we undertake.’ A few years ago, after significant investment in a new forecourt shop on the southbound Tebay Services, a major refurbishment of the Westmorland Hotel and the introduction of an exhibition and leisure complex called Rheged (an ancient name for Cumbria) that includes a café and children’s pottery workshop, the business is still continuing to grow. Sarah is also pleased at the customer response to another innovation – the barbecue sheds that have become a firm favourite.


“We lost some business during the hot summer of 2006 and I was determined it wouldn’t happen again,” explained Sarah. So she dreamed up the idea of an al fresco eating area. “It is quirky but fun and all the main food – lamb, beef and burgers – comes from our own farm so we know it is fresh,” she said. After early education at St Anne’s school, in Windermere, Sarah read modern languages at the University of Manchester and then spent a year in Italy honing her Italian. “I took a post with Rothschild’s in London, where I learned about corporate banking for two years. Then I joined the Rose Partnership – an all-women run headhunting firm – which focuses on the niche investment banking sector. It was, all in all, great training for running the family business.” Then her father called and mentioned he was thinking of taking over the whole of the business, that had been up to then a partnership with two brothers in Cumbria who ran a bakery. “We realised we needed to think about the future. Then a few years later dad retired and I became the boss,” said Sarah, who admits it was her first experience as an entrepreneur.

“And with two small children – Alice is her eldest – it is a matter of juggling life. It is quite demanding as we are still evolving. But my management team are all relatively young and it is a good mix of those with experience mingled with bags of enthusiasm,” she added.

‘We lost some business during the hot summer of 2006 and I was determined it wouldn’t happen again’

Fleetwood, Lancashire - © Paul McMullin


Ajmail and Sudarghara Dusanj


Robert Cain and Company

HERE were those in the close-knit brewing industry who were rather snootily sceptical when the two Dusanj brothers announced their plans to buy the ailing Cains Brewery in Liverpool, particularly as they had no background in the trade and were regarded dismissively as wheeler-dealers, intent on asset stripping the 150year-old firm. Five years later and Ajmail and Sudarghara – who insist on being called Sid and Bill by friends and clients alike – were being hailed as not just the saviours of Cains but a formidable entrepreneurial double act that, in May of 2007, surprised the business world by listing on the stock market after their takeover of the Preston-based pub operator Honeycombe in a deal worth £37 million. The brothers had already transformed the fortunes of Cains, which was losing £2 million a year and on the brink of closure when they bought the brewery in July 2002, along with a 10-strong chain of pubs, for £3.5 million. Within a few years they had recorded a modest profit of £57,000 and boosted the canning side of the business from 24 million units to 120 million. In 2006 the brothers revealed that Cains had made underlying profits of close on £400,000 from a turnover of £24 million, figures which supported their insistence right from the start that they were in the business for the long term. “We are all driving the business forward to achieve our ambition of becoming Britain’s favourite beer company,” commented Ajmail, although they had already won over the hip GQ men’s magazine in 2006, when readers voted the firm’s cask lager second best in the ‘Top 100 Things in the World’; and the leading men’s style

magazine Arena had hailed their formidable real ale as the ‘best alcoholic drink’ in the North West. Even earlier, in October 2003, their determined efforts with Cains had won them the ‘Corporate Player Award’ in North West Business Insider magazine’s ’42 under 42’ competition, with editor Michael Taylor remarking: “The Dusanj brothers have turned around the fortunes of a great North West brand and are worthy winners.” The duo seemed unstoppable when they scooped one of Britain’s top business Oscars less than

‘But failure was not an option. We’d put everything we had into it and it just had to be a success’ six months later, winning the title of ‘Regional Entrepreneurs of the Year’ in the National Business Awards, sponsored by mobile telephone giant Orange. Twenty years ago the brothers – who were born and raised in Kent – were working in their father Surinder’s fish and chip shop and learned the nuts and bolts of running a business while also studying for business qualifications. Indeed, the elder Mr Dusanj inculcated his sons in the ‘spirit of enterprise’ very early on when he began to buy houses to do up and sell on. He had arrived from the Punjab in northern India in 1962 unable to speak or write English and the boys earned their commercial spurs when helping their father negotiate with estate agents, haggling over prices. After they had joined his small but burgeoning empire of shops around Chatham in Kent – Ajmail


recalls they bought and sold about 20 over the years – in 1992 the brothers took over the Midlandsbased failing soft drinks firm Gardner Shaw for £300,000. Within a decade they had boosted sales from £450,000 to over £8 million. Their first foray into the brewing trade was actually buying beer for wholesale and, as Sudarghara remembers, their dealings with regional brewers were quite favourable. The brothers – Ajmail is the elder by a year – regard their story as a classic tale of modern Britain. “Our father first worked as a labourer on civil engineering projects like the M1 and the Dungeness nuclear power station and, by working long hours, he was able to save enough money to buy his first fish and chip shop, in 1983. He has been our inspiration,” said Ajmail, who added that they were aware of the massive risks involved in buying Cains. “But failure was not an option. We’d put everything we had into it and it just had to be a success,” he added. And the brothers were quick to appreciate that winning over the local and national media was an important element.

Naturally this affable pair have won the praise of specialist beer writers nationwide, including Roger Protz, editor of the influential Camra Good Beer Guide and award-winning pub writer Mike Chapple from the Liverpool Daily Post, among a host of scribes who have sung their praises. For good measure – laughs Ajmail – Cains is the official beer of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture celebrations in 2008 and is sold at Tate art galleries.

‘by working long hours, he was able to save enough money to buy his first fish and chip shop, in 1983’

Hornby Castle, Lancashire - © Jill Jennings/NWDA


Joe Dwek



HEN most people retire it is usually to put their feet up after a life of toil, yet Joe Dwek seems fired with even more energy, and in recent years has added to his reputation as an entrepreneur of considerable skill as well as a tireless campaigner for the North West. He spent a large chunk of his career with Bodycote, where he was chief executive and chairman for over a quarter of a century until his retirement in 1998, steering the group to become a FTSE 200listed company employing over 4,000 people in 17 countries. Indeed, he is still finely regarded for transforming the fortunes of this once reasonably successful northwest of England textile business and turning it into a world-leading multinational specialist engineering and metallurgical powerhouse. It made him wealthy enough to sit back on his laurels when he stepped down, but instead he took on the chairmanship of another firm, Worthington, as well as controlling the family corporate finance company, Penmarric, amongst other activities that would have floored men half his age. For a man who claims to have an aversion to ‘heavy politics’ – a remark he made after he graciously declined the chance to succeed Lord Thomas of Macclesfield as chairman of the NWDA – he has certainly stamped his mark on a number of public and private sector groups. He was appointed to the board of the NWDA in 2003 and reappointed by its chairman Bryan Gray – whom he admires enormously – in October 2006 for a further three-year term: he now chairs the environment sub-group; is vice-chair of the enterprise and innovation sub-group; and is on the agency’s audit committee. He was chairman of

the North West Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in the mid-1990s and a member of the CBI’s National Council and NW Regional Council for more than 20 years. Other regional posts included his time as a member of the North West Industrial Advisory Board of the DTI and a spell as chairman of NORWIDA, where he helped wind it down in order to set up INWARD. Apart from that, he is a member of the Court at UMIST – from where he graduated in 1961 with an

‘It will encourage economic growth as well as creating new opportunities for leisure and recreation’ honours degree in technology and was later awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science. He previously also held the same role at the University of Manchester, another alma mater that he left with a degree in economics and law. Indeed, he almost became an academic when working towards his PhD at Nottingham University in the late 1970s. He opted to stay in industry when his policies saw Bodycote begin to take off in the early 1980s – it eventually went from a capitalisation of only £2 million when he took over the reins to £1.4 billion when he left. In 1997 he was awarded a CBE for services to industry and to the CBI in the North West. He had made such an impact on the region that he was also voted the North West Business Executive of the Year by the Daily Telegraph, the CBI and North West


Business Schools. And from 1995 to 2004 he was chairman of the Mersey Basin Campaign, where he says his greatest achievement was overhauling the system from the bottom up. Dwek’s garrulousness is a byword amongst colleagues and friends, a trait he uses frequently to encourage aspiring entrepreneurs or others who might doubt their abilities to complete a project, or to succeed. One business acquaintance describes Dwek as “one of the most impressive people I’ve ever met, real class. He’s intellectually demanding and forced me to think in new ways.” And the well-known Rabbi Jeremy Rosen declares it was entirely due to the prompting and support of Joe Dwek that he finally had his collection of essays published. In fact, Dwek does dine out often on his abilities as a ‘turnaround specialist’ and he reveals his approach comes from the wisdom of the founder of the eponymous Japanese Honda company who ran his outfit – according to Dwek – using dynamic technology, positive cash flow and high barriers of entry.

Of course, Dwek may well be remembered more for helping to drive forward one of the biggest land regeneration programmes in Britain. It is a scheme that involves a £59 million investment partnership between the NWDA and the Forestry Commission that will ‘turnaround’ more than 900 hectares of brownfield land across the North West into community woodland. “It will encourage economic growth as well as creating new opportunities for leisure and recreation,” said Joe, who believes it is proof that the region has got its act together in creating new businesses while protecting the environment.

‘one of the most impressive people I’ve ever met, real class’

Port Sunlight, Merseyside - © Ron Jones


Rob and Alan Fennah


Pulse Records

T 18 years of age Rob Fennah was already a ‘wise old hand’ in the music business, boasting a gold album and two best-selling singles and, with his band Buster, creating as much fuss as the Beatles in Japan, followed by a fantastic live performance on the steps of the Sydney Opera House before 250,000 people. So when public and critical acclaim erupted in 1994 around the smash hit musical Twopence to Cross the Mersey that he co-wrote with Helen Jones – with songs by Rob and younger brother Alan – it was a more sanguine bloke who acknowledged the tributes: although he will concede it was rather gratifying as the project had been quite a few years in gestation. The distinguished Liverpool Daily Post arts editor Philip Key described it as “one of the great Liverpool musicals”. And the brothers had stumped up most of the initial backing finance themselves and, as Rob confesses: “It was a relief but we have now revived it twice and the show has been seen by more than 100,000 people. In 2006 it reached number one in the Clearchannel entertainment group’s ‘Top Ten’ guide to musicals.” He is delighted that there are plans to tour the show – based on the bestselling, heart-rending autobiography by Helen Forrester. After its second outing in 2004 the show won the Merseyside Special Investment Fund ‘Family Business’ award for its contribution to culture and in the same year it was feted at Liverpool’s ‘Scouseology’ awards. Rob and Alan also won first place in the Unisong International Song Contest with Yesterday’s Man, beating off competition from over 50 countries.

Rob and Alan have each now chalked up over 30 years in the music industry and a few years after the demise of Buster in the late 1970s the brothers formed a new band – Alternative Radio. It stormed through as overall winner of the 1982 ‘Battle of the Bands’ contest at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre in front of esteemed judges like Noddy Holder from Slade, Roy Wood from Move and Wizard and Angie Bowie. A record deal with EMI the following year resulted in their debut single Valley of Evergreen,

‘For years John Lennon would refer to the banjo and I asked his half-sister Julia, jokingly, if perhaps John had hidden it’ which entered the Top 100 but, as Rob reveals, EMI went quiet on the band and didn’t like their follow-up record. “We put it out independently with Coldharbour Records and it went straight to the top of the Radio 1 playlist, but the company didn’t have the clout to get it in the record stores in the right quantities,” said Rob. In 1986 they released First Night – an album and stage play of the same name written by Rob and Alan with their journalist friend Mark Thomas, now editor of the Liverpool Daily Post. They went on to record a total of four albums, 10 singles and two live sessions for BBC Radio 1 – one of which was voted by listeners as the ‘best session’ of 1998.


The vagaries of the music business were very apparent to the brothers and they resolved to form their own label and Pulse Records was born in 1990. “It was our ‘alternative’ to the major and independent labels,” said Rob. It removed the artistic restrictions imposed by the record companies and Pulse – with studios and offices in the former Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead – now owns and controls all their work and output. In 1996 they turned Pulse into a limited company to produce original compositions for television and film companies, theatres and the pop music industry. It has, says Rob, been a terrifically prolific and creative period and their last recording project was Subject to Status, released in 2004. In the spring of 2007 they re-staged the Twopence musical with an all-Merseyside cast that included comedian Pauline Daniels and veteran actor Andrew Schofield, and was directed by former Liverpool Playhouse artistic director Ian Kellgren – and, once again, it played to sell-out houses. But perhaps Rob’s most unusual project is for an original screenplay called Julia’s Banjo, a story about

the original instrument on which John Lennon’s mother used to teach him basic chords. “I was at a Beatles Convention with Allan Williams – famously the man who ‘gave the Beatles away’ – and this story about a long-lost banjo cropped up. It seems it disappeared shortly after Julia Lennon was killed in a car accident. “For years John Lennon would refer to the banjo and I asked his half-sister Julia, jokingly, if perhaps John had hidden it. She replied that it was more than likely. “Bloody hell, I thought. What a great idea for a film!”

‘Bloody hell, I thought. What a great idea for a film!’

Morecambe Bay, Cumbria


Mark Ferguson


Renova Biotech

E rattles on 10 to the dozen when enthusing about his job, but then Professor Mark Ferguson seems to have tackled everything in his life at a pace that would leave a cheetah gasping. And he would find the animal analogy quite apt as one of his own eureka moments, when engaged in research that has since made him one of the most sought-after biotech experts worldwide, was working with alligators. At the time he was the youngest professor in Britain – aged 28 at the University of Manchester – while his list of qualifications and achievements before and since are astonishing. In 1976 he picked up a BSc first class honours in anatomy from Queen’s University Belfast, coupled that with a BDS first class honours in dentistry two years later and followed up with a doctorate in anatomy in 1982. He is an honorary doctor of medical sciences at Queen’s and has fellowships with the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland and its counterpart in Edinburgh. Oh, and he is a founding fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in London, circa 1998. So here, you might assume, is a chap destined for a life of even more distinguished academic success, quietly beavering away within the cloistered environs of ‘dreaming spires’ and intellectual debate. Wrong. The biotech research company that he founded with his wife Dr Sharon O’Kane in Manchester was floated on the Stock Exchange in 2006 and raised £67.5 million. Then, in the summer of 2007, he signed a licensing agreement with the global speciality biopharmaceutical giant Shire Group to market his firm’s products in a deal that could be worth US$825 million.

Renovo is now valued at £350 million and is, concedes Ferguson lightly, as though this is small potatoes, the biggest biotech firm in Britain with 170 full-time staff and ambitions to conquer Europe. “When we signed the worldwide arrangement with Shire we kept Europe for ourselves,” says the canny Irishman, whose home and place of work has been mostly Manchester since he landed at the university’s faculty of life sciences in 1986. He stamped his mark very quickly in academic and research circles. Then, in 1997, he founded

‘my motto has always been only to take money from people you like. And remember that, as well as hard work, setting up a business should be fun’ Manchester Biotechnology Limited and the Manchester Incubator Building Company Limited – where he was chairman and chief executive until setting up Renovo in 2000. In 2006 he was voted North West Director of the Year, which added to a string of awards, including the European Science Prize in 2002 and over 20 other international prizes – as well as a CBE in 1999. The company’s aims were to develop novel products to prevent scars and to accelerate the healing of skin wounds. “Our products have the potential to revolutionise the treatment of many different types of wounds,” he said when, in 2002, Renovo received its second round of private equity funding, totalling £21 million, a deal led by Healthcap of Manchester


and with a global syndicate of investors that included Care Capital, Atlas Venture and JP Morgan Partners. And the alligators? “My original research was on cleft lip and palate in babies born with a split lip or a hole in the mouth. We needed to experiment on animal embryos and alligators were the only suitable animals,” he explains, adding that he is still regarded by friends as something of an alligator expert. “And, quite by accident, through our observations we learned more about the healing processes.” While he might have sold the worldwide rights to his products he and Sharon have kept a significant shareholding of 7%; a clear indication of his own enterprise skills. “But I did spend a lot of my own money at first, something like £50,000 on a patent, which I believe showed our potential investors that I had commitment and determination,” he said. It is this quality of persistence that he feels is an essential ingredient for any entrepreneur. “People will often deliberately throw up road blocks as obstacles to see how you tackle them. “We needed substantial investment to move

forward. But my motto has always been only to take money from people you like. And remember that, as well as hard work, setting up a business should be fun.” This garrulous Belfast man says he stayed in the North West because of his close connections with the university, but also because he believes that Manchester is a great place for the biotech industry. “It is also a ‘buzz’ city and easy to hire people. And if Renovo goes belly up there are plenty of other jobs out there,” he laughs, knowing this is as unlikely as finding an alligator snoozing in the bath.

‘When we signed the worldwide arrangement with Shire we kept Europe for ourselves’

Tarporley, Cheshire


Norman Foster


Foster and Partners

E has well earned the sobriquet ‘Man of Steel’ for creating buildings worldwide that have an astonishing impact on the cities and communities where they co-exist: structures like the 50-storey Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank headquarters that he completed in the former British colony in 1986; the earthquakeproof Century Tower in Tokyo; the redevelopment of the Reichstag in Berlin; and the ‘Gherkin’ in the City of London that has become a part of the skyline; just a handful amongst a catalogue that groans under the weight of its own scale. Then there is what will undoubtedly become a 21st century icon: Terminal Three at Beijing Airport, as will his designs for a ‘spaceport’ in New Mexico, where his pal Sir Richard Branson plans for Virgin Galactic to launch flights into the void carrying tourist astronauts, each paying nearly £100,000 for the short 62-mile journey. Norman Foster has promised to create a ‘dramatic experience’ for the space tourists and visitors. Lord Foster of Thames – he was knighted in 1990 and made a Life Peer in 1999, the same year he became a Pritzker Laureate – now runs one of the largest architectural practices in the world, with staff numbering around 500 and offices in London, Hong Kong and Berlin. The output of Foster & Partners is breathtaking and, although it his name that provides the impetus, the status and the worldwide reputation, he happily concedes that, today, he leaves most of the creative work to his colleagues. Instead, in his early 70s – and with clearly no real intention of hanging up his pencils – he has become the high-profile, global face of the firm that continues to roll out the buildings and reel in the awards. Foster is constantly on the move across

the world, often flying his own aircraft, as he keeps track of the seemingly endless projects that engage his teams. It is a far cry from the rather ‘bookish’ lad who was brought up in the working-class Levenshulme district of Manchester and left school at 16, first taking a series of mundane jobs, including a spell in the Manchester council treasurer’s office as a clerk. After National Service with the RAF, where he trained in electronics and aviation, it was becoming clear to others that he had a spark of almost genius and his talents were spotted when he was working

Foster has promised to create a ‘dramatic experience’ for the space tourists and visitors in the contracts department of the small Manchester architects firm, John Beardshaw & Partners. He had been fascinated by Meccano from boyhood, and long hankered after a career in architecture, which, when he was 21, he began to study at the University of Manchester. He paid his way by working in a variety of jobs, from ice-cream salesman to nightclub bouncer, but won practically every prize and scholarship available. He shone brightly at university and went on to win a Henry Fellowship to follow graduate studies at Yale University in the USA, where he was to meet his lifelong friend and fellow architect, Richard Rogers. In later years – particularly the 1980s and 1990s – Foster was persuaded to embark on


Š Reuters/Stephen Hird

schemes that were usually bigger, taller and more expensive than his contemporaries; iconic structures like the Hong Kong Bank, for example, was at £5 billion then the world’s most costly building. His practice now is increasingly more inclined to take a serious view of the environment and its sustainability. Indeed, this influence was marked on his designs for Germany’s Reichstag, where the environmental aspects almost overshadowed the actual building work. He had managed to come up with a system for fuelling the building with vegetable oils, thus cutting the carbon dioxide emissions by a staggering 94%, and he did away with the traditional air conditioning in Frankfurt’s Commerzbank, thus ensuring a vastly reduced fuel consumption. He carried over these methods to airport design and his clean, airy and spacious ‘sets’ for London’s Stansted and Hong Kong’s new Chep Lap Kok were acknowledged as raising the bar in contemporary design standards. As an indication of his stature he has been awarded nine honorary university doctorates

and has membership of nearly 20 professional organisations around the world – his headquarters on the south bank of the Thames in London, next to Battersea Park, is home to almost 200 awards to his studio and its dynamic team of architects, including the Stirling Award for work on the American Air Museum at Duxford in Cambridge. Perhaps his true brilliance is knowing when and how to ask the right questions and getting ‘into bed’ with the right clients: people who are autocratic and go-getting, who can make decisions – much like himself.

acknowledged as raising the bar in contemporary design standards

Blackpool, Lancashire


Dawn Gibbons



OST businesses go through periods of downturn but quite a few people thought that the way Dawn Gibbons tackled the situation, by applying the ancient traditions of feng shui to her specialist floor manufacturing company, was a tad eccentric. It was no secret, declared Dawn, that in 2004 the company she founded and chaired was turning over £20 million yet was losing money. Within two years of her makeover sales had increased by one-third, to £26 million, and turnover was £33 million. “We re-organised the factory along ‘more harmonious’ lines, painted the floors a brighter colour and installed windows, which helped to change the staff’s mindset,” said Dawn, who is recognised as an enthusiastic feng shui practitioner after first coming across the Chinese philosophy on organising life and society on a sales trip to Asia many years ago. “After the changes we were also back to making a profit – £1.1 million – and we had substantially reduced staff absenteeism and turnover.” Her Cheshire-based company, which she established with her father in 1982, is a global market leader in the manufacture of specialist industrial and commercial flooring and has offices in 26 countries as well as manufacturing centres in the UK, South Africa, Europe, Malaysia, Asia, the USA and Brazil. “My father, Peter, was an innovative industrial chemist and he had developed a sugar resistant floor finish. My mum, Vera, was worried that he would not take full commercial advantage of this invention and she suggested that we set up a business together,” explained Dawn. Peter Gibbons had the technical expertise to make Flowcrete a success and his daughter

soon showed she had the spark and energy to get the products into the marketplace. Sadly Peter died in 1993, but Dawn kept the spirit of the company alive and a year later received an MBE for services to industry – one of the youngest industrialists ever to be given such a prestigious award. The client list now reads like a ‘who’s who’ of industry and commerce, containing such worldclass household names as Bentley, Jaguar, Glaxo Smith Kline, Roche, Mars – where her father

‘It is all about paying attention to little details and coming up with creative extras you might not expect from a manufacturing company’ had first dreamed up the floor system – Boots, the Ford Motor Company, Vauxhall Motors and Marks & Spencer. Dawn’s enthusiasm for manufacturing has extended well beyond Flowcrete and she was chosen as a member of the government’s manufacturing forum and a national ambassador for the manufacturing advisory service. And she is proud to reveal that her company’s floors have been installed at top-flight locations including Ascot Racecourse, Wembley Stadium, Arsenal football ground, Piccadilly Station in Manchester and most UK airports.


“We continue to have a commitment to innovation and we are now recognised as a worldclass manufacturer and have won a wealth of awards recognising that commitment,” said Dawn, citing five government innovation awards for research and development and winning Granada’s fabled Flying Start business contest. In 2003 she was elected as the internationally acclaimed Veuve Cliquot Businesswoman of the Year, celebrating her work as a woman in the traditionally male-dominated manufacturing world. She has also ensured that her belief in feng shui has been spread company-wide and sent a number of her managers on a course. “At first they were mortified but they came back real converts,” said Dawn. “We can do much to improve our workplaces. Sick building syndrome is quite common and just a few changes such as the use of plants, colour and a ruthless attack on clutter can have a major impact on how we feel, either in the office or on the factory floor,” she added. This evangelical dynamism has made her a captivating public speaker at a wide range of events

and, indeed, she is much in demand worldwide to speak about business motivation, with audiences comprising manufacturers, military leaders, lawyers, scientists and even schoolchildren. She inspires many with her strong views on subjects such as leadership, innovation and human resources with talks like ‘Dare to be Different’, ‘Innovate or Die’ and ‘Factory Floor Shui’. In 2004 her vision to revitalise and transform the UK manufacturing industry – the very heart of the personal philosophy of this married mum of two girls – as well as inspire women in business was recognised by Manchester Metropolitan University when she was conferred with an honorary doctorate in business administration. Under her leadership Flowcrete has become one of the most enterprising and innovative businesses in the North West. “It is all about paying attention to little details and coming up with creative extras you might not expect from a manufacturing company,” she said.

Liverpool, Merseyside - © Paula Hutchinson


Paul Heathcote



N between working shifts in the dark pits of the Lancashire coalmines Paul Heathcote’s grandfather became a championship boxer through sheer grit, and that perseverance clearly rubbed off on young Paul, who is now acknowledged as a champion in his own field of catering. He discovered his fascination with cooking as a boy barely into his teens and within four years of opening his first restaurant – at the age of 29, in 1990 – Paul was awarded the prestigious Egon Ronay ‘Chef of the Year’ title and the Longridge restaurant was the proud holder of two Michelin stars, the only one to be so richly regarded in the North West. As one of the region’s leading celebrity chefs he boasts enough awards to fill a menu board; owns more than a dozen restaurants throughout the region; published Rhubarb and Black Pudding with his friend Matthew Fort, the Guardian’s food critic, in 1998, which was a focus on a year in his life, linked to recipes, and in 2005 his second book of recipes Heathcotes at Home was published by Capsica; he is also an honorary fellow of Liverpool John Moores University for raising food standards in the region. Born in Farnworth, Lancashire, after those early forays with food in his mother’s kitchen, he attended Bolton Technical College, where he learned the basics of the trade. He honed his skills partly in Switzerland and later worked for four chefs who were to become his inspirations: Brian Sack and Francis Coulson at the famous Sharrow Bay hotel in Ullswater, Michel Bourdin at the Connaught in London’s Mayfair and Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons restaurant in Oxfordshire. His first stint in the spotlight

was as executive chef at the Brought Park hotel in Preston, which was also the catalyst for him to cast off on his own. Paul’s engaging personality has ensured regular attention by the media and he is a regular food TV pundit on BBC, Granada and the popular Sky Food Channel, and has featured in OK and Hello! magazines. He also contributes regular columns to the Manchester Evening News, Lancashire Evening Post and Liverpool Daily Post. The eponymous restaurant name Simply Heathcotes was launched in 1995 and the basement

‘It is about making staff feel... comfortable dealing with a highly successful business person’ in the Preston premises became the first of his Olive Press restaurants in 2002. In 2006 his company – now employing over 1,000 people – was voted one of the top 50 firms in the North West to work for and, in February 2007, it was the first restaurant group to be ranked by the Sunday Times, in its UK-wide ‘best companies to work for’ list, for a commitment to training and staff development. As Paul Heathcote will confirm, apart from his superb dishes, this is one of his passions as an entrepreneur, demonstrated by his guest speech at the University of Central Lancashire, in 2006, when he delivered a presentation on ‘Growing an Inspirational Team’. He was also key speaker at the Lancashire Business School when more than


200 aspiring entrepreneurs graduated from the New Entrepreneur Scholarship programme that has students from all over the North West. And one of his most innovative schemes has seen him bring in his father Ken – a body language expert – to help train restaurant staff to spot early signs of disgruntled guests. “It is about making staff feel confident and self-assured and, no matter how young, comfortable dealing with a highly successful 35- or 40-year-old businessperson,” explained Paul, who in 1997 had already established the Paul Heathcote School of Excellence in Manchester. Yet it wasn’t always as easy as his latter-day success seems to indicate. When he opened his first restaurant Lancashire was not a centre of culinary excellence by a long shot and financially it was a huge gamble as interest rates had rocketed to 18%. To fund that dream Paul sold his house and took on a £30,000 overdraft and admits he nearly went bust twice. But that staying power he learned from his boxing grandfather paid off and, mingled with an acute business sense, he overcame the difficulties. Indeed, it was business acumen that persuaded

him to join forces with Gary Bates – his former head chef at Heathcotes Brasserie in Preston – to capitalise on the potential of catering to the sporting world. By early 2006 the company – Heathcotes Outside – was turning over £6 million a year. Early in 2007 it merged with the specialist sports and events catering firm Lindley Catering to form a company with over 450 staff, as well as 11,000 parttimers, and a £40 million a year turnover.

the staying power he learned from his boxing grandfather paid off

Dunham Massey, Cheshire


Sharon Hilditch


Crystal Clear

ELEBRITIES such as Madonna, models Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford and actress Gwyneth Paltrow are today listed among her clients, and yet when Sharon Hilditch launched her now worldwide acclaimed skin care treatment at a Manchester trade show she didn’t sell a thing. That was in 1995 and a few years earlier she had lost her £30,000 savings pot in an advertising sales company that never took off. It would have sent most would-be business folk into a spiral of despair. And yet Sharon believes passionately that such failure makes entrepreneurs stronger. “It makes you tougher and determined never to go there again,” says the now hugely successful beauty care queen, who is determined to be as big as Estée Lauder. She was featured in the top-selling book How I Made It – 40 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal All and her company is almost a household name in beauty treatment. After that initial hiccup she quickly won enthusiastic support from the likes of former television newsreader Jan Leeming and actress Patsy Kensit – the start of the star-studded dash to her doors that now includes male actor Jude Law. Mind you, the girl who left school with no qualifications realised that she needed to get her product, Crystal Clear, in the public eye. So she reeled in the showbiz public relations guru, Max Clifford, and threw him her first year’s promotional budget in one go. It turned out to be an inspirational move as the more celebrities latched onto her product the more it was talked about in salons the length and breadth of the country.

And, despite those earlier setbacks it hadn’t all been disaster as she tried to establish herself as a businesswoman, even though she left school at 15. Her first work experience was in a hairdressing salon at the age of 11, although she confesses she had lied about her age to get the Saturday job. She was brought up in a proud working-class Liverpool family, although her school days were difficult as she suffered a severe hearing problem that affected her concentration and speech. “Sure I struggled at school, but then I didn’t want

‘If you really want something, you can get it. The greatest experience is making mistakes and learning from them’ to be there. Me and my sisters had been instilled with the work ethic by our parents,” she said, and indeed it was her father who helped kickstart her business career when he acted as guarantor on an £8,000 bank loan so that she could open her own hairdressing salon when she was only 18. It was clear that Sharon had the gumption to make businesses work and she soon had another salon but then thought she might catch up on her education. In her spare time she’d been studying for O and A-levels and decided to try for a law degree. But that old work ethic and the thrill of business had her in its thrall and she changed tack again, sold the salons for a healthy profit and ploughed it all into the disastrous advertising sales firm.


She then took a job in a cosmetic surgery hospital and, while looking after patients, dreamed up the idea of a skin rejuvenation machine that would offer a gentler alternative to existing processes. Convinced she had found a niche in the market Sharon spent a year working with engineers – and another £30,000 – creating a prototype machine and holding clinical trials to ensure it was all safe. Out of that effort was spun Crystal Clear International Limited, a company that now sells well over 1,000 machines a year and a range of hi-tech skin care products. In 2005 sales figures were reaching £8 million a year. In 2004 she won the NatWest Everywoman award, which recognises business achievement but equally pays tribute to those who have overcome personal challenges. Sharon was described as a phenomenally successful and inspirational role model. “Even when we didn’t sell anything at that first trade show I knew it would be a success as other exhibitors spent more time on our stall than their own,” she laughed, recalling the delight she felt in 2004 when she broke the £20 million a year turnover barrier.

That year she was inaugurated into the Merseyside Entrepreneurs Hall of Fame and she is now in demand as a speaker at conferences for aspiring entrepreneurs and was chosen to sit on the judging panel for the 2007 Everywoman Awards, which had recognised her own talents just a few years earlier. She also sits on the board of Business Liverpool. Her advice to others is: “If you really want something, you can get it. The greatest experience is making mistakes and learning from them.”

‘Even when we didn’t sell anything at that first trade show I knew it would be a success’

Trough of Bowland, Lancashire - © Ian Lawson/NWDA


Marcie Incarico


Out There Events

ERHAPS the real coup for Marcie Incarico and her partners in Manchester’s acclaimed annual B2B exhibition and conference was in persuading Sir Bob Geldof to talk, in 2006, about his passions and motivations and how they apply to his many business interests. Geldof is more usually associated with music and his worldwide charity campaigns to help the needy, but his thought-provoking address proved he has a handle on how to motivate in all the areas in which he operates, said Marcie, who runs Out There Events from a city centre office in Manchester. Marcie founded the company in 2001 with just one staff member, but joined forces with the powerful UK female entrepreneur Bron Ellis to help turn the six-year-old Business Enterprise Xchange (BEX) into a major talking point. “It is now a major date on the business community’s calendar and is probably the largest business event in the region,” added Marcie. The positive media hype indicated that the partnership worked well and could attract some of the UK leading business experts and entrepreneurs, and Marcie – whose own firm has almost tripled its revenues to £650,000 after just four years of trading – commented that it is the finer details that make all the difference for such events. Her full-time team is now eight strong, with a constant flow of ‘freelancers’ working on specific projects. She previously headed up the sponsorship events department, with a team of four, for Emap’s radio stations in the north of England with annual target revenue of £800,000. She joined Axis Sponsorship in 1999, where clients included the Manchester Evening News, Manchester City Council and MIDAS, but was persuaded to set

up her own company after a spell as managing director of Manchester’s International Finance and Enterprise Week in 2001. “My time with Emap made me realise that there was a gap in the market for an agency capable of delivering quality events with the ability to actually raise revenue streams to fund the events and potentially make clients a profit,” explained Marcie, who was born in Torre del Greco just outside Naples in Italy and came with her family to live in the UK aged three. She was

‘In the business I’m in you’re only as good as your last gig’ brought up in Holywell, north Wales, where she studied at St Richard Gwyn High School in Flint before achieving a BA(Hons) in business studies and French at the University of Central England in Birmingham. Her family background means she is fluent in written and spoken Italian and says her conversational French is ‘very passable’. When she set up Out There Events she was helped by the Manchester entrepreneur, property developer and music mogul Andy Dodd – at one time manager for Mick Hucknall and Simply Red. The company was housed in various office spaces he owned around the city during its first four years but in 2005 Marcie bought Andy’s shareholding and, in 2007, shifted the outfit into a 2,500 square foot office built by ASK Developments in the Greengate area of Manchester’s Deansgate.


“In the business I’m in you’re only as good as your last gig and I am very meticulous about planning and attention to detail. We have established a reputation based on the quality of our service and, before the BEX conference, one of the most exciting things we did was a clothing launch for Marks and Spencer where I had to coordinate the schedule of David Beckham,” added Marcie, whose clients have included the Big Chip Awards, ASK Developments, telecom operator Opal, the BEX event as well as being responsible for delivering the annual Institute of Directors’ regional event diary, including the North West Director of the Year awards dinner, which is attended by over 650 of the region’s top business leaders. In 2006 she helped organise the annual National Black Police Association conference in Manchester. The gala dinner, held in the town hall, hosted over 700 delegates and a string of highprofile speakers including the High Commissioner from Jamaica, Gail Mathurin. In the summer of 2007 Marcie joined forces with the internet media organisation How Do to

launch the first North West Football Awards. How Do is run by well-known regional publishing guru Nick Jaspan, who originally set up the North West Business Insider magazine in Manchester. “We want to celebrate the commercial, marketing and professional services’ talent and expertise in the region off the pitch, as well as the recognised talent on the pitch,” said Marcie, who was also involved in the annual Manchester 10 Awards that celebrated the city’s regeneration after the IRA bombing of its main shopping centre in June 1996.

‘We want to celebrate the commercial, marketing and professional services talent and expertise in the region’

Lever Causeway, Cheshire


Matt Johnson


Mando Group

N the tough yet excitingly competitive world of web design the Mando Group quickly carved itself a reputation as one of the most creative and productive of its kind in the North West, if not the UK, over the 10 years since it was set up by Matt Johnson and Ian Finch. As a result Johnson – who gained a BA in business administration from Liverpool John Moores University – now sits on the board of the respected urban regeneration company Liverpool Vision alongside the likes of Sir Terry Leahy and Brenda Smith, former European MD of Ascent Media Group. Indeed Mando is regarded as one of the fastestgrowing agencies in the region and in the top 10% of those in the same sector nationwide. Johnson had actually displayed entrepreneurial talents at school in Newcastle-upon-Tyne when he formed a small business to undercut the school canteen. Soon after graduating he and Finch – also a product of JMU – set up their first web design company, Webshed, that morphed into the Mando Group in 2002 and now employs 35 full-time staff. His enthusiasm and energy has seen the company work with leading clients like Sony, Warner Brothers and Motorola, while Webshed’s first client was the Roy Castle Lung Foundation which, says Matt, set the standard for attracting high-profile organisations. Within two years the awards started to flood in, beginning in 1999 with ‘Best New Business on Merseyside’ where they had decided to set up their business base. In 2001 Johnson and Finch were basking in the accolade of ‘Young Entrepreneurs of the Year’ and they continued to pick up the clients, including the Northwest Regional Development Agency and a key contract with the Health & Safety Executive.

Matt Johnson was becoming acknowledged as one of the most inspirational young entrepreneurs in the North West and, in 2003, he was asked to contribute a regular column to the Daily Post newspaper in Liverpool, where he focused on business matters and entrepreneurial activities. By 2006 he was recognised by the Institute of Directors as the Liverpool Young Director of the Year in the regional contest, and he is also a member of the Entrepreneurship Commission, which focuses on the factors that made Merseyside an innovative

‘We want to assess how the flair and ability of the people now can be harnessed to build more and ever greater businesses’ and vibrant nursery for business talent. “We want to assess how the flair and ability of the people now can be harnessed to build more and ever greater businesses,” said Matt, who is passionate about encouraging other young people to seize opportunities and achieve their potential. To further this aim he established the Hotshots Academy – backed by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, which acts as a catalyst for UK innovation. Hotshots aims, he says, to give young people the tools to take hold of their own destinies. “The ambition is to create the next generation of entrepreneurs and, in so doing, to develop a more creative, innovative UK culture,” said Matt, whose own commitment to the business has seen a string


of other awards fall his way. In the Big Chip awards, 2004, Mando were first in the Digital Accessibility section and, in the same year, also topped the Innercity 100. Hotshots has worked with over 1,200 young people aged 14–19 to help raise awareness of the spirit of enterprise that Matt Johnson feels is essential to the economic wellbeing of the region. In the spring of 2007 Mando moved to new offices in the Liverpool Science Park, part of the LJMU campus, which Matt explained provided the company with space for further growth. Throughout the year they continued to receive accolades, including the IPA Best of Health 2007 bronze award in the ‘new media consumer’ category; Best Tourism Website in the Mersey Partnership annual tourism awards; runners-up in the Big Chip ‘best-learning’ section and won a Bravo Award for a partnership with the Liverpool-based FACT arts centre. And Mando has also been working closely with learning providers, the Mercia Partnership, to develop a new and innovative on-line learning tool aimed at delivering numeracy and literacy courses.

In addition he was founder director of Inspire Nation – a global strategic learning organisation running study visits all over the world; and Brava Design – one of the UK’s leading social enterprises training female design graduates. Matt confides that he has a passion for people, business, creativity and helping others to achieve their goals and is proud of Mando’s ‘core’ values of being creative, open, responsive and engaging. “We are committed to running a successful business that contributes positively to the wider community,” he said.

‘We are committed to running a successful business that contributes positively to the wider community’

Liverpool waterfront, Merseyside


Jude Kelly


Southbank Centre

HE once laughingly described herself as ‘Lucozade-on-legs’ as an explanation for the boundless enthusiasm and energy she exudes, which literally crackles and often leaves colleagues exhausted. Her frantically busy job as director of London’s Southbank Centre hasn’t dimmed that spark by so much as a flicker! In fact, she was the mastermind behind the reopening of the Festival Hall in the late summer of 2007 – just one part of a 21-acre site – for which she directed the opera Carmen Jones. The Liverpool-born Jude Kelly cut her theatrical teeth proper at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, where over a period of 14 years she drummed up support and audiences by luring the likes of Sir Ian McKellen into a residency; he has remarked with warmth about her less than stuffy style, which has irritated some in the cloistered environs of the arts world. She built up the Playhouse from scratch, taking over as artistic director even before the building was completed and some say she led the way for the regeneration of Leeds city centre. After university in Birmingham, where she studied drama, Jude then worked as an actress for a year in Leicester, where Alan Rickman remembered her as a ‘pile driver’. But she readily admits that the performing side of the business wasn’t her forte and she was soon appointed director of the Solent People’s Theatre based in Hampshire. From there she went on to establish the Battersea Arts Centre as one of the trail-blazing projects of the 1980s and followed that with a spell at the Royal Shakespeare Company. She is also the founder – and now chair – of the equally groundbreaking arts centre group Metal, an organisation that champions the creative process.

“In the arts world you do have to be a salesperson at times. On the one hand, people do want to see what is familiar and comfortable, but on the other it is important to encourage the risky new works, otherwise you stifle the lifeblood of creativity.” That philosophy enabled her to establish the West Yorkshire Playhouse as a centre of excellence. Today she is an outstanding and award-winning director who has consistently been amongst the top 10 most powerful folk in the UK’s theatre world. She was awarded an OBE in 1997 for her contributions to Britain’s cultural life. Apart from the Southbank Centre she is also

‘My view is that the creative industries will be perceived increasingly in the 21st century as the major force driving the economy’ chair of culture, ceremonies and education on the London organising committee for the 2012 Olympic Games; chair of the Common Purposes International Trust; a board member of the British Council and the Liverpool Biennial; has represented the UK as an arts ambassador for Unesco; jointly chaired with Lord Puttnam the curricula advisory committee on arts and creativity; and served on the arts advisory committee for the Royal Society of Arts. While she has never worked in her home town, her recent collaboration with writer Jimmy McGovern saw her direct his first real stage play – King Cotton – a musical about slavery and the Lancashire cotton famine in the mid-1800s


Š Matt Faber

resulting from the American Civil War. Kelly handled the premiere at the Lowry in Salford and later delightedly took it to the Liverpool Empire – both North West firsts for her. She is hugely protective and supportive of her home territory and said: “Liverpool and Manchester need to think of themselves as places that really do generate culture, rather than being on the receiving end.” And she is regarded as a whirlwind, a passionate believer that the arts need constant debate and investment. As a member of several committees where politics and culture meet, Kelly is always the idealist; a fervent campaigner and advocate for the arts in general, and theatre in particular. “My view is that the creative industries will be perceived increasingly in the 21st century as the major force driving the economy, particularly in the North West,” she added. The former Quarry Bank grammar school girl – whose old classmates include the best-selling science fiction writer Clive Barker, the highly acclaimed mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley and comedian Les Dennis – always wanted to be a director from the age

of 12 or 13. Her civil servant father and secretary mother encouraged her without pushing too hard and she says: “I left Liverpool when I was 18, but I believe passionately that it taught me so much about the arts. “My formative teenage years were inspired by the actors and directors of Liverpool’s Everyman theatre. Pete Postlethwaite, Jonathan Pryce, Julie Walters, Sam Kelly and Alan Dosser were all there in an ensemble that was committed to risk-taking and audience contact,” she added.

‘Liverpool and Manchester need to think of themselves as places that really do generate culture’

Fiddlers Ferry, Warrington - © Ian Lawson/NWDA


Bill Kenwright


Bill Kenwright Limited

LTHOUGH awash in groaning cliché, considering his background as an international impresario and football boss ‘extraordinaire’, Bill Kenwright could fairly accurately be tagged a ‘man for all seasons’. He certainly seems to have the gift of Midas where the public are concerned, either as one of Britain’s most successful theatrical producers or as chairman of Everton FC. He won’t actually mention it, but there was a CBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List in 2001 and a string of awards and plaques that sprawl across a polished cupboard in his comfortable London headquarters. One is a framed certificate inculcating him into the Merseyside Entrepreneurs Hall of Fame in November 2003 – an accolade bestowed by the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and the Northwest Regional Development Agency. Raised in the Wavertree suburb of Liverpool, he cut his thespian teeth at the city’s Playhouse theatre when a mere stripling, aged 11, in 1956. “I made the tea, scrubbed the stage and generally helped out for £1 a week,” he recalls with nostalgic glee. Within a year he’d been recruited to play a stoat in Toad Hall. “I got two shillings and sixpence (about 12p) for each performance.” And he also got the theatre bug, though he has been bugged by Everton since he was knee-high to a pet hamster. Early in his 20s he bluffed his way into television, got a part in BBC’s trail-blazing cop show Z Cars and later landed a slot with Granada in The Villains. After a string of minor roles his big break came in 1968, when he signed up for Coronation Street as Betty Turpin’s son Gordon Clegg. Intermittently, he was in The Street for four years before heading off to seek his fortune and began making an impact

as a producer and impresario. He is now a multimillionaire. By the early 1980s he was being hailed as the Tsar of British theatre after only 14 years of producing shows. In 2004, his West End production company – one of the largest independent outfits in the UK – was listed in the Sunday Times Profit Track 100 league table as one of Britain’s fastest growing firms. Over the last 30 years he has staged more than 300 shows worldwide, including the record-breaking tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor

‘It’s not a lot different running a football club to staging a musical’ Dreamcoat, the national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar, Jim Steinman’s Whistle Down the Wind and Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers. More recently he was one of the panellists on BBC1’s Any Dream Will Do, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest experiment in theatrical reality TV, in the search for a new Joseph. In July 1994 Liverpool John Moores University honoured him for his constant support for the city of Liverpool over 30 years and he is terribly proud of the Variety Club’s Bernard Delfont award for his lifelong contribution to the entertainment industry. Two years ago he was further honoured in his home city when the Merseyside Media Network presented him with a plaque for services to the theatre – but Bill was bemused that there was barely a mention of Everton. “Luck has played a huge part,” he says of his


Š Liverpool Daily Post

theatrical forays, but adds that it only works if you take advantage of the luck, and take the risks. Everton, though, was not a risk. It is – he asserts with passion – his religion, his very life force. Surely the stress levels of running a football club, along with the demands of his showbusiness endeavours, can be a tad overwhelming? “Look, I never wanted to run the football club. You need a good chief executive and I think we’ve got a terrific one. My job as chairman is to motivate the motivators. “It’s not a lot different running a football club to staging a musical, almost the same skills are required. You have visions but other people have to do the running,” he says, rather mischievously. There are also nuggets of Kenwright folklore from his youth that tell how he once wrote to Hughie Green begging for a spot on Opportunity Knocks. “No, no, no it was Double Your Money and it was me mum, Hope, who wrote and said I should be on it because I was an expert on films, even though I was only 18,” he declares. “And I did appear on the show,” he says, laughing, revealing that he and Hope gossip

endlessly about the conflict between his theatrical and football careers. In fact, when he first mooted the idea of becoming involved with Everton she told him he was far too busy and to give it a miss. “She still asks me every week when I’m going to give it up,” he confides with a hearty chuckle.

‘Luck has played a huge part... but it only works if you take advantage of the luck, and take the risks’

The River Dee meets the Irish Sea


Vici Ladeji and Christine Colvin


Eventa Management

ER mum was one of the few women passengers amongst the 492 who sailed from the Caribbean on the famous SS Windrush in the summer of 1948 to find a new life in Britain. But Vici Ladeji recalls that the reality was far from the warm reception she expected. For her mother it was tough going and she brought up her family in south Liverpool on one of the most deprived council housing estates in Britain. Vici left school at 15 to work in a hairdresser’s shop – it was part of the culture to support the household – although knew immediately that this was not challenging enough and was determined to set up her own company. However, she felt her lack of a formal university education – even though she had eight GCSEs to her credit – was a barrier to entering the business world. But her mother had taught perseverance and after several brief spells as a waitress and a trainee chef she discovered that there was an entrepreneurial spirit firing her up and she opened her own hairdressing salon at the age of 19. A move to London saw an abrupt change in career direction, into television production work, and this was to be a catalyst for linking up with her future business partner, fellow Liverpudlian Christine Colvin, who was also working in television. Vici returned to her home city to look after her sick mother and decided that she had the knowledge, contacts and experience to set up an events company. After discussing her idea with the Merseyside-based Train 2000 business advice organisation she set up Eventa Management with a £500 loan and a laptop and, as she recalls, a lot of confidence in her own abilities. At the end of 2006 the firm’s turnover had reached £155,000 and by

the end of 2007 she was looking at almost doubling that to £240,000. She had indeed persevered, even after the sad death of her mother, which she declares, despite being a very difficult time personally, was actually a further spur to her ambitions. In her first year she won a national award from the Corporate Events Association. Eventa Management really sprung onto the scene with the hugely successful launch of the regional screen agency North West Vision in 2003.

‘The lessons you learn in life can be beneficial and how you deal with the challenges reflects the kind of person you are’ It was while working on this event with one-time television production professional Christine Colvin – part of the team behind the first three series of the award-winning This Morning programme with Judy Finnigan and Richard Madeley at Granada – that they recognised their talents could be merged to really put Eventa on the map. It was to take, though, a few more years before they formalised the arrangement. “But once Christine joined me in 2005 things really did begin to take off. Her ability to organise and structure the company tripled our capacity to handle new business almost overnight,” says Vici. Christine reveals that they now have an impressive client list that includes the BBC, the Institute of Directors, Telefilm Canada, Arts Council England,


Preston City Council, the British Council and Scottish Screen, along with Pinewood Studios. In 2006 they were chosen by the UK Film Council to manage their pavilion at the International Cannes Film Festival and Vici reveals that they dealt with over 10,000 visitors. “We like to think we can deliver beyond the event,” explained Christine, who trained as a production assistant at BBC Radio Merseyside. In 1995 she joined forces with her long-time friend Janice Long and they launched the local independent radio station Crash FM (now Juice FM). Later she went to work as a senior producer for Liverpool Live – the one-time cable television channel owned by the Trinity Mirror Group. A few years later she joined North West Vision, where she launched and managed the Cheshire Film Office. Over the years Christine has also launched a private art gallery featuring the work of John Lennon in Liverpool’s famous Mathew Street and has a number of film credits to her name on several features and documentaries by North West cult movie director Alex Cox. “The lessons you learn in life can be beneficial

and how you deal with the challenges reflects the kind of person you are,” declares Vici, who says that sustainable business and the development of new projects has an important impact on the local economy. She now sits on a panel for City Growth; is also on the board of Ripples on the Mersey, an organisation that inspires and supports aspiring entrepreneurs in Liverpool; and is the chair of the Liverpool branch of the Federation of Small Businesses.

‘We like to think we can deliver beyond the event’

Liverpool Waterfront, Merseyside


Terry Leahy



ISTED as one of the most powerful people in Britain, Sir Terry Leahy has been described by admirers – and perhaps even detractors – as ‘an ordinary man’ who leads an unglamorous private life, lives in a modest house and drives himself to work, in sharp contrast to other more profligate captains of industry. He seems largely indifferent even to these remarks. He hardly ever talks about himself on a personal level, but is ever keen to shout about the business mantra that has transformed Tesco in less than a decade into the third largest supermarket chain in the world – just behind America’s Wal-Mart and the French Carrefour – and by a long shot the market leader in the UK. In a rare departure from this preferred cloak of anonymity, in the spring of 2007 he confided to the Liverpool Daily Post’s business editor, Bill Gleeson, that the main lesson of his life is “don’t let the past put limits on your future”, presumably a reference to his perceived humble beginnings. Leahy was raised on a council estate in Liverpool and was the only one of four brothers to get a place at the highly regarded St Edward’s College in the city, from where he went on to the Manchester Institute of Science and Technology and gained a BSc(Hons) in management sciences. He is clearly mindful and respectful of the efforts of his parents who, he says, worked hard so that he could stay on at school to take his A-levels. His time as a shelf stacker at Tesco’s Wandsworth store during school holidays – along with spells at Meccano and Tate & Lyle as a student – must have given him an insight into ‘shop floor’ attitudes and to this day he puts great emphasis on talking to the staff and customers.

He joined Tesco as a marketing executive in 1979 and within two years was marketing manager, then marketing director between 1984–86 and joined the Tesco board of directors in 1992. Within five years he was chief executive. The accolades soon followed as he turned around the company’s fortunes to where it now controls almost a quarter of the UK grocery trade and boasts some 2,300 stores in over a dozen countries, including China, where Tesco is already making its mark in the large eastern coastal cities.

‘in the 21st century, nations compete, firms compete and cities compete. But how you fare in competition is no longer determined by history or geographical location’ In 2002 he was knighted in the New Year’s Honours list for services to food retailing and 12 months later was voted Britain’s business leader of the year while the influential Fortune magazine hailed him as European Businessman of the Year in 2004. As well as being co-chancellor of the University of Manchester in 2006 he was also re-appointed to the board of Liverpool Vision – the city’s urban regeneration company – for a further three years. Indeed, he is still loyal to the city and visits often to see his mother and three brothers. In 2001 he was made a Freeman of Liverpool and, in July 2007, was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Liverpool.


Š Jamie Hughes

He told the Daily Post that he still regards Liverpool as a wonderful place but added that “in the 21 st century, nations compete, firms compete and cities compete. But how you fare in competition is no longer determined by history or geographical location,” said Sir Terry. “Indeed, it is determined by your confidence, your skills, your ambition, by the appeal you can make to the global market in terms of the quality of life your city can offer. Liverpool is raising its horizons.” He is one of a handful of businessmen chosen as an adviser by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and co-opted onto a committee to consider how education and the business world can work together. He is a champion of the entrepreneurial spirit both in the UK and abroad, and as part of his international focus Sir Terry has lectured on the growing economic impact and importance of China in the 21st century. “All great businesses start with a simple idea and someone brave enough to give it a go. The challenge companies face is not just how to fund and manage e x p a n s i o n. B u t ab o ut ho w to keep an ed ge,” he commented recently.

In 2005 Management Today selected him as Britain’s most admired business leader and a Guardian Unlimited politics panel tagged him as the most influential non-elected person in the country in 2007. Despite all these head-turning eulogies Sir Terry displays an overtly down-to-earth manner and lives quietly with his wife Alison, a doctor, and their three teenage children. His only ‘obsession’ aside from Tesco is Everton FC, which he has supported since a lad. He is now a special adviser to the club over its plans to build a new stadium.

‘All great businesses start with a simple idea’

Oldham, Lancashire - © Ian Lawson/NWDA


Tariq Mahmood


Arien Distribution

HEN the dictator Idi Amin threw thousands of Asians out of Uganda in the early 1970s some 30,000 headed for Britain, many leaving behind their homes, businesses and most of their wealth. Amin – who for nearly a decade ran one of Africa’s most brutal regimes – died in 2003 largely unaware that the people he had dispossessed were a resilient bunch, as epitomised by brothers Rafiq Arien and Tariq Mahmood – and their two other brothers – who had soon settled in the UK and were itching to get into business. They arrived in the UK with just the clothes on their backs but immediately began rebuilding their lives. Tariq recalls that the first business deal he struck was over a refrigerator he had bought for £15 and sold on for £20 – his first profit. With a meagre saving of under £30 they decided to set up a business trading in a mixture of secondhand, reconditioned and ‘shop-soiled’ wholesale electrical goods. In the early years the brothers learned about the repairing and servicing of all kinds of goods from fridges to freezers, washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Their motto was: ‘whatever the problem, we’ll fix it’. They often worked 16-hour days at their premises on the Fieldhouse industrial estate in Rochdale to make their business a success and within a few years they saw the results of that graft. Arien Distribution had built up a solid reputation for supplying wellknown brands at really cheap, affordable prices. Like many Asian business people they didn’t seek advice from outsiders or look for external funding – this was a family affair.

By the early 1980s the wholesale business had proven to be the success they sought and they switched their attentions to include retailing, opening showrooms in the Lancashire town. Once again their business acumen was spot on and people were landing on their doorstep even as the goods were arriving, anxious to buy. The special deals offered the second-hand appliances at the same prices charged to trade customers, which meant fantastic bargains. The warehouse was never glitzy, as Tariq recalls, and more resembled a factory while they were also

‘We agreed that part of the company profits should be used to set up and finance the orphanage’ carrying out maintenance work, but the customers still flocked in. Soon big manufacturers such as Zanussi, Candy, Hotpoint, Bell and Bosch were keen to offer Arien the chance to stock their new appliances alongside the second-hand goods at the family’s base. And in recent years the John Street complex has expanded to include 6,000 sq ft of retail showrooms, 10,000 sq ft of warehousing and a further 4,000 sq ft of factory space. “As our overheads were kept low we were still able to offer the items as cheaply as possible. It was a winning formula,” explained Tariq. Today the firm has an annual turnover in excess of £4 million and has 28 full-time staff. And it has


cemented its own community links by helping to sponsor the Rochdale Hornets rugby club. A few years after the downfall of the despot Amin, in 1979, the family revisited Uganda and were devastated to see the horrendous conditions suffered by thousands of orphans. “Even though Uganda today does not suffer from the level of corruption which rules and ruins many third world countries, the government is financially unable to help all of its people to overcome poverty, illness and death,” commented Tariq. Determined to share their good fortune with their former neighbours, in 2001 Rafiq Arien established a charity with the aim of setting up an orphanage in Kampala to help the youngsters. “We agreed that part of the company profits should be used to set up and finance the orphanage and this has even included a school,” said Tariq. In August 2002 Rafiq travelled to Kampala for the laying of a foundation stone for the orphanage – known as the Rochdale Greenland School and Orphanage – an event attended by the second deputy prime minister of Uganda, Mr Moses Ali, along with 400 local people.

“Although we are of the Muslim faith and Greenland now receives financial support from many Muslims in Rochdale the orphanage is open to children from any religious culture,” explained Tariq, revealing that there are now 28 children living in the orphanage. “We value family life and intend to bring up the children to respect family values, to respect others and to live their lives in harmony with others,” he added. The family-run charity has now set about cultivating the land next to the orphanage to try and stimulate a level of self-sufficiency.

Determined to share their good fortune...

Whitehaven, Cumbria - © Jim Davis


Debbie Moore


Pineapple Dance Studios

T was surely head-turning stuff for the 15year-old Debbie Moore when after winning a competition in the popular magazine Honey she suddenly found herself in demand as a model. By 1965, she was pals with George Best and the iconic photographer David Bailey, and was hailed as the ‘face’ of Revlon earning £10,000 a year. Today her Pineapple Fashion Company is turning over £13 million annually and she is famously the founder of the renowned Pineapple Dance Studios, one of the world’s premier dance centres boasting over 3,500 members. And again famously she was the first female chairman to ever walk onto the trading floor of the London Stock Exchange when she floated her company, in 1982, a mere three years after she had set it up in an almost derelict warehouse in London’s Covent Garden. Although she was still at the top of her modelling career she knew it couldn’t last and was keen to run her own business, building on the experience she had in the fashion industry and her own enthusiasm for keeping fit. “When an exercise studio I used a lot closed I thought it would be a great idea to open a new one.” She knew of an old fruit warehouse – that used to store pineapples, of course – that a friend used partially as a photographic studio and she took over 7,000 square feet of the remaining three floors. The rest, as she says, is history. Now affectionately tagged the ‘Dancing Queen’ by the media and public alike, Debbie Moore was born and raised in Manchester – her dad was a plumber and her mum a clerk – and when she was offered a contract by Courtaulds after winning the magazine competition they thought this her big break.

Little did they know that their daughter – who had left school without so much as an O-level – would later reveal much wider ambitions to become a ‘household name’ in the dance and fashion world, as well as publishing two bestselling books: the first, in 1983, was The Pineapple Dance Book which she called the ‘insider’s guide to fitness and dance’ and included diet and exercise tips. A year later she picked up the Veuve Clicquot ‘Businesswoman of the Year’ award for

‘I think it is astounding that I was the first woman to take a company public’ entrepreneurial achievements that had also seen her introduce Lycra to the UK as a fashion staple, transforming high street displays as a result. The unexpected illness of her daughter Lara in the early 1980s took her full attention for a spell but, by 1981, she had thankfully made a full recovery and Debbie’s thoughts turned to expansion of the thriving dance studio. It launched her first foray into fashion. She opened another dance and fitness centre in London but her eye was increasingly looking towards America. “I had borrowed to the hilt to expand in the UK and realised the only way to raise further money was to go public,” she explained. “I was a pioneer, as I have been in many ways since. I think it is astounding that I was the first woman to take a company public. The fact that it didn’t happen until 1982 and that it took a former model and dance teacher is bizarre.”


© Jan Gamble

This allowed Debbie to open the third Pineapple studio, this time on New York’s classy Broadway, while a little later she opened another in London’s Kensington. The company grew and diversified but further family commitments meant Debbie took time out of the day-to-day running until 1987. “I was concerned about not having personal involvement with the development of the brand and the shareholders were too concerned with profits. And it was hard to apply my creative skills and entrepreneurial drive in a public company,” she said. So in 1988 she took Pineapple private again. It flourished and grew beyond her expectations and, by 2000, she had launched her own branded range of clothing in Debenhams. She now has a dozen outlets in some of the UK’s largest retail shopping complexes, with the first northern Pineapple store opening at the Trafford Centre early in 2007, with plans for more. In 1989 Debbie published her second book When A Woman Means Business, which offered advice based on her own experiences and those of

other trail-blazing female entrepreneurs. Ten years later it was so successful that it was translated into Mandarin as an inspiration to Chinese women. “I didn’t get into business to make a fortune and to some people I was always this ex-model with a dream. I was not taken seriously as a businesswoman,” she told the Financial Mail in October 2005. She is certainly taken seriously now.

‘I didn’t get into business to make a fortune... I was not taken seriously as a businesswoman’

Cheshire Plains , Cheshire


Margaret O’Carroll


Train 2000

FTER a spell working as a business consultant in Chicago, where the commercial cut and thrust was a daily occurrence, Margaret O’Carroll’s life was turned on its head when she landed up in Liverpool some 15 years ago to visit friends. The city was still rather ‘down on its luck’ and the spark of regeneration had yet to be ignited. It didn’t seem the ideal place for a trail-blazing business project. Yet she sensed a new mood in the air and stayed. And, early in 1997, she co-founded and developed the social enterprise-driven women’s support agency, Train 2000, which has since carved out a reputation as one of the leading organisations in the UK and Europe for tackling the challenge of providing gender-specific business back-up. It has won high-level UK government approval and worked closely with the EU in Brussels to deliver a series of initiatives aimed at helping women to smash the ‘invisible glass ceiling’ that Margaret declares still exists across the UK’s boardrooms. She grew up in the rural west of Ireland, near the small town of Ballinrobe, at a time when few could have predicted the roar of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger that has transformed the country into one of the most dynamic in Europe; and her own family is proud to be called entrepreneurial on several levels – both in farming and retailing. She began acquiring her business knowledge at Galway University, honed it in Chicago and, in recent years, she became one of the first people in Europe to gain a Masters in community enterprise from the acclaimed Judge Business School at Cambridge University. She also co-founded the business advisory firm Options Management, with which she is still involved.

Today Margaret guest lectures at the Judge and in her adopted home town’s Liverpool John Moores University on a variety of social enterprise topics. Since it began, in Liverpool, Train 2000 – which now has a staff of 29 and a turnover of £1.2 million – has helped over 8,000 women improve their economic position, either by helping them set up in business, to find jobs or return to education. It has, says Margaret, been directly responsible for the creation of over 1,000

‘The cultural agenda has dominated for too long, where women are expected to concentrate on businesses such as hairdressing and flower arranging.’ women-owned or managed businesses throughout the Merseyside region. It has worked with a number of influential public and private sector partners and been involved in delivering programmes like New Opportunities for Women and Women in Business in Liverpool and the Women’s Enterprise Initiative in Knowsley. And the agency was top in the annual Euro Cities awards for innovative urban strategies. She was also the driving force a few years ago behind the setting up of the Merseyside Social Enterprise Initiative, which brought together a partnership that included the Northwest Regional Development Agency, the then EU Objective One Programme and Greater Merseyside Enterprise


– amongst others – that pumped in a £20 million investment package for aspiring social enterprises across Liverpool and the region in general. Over the ensuing years Margaret – as executive director and founder – has been responsible for Train 2000’s overall strategic development. She has also been actively involved in women’s enterprise research linked to social inclusion on a UK regional and national basis, and internationally, and has contributed to the UK-wide Strategic Framework for Women’s Enterprise. She has been part of an international task team that has focused on community economic development in South Africa and Japan, and advises local and national government bodies on women’s enterprise development and planning. Her experience in the field means that she is much in demand as a speaker at conferences in the UK and overseas on issues relating to women’s entrepreneurship, employment and education. “I found that Merseyside offered a unique challenge for getting women back into the workplace,” explained Margaret. “Even today, too few women make the leap to set up a business

because, frankly, they don’t know how to. And when they do, they are often hit with unique challenges: like finding funding and balancing family responsibilities, still often considered a woman’s duty. “The cultural agenda has dominated for too long, where women are expected to concentrate on businesses such as hairdressing and flower arranging. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with them but it is vital we change those attitudes. “Women in business are often held back because of stereotyped views about education and training, particularly when it comes to IT skills,” commented Margaret, who believes that if women started businesses at the same rate as men, there’d be 100,000 more business start-ups a year in Britain.

‘a unique challenge for getting women back into the workplace’

Tatton Park, Cheshire - © Ian Lawson/NWDA


Phil Redmond


Mersey Film

AMOUSLY he is the creator of the groundbreaking Grange Hill, Brookside and Hollyoaks television soap operas and he has been almost visionary in his enterprising business tactics over the last 30 or so years. So it comes as no surprise to discover that Phil Redmond has a passion for promoting the spirit of enterprise. In 2005 he sold Mersey Television, the company he founded nearly 25 years ago, and set up a new venture, Mersey Film, with his partner Alexis, to focus on feature length films. He had first stamped his mark on the television industry in 1978 by creating Grange Hill for BBC children’s television, but was soon running his own ship and it was Mersey Television’s pioneering drama serial Brookside that really helped make his name, despite being panned in the early days for its bad language and earthy story lines. He took note of critics and it eventually became one of the biggest hits on television until – after 21 years on Channel 4 – Brookside was finally laid to rest, although as Phil points out it still has a lively following on DVD and his Mersey Film company’s first release is Brookside – Unfinished Business. He had also turned out various drama series for young people such as Going Out, Tucker’s Luck and What Now and, in 1989, he wrote and produced the BBC drama Waterfront Beat, again set in Liverpool. He also helped turn around ailing Emmerdale’s declining ratings while, in 1994, he devised a sixpart drama series called Doctors for BBC Radio 4, among a host of other shows and serials. Throughout his activities his creed has been: “It is about having a ‘can do’ attitude and the drive to make things happen, and not necessarily about the quickest way of making a buck.”

Today Phil – who was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June 2004 for services to drama – is chairman of the Merseyside Entrepreneurship Commission. It is a role that allows him the chance to engage first hand with young people who are willing to emulate his path to success, which he ascribes to a blend of aspiration, bravery and entrepreneurial drive. “It is important that kids realise that successful people have come usually from somewhere else,” said Phil, who is also keen to encourage the older

‘It is about having a “can do” attitude and the drive to make things happen’ ‘silver’ entrepreneurs. “Our aim is to make everyone more aware of the social potential, fun and wealth that just a few successful entrepreneurs can add to the area,” he commented in his regular column in a daily regional newspaper. And he is also the local patron of the government’s Make Your Mark campaign, which aims to try and kick-start an enterprise culture amongst young people to give them a chance to tap into business opportunities. He believes both organisations really should focus on the one simple phrase he used at the launch of the Entrepreneurship Commission a couple of years ago: “Create a more enterprising environment from which real entrepreneurs will emerge and flourish.” Phil declares that he’s never rested on his laurels, even when his television shows were topping the ratings. He was always seeking other opportunities and, in 1995, he launched another young people’s


serial Hollyoaks for Channel 4; it was so popular it was broadcast five nights a week. He is now an honorary professor of Liverpool John Moores University but recalls that he was one of the first two per cent of the population to attend a comprehensive school and left to become a trainee quantity surveyor. But writing was his real muse and he began to focus on that in 1972, before later returning to full-time education as a mature student at the University of Liverpool to take a degree in social studies. In 1989 he was offered the professorship and honorary chair of media studies at Liverpool John Moores University, where he was largely responsible for designing and implementing the media professional studies degree course, which he supports through his Mersey Television firm. Over a distinguished career Phil has picked up over 40 awards, including Baftas and a Liverpool ‘Scouseology’ lifetime achievement award. And in 2005 his journalist and media colleagues feted him when the Merseyside Media Network presented him with a special plaque to mark his contributions to the media, and television in particular.

His involvement with a national literacy campaign – among other charitable works – has also brought him much satisfaction, he explains. In 1999 he launched the ‘Brookie Basics’ initiative, aimed at improving adult literacy. It has, he says proudly, been a resounding success and has helped over 30,000 people learn to read.

‘Create a more enterprising environment from which real entrepreneurs will emerge and flourish’

Waterhead, Ambleside, Cumbria - © Ian Lawson/NWDA


Trevor Ruddle


Indigo Shading Solutions

OST people will assume that the main – in fact only – advantages of the smoking ban in bars and restaurants is the health of staff and customers, as well as a cleaner environment, but that there could be few opportunities to benefit commercially, indeed quite the reverse. However, Trevor Ruddle found out to his delight that the ban sent his Wirral-based company almost into a flat spin as they worked feverishly to meet booming orders for the awnings and parasols that are now used as outside shelters for smokers. “The large companies we had been pursuing for contracts were suddenly beating a path to our door and, while our products might be a niche market, the Indigo brand is heading towards becoming the market leader,” said Trevor. He bought the business seven years ago to tap into the burgeoning trend for al fresco entertaining and says the growth at Indigo Shading Solutions has been phenomenal, with the number of people employed at his factory growing fourfold; turnover more than 20 times what it was when he took over the firm; and profits soaring. Trevor left school with five O-levels and went on to study building and structural engineering before trying his hand at three different careers. Finally, he joined the home improvement division of a major group as sales manager and in just over a handful of years he had proved his abilities and risen to the rank of general sales manager. In 1991 he was head-hunted by William Holding – a worldwide plc and a member of the FTSE top 100 companies in the UK – to become their sales and marketing director, which involved extensive travel across the UK, Europe and north America.

During this five-year period he gained an invaluable knowledge of corporate and business finance, as well as cross border trading, mergers and acquisitions; skills that he was to use to his own full advantage later. He then became involved in a management buyout in 1996 but increasingly was keen to run his own business and commissioned a market research report into the leisure industry, and in particular the pub sector. It indicated that the major pub companies’ performances did not peak and trough in line with

‘There will always be tough decisions to make but never giving up is an important policy to adopt’ the fluctuations in the country’s economy but stayed much flatter, information that persuaded him that this was an attractive market to tackle. Then a friend asked for help in restructuring his domestic blinds and awnings business and Trevor predicted that there was a swing coming towards people enjoying outside eating and entertaining that, with the UK’s unpredictable weather, would clearly require some form of shelter. “I decided to try and find a small awnings company that had the technical skills I required and I found one in Wallasey which had actually been trading for 20 years but had never really been the major supplier it is now,” said Trevor. “I bought it and turned my attention to the brand and its image. The existing name did not reflect a modern, go-ahead national company and


so I brought in a specialist agency to advise me. I had a name I liked but I wanted a corporate look and that’s how the Indigo brand was created,” added Trevor, who is a Londoner by birth. His view on running a business is that there is always a solution to any problem. “There will always be tough decisions to make but never giving up is an important policy to adopt and then you will, I feel, achieve your goals,” added Trevor, who admits that when he first took over the firm he had few local contacts to help him grow it. “In fact, it was the support of Business Link in the area that was the greatest help in those early days,” said Trevor, who believes that all true entrepreneurs have to display a passion about their businesses. “You become a workaholic, fiercely competitive, at times extremely brave, innovative and, above all, totally tunnel-visioned. You are the only one who can clutch victory from the jaws of defeat and actually one of an elite band who account for the top three to four per cent of the UK population,” he said.

But, although he confides he could never have predicted the rate of growth he has enjoyed with Indigo, he is also inclined to consider that any business needs a little slice of good luck and the smoking ban was his, along with a determination to succeed. “And never undersell your product or idea. Always go for quality and never on price – the best is always the cheapest in the long run,” he added.

‘You become a workaholic, fiercely competitive, at times extremely brave, innovative and, above all, totally tunnel-visioned’

Parkgate, Cheshire


Anil Ruia



S gentle, throwaway understatements go about keeping a low profile Anil Ruia’s rather takes the biscuit, which in view of the vast tea plantation business in India he runs from his home and office base in Manchester, would seem rather apposite. He was a board member of the Northwest Regional Development Agency for six years to December 2007, where he actually chaired the enterprise and innovation subgroup, and his list of directorships falls off the end of the page, including, for over 25 years, his family firm of Wrengate. For good measure Anil is also a magistrate and was given an OBE in 2001 for his services to business, while his legion of colleagues and friends will confirm that he is a man immersed in the very culture of business in the North West. He declares a passion for helping the economic regeneration of the region and he practises it with energy and style in such roles as chairman of the North West International Trade Forum and deputy chairman of Manchester: Knowledge Capital, and he is on the trustee board of Liverpool Museums. Ostensibly the company – started by his father in 1958 when he came to live in the UK from Bombay, where Anil was born – trades in textiles, which it distributes all over the world. The family company took the name Wrengate in 1974 and as Anil Ruia reveals is the fifth – or maybe sixth, he murmurs modestly – largest tea producers in India. “But, yes, we do tend to keep a low profile,” he comments. In fact, Warren Team Limited of India cultivates 7,500 hectares – that’s a staggering 18,000 acres – of tea in the famous Assam region and the firm employs 30,000 local people. He delivers the further

knockout line that the output is 16 million kilos a year, most of which they sell throughout India, Germany and, of course, the UK, which likes to think of itself as the biggest tea-drinking nation. In Britain Wrengate does have a modest labour force of only 100 people but Anil’s impact on the North West is significant, such as his support and membership of the Regional Skills Partnership. For a time he was a non-executive director of Granada Television and he commented: “This sharpened my understanding of the role and importance of strong

‘In this “Renaissance City” I believe ideas, energy and delivery are highly prized assets and the BBC’s move north and the new gleaming Beetham Tower symbolise that’ local broadcasters that represent and reflect the region, and draw from the community.” He will shyly concede that he was on the board of Manchester 2002, which drew up the city’s Commonwealth Games bid that helped win the Games, although he likes to stress that it was largely about the initial planning and funding as if this were in some way a bit part, which it obviously wasn’t. “We held the stewardship but we had 14,000 volunteers and they did the real work while we just acted as figureheads. “But I was delighted to be a deputy mayor of the Games Village,” added Anil, who is a past president


of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as sitting on the board of the North West Cultural Consortium and being involved with the Commonwealth Film Festival. He was educated at Stockport Grammar School, earned a law degree from King’s College London and is also a qualified chartered accountant. For six years he was vice president of the Manchester Asian Business Forum and, in 2000, was invited by the government to assist as part of a specially formed Cabinet Office diversity team. In 2006 he was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Greater Manchester. In the summer of 2007 he was chairman of a consortium that pitched for the latest FM radio licence for the city he loves. They lost and Anil along with the distinguished other members of the consortium - was clearly, and publicly, shocked at the decision, as he is still convinced they had assembled a formidable group of key people. “In this ‘Renaissance City’ I believe ideas, energy and delivery are highly prized assets and the BBC’s move north and the new gleaming Beetham Tower symbolise that,” he said, before adding: “So we failed.

But we had to try for the sake of the North West. That’s what we do.” His commitment to the region involves interests in a wide range of community, charitable and education affairs: he is a governor of the University of Manchester and a member of the North West Sports Board, amongst other positions. In 2004 – when he was still under 50 – he was presented with a North of Britain ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award. His enterprise philosophy is: “Hard work and honesty – and some luck, of course.”

‘Hard work and honesty – and some luck, of course’

New Brighton, Wirral


Nicola Schindler


Red Productions

RITICS and public alike have tagged her ‘a one-woman hit factory’ and, certainly, Nicola Schindler’s track record in television since she set up the Manchester-based Red Production Company in 1998 confirms the accolade. In the early years, Rochdale-born Schindler – who attended Bury Grammar School and then read history at Cambridge – developed and produced a stream of primetime dramas such as the Bafta award-winning Clocking Off and first went into production on the Russell T Davies serial Queer As Folk for Channel 4. The pace has hardly slowed since, with further series of Clocking Off and Linda Green followed, in 2004, by the acclaimed Casanova, written by Davies and starring a future Dr Who, David Tennant. And she’s added to the catalogue of successes with the BBC series New Street Law, the controversial Mark of Cain about the Iraq war for Channel 4 and Housekeeping and Magnolia for BBC’s Comedy Playhouse. Yet Nicola confides that her first working experience was in the theatre, after being inspired by director Nicholas Hytner at Manchester’s Royal Exchange. She started her career as a script reader in London’s Royal Court theatre and eventually ‘graduated’ to become script editor on Jimmy McGovern’s hit series Cracker for Granada. Her path into the production world was as assistant producer – and script editor – on another award-winner, Our Friends in the North for BBC2, and then as assistant producer on the Emmy awardwinning Prime Suspect V. But it was her partnership with Jimmy McGovern in 1996, as producer of the Hillsborough drama documentary, that set the seal on her future plans. Since then she has operated

as executive producer on an ever-increasing list of hugely acclaimed programmes. Today Nicola regards herself as an entrepreneur – but reckons she became one by mistake. She had been inspired by great TV drama and writer/ producers such as John Wells, Aaron Sorkin and Stephen Bochco and says she was very lucky as a youngster because her parents were very much into the theatre and fostered her love of it. “I wanted to work with writers and actually wanted to be a director,” she explained. “The idea

‘The politics of the industry dictates [London], even though there is a lot of home-grown talent here’ of becoming a producer didn’t enter my head. I don’t think anyone aspires to be a producer,” she commented, candidly. And she laughs that, in fact, she wouldn’t recommend anyone to go into the television industry – it is so hard to make a mark. “I am also convinced that most people who do, do so for all the wrong reasons. They see themselves in a high-profile role and are seeking that assumed celebrity,” she said. Then she pauses, reflects and adds: “I do think, however, there will always be opportunities for those keen to become involved for the right reasons; those people with passion and enthusiasm. “The industry can be highly rewarding and getting the chance to work with really creative people such as writers, directors, actors and the like can make all the hard work worthwhile.”


But, although Nicola admits she adores the creative side of the business, in fact 60% of her time as the executive producer – and founder – of Red Productions is involved in selling the ideas, keeping on top of the bureaucracy that is an integral part of getting a show aired, and day-to-day administration. Her company has a full-time staff of eight, but this can swell to around 200 or so when working on a film project. Funding is the key issue that dominates her schedule and she explains that her role is basically to pitch the creative ideas at the ‘money people’. “When I began it used to be a lot easier, but now a project can take two years in development and I have to pitch really hard. And I think it will get harder. “For a long time I was very lucky. I knew people in the industry who had considerable vision, with whom you could toss an idea around and they would like it immediately. It isn’t like that these days,” she shrugs, and reveals that filming a project can cost anything between £500,000 to £1.5 million an hour; so perhaps the nervousness of funding organisations is understandable.

She also reveals that she was obliged to spend a number of years in London to make enough contacts – and establish her name – before she could even think of setting up her own company in Manchester. “The politics of the industry dictate it, even though there is a lot of home-grown talent here: writers, actors and production crews. And if Granada wasn’t here, I think we would have struggled.”

‘For a long time I was very lucky. I knew people in the industry who had considerable vision’

Hadrian’s Wall, Cumbria - © Ian Lawson/NWDA


Lee Southern


Barking Mad

HE company has undoubtedly the most fabulous attention-grabbing name in the UK and founder and managing director Lee Southern is clearly intent on keeping her hugely successful franchise operation very firmly in the public eye and, as it turns out, is already expanding as an agent for Cupid. It all began when she was desperate to find a temporary yet loving home for her beloved Dalmatian puppy, Bronte, while she took a muchneeded holiday. “I didn’t like the idea of kennels, found it hard to place her, and realised that there was a huge gap in the market for personal pet care services. So, after a spell of doing it part time I took the plunge and gave up my job as a sales and marketing consultant and set up the company,” she said. Her first step was to create a website which suddenly was attracting attention from all over the North West, as well as the length and breadth of Britain. After seven years Barking Mad is a howling success, boasting 4,000 customers and a £1.3 million turnover – and Lee has more than 50 franchises operating under licences throughout the UK and even one in Cyprus. “And I am delighted to be running a business which provides such a necessary service to dog owners,” said Lee, who adds that growth was spurred largely by word-of-mouth in the early days and she originally figured she would end up with about 100 franchises. Now she has revised that thinking and reckons it will reach 150 at least and with one already set up abroad she is aiming to widen her horizons across Europe.

“We have been actively promoting the idea and recruiting franchisees across Europe, and I think it is a very tempting project for dog lovers living in sunnier climes,” she commented. The concept is very simple, says Lee. “We find host families that will look after the dogs and their every need. If a dog likes to watch Coronation Street we try to find a family that has similar tastes,” she added, with a laugh. “It really began to take off but I realised the only way I could expand was through franchising the idea,” she said.

‘I love it and I owe it all to Bronte. It has changed my life completely and everyone who works with me relishes the job’ Barking Mad is now the largest, fastest-growing and professional home-from-home pet care franchise specialising in boarding and has attracted massive media attention across the North West and nationally. “We pride ourselves on the high level of training and continued support we offer our franchisees,” said Lee, who hosted the 2007 Barking Mad National Conference at the Lakeside hotel in Cumbria when the best franchises throughout Britain were given ‘top dog‘ awards. Lee explains that the dynamic, challenging yet hugely rewarding home-based business offers dog lovers the best of both worlds – the chance to look after dogs without the commitment of full-time ownership.


“In fact, they must be extremely fond of dogs, naturally. But they must also have a strong desire to succeed in business, be self-motivated with good organisational skills and enjoy working with people as well as pets,” she said. “Every Barking Mad franchisee is invited to attend a full training programme at the company headquarters in Barbon near Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria. “It incorporates all aspects of business, including diary management and accounting as well as sales and marketing,” explains Lee, whose company is a full member of the British Franchise Association. There is also a special franchise development manager whose job is to offer advice during training and act as a guiding hand as the business is set up. “But we stress that once they are up and running they are not alone. We offer our continued support and advice.” In 2006 Lee was featured in the North West Business Insider magazine’s top 42 under 42 list of successful entrepreneurs in the region, and she confesses that setting up the firm is the best decision she’s ever made.

“I love it and I owe it all to Bronte. It has changed my life completely and everyone who works with me relishes the job,” she said. As for that Cupid association, Lee has introduced the Ruff Guide to Dating … By Dogs! which might sound, well, barking mad, but is based on scientific fact, she insists. “It seems our four-legged best friends can also help us to find love and happiness. The type of dog someone chooses can reveal a lot about his or her character. So, our spotters’ guide helps people match the pooch to the perfect partner as it shows which breed best fits the personality of your potential partner and you.” Quite.

‘But we stress that once they are up and running they are not alone’

Salford Quays, Manchester - © Ian Lawson/NWDA


Helen, Lisa and Janet Tse


Sweet Mandarin

N many ways, marinating their individual expertise as tax lawyer, city financial analyst and electrical engineer, with an acknowledged flair for public sector finance teamed with a bit of restaurant know-how gleaned from their grandmother, was the perfect combination for the three Manchester sisters, whose funky Sweet Mandarin restaurant is the talk of the town, the region – and arguably nationwide. They had vowed when growing up in Oldham never to follow their parents – and for that matter generations of their family before them – into catering and made determined efforts to carve out careers as professional women in their own right. Lisa gained an honours degree in business studies at Manchester Metropolitan University and then went off to be a high flyer in the City of London. She was also the anchor for the firstever bilingual Chinese and English show on Asian Sound Radio. Twin Helen is a Cambridge law graduate and worked for Clifford Chance in London and Hong Kong, and later as head of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ China Desk in Manchester, where she was voted Young Accountant of the Year in 2006. Younger sibling Janet studied electrical engineering and electronics at UMIST and later worked with My Travel Airways and Manchester City Council. A family trip to Hong Kong in 2002 was the catalyst for their change of heart and they all admit they had been hugely influenced by their now 90year-old grandmother, Lily Kwok, who established the first Chinese restaurant in the Middleton area of Manchester – and whose curries were a firm favourite of Sir Cliff Richard whenever he was appearing in the city.

Apart from the chic, minimalist-look restaurant, which they set up in 2004 from scratch in an almost derelict building and former car park in the north end of Manchester city centre – now redefining itself as the Bohemian-style Northern Quarter – the sisters also own and run a thriving property investment company with 100 members. “I think we have inherited the same drive and entrepreneurial spirit that drove our grandmother to succeed and we had always helped out in her restaurant when we were kids, so we knew the

‘I think we have inherited the same drive and entrepreneurial spirit that drove our grandmother’ ropes,” explained Lisa. “And, in truth, it was always our dream to start our own business.” The sisters chose the then unlikely setting of the Northern Quarter because they had noticed it was becoming popular as a residential area – and they knew it well because their grandmother used to buy her fish at the wholesale market that was once close to their now award-winning restaurant. Granada TV documented the development of the project, while the rest of the media have also beaten a path to interview this business-savvy trio. Indeed, their commercial acumen has come to the fore on several levels, with their innovative ideas such as Meet Your Neighbour, a networking evening, and Speed Schmoozing that crosses the concept of speed dating with a business networking event.


It is all part of what Lisa describes as their commitment to enterprise policy, extended by their work with Manchester College of Arts and Technology, with a scheme offering trainee chefs the chance to learn about Chinese cookery for six weeks. This unusual programme – theirs is the only Chinese restaurant to engage with westernstyle catering schools in this way – saw Lisa win an outstanding individual award for skills in 2005 sponsored by Chamberlink, an arm of Manchester Chamber of Commerce, and Marketing Manchester. The restaurant also hosts food tasting evenings and the sisters are now operating a corporate catering branch offering their own particular, stylish brand of Chinese finger food to clients that include HSBC and Helen’s old colleagues at PricewaterhouseCoopers. As if those achievements aren’t enough for a lifetime, Helen has also written a history of her remarkable family – entitled Sweet Mandarin like their restaurant – tracing its roots from rural China, through to Hong Kong and, eventually, the northwest of England; a story that has already received

accolades from distinguished authors like Xinran, who wrote the best-selling The Good Women of China, and a host of media pundits. Helen confides that her passion for writing began when she was at Cambridge University. “My family moved to the UK in the 1950s – our mother Mabel was only nine – and grandmother opened her restaurant not long after arriving. “Back in China she lived through enormous upheavals and was forced to work as an ‘amah’ (a kind of servant) after the violent murder of her father. The book tells the story of the intriguing life of three generations of women in our family, from those dramatic days to the present,” said Helen.

‘And, in truth, it was always our dream to start our own business.’

Beeston, Cheshire - © Jed Broadbent


Amanda Thompson


Blackpool Pleasure Beach

HE grew up quite literally with the smell of greasepaint in her nostrils and the roar of the crowd echoing in her ears, even making her own stage debut in a children’s ice extravaganza at the tender age of three. Her family have been showmen and women and an essential cog in the entertainment engine that made Blackpool the best-loved seaside town in Britain – and many would assert Europe – since her great-grandfather William George Bean founded the Pleasure Beach amusement park in the late 1800s. The glitz, the glitter, the glam and the raucous noise that is Blackpool are part of what forged Amanda Thompson’s character – and she once admitted in a national newspaper interview that she feels most at home in Las Vegas rather than the more svelte hot-spots of the Mediterranean, although she’s very partial to a spin on the slopes of the French ski resort of Courchevel. Few would argue that Blackpool needs a makeover as it has been in relative decline for close on 30 years, struggling to compete with cheap foreign holidays and other UK resorts. Yet Amanda Thompson – the current boss of the family-run amusement park in the town – is passionate about Blackpool’s future. She took over in 2004 when her charismatic father Geoffrey died unexpectedly. It is, she points out, the single biggest tourist draw in Britain with over six million visitors a year. Geoffrey was known affectionately and with considerable respect as ‘Mr Blackpool’, while she in a short time had easily earned the sobriquet the ‘Queen of Blackpool’, particularly as the 42-acre complex is one of the main factors keeping the town as Britain’s top holiday destination.

Amanda and her brother Nick – a director of the company – demonstrated their faith in the future early in 2007 by pouring £8 million into a fabulous new ride that is the world’s first suspended, looping rollercoaster that runs completely over water. She commented: “So many people write off Blackpool, but we have been investing in the town since Pleasure Beach opened in 1896. We have every faith in its future.” Indeed, her enthusiasm is reflected in a new mood of optimism spreading through the town, where regeneration plans are

‘We really need to create a town for the future and I think there is enough energy here to do that’ now on the drawing board; even the north-west media are putting a more positive spin on their reports. For over 15 years she was a director of the company and was appointed deputy managing director in 2000, but was not expecting to have to take over the reins so young. She was born in 1962 – in London – but regarded the amusement park as her private childhood plaything, she recalls, and even though her father never forced her to join the firm, he cleverly involved her in it from an early age. She was educated at the exclusive Badminton School in Bristol and spent most of her holidays wandering the world with her dad looking at amusement parks, so it is little surprise that she has such an affection and commitment to the business.


Indeed, at only 20 – in 1982 – she formed Stageworks Worldwide Productions as the entertainment division of Pleasure Beach to present spectacular live shows on stage and – naturally – ice. She created a string of outstanding productions that have been seen across the globe. In 2002 her dedication was recognised with the Michael Elliott Trust director of the year award and, in 2003, she was voted entrepreneur of the year at the Blackpool Tourism Awards – for what the judges described as “her continuing vision in the entertainment industry”. Her upbeat and theatrical approach to putting a smile back on Blackpool’s face is aimed at luring back the once huge crowds that flocked to the resort – in the early 1970s it was thronging with 17 million holidaymakers a year – and she is a ‘fullon’ participant in the action plan pulled together by a wide range of public and private sector organisations to revitalise the town. And the town’s ambitions to secure a Unesco World Heritage title would surely be underpinned by the historical legacy of the Pleasure Beach empire; even with the sparkling boutique-style ultra

modern Big Blue Hotel she opened to attract the huge short-break holiday market. “We have constantly re-invented the Pleasure Beach concept and invested in the town and the park. We really need to create a town for the future and I think there is enough energy here to do that,” commented Amanda, who is a board member of the almost legendary Grand Theatre and a member of the British Association of Leisure Park, Piers and Attractions, as well as the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

‘we have been investing in the town since Pleasure Beach opened in 1896’

‘Little Eye’ West Kirby, Wirral - © Henry Woodland


Nicholas Wainwright



E helps run one of the most exclusive family-owned jewellery firms in Britain – with an annual turnover of £40 million – and is clearly enthused about its continued class act, but when Nicholas Wainwright starts chatting about his role as Honorary Consul for Thailand there is a definite upbeat lilt to his tone. Nicholas is exceptionally proud to have been awarded the Order of the Knight Commander of the Blue Elephant by His Majesty, King Bhumibol of Thailand in 1998 and declares unashamedly that he has the country’s name written on his heart. The job – a kind of part-time, amateur diplomat – involves representing the king and the country throughout north-west England and dealing with routine inquiries from those interested in Thailand. A former president of the once healthy Liverpool consular corps, the urbane Nicholas must cut a dash with the king because he was appointed Companion Order of Knight Commander of the Blue Elephant in 2004. This love affair began when his father Tony first sent him to the Far East to source gems when he was just 23, learning the ropes of the family business started by his great grandfather over 200 years ago. He was the fifth generation of Wainwrights in the jewellery trade and his own son Jody continued the trend when he opened Boodles’ new store in Dublin in 2006. After education at Shrewsbury School Wainwright took off for a while to work as a midshipman on the Blue Funnel line’s cargo ship Glen Earn. He finally joined the family firm in Liverpool in 1967 and after a spell training in Geneva – and London and New York – has now spent more than 40 years traversing the globe on

the hunt for quality gemstones and diamonds. He admits, though, that his itinerary will always include the Far East. “We visit Vietnam as well as Thailand on these forays, but I must confess I don’t really regard it as business – it’s more of a working holiday,” laughs Nicholas who is also a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in London, and a Fellow of the Gemmological Association. The original company was H Wainwright & Son, but they bought over Boodle and Dunthorne

‘We source and make up 95% of our own jewellery, which I feel gives us an edge over our larger competitors’ more than 90 years ago and adopted what became almost a household name in Liverpool – which in the late 19 th century was one of the wealthiest cities in the world – and attracted clients from all over the UK. “And between the First and Second World Wars there were more than 30 top-class jewellers in Liverpool,” reveals Wainwright, who explains that the name was changed recently to Boodles to help shape its image for the 21st century. “We felt the old name was too Dickensian,” he adds. Despite its reputation and exclusivity Boodles has a relatively small empire, with only eight stores in the UK and Ireland, and seven of those opened in the last 30 years, including the Manchester shop. Dublin is the first shift ‘abroad’ and is part of a development strategy that his younger


brother Michael – who is co-managing director – introduced when he joined the firm in 1984. “This policy of ‘less is more’ suits our purpose as our focus is getting the maximum revenue from a small number of stores rather than rolling out a national network of lower earning shops,” explains Nicholas, who says that the firm’s uniqueness is that they source their own stones, which are then crafted by an in-house team of top-notch designers at the firm’s headquarters in Liverpool. Customers of the calibre of Michael Owen, Charlotte Church, and even David and Victoria Beckham, will surely attest to that claim. “We source and make up 95% of our own jewellery, which I feel gives us an edge over our larger competitors,” says Wainwright, and it obviously works as their Chester store has a turnover of £6 million a year – their most successful outlet – while they certainly have a significant presence in London with four stores – including Bond Street, Royal Exchange in the City and a concession in Harrods. Yet Wainwright is fiercely independent and insists the firm has no wish to become a corporate

outfit saddled with justifying its decisions to investors. “We do things our way,” he says, which is a pointer to the same passion he holds for charity work. For the last five years he’s been president of a Christian orphanage in Salem in southern India that looks after more than 2,500 deprived kids. “I think it’s the second largest charity in India next to the one set up by Mother Teresa,” explains Nicholas who visits the orphanage every year.

‘the name was changed recently to Boodles to help shape its image for the 21st century’

Hilbre Island, Wirral


Steve Watkins



MERE eight weeks after pocketing a chunk of a cool £17 million for the sale of his specialist inspection consultancies Steve Watkins was itching to be back in action and invested some of his ‘small’ fortune in an up and coming company that he is now helping to grow. Born in the lovely Cornwall fishing village of Perranporth Steve originally ran a small contract agency out of the south-east resort of Bournemouth inspecting drains for the main water authorities. It was seemingly going well and turnover was running at around £100,000 a month. Then a downturn hit the sector and with turnover plummeting to £7,000 a month – and 20 staff to look after – he decided to change tack and location. He and two partners chose Oldham as their base and set up their Active Service Group that was also focused on providing a service to insurance companies who were dealing with claims for damaged drains from a wide range of customers. The company soon expanded as they were offering a highly professional service in a sector that had traditionally been handled, says Steve, by one person or small outfits. Within another relatively short period the trio engaged in the buy-out of another rival firm called IDA – paying £4 million for it. “We then merged both companies and established our branded ‘Ansa’ organisation,” explained Steve, who says they were already impressed with the infrastructure in the North West and the ready availability of a skilled pool of labour. “Essentially ‘Ansa’ meant – we can answer your problems. And we did,” he said, revealing that once again the company expanded and had a staff of 40

operating across the UK but based in Lees, just outside Oldham. It continued to grow and soon employed 120 staff. “We had also trained a specialist team of surveyors and offered a fully professional service to insurance companies who for years had been relying on home based surveyors. “We made the whole operation totally expertisefocused in the way things were done, and this was for the first time in the industry. And soon we

‘It fascinates me that there is so much opportunity and so much energy in the region. There is a good pool of talented people’ had captured nearly 50% of the UK insurance business in our field,” said Steve. “When we began we had two insurance companies on our books,” he added “and when we sold the firm we had 18 – and more than 60% of the UK insurance claims for drains were being handled through our firm.” Steve and his partners even set up a call centre in Oldham, which was staffed by experts. “So when people rang in with claims we knew what we were talking about. No one had really done this before and it revolutionised that element of the claims procedure.” They had also set up a training company in Chadderton, which quickly became nationally focused, again using their favourite ‘Ansa’ brand name. “It was hugely successful and ‘Ansa’ carried out work on such high profile projects as Terminal Five


at Heathrow and the Millennium Dome. We had two staff when we began and 22 when we sold up.” It was eventually sold as part of a management buyout deal. And as part of his involvement with Mavinwood they have aquired two other companies in the North West: Independent Inspections in Preston that employs 120 and Mono Services in Chadderton with 300 staff. “I estimate that Mavinwood‘s companies are worth in capital terms something around £100 million, which isn’t too bad for less than a decade’s work,” commented Steve, who is also running a couple of businesses in the South West, including interests in a restaurant chain in Cornwall. “And I have an interest in another company called Xtek which operates out of the North West – again in the small town of Lees – which is involved in the provision of specialist cameras for underground surveys of drains and other piping, along with other camera solutions for the trade.” Steve considers that he is one of that traditional breed of entrepreneur who expands through acquisitions: “I like to find companies to which

I can bring my special skills, that include building teams of people to make them a success.” “It fascinates me that there is so much opportunity and so much energy in the region. There is a good pool of talented people and, frankly, never as many hurdles in business as there might be in the southern counties,” he said, adding that he considers the North West the core base for his activities. “Always focus on what you want to achieve and persevere. It will happen with hard work – and a bit of luck, of course,” he said.

‘Always focus on what you want to achieve and persevere’

Waterloo, Merseyside - © Paul McMullin


Annabel Williams


Contemporary Photographic Training

OR a former school teacher, the photographer Annabel Williams is a bit harsh on the merits of photographic colleges, believing they have held back the development of social photography – her own muse – by discouraging new, young blood from specialising in what she says is the ‘bread and butter’ side of the industry. Then again, her own lack of a formal route into the profession hasn’t done her any harm as she picked up the Fujifilm Wedding Photographer of the Year in 1999 and followed that a year later with the Portrait Photographer prize. She confesses that her career behind the lens actually began as a hobby – and she even did photography at the school where she taught – and only took off at age 25 when a friend suddenly asked her to take photographs of her wedding because she had been let down by someone else. “I would have refused if asked beforehand. But once I’d taken them everyone loved them and within a year I kept getting asked to shoot weddings – and it all happened by word of mouth,” said Annabel, who has a studio in Staveley in the Lake District. That first year as a professional she attended over 70 weddings and became a byword in ‘social photography’ circles for the rebellious way she set particular standards and ways of doing things; even forcing the industry to take a good hard look at itself and undergo some radical changes in attitude. Her idea was to take the average girl next door and turn her into a glamorous subject. “I was horrified when I saw the type of shot most photographers were happy to churn out,” she recalls, yet in the early 1980s she was struggling to establish her style and reputation in the face of contemporary

values that dictated all wedding photographs and the like should be strictly posed. “I wanted to raise the profile of my kind of photography and tried to develop a relationship with my clients so that they felt comfortable,” she added. “And I try to capture the spirit and joy of an event rather than opting for the static shots,” she explains, although conceding that she does have to ‘manage’ the shoot because the chance of everyone

‘You wouldn’t just walk up to a grizzly bear and expect to rattle off a good photograph. It is exactly the same at a wedding’ looking good on an off-the-cuff, informal shot is very unlikely. “Look, I know what women want on their wedding day and it’s about how they feel, not mostly about how they look. “You wouldn’t just walk up to a grizzly bear and expect to rattle off a good photograph. It is exactly the same at a wedding or doing portraits and family groups. You can’t just wander along and impose yourself, it is about developing a relationship,” she said in an insightful interview in the specialist trade magazine EOS, published by Canon, whose equipment she swears by. She had clearly tapped into a sizeable market as women wanting that ‘starlet and model’ look flocked her way, particularly as she works closely with her sister, Lucinda Hayton, who is an acclaimed makeup artist and stylist.


“We then founded our Cover Girl company to photograph ordinary women the way they wanted. We appeared on the Clothes Show on television and afterwards founds ourselves snowed under with work from all over Europe.” Paradoxically – considering her trenchant views about colleges – Annabel then started running her own training courses because she wanted to educate photographers. “The tragedy is that there are many good photographers but most don’t have a clue about how to make money from it,” she explained, and confides that when she is holding a session at the Annabel Williams Contemporary Training Course she can tell immediately which photographers in the room can ‘cut it’ and those who can’t. “I know by the type of person they are,” she added. “Ultimately, you are either a people person or you’re not and if you relate well to others then you’ll find it an easy task,” she advised in an article in Digital Photography Made Easy magazine, when revealing her trade secrets. “It’s 90% psychology and 10% technology and camerawork,” she declares, and this philosophy

ensures she is one of the most in-demand teachers in Europe, and has led to her publishing two books, including the bestselling Annabel Williams Book of Wedding and Portrait Photography. The training ‘academy’ in Cumbria is now her main focus – with an overall turnover of £500,000 a year. Since she set up the company in 1998 with two partners Annabel estimates they have inspired and educated more than 3,000 photographers at all levels of expertise. And, ironically, she is now acknowledged as an exceptional tutor.

‘Ultimately, you are either a people person or you’re not’

Handbridge, Cheshire


Gerry Yeung


Yang Sing

IKE his father before him, Gerry Yeung is a passionate restaurateur and fully aware that the reputation of the acclaimed Yang Sing restaurant is such that it evokes wildly enthusiastic responses and appreciative nods whenever it is mentioned, whether it be in Manchester, anywhere in the North West, or even across broad swathes of the rest of the country. After a disastrous fire in the autumn of 1997 Gerry’s indomitable spirit of enterprise saw him temporarily shift the whole operation – lock, stock and wok, as he laughingly recalls – to the city’s G-Mex centre (now renamed Manchester Central), where the 6,000 people who’d booked the restaurant for Christmas barely noticed their unusual surroundings as they tucked into the delicious Chinese dishes. It is this enthusiasm and business sense that has seen Gerry – awarded an MBE in 2003 for services to the hospitality industry – expand the Yang Sing empire that he runs with his executive chef and brother, Harry, to include the exclusive Lotus Bar & Dim Sum. He is also a director of the hugely popular Cathay Dim Sum and Orient Xpression in Manchester’s Trafford Centre. The brand has taken on a further lease of life with the Yang Sing Oriental boutique hotel that boasts 48 rooms right in the heart of Manchester. Indeed, Gerry is a keen player of the property market: his family owns the restaurant building – a grade II listed ornate former textile warehouse on Princess Street – and the hotel is located next door. He is also an active partner in KS & KM Yeung, a building development partnership, and confesses he gets enormous satisfaction from the renovation of listed properties in Cheshire such

as Norley Hall, Sutton Hall and Mauldeth Hall, where he lives in a lovingly restored part of the grand old house; the rest of the rambling classical style building being the private residence of the consul-general of the People’s Republic of China in Manchester. Gerry was born in Guangzhou, China and spent his childhood in Hong Kong before coming to the UK in his teens. His father was a renowned dim sum chef in Hong Kong and he and his brother – regarded as one of the top Cantonese chefs in Europe and who also received an MBE in 2004 –

‘It has long been my ambition to build bridges between my homeland and my adopted country’ decided to continue the family tradition when they opened the Yang Sing in 1977; little realising that it would become a culinary institution. The name is a phonetic translation of ‘the city of goats’ – the nickname for their beloved hometown of Guangzhou, once known as Canton. But Gerry is quick to stress that he is now an equally proud Chinese Mancunian: “My family is here, my business and my home. Manchester is in my blood,” he declares. After completing his secondary education in the city Gerry went to York University, where he graduated with a BSc(Hons) in mathematics and philosophy. That was topped up with a Doctorate of Science (Honoris Causa) from the University of Salford in 2005.


After graduating from York Gerry embarked on a career as a trainee accountant, but soon after his father asked him to join the family business in Manchester. Despite having no previous business or managerial experience Gerry developed an individual style that soon brought the Yang Sing into the public eye. In 1983 it was the first ‘ethnic’ restaurant to be awarded a Pestle & Mortar – the highest accolade from the Good Food Guide – and became a focus for media attention that has never abated. Gerry is proud that the Yang Sing was largely responsible for raising the standards of Cantonese cuisine in the UK. It has subsequently been refurbished and redesigned – to the tune of £350,000 – to reflect a 1930s Shanghai-style restaurant. Gerry is a highly respected member of the Chinese community: vice-president of the North West Chinese Council; a member of the general assembly of the University of Manchester; honorary president of the Federation of Chinese Associations; an active member of the Asian Business Forum; the Portico Library; a director of Midas; and a former president of Manchester

Chamber of Commerce and Industry – amongst other activities. He is also involved with the International Trade Exhibition Centre, which aims to create a permanent exhibition space, wholesaling and logistics centre for 1,500 Chinese traders and manufacturers using the North West as a hub for marketing to the UK and Europe. “It has long been my ambition to build bridges between my homeland and my adopted country. This is the first step towards making those dreams a reality,” said Gerry, who is also deeply interested – and involved – in social issues such as education and health.

it was the first ‘ethnic’ restaurant to be awarded a Pestle & Mortar

Cumbria - © Ian Lawson/NWDA


Manchester, The Beetham Tower Š Paul McMullin

Tony Wilson

A tribute to one of the North West’s most inspirational entrepreneurs


ONY Wilson – who died at only 57 in August 2007 – might have been known as Mr Manchester and, if they had a mayor there, many might wonder who would have been more interesting or apt in the role, writes Angie Sammons. But in a way the Mr M tag, created by the media, is a bit of a misnomer. That he did more for the city in terms of popular culture than almost anyone else is undeniable, but Tony Wilson – Salford born – had a breadth of vision and appeal that reached far beyond the rainy city. Near to home, his eyes and his heart saw the whole North West region, including, of course, Manchester and Liverpool, as one big stamping ground, and he saw absolutely every reason to speak his mind about this place called Liverpool as if he belonged to the family. That attitude often got him into trouble, but Wilson’s fondness for Liverpool was sincere and he was often spotted there, chewing the fat with other great and not-so-great minds, holding court and sparking out grand ideas for the city as they occurred to him; such as a great museum of pop culture down on the waterfront (POP). In his early days as a broadcaster Wilson brought a little dash of danger to a very dull and worthy teatime news programme, and when he went on to introduce punk bands on the must-see Granada TV show So It Goes, and later What’s On, the image was already complete. In one particular face-to-face I wrote for the Daily Post he told how he’d been running up and down the motorway for three years – naturally unpaid – trying to get POP off the ground. “If anywhere in the world should house a museum of popular culture it is Liverpool, for the simple reason that popular

culture became globalised in the 20th century, and the primal act of popular culture is the pop group and the fundamental pop group is the Beatles.” It didn’t happen, of course, and Wilson shrugged: “Unfortunately, I get carried away with ideas and the fact that they are wonderful.” He became great for a soundbite after that – one of the people you’d ring if you needed a quote or an

‘What do I think of Liverpool winning Capital of Culture? It’s f*****g marvellous isn’t it?’ opinion on a big story. “Wilson!” he’d bark into the receiver on answering the mobile. “Yes, darling?” (he called everyone darling, even if he hadn’t caught the name) “I’m just driving. “What do I think of Liverpool winning Capital of Culture? It’s f*****g marvellous isn’t it? You can print that one for free. Got to go love, just jumped a bloody red light.” He knew his worth and didn’t give his thoughts to the media lightly. In 2006, in the North West Enquirer – where Wilson freelanced a sports column – we were going to run a big debate on which was the most important musical city in the last 30 years, with Paul du Noyer in the Mersey corner and Tony speaking up for Manchester. “Most important musical city in the last 30 years? Don’t you mean 50 years? If it’s 30 years you want


© Manchester Evening News

to do then we’ll trounce you love,” he yelled down the phone. “You really want to put the f*****g Teardrop Explodes up against The Smiths, The Buzzcocks, Joy Division, the Mondays. Do you really?” I paused. “Make it 50 years, factor in the Beatles and Liverpool might have a chance. Oh, and come back to me with a couple of figures when you’ve spoken to your editor and we’ll see if I’m interested. Goodbye.” I never did. I knew we’d never afford it. Like Tony, the paper had big ideas and no money. Factory and Hacienda came and went but Tony’s TV ambitions were far from over. He once told me he wanted to chair Question Time when he reached 60: “Because I’d be very good at it.” It was matter-of-fact, as if addressing the school debating society. “I wouldn’t be quite as good as Robin Day but I would be better than Paxman. I have the humility.”

Tony was a brilliant communicator. He may have had a big ego, but when Shaun Ryder sang, “Who’s got the biggest brain?” he surely must have been a contender. And he knew it. A big loss to two great northern cities – and the North West region overall – because there was nobody quite like him and as fellow broadcaster, Liam Fogarty, commented: “Every city needs a Tony Wilson.” The fact that he went so prematurely can only be irking him enormously – if that’s an option. And in a world where nobody knows exactly what it’s like to die, one can imagine Tony must be itching to be the first to tell us.


Angie Sammons is editor of the online magazine Liverpool Confidential, and has variously been arts editor of the late North West Enquirer, deputy features editor of the Liverpool Daily Post and chiefsub editor of the Sunday Express magazine.


Blackpool, Lancashire Š Paul McMullin

Nurturing the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs Geoffrey Piper Chief Executive of the North West Business Leadership Team


Geoffrey Piper was appointed the first chief executive of the North West Business Leadership Team in 1990 after heading up the Liverpool office of Deloitte Haskins and Sells. From 1987 he was chairman of the private sector investment initiative Business Opportunities on Merseyside, which was succeeded by the Mersey Partnership in 1993. Geoffrey is currently deputy chairman of the Partnership and chair of the North West Regional Assembly’s scrutiny body. He was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Merseyside in 1995 and is an honorary fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.

HE entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in England’s North West and we work hard to make sure this spirit is nurtured and spread throughout the region. As an organisation we strive to encourage and support the entrepreneurs of the future as part of our mission to make the region ‘A Great Place To Do Business’. We recognise that the success of this region depends primarily on the entrepreneurial talent that lives and works within it. If local entrepreneurs and their enterprises do well, then the region will prosper. If they fail, then the region will falter. So what can the North West Business Leadership Team do to help? Well, one very practical contribution is to offer a first-rate, flexible and tailored mentoring service. It is a proven fact that the failure rate in young start-ups falls dramatically if the business owner has received coaching or mentoring, so we became involved in the ‘Motivating Business to Innovate’ project in 2002. This European-funded project brought small companies with big ideas face to face with senior executives from our member companies. Top business leaders such as Stuart Chambers (Pilkington), Robert Hough (Peel Holdings) and Michael Oglesby (Bruntwood) gave time personally to provide this mentoring support. The project was a great success. Company owners who had the ideas, yet needed advice on matters ranging from intellectual property protection through to commercialising their innovation, were faced with a unique opportunity to spend time with senior executives from major businesses who could advise, guide and, on occasions, offer introductions to potential customers and partners. This level of access for smaller businesses across the region was unheralded and, based on its success, led to our involvement in a follow-on project: ‘Motivating Merseyside Businesses to Innovate’. This recognised a particular opportunity for economic growth in Merseyside through a mentoring service tailored to the needs of talented and creative local entrepreneurs. These two mentoring projects offered young entrepreneurs the opportunity to outline their issues and requirements and then be matched with an appropriate executive. Examples included an up-and-coming cosmetics business from Liverpool who was introduced to Unilever, resulting in new


Bidston Docks, Merseyside

business development in Germany, and a young innovator from Manchester, who had devised a new way of cutting hair using glass – the latter was introduced to the head of research at Pilkington in a link which has proved rewarding for both companies. In addition to these one-to-one meetings, we also hosted group mentoring sessions that involved project participants presenting their ideas to our member companies, including United Utilities, BT and Cisco. A number of these relationships resulted in commercial contracts being signed or technology transfer deals being realised. The mentoring and introductions made quite a contribution to nurturing our region’s next generation of entrepreneurs. We also see the value to young entrepreneurs of them having a high profile, which is why we have, over the years, keenly supported North West Insider’s ’42 under 42’ feature, published and widely distributed packs of ‘trump cards’ showing off young entrepreneurs and enterprising employees, and invited a number of up-and-coming business owners to present to our members. We are confident that all the young entrepreneurs who have been profiled across these activities have felt the benefit to themselves and their business. We recognise that a culture of enterprise and entrepreneurship develops very early in people’s lives, as a result of early experiences and opportunities. Our Education and Enterprise Group, therefore, attaches great importance to the role of business in supporting enterprise education in the region’s schools. Many of our member companies have developed innovative programmes to help inspire young people to see themselves as future entrepreneurs: BAE Systems holds an annual Rotary Technology Tournament for North West


secondary schools, whilst The Co-operative Group hosts regular events such as ‘Women in Enterprise’ at its Manchester headquarters for pupils from the specialist schools which it sponsors. New Heys School in Allerton, Liverpool, is working closely with us to promote close links between students and successful business leaders – deputy head, Alison Runcie, attaches high importance to the educational value of business and enterprise, noting a “huge cultural shift” since New Heys became a Business and Enterprise College. We also, of course, look to adopt new ways of working that will ensure our member companies remain competitive and efficient. This is why we are now a committed partner of the North West Flexible Working Group and undertaking a pilot project that will see flexible working introduced or expanded in six of our member companies (Addleshaw Goddard, KPMG, MBNA, Siemens, Cheshire Building Society and United Utilities). Flexible working is proven to deliver tangible benefits to both employer and employee. The employer benefits from increased productivity and reduced overheads and the employee benefits from having the freedom and flexibility to work from home and avoid the hassle of the daily commute! As an exemplar flexible employer, BT has recorded: • accommodation cost savings of up to £500 million annually • increases of between 15% and 31% in productivity gains • absenteeism which stands at 20% less than the national average • 70% of last year’s graduate recruits who put flexible working as one of BT’s top selling points.

Blackpool, Lancashire - © Lancashire Tourist Office/NWDA


In addition to the economic and ‘wellbeing’ benefits, flexible working is also friendly to the environment. According to the RAC Foundation, the reduced traffic congestion, which can be achieved through flexible working, could potentially cut peak traffic by up to 10% within five years. This would save 14.5 billion miles a year, equal to 17 million cars forgoing a trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats! It is for these reasons that we support flexible working and its adoption across the region so we can help close the productivity gap with the south of England, whilst being kind to the environment and, at the same time, ensuring individuals are enjoying an improved work/life balance. One entrepreneur we actively support is Emma Jones, who started her first business from a spare room in her Manchester apartment at the age of 27, successfully sold the business 15 months after launch and is now on to her second venture, managing the UK’s fastest growing website for people starting and growing a business from home. [] We see the value in Emma’s work as home-based businesses benefit the region’s economy, environment and society. Emma is well on her way to building a multi-media outfit for home workers and she has been assisted in no small part by advice and intelligence from a number of our members. The team behind Emma’s website is another shining example of the entrepreneurship which prospers in this region. Mando Group was founded by Matt Johnson and Ian Finch in the year they graduated from Liverpool John Moores University, and these two young entrepreneurs have gone on to build a creative agency powerhouse that works for national brands and is rapidly picking up a host of awards for their web, branding and design talent. These are just some of the many examples of exciting young North West businesses that are leading the way with the practical support and encouragement of the region’s major companies. If, together, we can continue to cultivate this spirit of enterprise, and support such individuals and businesses, the region’s vitality will be secured. The NWBLT certainly intends to continue playing its full and proper part.


Manchester is at the Heart of the North West of England Peter Heginbotham Chairman of Manchester Enterprises  


Peter Heginbotham is a senior partner in the legal firm Davis Blank Furniss and is a board member of Manchester: Knowledge Capital. He was president of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce in 1995/96 and was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. He was formerly a trustee of Manchester Lord Mayor’s Emergency Appeal Fund and is a director of the British Chamber of Commerce. He is an adviser to the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority, amongst other bodies, and a fellow of the RSA.

ANCHESTER is a city of firsts. Many cities and regions would make the same boast and there is no monopoly on it. However, it can claim some pretty impressive firsts, particularly when you view them in the context of the 20th century. The most fundamental step in each of arguably the two most significant inventions of the century took place here. The atom was split in Manchester in 1919 and, 30 years later, the first electronic random memory computer was invented. Manchester’s success was based on the cotton industry. The city contained the commercial core, in which could be found the merchants, the warehousing and the Royal Exchange. Manchester in its wider, city region, sense, which is that used in this article, and the various Lancashire cotton towns were home to all the mills; the carding, doubling, winding and weaving, as well as finishing and dyeing. Together all of this formed a huge industrial and social ecology. Looking back, you can see that despite the rivalries of all the cotton towns and the scorn that some parts of the industry had for others, all were inter-dependent. It led to an ability to work in co-operation, despite rivalries, that has been handed down to the present generation and results in today’s partnerships that have achieved so much. The wealth of the city and the surrounding area was based on textiles and textile machinery but there were, of course, other industries, notably chemicals. Mass production of motorcars began here, in Trafford Park, which became the world’s first industrial estate. Henry Ford set up there, while not far away Mr Rolls and Mr Royce, after their historic first meeting at the Midland Hotel, set up their first plant. Statistically, cotton reached its peak in 1913 but even in the 1930s the importance of the industry to the national economy was such that senior ministers frequently visited Manchester. The then director/secretary of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Sir Raymond Streat, regularly called in at the Board of Trade for a cup of tea with the permanent secretary, the practice of arriving with little or no announcement even occasionally extending to Number 10 Downing Street. International trading made Manchester into an outward looking city. It is only when you go abroad and see it from the outside that you realise


how international a city it is. Once I understood this myself, I described it as a “port without the sea”, although in fact they brought the sea to the city by constructing the Ship Canal. Manchester is the home of free and radical thought, not just inventions and industry. The campaign for free trade was based here and was fiercely, and successfully, fought. It’s no surprise that the key political statues in the centre include Peel himself, Gladstone, an acolyte of Peel, and free traders Cobden and Bright. It is easy to dwell on history, but it gives us a greater understanding of who we are and what we are capable of achieving. There have been more recent notable inventions in Manchester (the first test tube baby is a good example) but there is no doubt that we suffered a period of decline as it slowly became apparent that the cotton industry was not sustainable at its previous level. When the industry lapsed into protectionism and away from its free trade principles, in the 1930s, it made a fundamental mistake. Instead, it should have reformed itself to be competitive with emerging world rivals. That’s not just my view; Streat himself ruefully conceded it later in life. But the entrepreneurial spirit broke through again and after that decline there has been a massive resurgence to create a confident city region, the UK’s biggest provincial economic conurbation. Just consider the redevelopment of the city centre after the 1996 bomb attack. The response from the city council was swift and dramatic. The private sector kept pace. Ambitious plans were already in place, the Bridgewater Hall opening at about that time, for example, but they were accelerated and re-focused. The redevelopment of Spinningfields, The Beetham Tower,

Imperial War Museum North, Manchester - © Ian Lawson/NWDA


Manchester Central and Urbis, to name just a few, followed. Not just the city has been reinvigorated. For example, Trafford Park has been massively redeveloped, and the Kingsway venture in Rochdale (on the site where the same John Bright once had some of his mills) will reinvigorate another old industrial area. Not all of this can be done from the inside. Sometimes external resource is needed, regionally or nationally. The Northwest Regional Development Agency has supported many such investments, including the proposed BBC relocation to Salford Quays and Media City. This is all the more aweinspiring when you realise that the BBC’s large new presence there will be no more than 40% of the whole venture, which will fuel further growth in an already strong creative and media industry, one of several to fill the cotton gap. And, of course, it took creativity and entrepreneurialism from our civic leaders and the bid team to ensure the BBC did agree to move. ‘Knowledge’ has always been part of our culture, as the inventions mentioned earlier would testify. Two already excellent universities have merged as the new University of Manchester with the ambition to become a world leader, and we still have three others, Salford, MMU and Bolton, setting a high standard. The Knowledge Capital project has been formed to capture all that intellectual power and ensure it provides the maximum benefit for the economy. Economic agility requires physical mobility. We can justly be proud of our massively successful international airport, of the local motorway network and the groundbreaking Metrolink. But much needs to be done to improve capacity. If you look behind the curtain of congestion charging you will see the

Manchester International Airport - © Ian Lawson/NWDA


vision and ambition of massive planned transport improvements, a policy that has required a good deal of political courage and leadership. At Manchester Enterprises we have the privilege of writing the economic development plans for Greater Manchester and the wider city region too. We can only do that because the various local authorities are able and willing to work with each other and with the private sector. Without that level of co-operation and ambition, much of this would be impossible, and the development of a cohesive governance structure for Greater Manchester would not be on the drawing board, let alone showing the way forward for the rest of the country. Perhaps all this can be encapsulated in the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Built on the teamwork that began with the Olympic bids, they were a resounding success. At the time, national sports-related events and investments had resulted in a series of disasters and disappointments. I suspect it was for that reason that, while national resource was fed in, there was little or no national interference in the project. The Games showed how entrepreneurial leaders from both public and private sectors could deliver a flagship event, and a legacy for the city region afterwards, without any meddling from the outside. It exemplified what Manchester achieved many times in the past, and continues to achieve now. You can see, therefore, that Manchester’s current economic growth rate, which in some parts is greater than anywhere outside the South East, is not a coincidence; it’s a consequence.

Imperial War Museum - Š Ian Lawson/NWDA



One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to win new business is to join the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber hosts more than 90 networking events every year, offering superb opportunities to ‘sell’ to local opinion leaders and fellow business people.

Whether it’s our Business Breakfasts, Platform Lunches, Business After Hours, golf and tennis events or even Merseyside’s largest networking event - our famous Aintree Grand National day - it’s a great way to boost your bottom line.

together business profits Become a member today from less than £150 a year (inc. VAT).

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Liverpool, Merseyside. The famous QE2 arrives at Liverpool’s cruise liner terminal

‘Entrepreneurship is essential to a successful economy and the importance of promoting an enterprising culture throughout the region at all levels, particularly among young people, is one of the main platforms for the NWDA’ Bryan Gray Chairman The Northwest Regional Development Agency

The Bold Venturers  

The Bold Venturers is a celebration of the spirit of enterprise that exists in England’s North West region, which has an eclectic and fascin...

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