Niche Magazine Issue 40

Page 1


November/December 2020


Equal Education An academy trust’s appeal

It’s a Man’s World

Celebrating International Men’s Day

The Leicester Gift Card Rewarding staff, supporting local

GIVE THE GIFT OF LEICESTER. THE LEICESTER GIFT CARD gives you the freedom to shop with top high street brands, independent retailers, and amazing restaurants, leisure and entertainment venues in Leicester city centre.

PERFECT FOR BIRTHDAYS, CELEBRATIONS AND CORPORATE GIFTS. Buy yours online at: THELEICESTERGIFTCARD.COM Redeemable at over 100 businesses - see the full list on our website.


The Leicester

Gift Card rewarding employees,

supporting local In a bid to help Leicester recover from Covid and its extended restrictions, BID Leicester has come up with a gift card that can be spent in over 100 city centre businesses WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


he Leicester Gift Card, produced by BID Leicester, comes just in time for Christmas, when businesses will be gifting and rewarding their employees and clients for their hard work and loyalty over this turbulent year. Other local gift card schemes exist across the country. Last year, over 22,000 town and city gift cards were sold across the UK, with an average card value of £45. The scheme allows employers to gift team members while supporting other Leicester businesses simultaneously, locking in spend to the local economy, and helping to support communities. Simon Jenner, BID Leicester Director, said: “For local companies, it’s a great way to give a gift to staff and also to ensure that the spend is invested locally, helping to support a vibrant and attractive city centre for their employees to work in. “There may be limited scope for Christmas parties or office nights-out due to limits on group sizes, but companies can still

show their gratitude to staff through the Leicester Gift Card. “And it’s not just city centre companies that can benefit. As it can be spent in shops, bars, cafés, restaurants, and leisure experiences, it’s the perfect gift for family, friends, and colleagues because all ages and tastes are catered for.” BID Leicester suggests employers can use the card as a ‘welcome back to the office’ gift as well as a Christmas bonus, leaving or milestone gift. The Leicester Gift Card can be spent in retail chains, independent shops, restaurants, pubs, cinemas, and hotels including the likes of John Lewis, King Richard III Visitor Centre, Boots, Pandora, Marks & Spencer, Novotel, and Giggling Squid. Independent businesses also participating include Set, Manhattan 34, Wellgosh, Chutney Ivy, 23 Wine & Whiskey, Prana Café, Healthy Route, and Harriman & Co. Sarinda Bains, marketing executive at BID Leicester, added: “From big brands to independent traders, your employees can decide how best


to spend their reward. “It’s the time of year where companies reward their employees for all their hard work – and this year, showing gratitude to the people in your business is more important than ever.” Discounts are available for larger corporate orders. Get in touch with the BID team for more details by emailing


To sign up, businesses must: ◆ Have a physical store customers can visit within the BID area ◆ Accept Mastercard ◆ Have a card terminal that has the function to swipe magnetic strips To express your interest, email:


◆ Gift cards can be loaded with values from £5 to £500 ◆ Companies buying for employees will receive 10% off with orders over £5000 To purchase the Leicester Gift Card, visit

























0116 271 2573






Photography & Video courtesy of: Hitz Rao Photography 0116 246 0475 Catherine Baker Disclaimer – Niche Magazine and Cross Productions Ltd are fully protected by copyright; no part of this magazine may be reproduced or reprinted without the complete and expressed permission of the publisher. The greatest care has been taken to ensure accuracy, however there can be no liability accepted by the publisher for errors and omissions. We can under no circumstance be held responsible for any materials, matter or photographical copy submitted for publication or not within the website or magazine. We cannot be held responsible or liable for any breaches of copyright from adverts, materials or photography or any other such material supplied by a third party. The views and opinions expressed within our publications are not necessarily those of the publisher or indeed Niche Magazine or any featured parties.

Distribution Media Matters Direct Chutney Ivy The Green Grazer Self Select Distribution


is the trade mark of Cross Productions and used under license by Jennifer Cross. All rights reserved. No reproduction, copying or otherwise without permission.

nichemagazineuk @magazineniche

Published by Cross Productions Ltd 17 Mandervell Road, Oadby, Leicester LE2 5LR


need to firstly express our heartbreak at the passing of our culture columnist and dear friend Tracey Miller in October. She will be greaty missed in the business community having played an important role in many organisations’ stories. For those who would like to share memories or photos of Tracey in our next issue, please send them to Since our last issue, Leicester is now not alone after a series of localised lockdowns have been placed upon other cities. We’ve witnessed lots of debate around students returning to education, arts and events funding, the buoyancy of the property market, which our cover story couple Jaz Kaur and Narinder Nijjar of the Lettings and Sales Business look at more closely, and much more. It’s been a confusing and challenging time for all as we continue to adapt. We were thrilled then to hear that Curve and The Little Theatre will be reopening on November 12 and December 1 respectively. And we were excited to work alongside Suit Direct for the official launch of their new Highcross store. It’s great to welcome businesses into our city in these times. We continued to hold high hopes that we would be able to host this year’s Niche Business Awards in the early part of 2021 at Athena – unfortunately, it is not to be. We are excited though to be able to host the ceremony virtually. Join us on January 22, 2021 to celebrate our finalists and 16 deserving winners. Tickets can be purchased via All ticket proceeds will be donated to the winner of this year’s Charity of the Year award. We’ve also been lucky enough to be able to welcome two new team members Amy and Jake. We are grateful to be in a position to add two more hard working local people to our team. Our parent company Cross Productions is once again supporting Leicester Business Festival. Sally Smith and Stacey Wragg will be hosting a LinkedIn Master Class on November 5. Cross’ CEO Jenny Cross will be a guest panellist alongside ex-LeicestershireLive editor George Oliver now businessowner of 1284 Ltd for ‘The Best of Building Back Better: Crisis thinking to policy change – and what it means for Leicester Business’, on November 10. Jenny will also be acting in her role as an FSB Area Lead joining them for two events. In other news, we’d like to congratulate Jenny on being made an honorary member of the Leaders Council, which recognises leadership figures who have kept the country running throughout this year. We are celebrating International Men’s Day and Movember throughout November. We hope you can take inspiration from the stories of local businessmen who reveal the emotional struggles they’ve faced while running a business.




40 It’s A Man’s World

78 NOT JUST ANOTHER AGENT The Lettings and Sales Business

Male mental health in business 42

Earning respect and trust


A family business to stand the test of time


How grief and loss can change a man

44 Starting a business in hospitality

Cover Image The Lettings and Sales Business photographed at Winstanley House Photographed by Hitz Rao at Hitz Rao Photography 0116 246 0475

20 Build Back Better in Leicester 22

Beyond business as usual


Accounting for Leicester, protecting the planet

62 Equal Education

An academy trust’s appeal

77 Home A review of the property market


The Leicester Gift Card


From veg stand to entrepreneur

Rewarding staff, supporting local


‘It’s OK to be Mr OK’



From aid worker to app provider

Driving leicester’s economic recovery

Leicester professionals offer advice and support

47 Experiencing fatherhood with entrepreneurship


Festivities in Leicester


The intimate subject of the pleasure industry


Our health and beauty Christmas gift selection


Making mum and dad proud


Growing up in Europe’s most bombed town

93 How to shop safely this Christmas 96

Our local Christmas gift guide


Running a property agency during a pandemic


Buying your first home in a pandemic


The future of plumbing


The biggest mistake first time buyers can make


Repair v replace


The people behind the Corn Exchange revamp


Construction boss calls for diversity in the built environment


Local artist and maker reimagines furniture







Leaders Council apponts Honorary member



GP turns to holistic healthcare


High Streets Task Force

The outlook for glaucoma patients


Local winner of national award Support for BAME communities


REVIEWED: Ragdale Hall


38 International family conflicts




BUSINESS 19 How to become a strong leader 26 Niche Business Awards goes virtual

Company merger appoints new directors


Green BELLE grants to save energy


Who’s eligible for the Business Growth Grant


What Covid means for accessing finance


HMRC clearances


Could Leicester be a property hotspot? What you need to know about Members’ Voluntary Liquidation Preventing insolvency


Taking advantage of energy price drops


Stonemason and geologist set up art gallery


The pressure of lockdown on businessmen


Numbers, relationships and ethics



A conference that gives back



Top tips for trades promotion


Coaching opportunities after job loss


Could this disease be awaiting your return to the office?

MARKETING 67 4 ways to prep for New Year marketing 69

Taking a good portrait

FOOD 100 Surviving the arts and entertainment industry 100 Authentic Bangladeshi Cuisine in Cosby

CULTURE 102 Local author’s new book on Leicester’s most prominent sporting teams 103 In loving memory of our culture columnist

CHARITY 103 Church and charity team up to create new café 104 16 Days of Activism against 105 Charwood charity’s Covid support 106 How Hope Against Cancer has coped this year

Christmas 2020 Lights For Leicester

With Christmas right around the corner, City Centre Director Sarah Harrison gives us the run-down on how Leicester will be lit up with festive cheer

08 | NICHE


lthough the current situation means that Christmas 2020 will be different this year, the council and partners have been working hard to make sure that Leicester looks and feels magical throughout the festive season. The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that all events that attract large crowds have needed to be cancelled for the first time in decades – the Christmas Light Switch On event will not take place in the city centre, and unfortunately there will be no real ice rink in Jubilee Square. On the bright side, the mammoth task of installing over 16,000 twinkling lights and decorations in the city’s main shopping areas is already well under way. It starts in mid-October and takes more than a month to install decorations in over 20 city streets. As in previous years, the council has spent an extra £50,000 on refurbishing the lights – check out the brand new look for Horsefair Street and Humberstone Gate West this year, with both streets dressed with new decorative spans. At the Clock Tower will be a giant 50ft Christmas tree decorated with over 6,000 warm lights and hundreds of colourful baubles. The Christmas Light Switch On will be a virtual experience this year. From



Every effort has been made by the council, BID Leicester, and the businesses to bring some muchneeded festive cheer this year

the comfort of their own homes, families across the city and beyond will be able to enjoy the spectacular storytelling and dance production created by Curve Theatre especially for Christmas in Leicester 2020. It is certainly not to be missed. Also new this year will be a six-week online programme of events, competitions, gift ideas, top ten toys, and plenty more fun things to do and see hosted on the Christmas in Leicester website and social media platforms. Town Hall Square will be festooned with Christmas lights and the ‘Christmas Greetings’ message on the Town Hall building. Against the backdrop of the fountain with its golden-winged lions, children will delight at the tableau depicting the Tales of Narnia and the city’s traditional nativity scene. In Green Dragon Square at Leicester Market, illuminated garlands will be hung between the square’s lamp-columns, with the trees in the square lit up with pea-lights. An interactive snowflake game will be projected onto the back of the Corn Exchange providing loads of family fun. Cinema nights will be held in the square in December with socially distanced seating and friendly ambassadors to provide a helping hand.

The Wheel of Light will be back in Jubilee Square, providing a beautiful, graceful landmark. The trees in Jubilee Square will also be lit with pea lights to create that extra festive sparkle. Every effort has been made by the council, BID Leicester, and local businesses to bring some much-needed festive cheer this year. We are asking everyone to support the city businesses and shop locally this year. More than ever, they need your support. Enjoy choosing gifts, eating out with the family, a bit of pampering or engaging in a fun, family activity. If you are stuck for ideas for colleagues, friends or family then the newly launched BID Leicester Gift Card is the perfect solution. The gift card, which can be purchased at values between £5 and £500, can be spent in more than 100 city centre businesses. Cards can be purchased at Visit Leicester Information Centre, King Richard III Visitor Centre, 4a St Martins or online at There is so much choice from the well-known high street brands to the many independent businesses which Leicester is so proud of. For more information, visit and NICHE | 09


Leicester app co-founder appointed to High Streets Task Force The co-founder of multi-award-winning app LoyalFree has been appointed by the High Streets Task Force to help communities and local Government transform their high streets. Sophie Hainsworth, who cofounded the app in 2016, joins over 150 experienced professionals to work with towns in England over the next four years. High Streets Task Force, commissioned by the government in 2019 to strengthen local leadership in high streets, is an alliance of place making experts that provides encouragement, tools and skills to help communities and local government transform their high streets. The alliance delivers information, advice, training, knowledge and data to help the public to make a positive difference to their local communities. High Streets Task Force experts advise on a range of issues, including planning, urban design, placemaking, landscape architecture, resilience, transport, valuation, asset management, investment, governance, data and analytics, place management and leadership. Appointing recognised experts to support local authorities, Sophie joins as a facilitator. She will be helping to support experts in their work with place leaders, principally in the delivery of workshops with local authorities and communities. Sophie said: “I am absolutely thrilled to join the High Streets Tasks Force. This comes at a crucial time when digital is at the forefront of the high street recovery and sharing best 10 | NICHE

Jennifer Cross becomes honorary member of the Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland The Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is currently in the process of recognising the leadership figures who have helped keep the country running during this unprecedented period in our history. To that end, Jennifer Cross from Cross Productions Ltd was made an honorary member of the Leaders Council in October. Cross has pledged to adhere to the Leaders Council’s Charter of Principles and to do everything possible to help aid our nation’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Commenting on this nationwide push to recognise leaders such as Cross, Lord Blunkett, chairman of The Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland said: “Keeping an organisation in operation during this period is no small feat and it is our belief that the thousands of leadership figures across the country deserve a greater level of recognition. It is inspiring to see so many of them sign our Charter of Principles. We are very fortunate to have so many dedicated leaders in this country and this is our small way of recognising them and the contribution they make.” The Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was set up to support and champion leadership in all its forms. The Charter of Principles can be signed by any leadership figure who wishes to do so but anyone found flouting the principles is removed. The aim is to ensure that the nation’s recovery is built on the strongest possible foundations. You can read more about Cross Productions Ltd and the Leaders Council’s Charter of Principles at

practice across place management will be incredibly beneficial. “I am really looking forward to being part of this national effort and supporting local authorities and communities to transform their high streets.” The LoyalFree app supports high street businesses by providing a platform for digital loyalty, tourism information and interactive tours

and trails. Already in over 25 towns and cities across the UK, LoyalFree continues to expand and to support the high street through this turbulent time. Alongside the place promotion app, a new LoyalFree marketplace has brought a commission-free e-commerce platform to independent businesses to aid in the economic recovery from Covid-19.

Leicester businessman named Service Industries Entrepreneur of the Year The founder of Digital Ethos, Luke Tobin, has been named Service Industries Entrepreneur of the Year for the Midlands at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. In a video message to finalists, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “Entrepreneurs [have shown they] stay strong, even during a global pandemic. Coronavirus hasn’t stifled enterprise. “Entrepreneurs are creating new businesses and adapting to the crisis, as seen in this year’s entries. And that’s what we need to happen if we want our economy to bounce back. We need all of you to keep inventing, keep taking risks, keep creating new businesses. “It’s my job as Chancellor to celebrate, champion and support you. “Congratulations to all the winners. Thank you to all of you for everything you’ve done.” Now in its eighth year, the Great

British Entrepreneur Awards in partnership with Starling Bank celebrate the hard work and inspiring stories of entrepreneurs in the UK, rather than the business’ balance sheet. The service industries account for more than 80% of the UK’s entire economy, making it a particularly important area to recognise. To stand out in the service industries requires something special. Digital Ethos is an award-winning, full-service digital marketing agency based in Leicester and York that provides exceptional digital solutions for businesses of all shapes and sizes in all industries, backed by extensive experience and data-driven results. With Covid-19 restrictions preventing the regional finals taking place at a live event, Luke won the award during a virtual award ceremony joined by finalists across every region.

Luke Tobin explains: “I am absolutely honoured to win this award and proud of everything we’ve achieved to get to where we are today. It’s a fantastic recognition but I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my team, so really this is a win for all of us. “The Great British Entrepreneur Awards team, Starling Bank and all of the other sponsors involved put tremendous effort into making the event and everything surrounding this a great success. Bring on the nationals.” Francesca James, founder of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, said: “Luke has a wonderful entrepreneurial story and I’m delighted for him to win this award. I’ll be keeping a very close eye on what he does in the years to come and look forward to welcoming Luke to the community.” Anne Boden, founder and CEO of Starling Bank, said: “We’re entrepreneurs and we have spirit. We fight back and we’re very good at dealing with adversity. And Luke is an example to us all, of entrepreneurs that are creative, innovative, and changing the world. “I’m so excited that Starling, a business I founded in 2014 and now the Best British Bank, is sponsoring such an important Awards. And as one entrepreneur to another, congratulations to getting where you are this evening and best of luck for the future.” The winners of each category will now go to the National Final of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, which will take place on December 8.

Leicester based projects help support BAME communities through Covid-19 The Covid-19 pandemic that has spread across the globe has had devastating effects on communities across the world. But here in the UK, especially in Leicester, BAME communities have faced many other challenges during this unprecedented time. A report issued by Public Health England, outlines how some ethnic groups are more susceptible to contracting the virus, and as a result, face higher mortality rates. It’s mentioned that not only are BAME communities facing struggles with the virus itself, but a variety of socio-economic challenges weigh on these communities too. Voluntary Action LeicesterShire (VAL) deliver two projects that are funded by the European Social Fund and The National

Lottery Community Fund; the Youth Employability Support (YES) Project and the Getting Ready for Employment and Training (GREAT) Project. The projects set out to reduce social isolation by offering support that can help with employability as well as health and well-being. To date, the YES and GREAT Projects have supported over 1,180 participants combined, and 36% of these participants are from BAME communities; so it was paramount their services adjusted to reflect the new challenges that have arose. Both the YES and GREAT Projects were quick to recognise that members of BAME communities were facing more barriers, and acted swiftly on adapting their ways of delivery to ensure their participants were still able to access support. NICHE | 11

Driving economic recovery Industry experts share their knowledge to help the businesses of Leicestershire pull through the effects of the pandemic Our Columnists

CEO, e-Bate Limited


Revealing the latest views, opinions and insider information, professionals and experts in their fields cover the current subjects on the minds of local businesses and consumers during and post-pandemic. A second lockdown meant Leicester fell behind in the recuperation of its economy. But our county found a king in a car park and our city beat 5,000/1 odds to win the Premier League, so our columnists are confident that communities can join forces to drive Leicester’s economic recovery. They provide thought-provoking, informative and inspiring commentary in a bid to support business leaders, assist the restart of companies across the county, and provide encouragement to those struggling to find their way.

Embracing technology to aid our economic recovery

e are always facing technological change, but Covid-19 has accelerated this across many business sectors. To aid our economic recovery, when we still have ‘Brexit’ negotiations ongoing, and aim to significantly reduce our carbon footprint, never has there been greater motivation to look at how technology can help us innovate and become stronger. Digital technology and remote work have played a vital role in our capacity to manage the pandemic, and it’s important that we continue to look at how digital technologies and innovation can help. This is both in terms of the actions we need to put in place now, as well as the steps we need to take to maximise the potential of technology to deliver a more robust, green, thriving economy fit for the future to ensure the 12 | NICHE

Have something on your mind? Write in to us to request a topic of discussion via

UK remains strong. Covid-19 has had an unprecedented impact on businesses, our communities and the global economy, and is likely to significantly accelerate the shift to digital. From remote meetings to automated business processes, robotic factories, online orders and robotic deliveries, digital services are growing in importance across an increasing number of sectors and activities. We need to be able to use data and information to provide crucial insights, allowing us to be more agile and flexible. Already, we can see efficiencies emerging in many sectors. Firms that are already using digital technologies are adapting better to the ongoing crisis, and others are rapidly upskilling in response to challenges to their business models. Several businesses have moved to online services for survival during the pandemic, but the efficiencies are proving invaluable, with companies able to drastically cut operational costs, so businesses are now viewing digital technologies as a key focus area. Many businesses I speak to are expecting that working from home will continue for the foreseeable future. The Government needs to work to increase the skills in digital technologies and support digital transformation, which is driven by SMEs.

Financial Planner, Brewin Dolphin


Reducing the risk of inflation

Partner, The Miller Partnership


nvestors looking to preserve the purchasing power of their wealth will need to be prepared to take on some risk – and to be comfortable seeing the value of their money fluctuate. This still leaves them the conundrum of where to invest in an environment that is not only uncertain but hints at the prospect of higher inflation further down the line. The recent increased demand for investments that protect against inflation such as precious metals and inflation-protected bonds suggest that many investors are already investing with higher inflation in mind. The gold price hit an all-time high approaching US$2,000 an ounce in July, while inflation protected bond yields have been driven down to an all-time low (implying that higher inflation will be needed to make holding these worthwhile). Demand for gold typically increases when, as is the case now, ‘real’ inflation-adjusted interest rates and government bond yields are low or negative. This helps explains gold’s strong run since the Covid stimulus packages

Patent Box: Encouraging innovation through tax incentives

s companies adapt to the myriad of challenges that doing business in the time of coronavirus brings, many are actively looking to innovate and bring new products to market. If your company is among them and has patented something new, it could be well worth exploring the tax benefits available through Patent Box. Introduced by the UK government in April 2013, Patent Box was designed to encourage British technology, innovation and entrepreneurship by shaving up to 10% off the corporation tax on income received from patents. Its key objectives are to increase Britain’s level of patented intellectual property, give companies further incentives to retain and commercialise existing patents and help businesses make and sell their innovative products and services from the UK. According to the most recent HMRC figures, 1,170 UK

were announced, but another precious metal that is often overlooked by investors is silver. While gold has recently reached an all-time high, silver is still around half its record high despite rising sharply during the pandemic. Inflation-linked bonds give investors an opportunity to suffer lower interest payments now, on the basis that they will rise along with inflation (along with the eventual redemption payment too). Meanwhile, equities have long been considered to have inherent inflation-protection characteristics and there are several studies that back up that assertion. Not all equities are the same and depending on the environment, some stocks will fare better than others. And, while inflation is not prevalent yet, the stock market would likely start to price in any impact on companies, whether positive or negative, long before it became a reality. The higher inflation debate will continue to simmer and investors may need to step up the risk ladder to achieve their financial goals, aware that simply sitting on cash is risky too – even when inflation remains modest. It’s why a pragmatic investment approach and a balanced, diversified strategy is as important as it has ever been.

companies claimed tax relief totalling £1,035 million under Patent Box in 2016-2017, but we believe that’s just a fraction of the businesses that are eligible to claim. New rules, which have made the calculations more complex, were introduced in July 2016, but the old regime still applies until next year for those companies who joined the scheme before 2016. Patent Box profits under the old system are usually worked out on the basis of proportionality, apportioning the profits on the basis of the proportion of patented items sold. Under the new rules, profits from patents must be calculated using a streaming method, where specific costs are allocated against the income from the patented items. This is more complex to do but often gives a better result for the company. Anyone who joined Patent Box after 2016 – and everyone from 2021, whenever they joined – will have to stream their profits and expenses, so it’s important to keep your records straight to ensure you have all the necessary information. Elements of the scheme might sound complicated, but that’s no reason not to take advantage of it. Patent Box is there to help you, so take professional tax advice and see whether the relief can be applied to your patent. NICHE | 13

Owner of The Turnaround CEO


Accountability in lockdown

or me, in this issue, I wanted to talk about accountability as accountability is massive, especially in times when we are spending time alone. We have fewer people to bounce ideas off and we have fewer people to mix with. When you are not mixing with people who really push and inspire (you know, these are the ones who we class as the eagles, the go-getters, the award winners, the ones who you see doing the do), it is easy to get in a slump and maybe retreat or even become less dominant and visible. It is easy to drop a level, lose confidence, and not even become aware of it. We establish a new norm with a new routine, especially if life circumstances change and new routines have to be mastered around family, home working, and generally a new lifestyle. 14 | NICHE

HR Director, Affinity HRM

s a small businessowner, I regularly look back to look forward and analyse what has worked well in our business, what could do with some tinkering and what we could do differently at Pattersons Commercial Law. I find it helps that I am surrounded by businessowners who I regularly advise as a corporate solicitor and some of whom I lean on for inspiration. When I look to 2021, I see lots of change happening and whilst there will be economic and geopolitical uncertainty, business owners will want to have a clear understanding of what they need to do to lead their businesses, the challenges they face and the commitments they will have to make. There may be a temptation to look at sources of funding to bolster up the balance sheet or to review the management structure to ensure it is fit for purpose, but sometimes it is also about taking a leap of faith into the unknown and making a commitment to your business. For me, 2021 will see strong leaders emerge with a clear focus on what they want from their businesses, they’ll place trust in their teams and they will have thought heavily about what the future holds for them and their families. Let’s face it, our families play a huge role in what we do as businessowners and they shape our core values.


Director, Pattersons Commercial Law


Looking back to look forward

Post pandemic people planning

o, from lockdown to unlock, the pandemic has thrown up serious (and complex) HR challenges, leaving businessowners, facing lots of tough choices on how to ensure the continuity and indeed survival of their businesses. With HR working round the clock to support leaders in balancing the evolving needs of the business and their workforce, we’ve been tasked with handling everything from supporting teams with home working, managing absences, furloughing staff, poor mental health, managing performance and even sudden bereavement. HR has proved itself the ‘go-to’ expert in a crisis. On a positive note, the crisis has presented leaders with plenty of opportunities for long-term change and the businesses who have started to capitalise on these are on the road to recovery, owing to their flexible and innovative approach. Above all, they have put people at the heart of business strategy, embracing a much more ‘human’ approach.

Accountability is so important, even for a leader. We all need someone to hold us to account. Someone to push us and someone to see where we are not being as strong as we should or where we are not being true to ourselves. For me, accountability and coaching are so necessary. Without this, who drives you? Who motivates you? Who helps you get your passion? Who helps you get that clear vision? Without someone holding you accountable, pushing you, and taking you out of your comfort zone, how can you actually get better? Sometimes it is not easy to get better because to get better you have to get into the uncomfortable. Things that potentially fill you with fear and out of the norm. Even sometimes things that are so new, they can frighten you. If it frightens you and scares you, that means it is driving you forward and maybe that fright can also be mixed with excitement. It will help release the adrenaline that will fire up the engine and make you perform. So, this is the reason accountability for me is massive. It helps to put in the plans and to ensure you deliver and even to make sure your plans are big enough and exciting enough for growth.

1. Create a strong return to work plan that is structured to make it a positive experience where your team feel valued and secure. 2. Conduct a skills audit on your team. How do these skills support the new demands of your business? 3. A critical goal of recovery should be to move toward a more resilient workforce, shifting away from rigid routine and structure.

Corporate and banking partner at Nelsons


The HR choices you make today will likely define its impact in the recovery and its role in the future of your business. Look after your team and they will look after your customers.

Access to finance for SMEs

Senior Lecturer in Enterprise Development, DMU

PERCY EMMETT FCMI Most employers implemented huge changes for their people in a matter of days to manage the crisis at the outset – and now it’s time to make sure plans for the post-Covid-19 era are even more effective. Here are a few key areas we’ve been working with business owners on:

Tomorrow’s leaders and workforce

ight now, it’s more important than ever that we work with the students who will be tomorrow’s leaders and workforce – they will need to be more resilient than ever due to the global pandemic. Adopting a way of thinking which considers their route to market in greater detail is imagining what the job market will look like in 2021. Instead of a focus on a particular job or career with a particular company as a goal as such, a student can look to build their own portfolio of skills with a freelance attitude in mind. This leaves the company with a lesser responsibility to employ fully and the freelancer more autonomy and varied experience to help them move flexibly from work to work. Next, I would welcome students to really use this time to reflect on what they want from their working life. I would advise them to do inner work to really uncover what it is that they want their career to look like, rather than what they feel might be expected of them from their family or tutors. Do they want to start a social enterprise that gives back to the local community. Or do they want to start a limited company of their own? Or is it the family business for them? Lastly, this year for industry has been very tough indeed, but I look at it from the perspective of change. A shift in how a student may perceive their entry into the job market – stripping things right back to what they want their future to look like and taking steps to make it happen.

Even if you have already had ‘state aid’ support, you may still be eligible for further support. You can check your basic eligibility by visiting the British Business Bank website at, and navigate to the relevant section. ◆ Tax deferrals – make the most of the current opportunities to defer certain tax payments.

t’s a challenging time for many businesses trying to raise finance, especially at the moment, so we have listed some possible options below to help support you and your business.

Debt/Equity ◆ Bank funding – loans, overdrafts, invoice/debt finance, asset finance. Many banks/lenders are in this space and you don’t have to have one provider for all funding. ◆ Private investment – (debt and/or equity) from you, friends/ family, private investors, business angels, venture capital funds or other private equity funds. Again, many private investors/funds are in this space.

Government backed ‘Covid’ loan schemes (still available) ◆ Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – for finance up to £5m and can be in the form of a term loan, overdraft, invoice finance and/or asset finance facility. ◆ Bounce Back Loan Scheme – for a term loan up to £50k. ◆ Future Fund – investor-led for ‘convertible’ loans between £125k and £5m. For this scheme, the eligibility criteria is more complicated and applications must be made by November 30 2020.

Others ◆ Other ‘public funded’ loan and equity based programmes – check your local area for what is available as some are national programmes. The ‘public’ funding is often made alongside ‘private’ funding. ◆ Grants – check what grants may be available. ◆ R&D tax credits – corporation tax relief on R&D projects. ◆ Other tax reliefs – check what other tax reliefs may be available. NICHE | 15

Director, 2XL Commercial Finance


My bank said no… what next?

t the time of writing, the deadline for applying for government-backed funding is looming large and, ultimately, more and more businesses will start feeling the pinch as the current Covid crisis shows no sign of easing. As alluded to in my article in issue 39, many banks have stopped lending altogether. So what options are available to you if your business is starved of cash and needs an injection fast? The important thing to realise is not all lenders are the 16 | NICHE

Partner, Charnwood Accountants

fter many months of lockdown, the road to recovery will not be an easy one for the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector. In many ways, ‘building back’ will be a very similar process for VCSE organisations as for businesses – adapting to the new realities of virtual working, bringing back staff after furlough and finding ways to be sustainable in the face of uncertainty. During what has been a very difficult time for the voluntary sector, VAL has been supporting local groups to access funding, plan for the future, recruit volunteers, adapt their service delivery and much more. Our Future Focus event went virtual this year, and was themed around resilience and recovery, with keynote speeches from national funders, workshops from local industry experts and facilitated peer support panels. Working in partnership with Leicester City Council, VAL administrated a Covid Community Grant fund, with over 160 applications reviewed and assessed within a two-week period. This support to city organisations was vital during the extended lockdown, but our expertise in the needs of the local VCSE sector extends beyond our infrastructure support, with a focus on enabling groups to upskill, engage, and adapt. We know organisations will need a great deal of support to build back better and there are many ways that the business community is helping; from financial donations, offering equipment or property, or sharing skills and knowledge. But more importantly, businesses can also be advocates for the voluntary sector, raise awareness, and show their support to the community. We are working with a number of local businesses to find ways that they can help their local communities. If you want to support the voluntary sector but don’t know where to start, there’s always one good first step – ask VAL.


Chief Executive, VAL


Resilience and recovery for the voluntary sector

Know what you owe in 2021

o you remember what you pushed down the road back in March? I am sure the majority of businessowners used at least one of the measures the Government put in place to help support businesses. One of the most useful at the time was the VAT deferral. Then there was also the deferral of July payments on account for personal tax, as well as the bounce back and CBILS loans with deferred repayment. However, now we are nearly at the end of the year. The first quarter of 2021 is when many of these things will start requiring repayment. Are all the various payments built into your cash flow as well as your other usual payments? Have a look at this example. Widgits Ltd has a March 31, 2020 year end. It deferred its VAT for the quarter ending March 31, 2020. This is now due next year on March 31, 2021. It was £126,000 and the December VAT due by February 7 is £89,000.

same. What I mean is: just because one lender or even your own bank has declined you, it doesn’t mean another lender won’t want to deal with you. Each lender has a different risk appetite and that can be influenced by many factors including the sector your business might be in, property type, loan-to-value (LTV), years trading, and many more. So just because you have been declined doesn’t mean that’s the end. The same could be said for looking at your rates of borrowing if successful. The common preconception is that your own bank will give you the best deal. In most cases, this is simply not the case and ‘shopping around’ in the same way you would for your car insurance can be fruitful. The fact that many banks have closed for business has seen an emergence of alternative lenders. In this, I would include P2P (peer to peer funders) as well as lenders that will lend against debtor book, stock, assets and even in some cases, those completely unsecured. Many of these lenders won’t be household names or people you’ve ever heard of as these lenders tend to market their services via specialist brokers who deal with a wide range of clients. The message Don’t give up hope. Options are available and the chance to access funding via alternative lenders may well be out there!

Collaboration and retention

ooking back to this time last year, we had just released an article in this magazine about 2020 recruitment trends and businesses needing to get ready for what was set to be a brilliant year ahead. There was a huge buzz surrounding a new decade and, as a recruitment consultancy, we were seeing more businesses than ever getting prepared with their recruitment strategies, with many noting that it can take time to attract top talent before hiring them in the New Year. Fast forward to today, and 2020 has catapulted many

Head of Practice, Glynis Wright & Co Solicitors

GLYNIS WRIGHT Director at Eileen Richards Recruitment


The company took out a CBILS loan for £400,000 on April 10, 2020. Although this is interest-free for 12 months, the loan agreement actually asks for capital repayments to start after nine months. So, from January 2020, capital repayments of £6,667 per month will be due. And, from April 2020, interest of a further £1,100 will be due. Until Covid-19 kicked in, the business was actually doing really well. Therefore, on their results to March 2020 they will owe corporation tax on January 1 of £325,000. As well, the deferred personal tax payment of the shareholders, which the business pays, plus their tax bill for this January comes to a further £42,000. Thus, between January and March 2021, there is a cash demand on the business of just under £600,000! In September, the Government recognised this issue and announced payment plans would be available, so it is important you know what you owe and get these payment plans agreed as soon as possible.

Covid, business and divorce

s divorce lawyers, we are privy to the different assets that exist within a marriage and how they must be shared. This includes a business. When I am instructed by businessowners petitioning for divorce, they will often say that the stress of running their own business had a profound effect on the demise of their marriage, sometimes because they had to be ‘workaholics’ and could not manage a work-life balance, or owing to the financial stresses and strains that often go hand in hand with running a business. The recent pandemic has made this situation even worse, where businessowners face more challenges and risk than ever before, and where the uncertainty and sudden financial insecurity resulting from the pandemic has been the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ for the marriage. So, where does a businessowner stand when going through a financial settlement in respect of the division of the business shares as an asset? The first and most important thing is for that owner to speak to a divorce lawyer to get a feel for how the shares will be valued and what mitigating factors may be applied so that the shares are not overvalued in today’s market. During this pandemic period, it is absolutely crucial that the huge risk that is being carried by businessowners is properly taken into account when valuing the shares, along with factors such as the recovery rate of the business and/or the possibility that the business may not survive at all. These crucial matters require early advice from a divorce lawyer specialising in financial settlements. Therefore, if you are a businessowner and fear that your marriage is struggling, do not wait – call us and take early advice.

businesses into a completely different position to where they expected, or were planning, to be. But for most, the positivity and future intentions remain. The days in Leicester lockdown are now into the hundreds, yet despite much more uncertainty and changes potentially lying ahead of businessowners yet, many are looking forward to what next year holds and are planning ways to bounce back from the impact of Covid-19. Whilst many previous discussions have been solely about survival, more recent conversations with our clients have presented a common theme that businesses are now looking to not only survive, but to thrive. This year has seen many employers having to make immensely difficult decisions which have often been out of their hands, so 2021 will be all about taking that power back. A key way for us to do this is through collaboration and retention. Leicester is a vibrant city which is home to fantastic organisations, business schools and universities; to continue to live up to our thriving reputation, we need to attract and retain existing and emerging talent within our region. Despite the feeling of a ‘city in standstill’ there have also been many success stories. It may not have been the 2020 ourselves and many others had predicted this time last year, but one thing we’re all in unison on is that our combined resilient spirit and support for one another will see us through. NICHE | 17

Partner, Begbies Traynor


Opening the floodgates to distressed business

Managing Director, PPL PRS Ltd


s the furlough scheme readies to end on October 31 (although, as I write, there are subtle hints of a possible extension) and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme has fulfilled its part by encouraging consumers to fuel the ailing food industry by resuming spending habits, the true level of economic damage is yet to come to light. Once government support ceases, mortgage holidays expire and the freeze on wrongful trading ends, the dam sheltering financially distressed businesses is likely to burst.

Music to bring business back to life

his year has been a very strange one, as we all know. January and February were full of plans for the coming year, but little did we know that the country would go into such an extensive – and for some businesses devastating – lockdown. The world we know now, compared to this time last year, is a very different place. There are no music festivals or stadium tours, no summer fêtes on the beach, public bonfire and Christmas festivities are being cancelled, sports are being played behind closed doors. Thankfully, the Government announced in June that many non-essential businesses could reopen, news which was much welcomed by millions of businessowners and managers around the country. However, in August the Government also declared that the UK was officially in a recession, and it could take until 2022 to recover financially from the Covid-19 pandemic. As businesses across the country open their doors, customers may be anxious about returning to the high street and hospitality. Employees are feeling cautious about the return to their place of work, with new guidelines and processes in place. Music can help with this transition into the new ‘normal’. Many office staff have been working from home for months, and may have been tuning into the radio to keep them company. Research has shown that 1 in 4 people say they listen to the radio stations that they know when feeling isolated – just for the familiarity of the voice they’re listening to. More than a third of people also like to put on the radio as background noise, to use as a coping mechanism when feeling lonely. As these workers return back into the office environment, perhaps music could help them to 18 | NICHE

Recovering income and projecting future losses As Covid-19 shows no sign of diminishing following a raft of enforced curfews across the country and local lockdowns, shopfronts are likely to experience a drastic dip in footfall and custom. Businesses continue to lick their wounds following the disruption in trade as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which sliced out the core summer trading season. By forecasting profits and seeking the necessary support to keep your business afloat, you can gradually recover from the disruption in trade and protect your business from future turbulence. Spotting early signs of struggle The key to survival is to actively track the financial health of your business and enforce the necessary financial support measures before the condition of your company escalates into a cause for concern. If your business is struggling to repay tax liabilities, a Time to Pay arrangement with HMRC can restructure payments into affordable instalments. If you require a cash injection to cope with consumer demand following the slump in trading, an alternative finance solution may hold the cards to your success. If your business is struggling to stay afloat due to bad debt or a backlog of unpaid invoices, restructuring credit control measures can supercharge payment delivery. The options become less as time passes and the situation deteriorates, which could mean falling foul of director responsibilities.

adjust to a new way of working and being socially distant from their colleagues. Returning to hospitality and retail environments may seem a daunting prospect to customers too. The rules around wearing face masks may cause anxiety, and familiar music in the background could help to relax and calm those visitors to your business, taking their mind off their worries as they hum along to the recognisable tunes. Whilst the world as we now know it may not be the all singing, all dancing version we lived in at the start of this year, we can still use music to help bring business back to life.


Be a




than ever

In the wake of the global pandemic, many businesses are left asking one crucial question: how do we rebuild better? This question, according to Amanda Daly, owner of results-driven consultancy firm The Turnaround CEO, is one of the most positive outcomes to emerge from a challenging 2020 WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


irst and foremost, the way to adapt and grow through challenging times as a business leader is to start with inner work. The journey of selfdiscovery and self-improvement through reflective and honest talk will undoubtedly turn a business leader – and, in turn, a business from good to great,” affirms Amanda Daly. Having emerged from huge challenges in her personal and business life, Amanda speaks from experience. Coming from a place of learnt wisdom, she’s a business leader who, once she’d asked the right questions to herself at a difficult time, emerged with a business idea which was to help her go from good to great. “I was experiencing a difficult time when The Turnaround CEO was born. I had zero work-life balance, my family life had suffered, my own goals and aspirations suffered, and as a result my career was suffering too. Nothing was in balance.” It was only after realising these difficulties that Amanda knew something had to change. Making the most effective

advantage of this realisation, she started The Turnaround CEO to share her experience and learnings of what truly makes a good leader with other business leaders who may be feeling burnt out. “Running a business can be exhausting. Picking oneself up when things get seriously challenging, like they have for so many businesses this year, is most certainly not easy. It can be isolating and extremely pressured when everyone in your team is looking to you for answers.” Keen to emphasise that rebuilding, support and accountability can very much be part of a business leader’s journey at the moment, Amanda explains that there is support there, and crucially, leaders should seek that support to gather momentum, drive and positivity, in order to thrive in challenging times. “To gain perspective at a time which feels daunting for many is a really important part of traction and change to seek out advice. Getting an ‘outside’ view on the ways you as a leader relate to your business and what kind of


attitude you have to nurturing it is particularly important at this time, when leaders will be feeling the extra strain of the global pandemic. It’s had a huge effect on the relationships within businesses and the pressures on leaders; I can’t say enough about using this time to rebuild effectively with support. “The concept of ‘rebuilding’ a business after this challenging time is vital. Opening up the floor for the conversations needed by local businessowners in support of one another has never been more crucial. With initiatives like the DMU and Leicester City Council’s Build Back Better, a set of key areas where the city can work together to rebuild our economy and communities post-lockdown, and the support of an already strong network of business support, Leicester’s business community can use this time of change to become stronger than ever before,” Amanda concludes. To talk openly and honestly about your business, leadership and business needs, contact Amanda on 01509 274 119 or at NICHE | 19


Build Back Better Campaign Teams at DMU and Leicester City Council are asking the public to come up with ideas on how Leicester can ‘build back better’ amidst the coronavirus pandemic WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


ore than 70 academic experts have been assessing the impact of coronavirus upon Leicester. They’ve been brought together by De Montfort University, which is working in partnership with Leicester City Council to identify issues related to the pandemic. They’re combining their efforts to co-create sustainable solutions in an effort to Build Back Better in Leicester. The pandemic has caused widespread disruption to public organisations, businesses, communities, and families. As the city never truly emerged from the first local lockdown of its kind this year in the UK, there has been an impatient yearning from Leicester organisations to intervene in the city’s future. Leicester’s Build Back Better campaign, run by the public engagement team at DMU, is leading the way in generating ideas for development in the city. They’ve set about discovering what challenges different groups of people have faced in life under lockdown by reaching out to communities and members of the public to ask about individual experiences of the pandemic. The academic experts – from diverse fields such as the arts, economics, technology, healthcare, and others – have consulted alongside DMU with more than 40 community groups and organisations, hearing from neighbourhoods 20 | NICHE

how the pandemic has affected residents, businesses, schools and more. So far, the work of the organisations involved has generated a lengthy list of ideas to build back better and discussions, surveys and interviews have been conducted to discover ways to prevent any organisation or community from being ‘left behind’ as a result of lockdown. There has been a list of more than 250 ideas to revamp the city. The list includes action points to introduce nature to city streets, raise money, and tackle poverty. Meetings and consultations continue to take place for idea generation and community insight. An ongoing series of #BuildBackBetter webinars focused on a variety of aspects are available to book on to. On its BBB Youth Welfare event series, which continues throughout November, the DMU website says: ‘If you care about how government, community and business can best work together so nobody is left behind, then we’re sure you’ll find plenty of food for thought and discussion here.’ The academics and researchers at DMU continue to develop and discover new ideas to Build Back Better in Leicester. If you would like to take part in the community consultations please email for the details of upcoming sessions.

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BUILD BACK BETTER IDEAS Some ideas that have been suggested during initial consultations. Boost biodiversity by using green roofs and green walls in urban buildings – incentivise developers to include green roofs on new developments, and increasing the amount of green space within the city, linked to positive mental health.

An ongoing series of #BuildBackBetter webinars focused on a variety of aspects are available to book on to

A central hub for resources for food banks to improve collection of food, storage, transport and distribution across the city. Rethink debt advice and access to credit to ensure the poorest are not punished through existing systems. Co-create novel projects with communities to find ways to tackle the underlying causes of poverty in Leicester, not just create responses like more food banks. Issue a Leicester (Covid-19) Bond which is available for people to buy and raise money towards the city’s recovery, similar to those issued after the First World War.


Public buildings to be reimagined for work use, and redesigned in line with social distancing guidance as not everyone has a home big enough for home working, study space or quiet time. Create a bank of old computer equipment (tablets, laptops) to be repurposed for those who cannot afford their own – to be hired out as a loan or offered at cost from a dedicated centre or mobile facility. If you have any ideas you would like to contribute to Leicester’s Build Back Better campaign, email your thoughts to NICHE | 21


business as usual with the Small Business Leadership Programme SME support from De Montfort University’s Leicester Castle Business School to positively impact Leicester’s future WORDS BY KERRY SMITH





hile DMU’s public engagement team reaches out to the public for ideas to build back better in Leicester, its associated Leicester Castle Business school (LCBS) has been on the frontline helping businesses to go beyond business as usual in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. DMU’s Dr Dyneshia Johnson, Associate Professor at LCBS, has said that reskilling and retooling is “usually what happens in a time like this.” She added: “Personal mastery is important, especially in turbulent times. The ability to handle uncertainty is a big factor for entrepreneurs.” As such, Dyneshia is pleased to be named Programme Director of the fully funded Small Business Leadership Programme, which she runs alongside Programme Manager Jackie Cooper and Programme Facilitator Nadina North. LCBS exists to “meet the needs of 21st Century business” by teaching students, who may already be graduates or are currently working and wish to upskill, to go “beyond business as usual” in ways that positively impact local communities. The school itself is proactive in developing Leicester’s economy by teaming up and making links with organisations and business leaders to give back to their students providing tools and inspiration. The connections the school makes are passed down through its courses that have been designed since their inception to help improve businesses with the economy in mind. Currently,

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LCBS has a team of Entrepreneurs in Residence which includes leaders across various sectors such as media, hospitality, and technology. Another defining factor of LCBS is its contemporary approach to education. Dyneshia has noticed a change in the way learners choose to engage, which has especially taken precedence this year. This is particularly relevant for individuals returning to education. “We’ve designed our executive education courses to be delivered concisely, flexibly and quickly. Modules can be put together to create a bespoke course that results in a certificate or diploma which could then be built upon later to a masters qualification. “People returning to education, looking to revitalise their career prospects, or grow their business are wanting to learn flexibly these days. They want to maximise their continuing professional development while balancing work and life. Our apprenticeship courses, such as the Executive MBA, are an excellent example of this. High profile working professionals are able to leverage their experience to learn in more concentrated, bitesize, manageable chunks.

peer group calls, and reflective learning logs. The eight modules participants would complete over 10 weeks include: identifying key markets, customer targeting and positioning, employee engagement, building strategic approaches, financial management, action planning and utilising digital technologies. “It’s important that we make the programme relevant to SMEs throughout Leicester and Leicestershire. Our goal is to make LCBS’s considerable and locally contextualised knowledge base available to programme participants. The programme teaching will leverage LCBS’s extensive network of industry and policy facing academics, Entrepreneurs in Residence and local executive education training providers to bring a real local flavour to the modules. “This course is a great example of how business schools are for their local economy. It’s a way to help people build back better by learning something new and applying this knowledge within their business to support recovery and growth.” Courses such as the Small Business Leadership

When you have this kind of recognition and accolade, you’re able to access different types of funding and we were the first port of call to deliver the Small Business Leadership Programme “And what we’ve seen throughout the pandemic is that people are embracing knowledge in this situation. We don’t know too much about what is happening, because this is an unprecedented time in history. It’s an important time for businessowners and leaders to understand, observe and evaluate what’s happening, document it and analyse it.” Dyneshia says the course has become more relevant in the pandemic due to businessowners wanting to build on their knowledge and experiences. LCBS is able to deliver the programme due to being one of only 34 schools across the UK to be accredited in 2014 by Small Business Charter, and one of seven to be reaccredited in 2020. “When you have this kind of recognition and accolade, you’re able to access different types of funding and we were the first port of call to deliver the Small Business Leadership Programme.” The programme is based on research from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and aims to stimulate SMEs and improve their productivity, resilience and sustainability to help them survive and thrive beyond Covid. LCBS is one of only 20 schools to be delivering the Small Business Leadership programme across England. Each of the schools joined forces to build content in line with government guidance. The programme delves into the businesses and industries of its students via a combination of webinars with subject matter experts, online exercises, facilitated

Programme reflect a learning style that LCBS has embraced to cater to the modern working learner so that anyone can brush up on a range of essential business functions. It’s an innovative take on traditional higher education models and forms part of a ‘lifelong learning’ experience. “We can’t afford to have knowledge for knowledge’s sake right now,” Dyneshia cautioned. “You can learn law but it doesn’t mean you’ll become a lawyer. LCBS courses aim to bridge the knowledge-practice divide, they add value by prioritising the applied elements of business skills and behaviours around employability, career progression and much more. “In business schools, we’re social scientists largely and it’s imperative we’re out there on the frontline in these very turbulent times.” For more information on the fully funded Small Business Leadership Programme at Leicester Castle Business School, and to sign up for start dates on January 7 and January 14, 2021, email

NICHE | 23



in a post-pandemic Leicester The Build Back Better campaign is taking place, but city centre accounting firm Torr Waterfield began assisting local businesses in their own way to help towards the same goal – to build a better postpandemic future for Leicester WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


e Montfort University and Leicester City Council are working together – along with healthcare organisations and the emergency services – as part of its efforts to help Leicester ‘Build Back Better’. The campaign focuses on five key areas that coronavirus has had an impact upon: health, the economy, communities, infrastructure, and the environment. Business advisors at city centre accounting firm Torr Waterfield hope that, although the business is not directly involved in the campaign, they will have a positive effect on what DMU is trying to achieve in the ‘economy’ section of their plans. Director at Torr Waterfield, Mike Waterfield, said: “We weren’t aware of Build Back Better until early October – but when we read more about it, we realised that the reasoning behind what we’ve been doing has had a lot in common with the campaign so far.” Torr Waterfield acts not just as an accountancy practice, but also as a business advisory service for it’s clients,

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aiding them to grow their business or achieve their goals. When lockdown was announced, Mike and fellow director Mark Torr assessed the financial damage that could potentially affect their clients and their businesses – and therefore, their own. They then set about being proactive in finding fundraising avenues for each of their clients. “Over this year, like everyone, we have had to predict the short-term and long-term effects of the pandemic to our own business. But we also had clients relying on us for information and advice on key dates, industry updates, government schemes, payroll, furlough, explaining legislation, money-saving techniques, and methods of increasing revenue in this difficult time. “It was imperative that our clients’ businesses survived and, if possible, to even thrive – not only for the sake of our own business but for the sake of Leicester and our local economy for the future. “We helped our clients to keep afloat while we all got to grips with what was happening and then helped them to rebuild even stronger over the course of the year.” Torr Waterfield client Andy Lacey, Director at Sole Provider Footwear Ltd, commented: “During the Covid-19 pandemic we required a lot of help and assistance. “Torr Waterfield held our hands throughout the initial lockdown, and put in place and managed our staff furlough requirements along with completing a full application pack for the Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. We were successful in this – all of our staff have now returned to work and we are back providing our customers with their needs. “Throughout all of this, we were met with the utmost professionalism and hard work from the Torr Waterfield staff involved. It is safe to say that we couldn’t have done this without them, and I would like to personally thank all the staff who helped secure our business going forward.”

Another client who wanted to give thanks to the team was Clive Ormerod, Managing Director at Ormerod Management Services Ltd: “We appointed Torr Waterfield as our accountants in July 2019. Torr Waterfield has become an integral part of our business, working with us to introduce more accurate management accounts, set up systems to improve cashflow reporting, and fill gaps that we and our accountancy software can’t cope with. “This year has also been challenging for us as a business, and Torr Waterfield has been responsive to our queries and helped us where they can. One example has been completing our furlough applications when processing our payroll. They are competent accountants with the benefit of being real people you are able to relate to.” Another agenda in DMU’s Build Back Better campaign is the environment. Torr Waterfield has attempted to positively influence its clients over the years by going paperless and installing charging points for electric vehicles in its car park. Mike said: “We hope that, with everything going on in the world right now, that people will do their best to protect the future of the planet. Hopefully, this has a knock-on effect and aligns with helping Leicester to Build Back Better too.” For financial and business advice and tips on becoming more ‘green’, call 0116 242 3400 or email For more information on how to get involved in the Build Back Better campaign, visit

It was imperative that our clients’ businesses survived and if possible, to even thrive


Niche Business Awards

goes Viral for 2020 ceremony Lockdown has pushed 2020’s ceremony into next year with celebrations taking place in a live online event WORDS BY KERRY SMITH



Email or call 0116 271 2573 26 | NICHE


he popular Niche Business Awards event takes place on the first Friday in September every year. But, due to obvious reasons relating to the pandemic, this year’s awards ceremony has not taken place. With nothing usual about this year, the occasion will take on a brand new format as its organiser Cross Productions has made arrangements to take the event online for the first time since its inception in 2014. For the sixth year of the Niche Business Awards, a live digital event gathering will replace 2020’s September ceremony, and will instead take place in January of 2021. Headline sponsor energy consultancy service Assured Energy will be co-hosting the event with Cross Productions’ CEO Jenny Cross. Sponsors and ambassadors will also be present cheering on the finalists. Those involved, including finalists, have been prepared for the annual event to take place online after its semifinalists and finalists announcements were made via YouTube and social media channels. The online event is open to all and tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite. All proceeds made from ticket sales will be donated to the winner of the Charity of the Year category. Join us on January 22, 2021 at 7pm to celebrate our finalists and 16 deserving winners after one of the most difficult years in business for UK SMEs in modern times. Find tickets at, or to register your interest to attend or receive guidance on applying for next year, email

the Finalists BEST NEW BUSINESS Sponsored by Hollingsworths Solicitors DLT Roofing The Secret Garden Willsow Ltd FAMILY BUSINESS Sponsored by Everards Imperial Roofing Charles Bentley & Son Samworth Brothers BUSINESS GROWTH Sponsored by The Lettings Business Imperial Roofing Supplies Paradigm Wills and Legal Services Pattersons Commercial Law BEST SMALL BUSINESS Sponsored by Leicester Castle Business Imperial Roofing Supplies MamaBabyBliss Leicester XCLUU DIGITAL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR Sponsored by Growth Partners Plc Rhino Software LTD Serendipity Unity INNOVATION IN BUSINESS Sponsored by ER Recruitment ChatHealth Spotted App Willsow Ltd



LEICESTERSHIRE CHARITY OF THE YEAR Sponsored by Morningside Pharmaceuticals Bamboozle Focus Charity Leicester Children’s Holidays EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE Sponsored by Torr Waterfield Bilingual Day Nursery Ashby DMU Works Enterprise Primary PPA Cover PROFESSIONAL SERVICES Sponsored by The Miller Partnership Furnley House Paradigm Wills and Legal Services Rutland House Counselling BUSINESSMAN OF THE YEAR Sponsored by Pattersons Commercial Law Malcolm Foulkes-Arnold: Corporate Architecture Paul Rowlett: Everything Branded Simon Winfield: Red Monkey Play

BUSINESSWOMAN OF THE YEAR Sponsored by Paradigm Wills And Legal Services Andrea Gray: PPL PRS LTD Tajinder Banwait: Urban Apothecary London Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan: The Zinthiya Trust









BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE Sponsored by Kazzoo Soar Valley Press Paradigm Wills and Legal Services UFIT



RISING STAR Sponsored by The Turnaround CEO Arif Voraji: Help the Homeless Leicester Claire Herbert: Gateley PLC Nicole Martin: Core Aquatics

EMPLOYER OF THE YEAR Sponsored by BP Legal Solicitors Anthony James Insurance Broker Furnley House PRP Consulting






Soar Valley Press

NICHE | 27



Green BELLE grants help businesses save energy

ROBERT LEESON Project Officer at Leicester City Council


nergy costs are now more important to local businesses than ever, and green credentials are an increasingly important factor in securing new business and contracts. At the same time, the UK is committed to reducing carbon emissions to help the fight against climate change. In order to help local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) become more energy efficient and less carbon intensive, Leicester City Council and Leicestershire County Council have now launched a new round of funding for their successful Green BELLE project. What is Green BELLE? Green BELLE offers grants of £1,000 to £7,000 to eligible businesses to install energy-efficient low carbon measures. The grants are available to support measures such as efficient heating, lighting and controls, insulation, renewable energy – for example, solar panels or heat pumps – and other energy efficiency equipment such as replacement air compressors.

Green BELLE offers a capital grant of 50% of the cost of these measures, up to the grant maximum of £7,000. It is run by Leicester City Council, with support from Leicestershire County Council, and is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Who can apply? To apply for a Green BELLE grant, your business will need to be a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) located in Leicester or Leicestershire. Find out if you’re eligible on the Green BELLE website at How do I apply? For more information and to make an enquiry, visit the Green BELLE website, where you can fill in the online expression of interest form, by clicking the ‘Apply Now’ button. If you have any questions you can’t find the answer to on the website, you can also give the Green BELLE team a call on 0116 454 2700 or email

The Business Growth Grant Capital grants from £2,000 to £25,000 for Leicestershire SMEs


usinesses in Leicester and Leicestershire can grow or develop with funding from the Business Gateway Growth Hub. The Business Growth Grant provides grants from £2,000 to £25,000 covering 35% of total project costs. This grant is available to small and medium-sized businesses with less than 250 employees, trading business-to-business and established for at least 24 months. You should be looking to develop new products, processes or services, and create or safeguard jobs. It can be used to help you diversify, which some

businesses are considering at this time in light of Covid-19. For example, the funding could be used to develop new innovative technology products that improve performance, or to expand premises related to business development or new products/services. Alternatively, you may need capital equipment to give your business a more automotive approach or enable flexible working. Melton Mowbray-based business Round Corner Brewing successfully secured a £25,000 Business Growth Grant towards a new in-house canning line. The award-winning brewery is set to double its output this year due to this investment and its ability to adapt its production. CEO Combie Cryan said: “Rather than leave us to our own devices, the Business Gateway team worked with us dynamically, so we could put an accurate and compelling case forward. I’d be incredibly positive if anyone came my way and asked if they should go for this grant.” For details visit the Business Gateway website: or complete an enquiry form. If you have any questions call 0116 366 8487. The Business Gateway Growth Hub is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered in partnership by Leicester City Council, Leicestershire County Council, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).


Businessowners: what Covid means for accessing finance

Commercial finance broker Darren Willoughby shares his views on the finance options available for businesses in an interview with Kerry Smith


hile many have received governmentbacked financial support during the Covid pandemic, businesses will soon be expected to start paying back what they owe – and finance options might be few and far between for some businessowners. We spoke to commercial finance broker Darren Willoughby of 2XL Commercial Finance to find out what’s happening in lending circles. NICHE What changes have you seen from the banks you work with? DARREN Sadly, we have seen many banks close the door to new customers while they mainly focus on CBILS (Coronavirus Business Interuption Loan Scheme) applications for existing customers. It’s meant that people looking for standard non-CBILS lending are finding this increasingly difficult. In addition, we are seeing lenders restrict loan-to-values (LTVs) and making the criteria for serviceability even more stringent. It’s frustrating for all, especially when many lenders are banging the drum about supporting clients when, in fact, many are not so due to the above. There is also a question around actual capital available, with many

lenders having lent vast amounts using CBILS. The question is: do they have enough ‘cash’ to lend out on traditional products, or are they holding fire to see how the economy reacts to the pandemic and imminent lockdown? How have your clients’ abilities to access finance been affected? As many lenders have shut up shop, more people have found their way to our door. This is because, as commercial brokers, we work with a vast panel of high street banks as well as alternative lenders, enabling us to access a much bigger pool of funders. This way, we ensure we get the right type of funding at the best possible price. What is the biggest challenge for your clients in the Covid world? In a word: cash. In some instances, many businesses have been run hand-to-mouth with no reserves in case of a downturn or a crisis. So, getting funds into the business as quickly as possible has been the biggest challenge. Are there any success stories? Last year, we placed £29.2m of commercial lending across many different product types and lenders, which – considering we have been in the midst of a


pandemic for eight months – is a strong performance. Particular highlights in lockdown include an £800k CBILS loan for a furniture manufacturer. While it took three days to write the application alone, it was well worth it. A £3m remortgage for a client to assist in the growth and expansion of their businesses was another very good achievement set against a backdrop of the crisis we find ourselves in. What are the pros and cons of borrowing at this time? Interest rates are incredibly low, so if you can actually obtain finance, there could be no better time to do so. That also goes for the refinancing of existing debt. We may see a fall in the cost of property as the impact of the furlough scheme comes to an end, bringing a possible increase in job losses. Many investors and potential property owners will be keeping a keen eye on the market. What do the next 12 months have in store? I think it’s fair to say your guess is as good as mine. For advice and guidance on how to access finance for business, visit, or email NICHE | 29

















Partner of The Miller Partnership

HMRC Clearances:

Why you must take professional tax advice Pete gives us his expert view on obtaining taxation clearances efficiently


btaining taxation clearances from HMRC is an important aspect of ensuring that your corporate transaction goes ahead smoothly. If, for instance, you’re undertaking a company reorganisation, restructure or demerger, you will need to apply to HMRC for statutory clearance first, so you know in advance how your transaction will be treated for tax. HMRC has 30 days to respond to a clearance application and, until recently, this strict time limit was always met, with responses often received within a fortnight if not sooner. However, since the clearance unit’s relocation from London to Birmingham 18 months ago and the formation of a new team, clients are frequently waiting longer than 30 days for an initial reply. If the unit’s staff then ask for more information, clearances can take as long as six months. To further compound the frustration, the unit can only be reached by email, not telephone.

We’ve also seen clients encounter difficulties with the new team misinterpreting or misunderstanding the ‘commercial reasons’ statutory clearance test, which has meant in some instances having to go to Tribunal to get the decision we can’t get from HMRC. To try and prevent this situation arising, we are now writing much longer, more detailed clearance letters when applying. Obtaining clearance can be a complex procedure and, given these technical and administrative issues, it is even more essential that you seek professional tax advice. The Miller Partnership have many years of experience and expertise in this area. In fact, before entering private practice, Pete Miller held a senior role in clearances at the Inland Revenue. Email or call 0116 208 1020 for personal guidance through the process, including drafting your application.

Why Leicester is a hot spot for buy-to-let investments The city is known for its king in a car park and its football team’s 5000-1 odds of winning the Premier League. Could it now be on the map for its attractive property prospects too?


mortgage and protection adviser has asserted that Leicester is a desirable location for property investors. Thought to offer higher yield projections than London, Leicestershire buy-to-let properties are popping up across the county. Minay Raithatha, from Intelligent Adviser, says buy-to-let investors from outside the county are benefiting from higher rental yields in Leicester. “We’ve noticed a lot of investors outside Leicester who are seeing the city as a good source of investment,” Minay explained. “This is because properties on the whole are cheaper than the South East. We also have 30 | NICHE

two universities – which, of course, as lectures go online, we may find has an impact on landlords in the student market, but there is still sufficient demand from professionals and families.” There is one area that is particularly sought after, according to Minay. “The Belgrave and city area has seen a huge increase in property prices over the last 18 months. It has many local amenities, temples, culturally diverse retail outlets, and a community feel, making it a good location for investors. “For people wanting to get into buyto-lets, the key thing is having a decent deposit, preferably at least 25%. Rather than using traditional investments like pensions, stocks and shares, people have always had confidence in bricks and mortar, even after the property blip in 2008.”

Another tip Minay suggests is the possibility of setting up a limited company for buy-to let investments, as this can prove to be more taxefficient. However, speak to a specialist tax adviser before making this decision. “We receive a lot of calls daily from people who just want help and guidance, and we’re more than happy to give them as much advice as possible when looking to buy a property.” Call Minay on 07958 632573 or visit to find out more.


Personal Service Companies (PSCs)

The benefits of using a Members’ Voluntary Liquidation before April 5, 2021 WORDS BY CAROLYNN BEST


housands of directors and contractors are expediting the closure of their companies via a Members’ Voluntary Liquidation (MVL) because of the associated benefits. The advantages include the payroll working rules (IR35) that are set to go ahead in April 2021, being able to extract funds in a cost-efficient manner (10% taxation is available), being able to choose the 2020/21 tax period over 2021/22, pre-empting potential changes in taxes, and a swift and orderly wind-up for otherwise very busy people. It’s likely that the Treasury will look to claw back funds in a number of ways following its astronomical efforts to support businesses and employees during lockdown. Examples may involve: ◆ Tax rises from April 5, 2021 ◆ An aggressive approach to IR35 ◆ Abolishment of Business Asset Disposal Relief (formerly known as Entrepreneurs’ Relief) It is reasonable to assume that of the 50,000 Personal Service Companies (PSCs) in the UK, many directors/shareholders may try leaving this till early 2021. The risk of doing this is that contractor accountants, insolvency practitioners and even

HMRC become overwhelmed (the MVL process takes four to six weeks from start to finish in normal times). Will a director be able to maximise the value of his PSC, protect his tax position, and get this done in time, or risk leaving it too late? We recommend dealing with this well in advance of April 5, 2021 and our advice to those considering a solvent company closure is to take advice as soon as possible.

What is an MVL?

A Members’ Voluntary Liquidation is a formal process for closing down a solvent company in a cost effective and tax-efficient manner. An MVL allows you to extract funds in a cost-efficient method, as this will be treated as capital, rather than dividends. Often utilised by company directors and contractors approaching retirement, moving into employment, or otherwise looking to embark on a new venture, MVLs represent a swift and orderly way of tying up the loose ends of a company before distributing the assets and cash value. You may also choose an MVL


if your company is ‘solvent’ (can pay its debts and has cash or assets to distribute) and one of the following applies: ◆ You want to retire ◆ You want to step down from the family business and nobody else wants to run it ◆ You do not want to run the business any more To pass a resolution for a Members’ Voluntary Liquidation, you must: ◆ Make a ‘Declaration of Solvency’, if an English or Welsh company ◆ Ask the Accountant in Bankruptcy for form 4.25 (Scot) if a Scottish company You’ll need to review the company’s assets and liabilities just before making the declaration. Alternatively, you may consider that your business could be attractive to a third party – for a relatively small set-up fee, you could explore with us whether there are any interested parties to take it on for a price over and above the sum of cash on the balance sheet. For more information, contact Carolynn Best at Begbies Traynor 0116 355 2427, or email or NICHE | 31

s t n a r G r n u e o e Y r G Grows Are you to sines an SME u B that wants

to reduce your energy costs?

Green BELLE is offering grants of ÂŁ1,000 to ÂŁ7,000 for energy efficient technologies including: heating, lighting plus controls, insulation, renewable energy and other energy efficient measures e.g. replacement air compressor. Visit: 0116 454 2700 @leicesterenergy Green BELLE is run by Leicester City Council, with support from Leicestershire County Council, and is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.


Harlow before MAYDAY John Harlow of Harlow Insolvency talks to Niche journalist Emily Miller about the importance of small businessowners reaching out when signs of financial difficulty begin, rather than when they hit the rocks


hen asked exactly what he does as an insolvency practitioner, John Harlow replies: “That’s actually a very good question because often people think they know what we do, but the reality is often they assume that we only assist at the supposed ‘end’ of a company’s life, which is often by going into liquidation. “There are, however, many alternative ways of providing assistance at the earlier stages of financial difficulty – there’s more in our tool box than people realise. “There is a lot that can be done to prevent a company going into a formal insolvency procedure, and we have the skills and knowledge to help avoid that as much as possible, failing that, we can

assist in either putting in place a rescue procedure or guiding owners through an orderly winding-up process. “It can be hugely difficult for a businessowner to admit that financially things may be headed in a difficult direction, but I can’t stress enough the importance of making, in nautical parlance, a ‘pan-pan’ call for assistance before reaching the ‘mayday’.” Having worked in insolvency since 1985, John knows its ins and outs like few others. Approachable, friendly and relaxed, John and his team not only have the knowledge required, but they also have, perhaps more vitally, the right approach to helping in scenarios which may on the surface be about

numbers, but for business owners are much more than that. Where a supportive, honest and open approach is needed at this time for any business, we know that many firms will claim to do exactly that, but when I tell John I believe I would feel better just speaking to him at that time, he humbly replies: “Well, thank you, that is a great compliment and for us the real message that we want people to receive.” Call the team on 0116 275 5021 for guidance at the heart of the business community here in Leicester or visit

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Mergers and acquisitions specialist

carries out a merger of its own P

As Pattersons Commercial Law

turns four years old, Emily Miller speaks to Managing Director

Rik Pancholi about where they came from, their merger, and opportunities in 2020 and beyond

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attersons Commercial Law was founded in October 2016, focusing on delivering diligent professional advice with a specialism in corporate and commercial law. The start-up law firm established itself with one director and one consultant determined to acieve thier ambitions of expanding their services over time in a safe and structured manner. The law firm has built a reputation for advising on transactions ranging from advising accountants and independent financial advisors to healthcare, e-commerce, and retail businesses. Regardless of the nature of the transaction or the sector, the key for Managing Director Rik Pancholi has always been to focus on relationships. By building the law firm around relationships, it was important to place the right people in the right position and then nurture them. During 2019, Pattersons Commercial Law started developing its wellbeing offering to their team, which included a monthly reflexologist visit, inhouse pool tournaments and even a Christmas awayday in Brussels. The link between the wellbeing of a team and productivity is a subject that has been heavily researched, and according to the Mental Health Foundation, prioritising employee wellbeing leads to at least a 12% increase in productivity. “There has always been a heavy emphasis on wellbeing and the self-confidence of our team,” Rik confirms. “This emphasis has all helped with what was to happen in early 2020 with the global pandemic. During lockdown, we continued to develop our relationships, whether it was internal within our team or external with both clients and strategic partners. The way our team handled the unprecedented changes that the pandemic brought was a real testement to them. It allowed us to support our clients and strategic partners navigate what would become some highly turbulent times.” The pandemic has resulted in a period of change for many – and some businesses have even created positive opportunities, as Rik explains: “This period hasn’t all been


There has always been a heavy emphasis on wellbeing and the self-confidence of our team about survival; for us and many other businesses, it has been about shifting into managing wellbeing for our team remotely, where possible, and providing support in a different way. There has also been a focus on growth and opportunity, both for the team and the firm itself.” As a specialist corporate legal services law firm, Pattersons Commercial Law is no stranger to advising its clients on acquiring and restructuring businesses. When the opportunity arose to merge with a well-known and highly regarded dispute resolution and insolvency specialist, Ashteds Solicitors, both firms grasped the opportunity. Ashteds Solicitors was established six years ago by Ash Mody, who is also a Deputy District Judge. The merged entity sees Ash Mody and fellow former Ashteds director Charlotte Clarke join Pattersons Commercial Law as Directors. Rik said: “We have been growing steadily and strategically for a few years, but I have always been keen to look at new partnerships. Ash and his team have a fantastic reputation – and this merger means we are another step closer to a full-service commercial offering. Ash’s expertise with highly complex litigation and insolvency matters, together with his insight as a Deputy District Judge, adds a certain invaluable dynamic to our practice.” In addition, civil and commercial litigation specialist Asit Jansari has also joined the dynamic law firm as a Director. Asit has been working with the Pear Tree

Business Park-based firm as a consultant since March 2020 and now joins the board of directors as a result of the merger with Ashteds Solicitors. Prior to joining Pattersons Commercial Law, Asit was a director at Hollingsworths Solicitors and has previously worked as Head of Civil and Commercial Litigation at Nottingham City Council. Asit’s appointment deepens the current offering at Pattersons Commercial Law, as Rik explains: “Asit has a fantastic reputation in the city and across the region as a respected litigation specialist and I am delighted to welcome him to the team in his new role as Director. We have been working together for some time now and he has brought a wonderful energy to the firm alongside his highly specialised skills in litigation.” Asit will continue to deal with cases based on his strong residential landlord and tenant experience, land and boundary disputes, breach of contract matters, breach of warranty claims, and shareholder disputes. After four years, the firm is continuing to strive for greater success, with Rik keen to ensure that the firm pushes the boundaries and encourages its people to find opportunity and thrive. He said: “With the right people on board, our business has been able to prosper at a time when many thought it not possible. We are certainly looking forward to the next phase of our growth – and 2021 looks to be promising.” “We’ve also very much continued our charity work and, despite not being able to hold our annual ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’ in September, we established the Pattersons Cupcake Delivery Service and managed to raise over £1,300 [and counting at the time of going to press] for Macmillan Cancer Support.” So what does 2021 hold for the law firm? Possibly more structured growth, but more importantly the continued ability to deliver diligent professional advice to its clients and strategic partners. To find out more about Pattersons Commercial Law, call 0116 319 1110 or visit NICHE | 35



DRIVING OFFENCES AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES GLYNIS WRIGHT Head of Glynis Wright & Co Family Solicitors & Mediators

THE C WORD IS BACK The first working Monday back after the Christmas break is known as ‘Divorce Day’. Any strain that is already present in a relationship can often be intensified by the holiday season. Some of that is due to the extra time in each other’s company, some to the extended family members who visit and add fuel to the fire and of course there are the extra financial pressures too. This year is likely to be worse as so many of us suffer emotional distress at being parted from those we would usually spend time with at Christmas owing to Covid restrictions. At such times, couples can start to wonder if they even belong together. Anxieties worsen and there is more time to evaluate than the norm. Our advice is to seek relationship counselling in the first instance. We can all have times when our relationship feels less rewarding, and that is perfectly normal, but it doesn’t mean that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. Christmas is a hugely stressful time in itself where there are simply more ‘triggers’. So do make sure that the breakup is real and not just a reaction to a difficult time before you take the step of consulting with a divorce lawyer. If you are sure that your relationship is over, then seeking early advice is always the best thing to do. It allows you time to digest the information given and the space to work out what is best for you. Since we expect a higher number of divorce cases at this time of the year and, owing to Covid, will be expecting an even bigger spike in new instructions in 2021, booking an appointment swiftly so that you do not have a long lead-in time to your first meeting, is essential. 36 | NICHE

The most dangerous thing most of us do on a daily basis is drive a car. Yet most take it for granted. For this reason it is vital you take any correspondence you receive about any driving offence seriously and deal with it within the time scale requested. I have lost count of the number of times drivers have got into a mess, making a straightforward driving matter complicated by taking advice like: “I have a mate who knows all the loopholes and always gets off” or “Google says…” Speeding matters or red light offences almost always result in a driver awareness course or fixed penalty. If you are suspected of driving at a very high speed or already have a number of points on your licence, it’s vital you take advice from an expert at the outset. Drink and drug driving will almost inevitably result in a driving ban, but it’s always worth getting advice as to whether the correct procedures have been followed or whether there was a reason why you drove on the date

IMOGEN COX Solicitor at The Defence Solicitor in question such as an emergency situation. Such legal arguments are rare, but it is always worth a call to an expert. Causing death or serious injury by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving can result in a prison sentence, so seek advice at the outset. There is, of course, such a thing as an accident, but when death or serious injury is involved, it is inevitable that the police will have to investigate – you are likely to be asked to attend a police interview under caution. You may even be arrested at the scene. Either way, please get legal advice straight away. All advice at the police station is free, whatever your income, so you have nothing to lose. Your licence is important to you. Treat it with the respect it deserves and if you are in danger of losing it, please seek expert help.

WITNESS SIGNATURES IN 2020 BHAVIN GANDHI Co-Director at Paradigm Wills and Legal Services When you think of creating a will, or updating your existing one, it will usually be concerned with a death, marriage, birth, property or business acquisition, or house move within the family. We’ve noticed this year that pandemics seem to have also become a prevalent motivation. Time is precious, as we’re sure everyone has realised in this difficult period. But as much as we know coronavirus may have encouraged you to create or update a will, we also know that it may have put you off due to social distancing rules. As you might be aware, a will is a legal document that requires a ‘wetink’ signature produced by a witness.

As a witness must not be a beneficiary, married to a beneficiary, or a family member, the limitations of this factor at the moment are obvious. We recommend having documents witnessed in a way in which you feel safe. This could be meeting with your witness at your will provider’s office if they have safety measures and PPC in place, as we at Paradigm Wills and Legal Services do, or having your witness sign through a window at your home. Of course, if you have not yet started the ball rolling to create or update a will, you will need to get in touch with a will provider who will inform you of the necessary steps. This can easily be done over the phone or via video call. The pandemic hasn’t affected our clients’ ability to understand or action their next steps. If you’re in doubt, please contact us 0116 464 7055 as soon as possible.

You will never want to meet with me...


Anyone can be charged with a criminal offence due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or simply making a mistake and finding themselves on a nightmare journey through the criminal justice system. Equally, you may face losing your driving licence, and the unthinkable consequences to that.

...but if this happens to you, you will be glad you did.

Here at Nelsons we’ve been quietly expanding our corporate services team. A calm, measured approach building expertise across the region. Nelsons, your complete corporate services team.

The Defence Solicitor 07710 484 508 Solicitor-advocate

0800 024 1976 Derby | Leicester | Nottingham |

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22/09/2020 17:24

NICHE | 37




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Glynis Wright and Zara Gasztowicz of Leicester law firm Glynis Wright & Co talk us through the implications of international family conflicts


hen individuals are faced with family law disputes or issues, such as divorce, separation or child arrangement disagreements, it can be an extremely emotional and confusing time. When the ex-partner, exspouse or other parent lives outside of England, or has dual or temporary citizenship with another country, it can feel even more daunting; many individuals often do not know where to start, what their rights are or even whether English law is applicable. Glynis Wright, Head of Practice at specialist family law firm Glynis Wright & Co says: “We frequently see clients who are faced with cross-border issues such as – but by no means limited to – those detailed below, and our team of expert family lawyers assist in making the legal process efficient, much easier to understand and less stressful.”

The divorce petition ‘race’

Countries often have very different and contrasting laws in respect of divorce and, therefore, it is no surprise that very different financial settlement outcomes can be reached, based on similar facts in cases throughout the world. By way of one example, in France the courts have less discretion in making spousal maintenance orders and, therefore, an individual with English and French citizenship or an individual born in England living in France, may want to try and apply for a divorce in France if they are the significantly higher-earning spouse. This is due to the fact that as it may be less likely that they will have to pay spousal maintenance to their ex-spouse on a yearly basis. When situations like this arise, the English spouse will need to ‘beat’ the spouse located in another country/with dual or temporary citizenship and file their divorce petition first, to ensure that the divorce will be dealt with by the English Courts under English Law. This is because, where two countries can have jurisdiction (the power to make legal decisions/judgements), the divorce usually proceeds with the country where the divorce petition was issued first.



When a divorce petition ‘race’ arises, it is therefore imperative that individuals act as quickly as possible and seek efficient and expert legal advice, to ensure that their petition wins the race. At Glynis Wright & Co, we have had team members physically run to the local court in order to ensure that a petition is filed in England before it is filed by the ex-spouse elsewher. We have, therefore, literally as well as figuratively, gone the extra mile to assist our clients faced with these issues.

Child arrangements cases

When a parent moves to England with a child and a child arrangements issue arises, or when a parent is faced with the other parent moving away from England with a child without consent, it is often difficult to understand whether English court applications can be made and/or what law applies. The law surrounding this area can be complex and whether the English courts have jurisdiction can depend on a variety of factors, including who has parental responsibility, how long the parent and child have been living in England and which country the parent and child have come from. The family legal team at Glynis Wright & Co have a great deal of experience in dealing with these complex situations and can help clients to navigate through the uncertainty, to arrive at a conclusion as to where the jurisdiction lies and whether English law can assist. This can help clients feel at ease during a very confusing and stressful time, and can help avoid unnecessary or inappropriate court applications that may be costly and confusing. “The key is to take very early advice with a specialist family lawyer so that you do not find yourself in receipt of proceedings that have been issued abroad by a stealthy spouse, and where such important issues as your future financial settlement or the care of your children are being dealt with in a foreign jurisdiction,” Glynis adds. Contact the experts via their website or by phone on 0116 238 5680.

Take very early advice with a specialist family lawyer so that you do not find yourself in receipt of proceedings that have been issued abroad by a stealthy spouse NICHE | 39

It’s a

Man’s World Or is it? Taking a look into the lives of businessmen, we ask those who are businessowners to reveal their struggles and setbacks in a world that expects them to never need help WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


he typical UK businessowner is male. And this year in business has been tough. It’s time to take a look at the stories that have affected men and their journeys to success; the secret sacrifices no one usually talks about. This November, we’re looking at the real men behind the businessmen. With International Men’s Day on November 19 and the worldwide Movember taking place all month, it’s the perfect time to appreciate Leicester’s male businessowners in a way we never have before. We’ve interviewed 14 men on how growing up has made them who they are today, the struggle of juggling relationships and work, striving for career progression, asking for help, proving their worth, and the impact of running a business on their mental health. The brutality of running a small business has been felt by all businessowners this year in particular, with the challenges and disruption the coronavirus pandemic has caused. When you think that on average, one in 10 small businessowners confessed the stresses of running a business resulted in a negative impact on their mental health, causing sleepless nights for 41% of them (according to a survey by Xero), it paints a worrying picture of the effect that 2020 may have had on businessowners.

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A recent report published by Ueni says 67.63% of businesses in the UK are owned by men. Men also accounted for three-quarters of registered suicides in England and Wales in 2019 – the highest it has been for two decades, according to Office for National Statistics. Research commissioned by Gillette showed that three quarters of men put off visiting their doctor when signs of illness occur. Dr David Plans, CEO of mental health platform BioBeats, told online health information provider Healthline: “We train soldiers and professional warriors, and then expect them to be emotionally intelligent enough to open up when they need help. Worse, we expect them never to need help. We must bring vulnerability, as a core principle of emotional strength, into the framework of masculinity.” November is an important month for the masculine soul because it’s the time of year when several events that are important to men are celebrated. Movember is the month dedicated to supporting men’s health. The day following International Men’s Day, November 20, is International Children’s Day, which forms 48 hours of celebration for men, children and the special relationship fathers have with their children. International Men’s Day is built on six pillars: to promote

Our fathers, partners, brothers and friends are facing a health crisis, yet it’s rarely talked about. Men are dying too young. We can’t afford to stay silent

positive male role models; celebrate men’s positive contributions to society; focus on men’s health and wellbeing; highlight discrimination against men; improve gender relations and promote gender equality; and create a safer, better world. Dr Jerome Teelucksingh, founder of International Men’s Day, said: “International Men’s Day has the potential to become the global medium to heal our world. The concept and themes of International Men’s Day are designed to give hope to the depressed, faith to the lonely, comfort to the broken-hearted, transcend barriers, eliminate stereotypes and create a more caring humanity.” The Movember Foundation has started a movement that has meant growing and showing off a moustache during the month of November has essentially created a talking point for men’s physical and mental health. The official website for the Movember movement states: ‘Our fathers, partners, brothers and friends are facing a health crisis, yet it’s rarely talked about. Men are dying too young. We can’t afford to stay silent.’ This Man’s World feature introduces the men responsible for Leicester businesses, the success they’ve made, and the times when they’ve needed help.

Honesty and integrity with Incite Consulting Consultant Mark Platt of Incite Consulting believes the key to continued success, and growth during this period of time, is to redefine and refocus your business’s commercial strategy


hese difficult times have meant that all businesses have had to reassess. They have had to sit down and focus on not only how they are going to survive, but actually how they are going to prosper.” And that, says Mark Platt of commercial strategy specialists Incite Consulting “is a real positive shake up to have come out of this year.” Offering expertise in business development, growth strategy, lead generation and selling techniques, Mark and his colleagues are experts at asking the right questions to illicit a response which digs deeper than most. “I speak frankly and directly to my clients, nothing workable can come from asking the kind of ‘lip service’ questions which are all too common. When you want real results, you need to ask questions that often make the receiver feel ever so slightly uncomfortable,” Mark laughs. This kind of relationship builds a ‘client first’ dynamic for Mark – and it’s his honesty and integrity which has gained him the credibilty that he currently enjoys. “Clients comment on my honest approach; integrity is hugely important to me. I

have to work openly and with nothing held back. It means clients respect and trust me, and that is vital in what I do.” Through strategies, training and consulting, Mark is experienced in helping to drive a business forward and is keen to help clients become more adaptive and diversify in the current climate, encouraging them to establish who their target audience is, take calculated risks and take a leap of faith. “Working out how your audience sees you, not what your USP is, for example, will help gain any business a new perspective. It amazes me how clients often don’t know how to answer this question – but it always brings up some really helpful things. That is what I want for SMEs and larger businesses to do during this time. To stop, rethink and, perhaps most crucially go straight into questions which will help growth,” he concludes. Contact Mark to discuss how you can use this time for positive change 07981 804 468 or visit

Helping men look the part

since 1976

As the second generation in family-run Savile Row style suit retailers Suit Yourself, good tailoring and sharp dressing are in Director Bhavik Popat’s blood


or me, helping a gent pick out a suit which is perfect for him, helping him gain that confidence in how he is dressed and how good he feels, whether in a bespoke made to measure suit for meetings or a hire for his wedding day, that’s what it’s all about for me. I know I’ll never tire of it,” says Bhavik Popat from Suit Yourself. With a family tailor’s shop established back in 1976, from the age of 13 Bhavik watched his father and uncle create a business which was to stand the test of time. Attention to quality, both in materials and service, has meant that many a discerning dresser in Leicestershire has frequented the retailer for business, occasion and casual dressing. His family, who own a number of businesses including an extensive property profile in the city, all have a special

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connection to the tailor’s. “We all love working in the shop. It’s just so enjoyable for me to interact with our customers and good tailoring is in our blood,” Bhavik enthuses. Taking the business forward with long term business partner Francis Vaz, Bhavik’s vision for his tailoring business not only utilises technology in the manufacturing of garments, but also allows for the traditional, exceptional service to continue to thrive. “Many of our clients have been coming to us for years; our eye for the very best in materials, combined with our experience in service has meant that we have had generations of families come to us over the years. I want this to always be the case, it’s the very best compliment.” By exclusive appointment only. Call 0116 255 3772, or visit



How grief and loss set a

new chapter in motion Determined to start a new chapter after redundancy, divorce, and the loss of a loved one, a co-founder of Paradigm Wills and Legal Services reveals how he did it WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


iving back with mum and dad, Bhavin Gandhi decided in his mid-20s that he would prove himself, remain single, work hard, and focus on his career. Bhavin, 38, from Oadby, is co-founder of Paradigm Wills and Legal Services along with childhood friend Satwinder Sidhu. The two formed the business back in 2015, but to get to this stage in his career, Bhavin would experience some emotional upheavals, which would take him on a journey to the accomplished life he leads now. In his early 20s, Bhavin was juggling two jobs for a while. But, after some consideration, he decided to leave one job to progress in the other, only to be made redundant from that role just a week later in 2005 rendering him jobless.

Picking himself up, he took a management position at Aon and thrived in his role there for the next five years. But this period in his life was a troubling one. Later in 2005, Bhavin lost his grandad, who he describes as his rock, having become another father figure to him during his childhood while his dad worked five days a week in Scotland to provide for the family. “You can never fill that void,” he told us. “You can try, but it’s something you never get over because you always miss that individual.” It was in 2008 when he would have to move back in with his parents after a divorce he “was not ready for” that “left me with nothing”, and would limit time with his son to just the weekends. Things began to look up in 2010 when Bhavin left Aon


to become self-employed with another Leicester-based firm. Within seven months he was promoted to Business Support Manager, and due to his success was promoted to National Sales Manager six months later, having 400 members of staff under his remit at just 29 years of age. He was thriving financially and was able to get on the property ladder. In 2015, he was ready to put his experience to good use, helping other families secure and protect their finances by setting up Paradigm Wills and Legal Services, along with Satwinder who was also in the wills and estate planning industry. On his decision to set up the business, he said: “It was difficult, but I always had the desire to do more and felt I had more to offer. We combined our knowledge and expertise to offer an all-round comprehensive service within wills and estate planning, making sure we provided a high standard of service.” Bhavin and Satwinder say it’s with the help of local businessmen and women that they have been able to make a success of it. Bhavin explained: “Without their support, we wouldn’t have got to where we are. So, if anyone comes to us for time, help or advice, we will never say no.” Today, Paradigm Wills and Legal Services has been running for five years, Bhavin is happy in a new marriage and family life with a new-born and his now 14-year-old son. “I’ve got my two kids and a supportive wife who makes me very happy, that I want to provide for. Now is a new chapter.”

NICHE | 43

From spice mix

to FUSIC Harish Palli is a man whose hardworking and tenacious attitude towards business has enabled him to adapt and prosper at a time when the pandemic could have seriously dented the success of his businesses


started out as a businessowner whilst working for the multi-national brand Mars,” Harish Palli of Harini’s FUSIC told us. “It was a natural thing for me to start a business of my own and I knew after a short time of doing both that it was time to go it alone and really commit to my ideas.” His ideas, which started with a spice mix and healthy grains, soon developed into a restaurant of his own design which would use the mixes combined with other high quality, healthy ingredients. After realising that there was a demand for music and food all rolled into one entertaining evening, Harish sought out a larger venue to accommodate his growing customer base. “I wanted to have a venue which had a really entertaining atmosphere and the music and food seemed to work so well with guests. The music created

a new atmosphere and people were gathering in larger groups for a real evening out at FUSIC” Then, when the pandemic hit and hospitality suffered the most, Harish had to reconsider how the business was going to survive. He came up with the idea of BBQ Boxes with variations for family groups and couples staying at home. These boxes come with uncooked, fully cut, prepared and marinated meat, vegetables and vegan options for a delicious family activity meal. “I consulted with the whole team and between us all we worked out a takeaway service in and around Leicester which was to become a huge success during lockdown and beyond. “I think it’s taught me to strive to continue to think outside of the box, to keep communicating with my team and also to create a healthy work-life balance spending time with my young family.” Not one to rest on his laurels though, Harish is working on an exciting franchise model business for the latter stages of 2020. “It’s all still a work in progress, lockdown was a great time to be able to work on it – I found it a very productive time thankfully.” Discover the BBQ Boxes and more about FUSIC at

A spark that started at 13 Multi-business owner Tom Bates cites his first boss, a fruit and veg stand owner, as his main source of inspiration for success


t just 13 years old, Tom Bates developed a work ethic which would stay with him. “My boss was a huge influence on me, he worked so hard but had real financial success. I knew from then on that I wanted to be successful and would work hard to get there.” A few years later, stacking shelves at Tesco and a business management degree under his belt, Tom embarked on managing a team at the store whilst spending his days off working at the family-run print firm that he eventually bought out with his mother, realising his dream of being a businessowner. “I wanted to create my own schedule, to work off my own back.” That he did – and his entrepreneurial streak has since spurred him on to start a hair and beauty salon with his wife, a sock company which offers 44 | NICHE

a unique sock subscription service, an aggregates firm started during lockdown, and work alongside the coaches at WiserWays. Phew! “Managing to balance it all isn’t always easy, but small ways of adapting your ways of working can help,” says Tom. “I have a busy family life too, and sometimes I can get a little too into work mode. I just remind myself of this, though, and make sure I switch the laptop off at a reasonable hour.” In order to share his ethos for dreaming of where you want to be and going for it, Tom wants to set up his own Young Entrepreneur organisation. “I want to share the things I have learnt along the way and ultimately, would love the idea that I could help influence a young person in a positive way in their lives so they could be successful at business.”

This year has presented its own unique set of challenges. Tom said: “We were able to survive through adapting our approaches within our teams and the individual businesses. It was a challenging time, but nothing that we couldn’t handle.” With an award nomination at the Women in Business Awards 2020 – in the male businessman category! – Tom is hopeful about the year ahead. “The nomination feels like a great way to close what hasn’t been the easiest year in the business world.” To find out more about Tom’s journey, visit



It’s OK to be Mr OK

Councillor and businessowner shares his career journey and advice to budding entrepreneurs and young people entering the world of work PAUL IN FRONT OF THE ICE HOUSE IN BLABY




hated school, it was horrible,” Councillor Paul Hartshorn, representative of Blaby South told me. “I was always average and had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school at 16.” When I spoke to Paul in August, GCSE results had just been released across the country. As a man who has achieved his aspiration of owning his own business and is now able to give back to local communities, I wanted to find out how he carved his career path and what advice he could give to young people. Paul, who is married and has two children who also received their results this year, said: “There will be lots of children who haven’t got the results they wanted. Grades only tell you you’ve got the ability to learn, and they don’t say how you’re going to be in the workplace. “Students who are excellent get put on a pedestal, while the ones who just do OK don’t get as much attention.” Paul left school with ‘OK grades’ and went on to develop his interests when he began working. Being from Wigston myself,

I was enthusiastic to hear that, at age 16, Paul went on to work at Premier Percussion – anyone who lives near the area knows how iconic that building was. “I was on low pay but it was when things start to fall into place – the period when effort becomes much more appreciated than how clever you are, and you’re able to find something you’re really interested in.” He worked his way up to Operations Director and left 16 years later with the realisation his calling was in technology. Paul went to work for a business where he was in charge of implementing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems into computers and turning around struggling companies. Due to the skills he’d developed through his love of IT, he was able to work independently through a recession and set up his own ERP consultancy company, Mr HIT, which he runs today. “The first year was a piece of cake, but then a big customer of mine went bust and it was a disaster. In Blaby there’s a mound which was an ice house dating back to 1843. That little


building means a lot to me. I used to sit on top of it and cry, wondering what I was going to do.” But the business pulled through and now, as a councillor for the area, Paul appealed for the reopening of the ice house, which is now underway. Having fulfilled his dream of living in Blaby, he’s now giving back by helping local businesses and people achieve their career goals. He’s currently working with Enderby Mission Foodbank, collecting food donations at his home during this troubling time. Those who live nearby can donate at 17 Park Road, Blaby LE8 4ED. “To those who didn’t get the GCSE results they wanted, it’s OK to not be brilliant at school. You find your interests and opportunities later. It’s OK to be Mr OK,” he asserts. Find out more about Paul at, and Mr Hit at If you or a young person you know could benefit from help with preparing for working life, go to the Leicestershire Education Business Company website at NICHE | 45

From aid worker to app provider


This businessman’s trial and error process to finding the right career for him

had zero interest in business when I was younger,” says Sachin Vasani, who now ironically runs his own business – Vencha Apps, a web-based app provider for restaurants and takeaways. Sachin’s journey to becoming a businessowner was inspired by his experiences whilst working abroad for a humanitarian organisation. In his 20s he had more of an appetite for helping others with ambitions to join the UN World Food Programme. Failing his social care degree did not dishearten him. He worked in sales post-university, before embarking on an internship that took him across North America, Africa and India for two years until he returned home to England aged 26. Now 41, Canadian-born Sachin reflects on his experiences: “I wanted to develop a career in humanitarian work but it affected having a family life, so it wasn’t for me. But this experience shaped my character, equipped me with the right attitude and skills that I’m able to apply today and most importantly taught me to be grateful and appreciate the opportunities we have in the UK.”

Interested in becoming self-employed, overcoming his fears and anxieties, reading business books and going on courses, he started his business career setting up a catering business, having had the experience of cooking daily for 30-plus volunteers whilst working abroad. A taste for entrepreneurship led to the creation of an Asian greetings card company. The ecommerce and software side of the business piqued his interest and he formed Vencha Apps in 2018. Understanding the intricacies of restaurant processes, he wanted to help restaurants and takeaways leverage digital technology and avoid high-commission third party ordering apps by creating their own online ordering system and marketing plan. “This year has been a blessing in disguise for me; I’ve gained 15 new clients since March. There’s still a long way to go but I have no regrets in my life.” Sachin’s advice to others, as he recently said to his cousin when she was concerned about her university choices, “interests change – no one knows which direction life will take you in.” Find out more at

The Alternative 2020 Everything is different this year!



Santa Fun Run


1 st-12 th

The Rotary Club of Loughborough has been hosting our Santa Fun Run & Walk in the town for the last fifteen years, raising money for approximately forty charities every year. Now we at PROSTaid can take part in our ‘Alternative’ Santa Fun Run in 2020, by setting yourself a challenge over the twelve days of Christmas, and raise much needed funds for Prostaid. You can run, walk, hop, skip, jump, scoot, throw, row and dance or any other activity that will raise money and make you feel great. Anytime, anywhere, during the first 12 days of December from the lst to the 12th!!

Sign up for FREE and get your Santa suit delivered. We pay your entry fee you just have to raise

for PROSTaid £50 per adult and £20 per child. EVERYONE WELCOME Register on or contact: Rob Banner 07900 384 103 or Stuart Berry 01455 291752

Even your dog can participate in his/her best ‘Santa paws’ outfit, and win a prize at the same time, your dog just needs to raise £20!

Your Local Prosate Cancer Charity Awareness, Support, Information, Specialist Nurses Email

46 | NICHE

PROSaid re charity N0 1116935 Charitable company No 5953090



The sacrifice

of running a successful business Events industry mogul opens up about the toll coronavirus is taking on his industry, his relationship with his father, and his experience as a father himself WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


iving a non-materialistic life growing up in Jinja, Uganda, Atul Lakhani’s earliest memories revolve around being surrounded by family and friends. Although his father was a successful entrepreneur with multiple businesses, they shared a “simple but happy existence” until forced to leave the country for a new life in Leicester when Atul was aged five. Atul is the man behind Leicester catering business Sanjay Foods and Leamington Spa’s IXL Events Centre. And his late father was the man behind Bobby’s Restaurant in Belgrave Road, which he managed to set up after losing most of his money. “Like many children whose parents worked in a family business, we hardly saw our parents,” Atul told me. “But the stability which had been enshrined in us from a young age allowed us to be self-sufficient.” The values instilled in him led to the achievement of a degree in economics and politics and, shortly after, a return to Bobby’s in order to support his father during ill-health. “By the millennium, I decided I wanted to branch out on my own due to differences in opinion

on how Bobby’s Restaurant would move forward. I was old enough to remember the hard work my father had put in, but young enough to have my entrepreneurial instincts which saw the establishment of Sanjay Foods.” Sanjay Foods became synonymous with high end catering and event management and now has catering rights to over 160 premier, nationwide venues. However, Atul says his takeover of IXL Events Centre in 2018 is his greatest achievement. With it, IXL has won 15 major awards in the past six years. Following in his father’s successful entrepreneurial footsteps meant Atul’s journey as a father himself would take a similar course. He said: “When I first started the business, my children were very young and hence hardly ever saw me, which then creates its own problems. The journey in developing a successful business, unfortunately, results in a whole series of trade-offs, which perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, I would not have embarked upon.” Having committed to his


entrepreneurial journey, he has now been led to face the pandemic as an employer. He has recently been working hard to spread the word about the importance of the events industry, and the need to preserve the vital jobs which invariably bring so much joy and happiness into people’s lives. “The loss of both my parents, especially my mother, was perhaps the darkest period of my life. But businesswise, the Covid-19 pandemic has most certainly been the most challenging period I have personally experienced. “The Government’s refusal to recognise our sector as hospitality and therefore, for us to lose out on much-needed financial support, has been an injustice perpetrated upon our sector,” Atul claimed. As Atul and his teams continue into the unknown, he hopes that the reconnection of old acquaintances and the building of new friendships will be the abiding memory of this difficult period. Find out more about IXL Events Centre and how its events adhere to government guidelines at NICHE | 47

The intimate subject of the pleasure industry In a career that has taken him from fire breather to toy maker – of the adult kind – small businessowner Adam Breedon has taken on battles of a different variety in business


hings that 99.9% of the world take for granted, we have to fight for,” Says Adam Breedon, who coowns sex toy manufacturer Godemiche with partner Monika Makarewicz. “For example, as a VAT registered, limited company with employees and no debt, banks still refuse to open up a business account because, I quote: ‘the nature of your business’ and ‘the sector you operate in is prohibited’. “Social media can also be a tricky minefield. We have been banned on Instagram for the past two years, meaning we don’t come up in any search, unless you type our full name which is @Godemiche.silicone. Although that’s frustrating, it’s also a driver.”

The company was formed in 2015 after Adam and Monika ran a web shop called ThatPosition selling other people’s products while also making his own. He’s previously worked as a fire breather, tree surgeon, bingo caller, make-up artist, and more before becoming a bona fide “dildo-maker”. He now has two children aged five and six. On how he juggles work and family life, he says: “We explain to them the best we can that sometimes work needs us for longer. Likewise, we actively do nice things to spend more time with them. It’s very much a seesaw we have to keep balancing and not taking either for granted.” Whilst dealing with the ups and

Adam Breedon and Monika Makarewicz celebrating another year of Godemiche

downs of running a small business and family, Adam must also tackle the opinions of others and grapple with gaining mainstream acceptance. “Constructive, negative criticism is welcomed all day long,” he explains. “We are not blind to the fact that people will hate everything we do. Hell, people might even hate us personally, and we’re fine with that. We will discuss anything with anyone who has a difference of opinion and we will listen, argue where we feel it’s appropriate, but also change where we feel it’s appropriate.” Learn more about how Godemiche is trying to turn the industry from taboo to a topic of discussion at

Positivity... even on a Monday Even through the digital distancing of a Zoom conversation, a meeting with Brendan Green of M&B Design and Print leaves you in an upbeat mood WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


he working week has only just dawned, but Brendan Green’s positive mindset is infectious. His people skills reflect someone who has not only worked hard and with good people for years, but one who has also faced challenges and overcome them to emerge stronger than ever before. The family business was handed down from his father – “a hero of mine, he was extremely hard working, as was my mother, who always made time for family too” – And although printing might have been in his blood, it wasn’t always in his heart. A keen actor and singer, Brendan side shifted those dreams to the weekends to take the reins of the business and now is very happy in his role as Director at M&B

48 | NICHE

Design and Print. “There’s been plenty to get my teeth into over the years and we have diversified with technology and design services, adapting with the times and climates. I really enjoy the people aspect of what I do,” he says. With the passing of both his mother from cancer and his father of a different condition on the same day in 2016, Brendan’s approach to the business evolved. “Ultimately, I want to make them proud with the way I do things, that’s both for the business and in my personal life. The support I received at the time from both the BNI business community and my amazing partner Danni really got me through and still does.”

The global pandemic has also had an effect on Brendan, “For me, being forced to strip back the working day, to carve out elements of it to focus my attention on, and also to find time to spend quality time with my partner, has really taught me that business doesn’t need to be 24/7 in order to thrive. Supporting one another with a positive mindset has never been more vital.” Take a look at how M&B Design and Print can support your business needs at or call 01509 233 342.



The manager behind new

Novotel and Adagio hotels A boy who grew up in what was known as Europe’s most bombed town might not have believed he’d end up running one of the continent’s flagship hotels. Kerry Smith interviews James Conaghan


s part of the Accor hospitality brand and managed by Interstate Hotels International, James Conaghan’s Novotel and Adagio hotels opened in Leicester this year. We spoke to him about growing up in Ireland, his hotel career, family life, and guiding his hotels through the pandemic. NICHE: What was it about the hotel industry that made you want to pursue your career in it? JAMES: I just love working with people and seeing them progress. Happy teams make happy guests. Tell us more about where you grew up. I grew up in Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Having been a child during the troubles in Northern Ireland and lived in the most bombed place in Europe from 1973 to 1990, you learn very quickly to have a strong character and to look after the people around you – whether that be family, friends, school mates or your community.

Have you found it difficult juggling business and family life? This has been a challenge over the years. However, my family is in a great place at present as we live in close proximity to work and schools. Have you hit any stumbling blocks in your career? Running hotels you hit stumbling blocks daily. The biggest challenge we have all faced is the current situation with Covid-19. I have had some business coaching a few years ago that helped me clear my mind. I am a firm believer that a thought is just that – and if you change that thought, your mind becomes clear and you make better decisions. What characteristics do you think are most important in a businessperson? Listen to your team and never give up. I’ve seen my team come together from a group of individuals to a force to be reckoned with.


Tell us about your role as General Manager for Interstate Hotels International. Interstate has a great ethos: look after your people, empower them to make their own decisions and the results will follow. Having worked as a GM for over 23 years, this is the best group of people I have had the pleasure of working with. What makes Novotel and Adagio different? The Novotel is stunning in design, attention to detail is second to none and it’s by far the best hotel I have had the pleasure to manage. It also has an independent restaurant and bar, NineB. It serves good, modern British cuisine in an amazing environment. The Adagio is an aparthotel; all rooms have fully fitted kitchens and are geared towards the mid to long stay guest. Having opened this year, how have you contended with the coronavirus crisis? We met this head on, strictly adhering to Government guidelines, which in itself has been fun, as they seem to change on a regular basis. We kept the Adagio open for key workers and reopened the Novotel on May 26. We haven’t looked back, and have had numerous high profile football and rugby teams staying with us. As I stated earlier, “change the thought, you make better decisions”. Bookings for Leicester’s Novotel and Adagio can be made online or by calling 0116 4820 440. NICHE | 49

Rethinking utility budgets As businesses look to restructure budgets due to Covid, Assured Energy gives advice on how to save during the energy market’s biggest price drop of the year WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


ne quarter of UK companies temporarily closed due to the coronavirus lockdown, and those that continued operating reported lower turnover, according to an Office for National Statistics survey back in April. Even those that have been fortunate enough to remain in business, won’t have escaped the effects of the pandemic, and just about every industry will carry its scars forever. To survive and recover, many companies will be looking at their budgets and making savings where possible, doing so with care so as not to deepen the wound. One company wants to alert businesses – especially SMEs – to savings that can be made, and costs that can be avoided on services we use every day. Utility provider Assured Energy says it has seen two things happening in recent months: a significant drop in energy prices, and businesses making rash decisions in the hopes of avoiding hassle with providers. Sam Edwards, Partner Channel Manager UK at Assured Energy, said: “We understand that because there is a lot to keep up to date with in terms of government rules and legislation, and work and home life in these times, lots of people will be focusing mainly on the matters at hand that are right in front of them. But if we can get through to some businesses and encourage them to review their utilities, they will find there are many ways to save in the long term. It may even be a lifeline to some companies.” Sam and Assured Energy General Manager Hiren Kanabar talked us through what’s happening in the industry at the moment.

50 | NICHE


Energy prices have fluctuated during the turbulent course of 2020, but are now at this year’s all-time low. Hiren explained: “We’ve noticed that prices are better than previous months. Prices were much higher earlier in the year. The low prices we’re seeing right now could be down to suppliers overbuying and now being in a place where that energy has built up and needs to be sold, meaning there are better offers to be had.” Sam, Hiren and the team have acted proactively by speaking with their clients 12 months in advance of their contracts expiring to alert them of the price drops and educate them on current market trends. They aim to put the power back into their clients’ hands by providing their insight to support them to make the right decisions for their business at the right time. “We are giving clients comparisons to enable them to consider locking in a rate for their up and coming renewals so they can at least take advantage of this painful time,” Hiren said. Energy bills might be the last thing on your mind when you’re trying to keep a business afloat through a pandemic, and you might also expect that those bills are something you’re unable to change. But Sam begs to differ: “Businesses currently have a lot going on, so bills are either not their priority right now, or they just aren’t aware they can bring their costs down. “The rates are at their lowest for a while now and it comes at everyone’s most challenging time. We want to see what we can do to help businesses utilise these


The rates are at their lowest for a while now and it comes at everyone’s most challenging time reduced costs in a positive way while they can.” But it’s not just about the figures. Assured Energy has a customer retention rate of 94%, meaning their customers are loyal ones, and for good reason. “There’s a key theme around service and our ability to provide in a friendly way that builds trust,” Sam added. “People need that kind of relationship now more than ever. They need to know that they’ll receive an all-round great experience to make their lives easier in at least one area.”


Two opposites are trending according to Assured Energy. The first addresses businesses that predict they’re about to go bust. Hired said: “Businesses that are wondering if they’re even going to be around in six months are letting their contracts rollover into another one, thinking that they’ll deal with it when it comes to selling up. The standard rates they’ll enter into are excessively high and this bullish decision will come back on them.” Hiren’s point is that even if you do eventually come to sell the business, you will get a better deal by shopping around, therefore making savings until your time at the premises ends. Assured Energy is a one-stop-shop for all utilities, meaning customers don’t have to go from “pillar to post” securing the best deals. As a consultancy, they can source the best deals from their online systems which list energy providers all competing with one another. This is also the case when it comes to the second trend, which concerns

to do with Change of Tenancy Agreements (CoTs). Sam commented: “Unfortunately, there are businesses that are closing down and new people taking over companies and premises. The energy prices they receive are significantly higher, which is because they know that businesses still need access to power as they are moving in and so supply them with temporary out of contract rates. “People quickly take up new rates from suppliers that are already supplying their premises to avoid hassle, but if they did their research and comparisons, they would see competitive rates. On our systems, companies know they’re up against the likes of EDF, British Gas, Eon and so on. Because of this, we can find much better deals, and quickly, for these businesses.” The energy experts also advise that businesses look out for energy, water and waste management services and how providers recycle waste, as well as green suppliers who install smart meters so that businesses can be more efficient with their usage. If your business is moving into new premises, if you’re thinking about selling, or if you’d like to hear more about the current price drops, contact Assured Energy for advice on 0330 221 9899 or email

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Stonemason and geologist set up art gallery Melton Mowbray is set to get a new art gallery, which is thought to be the only place in Europe where a unique art form is produced WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


aiting patiently for his chance to shine in the art world, stonemason Stephen Wain achieved his long-awaited dream this year of embarking on an art-related career. The 55-year-old has taken to swapping his dusty work boots – which he wears to run his business Sedgewick Stone that he set up over 30 years ago cutting and fitting high quality, natural stone for homes and offices – in favour of even dustier work boots to produce a unique form of stonebased artwork. It’s taken Stephen and his colleague, geologist Russ Parsons, 52, over two years to perfect the process of etching on slate, and when I went for a sneak peek of the Goffod gallery back in September, the unfinished space was packed with excitement and perfectly etched pieces. Their boyish enthusiasm for what they’ve managed to create was infectious, and just like Stephen, I too “cannot wait for someone to commission a piece as big as the wall”. It sounds like the pair have put in some serious graft 52 | NICHE

over the years in the fittings business, but neither of them is new to the art scene. Stephen said: “We’ve been doing kitchen worktops, vanity units, and floors but it is heavy, dirty work. I’d had this idea to put artwork on slate for a few years, but it was an investment to get it started. “I love all kinds of art. I’ve been to hundreds of galleries. My favourite is probably the Tate at St Ives in Cornwall. I’ve even worked in a few galleries. I’ve always been into art, poetry, and drawing. I do a bit myself but nothing to the standard of the lasering. I’m blown away by the quality. This is the dream.” Throughout his career, Stephen’s made efforts to keep a foot in the door with other artists and projects. While working in Dublin, he was hired to design and install an exhibition gallery for one of his favourite painters, Francis Bacon. Stephen was also commissioned to fabricate the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings Memorial in Glasnevin. It’s down to these experiences and the diligent stonework he carries out in the Sedgewick Stone side of his career, that he’s now able


The slate we use is around 50 million years old. We’re not using oil-based paints, and there are almost zero chemicals involved

to craft the slate work he creates side by side with Russ. “I’ve been in the stone game all my life and because of that, I know how to fix the back of stones so that they’re able to hang safely. It’s been a lot of trial and error. We know how to polish, how to seal it, how to treat it, and we’ve perfected the methodology behind it. “No one else in the world is doing this, as far as I’m aware. It’s been done on thin coasters or aluminium, but no one’s doing it on stone because of the weight and technique. The engineer came last week to align the laser machine and he said he’s been all over Europe and never seen anyone using it in the way that we are. He said we’re in the top three of the things he’s seen it used for, so we know we’re on to a winner because he’s been doing his job for 12 years.” On how the laser etching works, Russ explained: “The slate we use is around 50 million years old. We’re not using oil-based paints, and there are almost zero chemicals involved. Quite simply, it’s a natural piece of stone that’s

etched with a laser. The slate is black because all the minerals are lined up; when you hit it with an intense amount of heat in a small area, you’re shattering that area. The more intense the heat, the whiter it becomes and an image can form.” As well as creating his own pieces, Stephen has been working with two artists to create microchipped, limited edition pieces. Australian artist Dean Turner, who’s known for using musicians as his subjects, and local artist Kevin McGeachie, who’s established in freehand portraits, have both secured a deal with Goffod to have some of their artworks made into a limited edition slate piece of just 50 copies. Those looking for bespoke, personal pieces can send in their photos to be etched on high quality Brazilian or Italian slate, which can be hung in the home or even in the garden due to protective sealing. Goffod has already produced many pet and equestrian portraits, pet memorials, and wedding and Christmas gifts. Stephen and Russ also eagerly await the time a corporate request comes in, allowing them to work at large scales, etching and embossing company logos onto floor and wall installations. Visit the Goffod Gallery at Unit C6 Melton Business Park, Welby Road, Melton Mowbray, LE14 3JL. Find more of their work at or call 01664 812982. NICHE | 53

e 19 th 20 l l a in Of des i ic su

Is men’s mental health

a silent crisis?


elm erwh nd 2 in 3 lt ov

fe da have stresseto cope r e l b a t yea un e pas

Male businessowners are feeling the pressure during lockdown and many are suffering in silence


n 2019 the ONS reported men accounted for just over three out of four suicides (75%) and suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35. Two in three men said they felt stressed and overwhelmed in the past year, with many men suffering in silence when they experience feelings of sadness, loneliness or anxiety. The stats make for harrowing reading and in truth the number of mental health conditions is likely to be far higher as many go undiagnosed. According to Affinity HRM’s Aleena Ahmad, the strain in 2020 is only getting greater. “I am seeing many male business leaders struggling with their mental health this year. They are trying their best to save their businesses and therefore the jobs of their employees and the strain has been evident at one point or another in the majority of clients I work with.” The HR expert is calling for male business leaders who may be struggling to balance their responsibility, the finances and the effects of the global pandemic to reach out for help and support now more than ever. “The policies, obligations, duty of care and the implications of hiring or



The male mental crisis gap

letting go of staff at this time are huge, bewildering and, without help, can just feel like too much to cope with alone,” Aleena adds. Less likely to request flexible working hours, shared paternal leave or feel like they can take any time away from the running of the business, juggling all of it can be too much. Men are still being perceived as the ‘breadwinner’, and the urge to take on too much responsibility, never seek help and to just ‘get on ‘is perpetuated by outdated views on what it takes to be a man. My advice to anyone at the moment is to talk and share your concerns. Our culture is getting slightly better around men talking openly about their mental health, but we still have a way to go. ‘With more awareness and less stigma, we can get men to look after their mental health better.” Contact Aleena for any HR worries you may have at this pressured time. Email or call 0116 478 0025. A problem shared is a problem halved! #itsoknottobeok,,

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Setting up your own business:

Where to start? A business adviser gives her advice to those thinking of setting up their own business WORDS BY AMANDA PATTERSON


tarting a business can be daunting. There are a lot of considerations, a lot of planning involved and many different resources and avenues to explore. Understanding all of this can be a challenging and frightening task. This is where speaking to a business adviser can come in; they can clarify what information is needed and why, what actions to take next and why – ultimately so that a big idea can become a business reality. Wendy Foster is a Business Adviser with the City Business Library. She said: “I help support new businessowners by helping them source relevant and valuable information. I do this via one-to-one sessions, group training and events.” Passionate about helping those starting and running a business, Wendy has been working with the City Business Library for over a decade. In that time, she received her SFEDI Professional Business and Enterprise Service Support Level 5 qualification, assisting her in helping anyone who wants to

turn their great idea into their own business. “Research is a boring word for most people, but this is where we come in,” says Wendy. “Before you decide whether you should work for yourself, you can get some security from conducting research into your finances, your industry sector, your competition and your customers.” Wendy understands that the word ‘money’ can sometimes be an uncomfortable one, but the reality is that money can make dreams a reality. “Having a healthy cashflow allows you to be able to pay the bills. Many people I work with are not comfortable with numbers or budgets, so a business adviser can help here too.” Wendy’s favourite part of supporting new businesses for the City Business Library is meeting new people. “Meeting these people keeps me enthralled. The passion, the drive, the energy and the knowledge my customers bring is incredible. “I never cease to be amazed at how creative and skilful people are. I love that people are so good


at what they do that they are able to make a great business from it and create something that, without them, wouldn’t exist at all.” When starting out, Wendy suggests asking for help. “Being self-employed is often described as lonely, and you may feel that you have to do it all. But why not outsource some of these elements such as tax and accounting or website design to someone else? “None of us can do everything, so outsourcing when it is cost-effective helps. Why spend days or weeks trying to do something that an expert can do in a short period of time at low cost? Remember, your time is money now – make sure you are spending it well.”

STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS? The City Business Library can connect you to resources, networks and events to help you. Whether you are looking for a dedicated business adviser to help you write your business plan, network with other founders, or research diverse businesses, City Business Library has resources available to help. NICHE | 55

The conferences

that give back As Leicester rebuilds its economy after the lockdowns, there are things that all of us in the locality can (and are) doing to boost it and help it to restore. Emily Miller visits St Martins House Conference Centre & Lodge to see just how a conference at the venue can help the local community


s an events and conferencing venue in the heart of Leicester’s city centre, St Martins House suffered the effects of lockdown greatly. Like all in the hospitality sector, the lockdown had a very immediate and almost devastating effect on the organisation as a whole. It is a not-for-profit organisation, so the funds created by St Martins House as a business are ploughed straight back into the Diocese of Leicester. Much of the work that they do within the Leicester community has suffered too. Leicester’s diocese is a family of more than 18,000 Christians who worship in church buildings, houses, community spaces and schools. With over 320 churches, 234 parishes, almost 100 schools and academy trusts, and a rapidly growing number of fresh expressions of church, taking in villages, market towns and the city of Leicester, they describe themselves as a rural diocese with urban heartlands. The diocese does extensive charitable work within the local community, including, expending a great deal of effort to combat the growing homelessness in the city, working with One Roof Leicester and Leicester Homelessness Charter. This work was, of course, vital during the pandemic and and will continue to be so, moving forward. Nigel Jobson, Business Manager at St Martins House Conference Centre and Lodge, said: “Community has always been a huge part of the work at the diocese. Our communities need to come together to support each other in the aftermath of Covid, whether through financial challenges or relationship and mental health effects, the 56 | NICHE

Community has always been a huge part of the work at the diocese. Our communities need to come together to support each other work will become more prevalent and essential than ever before.” St Martins House offers the opportunity to give back to the local community. As well as helping to support churches in the city, and towns and villages across the county, hosting a large conference or small meeting here aids the Diocese of Leicester in continuing the charitable work they carry out. With an elegant mix of period features and contemporary styling, St Martins House provides four spaces which are all Covid safe and have been accredited with Visit England’s ‘We’re Good to Go’, confirming that they are taking all possible measures to keep everyone safe. “Now, though, as Leicester is starting to return to a new normal, we are seeing a growing demand for our conferencing facilities and meeting rooms,” adds Nigel. “The requests for video conferencing are now declining, although, of course it was a much needed tool whilst the pandemic meant business was being run from homes. But


now the desire to meet face-to-face is growing once again, with social distancing measures in place. We can more than meet this demand and have the space and availability to accommodate.” St Martins Lodge, a luxury accommodation just a short stroll across the courtyard overlooked by the cathedral, offers beautifully appointed non-serviced accommodation and lends itself perfectly to social distancing, with the building free of public spaces such as a lobby and bar area. With exceptional levels of cleanliness in every detail, St Martins Lodge is a safe and welcoming location for those looking to stay in the city for business or leisure. “The lodge allows for delegates to travel from further outside of the city and provides a welcoming and additional convenience for holding a conference at our venue. Delegates have enjoyed being able to once again relax and enjoy the accommodation after a busy day of business. And, in supporting the lodge, guests will once again be providing support for the vital work that the diocese does in and around Leicester in this challenging time.” Hosting your conference at St Martins House does more than help our local economy – it helps our community too. Call 0116 261 5200 or visit and NICHE | 57




Promoting your trades business

Managing Director at Soar Valley Press


s a tradesperson, it can be difficult to put time and effort into promoting your services. However, it is always important to consider marketing to effectively attract new customers and stand out from your competitors. Here are our top tips for promoting your trades business. Word of Mouth Personal recommendation remains one of the most trusted methods of generating new business. Your satisfied customers are likely to share your contact details with friends and family members. So why not make the process simple for them? Leaving a few flyers or business

cards with your customers once you’ve finished a job is an affordable way to ensure they spread the word. Use your company vehicle as an advertising tool Being in the trades industry, it’s likely you’ll own van. Whether stationary at a worksite or travelling to or from home, you are visible to everyone who is out and about. Using van livery to display your company logo, trade services and contact details on your vehicle fleet gets your business noticed by thousands of people a day. Use signage at your workplace Placing signage outside your current

worksite is a great way to attract attention from passers-by. A-frames, Correx signs or PVC banners are great temporary signage to publicise your business. They can also affix to buildings and fences once your project is complete. Don’t hold back on traditional marketing methods Door dropping is an affordable way to get your business into the hands of potential customers, through their letterboxes. Printing leaflets that include your contact details and services is a great way to establish yourself as a reputable tradesman in your local area.

STEM coaching

after job loss This professional coach wants to work with those who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus lockdown


n the current global pandemic climate, there are many professionals who are being left confused and concerned about where to take their career next. Andy Kowalski provides bespoke advice based on an individual’s history and works with them and their strengths to help them achieve their goals. “I really enjoy helping people get to where they want to be,” Andy comments. “Your success is my mission,” he says. Given the current climate, Andy is keen to assist those who have lost their jobs as a result of the global pandemic whether through furlough, staff restructuring, or those who have been made redundant. Andy is seeking to help a huge range of people needing his expertise, including young graduates who are looking to step up after being in initial roles post-graduation, experienced professionals looking to move higher in their organisation or move to another one within their discipline or even those who are considering early retirement or going freelance as consultants. He also helps those who are considering setting up their own businesses in close or related areas to those they are currently working in. “My services are aimed at graduates, masters and

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doctorates working in STEM, but I’m more than willing to help anyone else working in other areas, ie management, HR or technical. I have helped countless professionals over the years and am looking forward to helping you too.” Andy also works with people from overseas including African states, India and Pakistan. He is a fully Qualified and Accredited Coach whose designatory letters are MRSC MIScT FCMI CPD Stds office number 31020. Contact Andy for a chat about your opportunities to make the most of your qualifications and expertise via email at or visit

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buildings and Legionnaires’ disease


Concerns over a respiratory illness with all too familiar symptoms have arisen over the course of lockdown. Kerry Smith takes a look with Andy Orange, of UK Tank Services, at the bacteria that could be awaiting your employees’ return


cough, fever, aches, pains, and chills are the symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease. The symptoms, which sound similar to those of Covid-19, could go on to form a severe case of pneumonia in some sufferers. Cases of the disease occur when buildings’ water supplies have been left unattended for periods of time. This might ring bells for those who have experienced the symptoms associated with Legionnaires’ disease upon returning to work after businesses were closed for some time due to coronavirus. Andy Orange, Director at local water treatment firm UK Tank Services, says he’s worried not all businesses will be taking the disease into consideration when returning to office buildings for work. “With everyone in the world so preoccupied with coronavirus, Legionnaires’ disease could have slipped people’s minds.

“And for those who have never heard of it, they won’t know what measures to take to protect themselves and their staff from falling ill to Legionella bacteria.” Legionella bacteria thrives in warm, stagnant water. Empty office blocks and buildings could have provided the perfect environment for the bacteria to form. Andy said: “It may be especially dangerous if a building has been left empty over the summer period with such fluctuating temperatures as we’ve had this year.” If a water system has been left unattended and unused during the lockdown this year, businesses may be at risk of a spike in staff sick days upon returning to work. When lockdown was announced, many buildings were quickly closed as staff went to work from home. “Businesses must take proactive and precautionary measures to make sure their


water systems are cleaned,” Andy advised. “Pipes need to be flushed several times a week so the bacteria doesn’t build up, but check-ups also need to be booked in to avoid this nasty illness.” It is worrying that Legionnaires’ disease may be forgotten against the backdrop of Covid. Lots of people are now back in their offices. But it won’t be enough to follow the Government guidelines to protect against Legionella bacteria because it isn’t contagious. “Wearing masks, social distancing, and sanitising won’t stop employees becoming infected with Legionella bacteria. It lurks where employees would least expect it.” If you think you are experiencing symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease or Covid-19, consult your GP immediately. For more information call Andy on 07539 174 485 or email NICHE | 61

Access to digital devices campaign to benefit students and Leicester businesses To ensure that every child has access to an equal education, a local academy trust is in the midst of a campaign that provides Google Chromebooks to disadvantaged students in their care WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


he digital devices campaign began in July for pupils attending schools which are part of the Lionheart Academies Trust, a Leicestershire based group of eleven schools. During lockdown, it became apparent to teachers and employees in the trust that there were young people under their care who found it difficult to access education at home due to a lack of resources. Business Engagement Lead and Assistant Principal of the Trust, Rikki Khakhar, said: “When we set out on this journey, school closure was a national outcome of the Covid-19 crisis. Learning naturally moved to online platforms, but disadvantaged students who didn’t necessarily have access to digital devices found it harder to engage.” For educational settings, learning is moving to the digital sphere; homework is set online and teachers rely on technology, such as digital visualisers, for engagement in class. Rikki added: “Where learning is more frequently becoming virtual, it’s key that students have access to digital devices to engage. Students who do not, are at risk of being left behind, and may have already lost out on time due to lockdown.” Since the inception of the campaign, Lionheart has partnered with local businesses and members of the community to fund over 100 Chromebooks for students. Marcus Bates, Senior Quantity Surveyor at ISG which has sponsored five Chromebooks, commented: “The Chromebook initiative could be the catalyst for achievement for many young people, leading to their individual social mobility. “This is an integral ingredient of a fair society where all can prosper, irrespective of their socioeconomic beginnings.” Lionheart has built relationships with local businesses not only in order to level the educational, socioeconomic playing field, but to benefit society for years to come.

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Rikki continued: “Our students will inevitably go on to assist businesses who have supported our campaign as members of the future workforce, in turn helping to boost Leicester’s growing economy.” Chromebook sponsor Sunil Patel, Joint Managing Director at Leicester manufacturer Unique Window Systems, said: “The academy is close to us as we have many employees that are Lionheart alumni, ranging in ages and backgrounds. With our own positive experience, we at Unique hope to help the Lionheart Academies Trust develop the next generation, who will continue to add value to local and national businesses alike.” Also involved is Paul Baker, founder and Managing Director of Bakers Waste. He described the campaign as a way to “support our local community’s education system”. He went on to say: “Learning that our support will enable disadvantaged students to work from home and stay safe has made me incredibly proud. I look forward to seeing these students go on to contribute to the Leicestershire business community for many years to come.” Current sponsors also include Cross Productions, Schoolwear Solutions, Surveyors to Education, GTE Electrical Services, and Crowndale. Although schools reopened in September, Lionheart’s concerns have been further exacerbated by self-isolation and ‘bubble’ closures. Disadvantaged students who have to work from home for periods of time are still at risk of missing out on an education equal to that of their middleclass peers. This new and current issue raises ample concerns for educators alike. For the future, the question remains as to how disadvantaged students will keep up with an increasingly digital workload. It’s possible these new online teaching techniques will continue long after the pandemic.


Only as one can we ensure young people across Leicestershire aren’t left behind One Year 10 student who received a Chromebook this year said the campaign had made an impact: “I didn’t have my own computer, so I found it hard to complete work online. Since I was given a Chromebook by my school, I’ve been able to complete every piece of work set by teachers on time. It’s really changed my learning experience for the better. I now know that with this support I can succeed.” For this student and many others, the ability to use a laptop provides access to engagement, but also builds on their confidence, IT and communication skills, preparing them for the future local workforce. The campaign calls on the support of all members of the community. Rikki concluded: “Only as one can we ensure young people across Leicestershire aren’t left behind.” As part of the Leicester Business Festival, Lionheart will be hosting the ‘Business of Multi-Academy Trusts’, showcasing how businesses can benefit through developing partnerships with schools. The event will take place on Wednesday, November 11 from 5pm to 7pm. Tickets can be bought via the Leicester Business Festival website. To support Lionheart in their campaign, and secure the future of a disadvantaged student in Leicestershire, email or visit





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Peer networking

to form true business relationships Marketing Voice, creators of networking group Volta Blue, share their thoughts on how long lasting relationships are built in business


ow do you form your business relationships? There are lots of methods and some work better than others. However, when it comes to services, we believe priority should be given to the depth of relationships with individuals who have synergy with what you do. Long lasting relationships are created through knowledge and value sharing to create trust. And even better, if you do it as a collective group, you can go so much further. At Marketing Voice, we’re SEO specialists, but we have a soft spot for being part of a collaborative group of entrepreneurs. So, we’ve started peer networking collective, Volta

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Blue, and it’s taken off like a rocket in the last six months by going from four business leaders on the first session to over 570 participants, 120 sessions later. We bring business leaders together because we love it when communities are able to share, support and collaborate in a value adding environment. To maximise the effectiveness of these sessions, we have adapted the ‘Mastermind’ concept to work for our community. Mastermind is when 10 to 15 experienced business leaders share and discuss the issues they are facing in a highly structured format. We have


made the process a little more ‘human’ with an increased focus on discussion and deliberation, designed to harness the potential of making meaningful relations. Instead of just introducing yourself, you try to help business leaders with their challenges. Participants keep returning because they have been able to improve their business, either directly through the suggestions, or at least formed some meaningful relationships that pay off in the long term. And, if you gain nothing else, you have just helped another business improve and made a mark with them. To join Volta Blue, get in touch with Marketing Voice by emailing

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Music is a power. Music is a gift. Music stops the clock, it’s a change, a shift. Whether it’s up front and live, in the background inside. The music had been silenced but now it’s time to revive. It keeps you going on a long day. It can be the centre of your short day. It can fill that gap when there is nothing… more to say. Whether you’re the butchers, the bakers or the future innovator, if music is a drive, makes you want to strive, then surely... music helps bring your business to life.

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We’ve been looking forward to 2021 as though it will provide a fresh start in business, but a chat with a local marketing professional revealed that won’t be the case without a plan WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


he pandemic has wreaked havoc in every corner of the world, but in one corner of Leicester, one man hopes to provide some structure before businesses go into the new year. Freeline Creative’s Managing Director, Amit Chandrasingh, shared his tips for preparing our marketing plans. Here are the top four things that need your attention in preparation for 2021.

Website exposure

“When looking at your online presence, does it relate to the current situation?” Amit suggests your blog posts and website messaging should reflect the present-day circumstances. Keep your website updated with relatable words to show you’re an active company aware of the challenges your customers are facing. “It sounds simple, but you should also review if all the links are working throughout your website.” This instils professionalism and improves SEO rankings.

PR & advertising

There are many methods of reaching your audience but, Amit says, make sure you trust the experts. If you’re hiring a social media manager or agency, trust them to engage with the right users. If you’re investing in Google ads, have someone who knows how to choose landing pages, design ads, and research keywords. For your magazine articles, trust the publication to engage its readers in the ways it knows best. Brand awareness will follow. Additionally: “All major platforms are always changing their algorithms and regulations. You must be on top of these as they can change every few weeks and affect the visibility of your brand.”


Amit admits that allocating a good budget to your marketing is worth riding out a bad few months. “When a business is thriving, its marketing budget is larger. When you invest in something, you do so because


you want to make more money. “There’s less competition out there at the moment so if you invest now, you already have a head start. When we go into 2021, people will remember those ads you put out last year.”

Your unique brand voice

People are reading more online and in print, because they have the time to do so, and they “like it when you give stuff away like tips and advice. This presents you as an industry expert. When people are ready to buy a product or service you offer, they’ll remember.” Creating unique, catchy content can be tricky. Amit explains: “To create something memorable, research companies outside of your industry – they might be doing something successfully that you can adapt. As for your competitors, why not collaborate with them?” Before the new year, come up with 30 ideas for unique content. Amit says it’s usually within 30 that he finds that one golden goose. For more advice on how to market your business contact NICHE | 67


Soar Valley Press


At Soar Valley Press, we offer a wide range of promotional products, which are perfect for getting your brand noticed. With a whole brochure full of options, we’re sure you’ll find the perfect product to reconnect Contact us today with your customers. 0116 259 9955



Branded merchandise presents a valuable way for you to connect with your customers, increase your brand awareness and improve your customer loyalty.

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Contact us today

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Download your brochure or request a hard copy by visiting


What makes a good portrait? A portrait photographer with a degree in philosophy explains how you could shoot your own business headshots


ickey Shah, from The Coco Studio in Leicester, has over a decade’s experience shooting events, weddings and portraits. He believes that increasing consumer engagement online can be achieved through good imagery. Mickey tells us how we can achieve impressive results when creating our own portraits.

EQUIPMENT A decent camera

phone combined with some good natural light may be all you need.

STYLING Think about the colours that

your subject’s wearing in contrast to the backdrop you’re using. Avoid clothing with patterns or logos that may be distracting. Select clothing that creates the right impression for your business.

LIGHTING This is what makes

or breaks an image. Depending on what you wish to achieve, soft lighting may be a good option. This will provide a flattering look to your image and is great for females and young adults. Alternatively, you can opt for hard lighting, which will give your portrait a high contrast look, emphasising your highlights and shadows, perfect for people who want to show off body tones.

COMPOSITION Good composition means drawing your viewers’ eyes to the subject. People generally focus on the brightest and largest parts of an image first, so ensure that your subject’s face is well lit – especially their eyes. Consider

posture, and position your subject in a way that fills the frame.

THE MONEY SHOT Take dozens,

if not hundreds, of shots. Maybe ask a colleague or a friend to help you cull the images down until you find that single image that portrays your subject in a way that will leave a lasting impression. Visit for corporate event photography and headshots. You can also find Mickey’s award-winning wedding photography and family portraits at

WOULD YOU LIKE TO WRITE YOUR OWN MARKETING STRATEGY? Book on to our next virtual masterclass and prepare to take your business up a gear

Friday, November 20 | 9.30am - 11.30am | £250 +vat Call 0116 271 2573 or email to secure your place

NICHE | 69


of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand they are emotionally engaged with - Startup Business Box



Patient-centred healthcare,


The focus on personal health has never been more acute than in 2020, with a huge shift towards maintaining physical and mental wellbeing. That’s where The Health Suite can help you... WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


he Health Suite has been pioneering a new approach since 2018. Ahead of the curve, it is a place which is innovating the choice and delivery of physical and mental health treatments. The Health Suite was developed from the shared ideology of the directors: Dr Asiya Maula, a GP with a specialist interest in functional and lifestyle medicine; Dr Dominic Greenyer, a GP who works holistically with his patients; Dr Zahida Adam, a GP with specialist skills in mindfulness; and Fatema Contractor, a consultant osteopath bringing expertise of complimentary therapies, paediatrics and sports injuries. Dr Adam explained the origins of the unique therapy centre: “I have been a practicing GP for many years now and recognised that through this collaborative approach to patient care I have been able to delve deeper than just treating the symptom, tackling the root cause of problems for patients.”

Soon after finding the location, the partners designed a contemporary, yet relaxed environment from which they could provide a number of health solutions which assess physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. The doctors at The Health Suite work as part of a team of experienced practitioners from across a range of disciplines. They work collaboratively to look after individuals, providing long-term solutions for their health needs. “We are all so passionate in providing real results for a patient and thrive from working in a multi-disciplined environment. It really is so rewarding to be able to offer more than a drug to a patient and we are all able to learn from each other’s skills to provide the utmost care. No one discipline has all the answers when it comes to health.” A patient suffering from migraine attacks, for example, will be able to access a huge range of treatments. The


assessment would include reviewing what might be responsible for causing the attacks rather than simply providing drug pain relief. This may entail observing the individual’s stress levels, along with taking into account their diet and lifestyle and sleep issues. Therapies are then suggested accordingly and adapted where needed along their journey to wellness. With new research being developed all the time, The Health Suite will provide the latest in alternative therapies to support improved wellbeing. Whether it be yoga, physiotherapy, osteopathy, reflexology, massage or western medicine, the centre has holistic solutions for the health of the whole family at a time when health has never been more paramount and important for our future. Visit the website at to discover a revolutionary way of looking at health holistically here in Leicester. NICHE | 71

How you feel tomorrow starts with choosing the right hospital At Nuffield Health hospitals, we put your safety first in a COVID-19 secure environment. We have a dedicated team of experts you can trust, offering a range of specialties. To give you complete confidence, we’ve put additional safety measures in place throughout the hospital. From protective screens at reception to face coverings for all members of staff and enhanced cleaning procedures. All to bring you a truly safe environment alongside our award-winning healthcare that gives you flexible ways to pay.

1. Pay for yourself

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You can simply choose to pay for the treatment you need with us.

We offer finance options so that you can pay for yourself in regular, interest-free instalments.*

Your treatment with us could be covered by your current insurer and we work with all of the leading providers.

Expertise you can trust At Nuffield Health Leicester Hospital some areas we specialise in are:

• Minimally Invasive Hip Replacement

• Hand/wrist, elbow and shoulder

• Back and spinal • Foot and ankle • General surgery • Gynaecology • Ear, Nose and Throat.

Join an online event Nuffield Health is proud to make experts available to share insight as well as answering your health and wellbeing questions. To find out more about our online events, search Nuffield Health Start Today.

Building a healthier nation We are the UK’s largest healthcare charity**. For the last 60 years, our team of experts have been working together to make the nation fitter, healthier, happier and stronger, all for the public benefit. Today, we run a network of hospitals, medical centres, fitness and wellbeing centres and diagnostic units across the country, supporting people from fitness and wellbeing to treatment and recovery. As ever, in good times and bad, we’re committed to our vision of building a healthier nation. *Interest-free loans are subject to status and provided by our medical finance partner. **Nuffield Health is a Registered Charity. Registered Charity Numbers 205533 (England and Wales) and SC041793 (Scotland).

Call 01162 982 612 Visit ^Interest-free loans are subject to status and provided by our medical finance partner.

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Nuffield Health Leicester Hospital Scraptoft Lane, Leicester, LE5 1HY


Managing Glaucoma


Consultant Ophthalmologist with a Specialist interest in Glaucoma and Cataracts at The Stoneygate Eye Hospital


laucoma is a condition which affects the optic nerve at the back of the eye, resulting in a progressive and irreversible loss of sight. Symptoms of glaucoma are very non-specific and include misty, blurred, or patchy vision. However, the majority of patients with glaucoma have no symptoms of the disease and do not know that they have it, unless the disease is very severe. Therefore, it is important that if you have a family history of glaucoma, especially if parents or siblings have the condition, that you see your optician once a year after the age of 40. Other main risk factors are increasing age and being short sighted, or in certain cases,

long sighted. The good news is that although we cannot reverse the damage caused by glaucoma, there are numerous treatment options available to reduce the risk of the condition getting worse. The most common type of treatment is eye drops that help to lower your eye pressure which is one of the biggest factors in developing glaucoma. Other options

for treatment include laser therapy (where drops are ineffective or causing side effects) or surgical options. There are traditional surgical options available, which have a proven track record but carry significant risks; or with advancements in medicine, we’re able to offer newer surgical procedures which are shown to be safer. In summary, there are a number of treatments now available for glaucoma and the choice of treatment will depend on your age, severity of disease and personal circumstances – all of which can be reviewed with you by your health professional. Find out more information on different treatment options available at or call 0116 270 8033.

The Stoneygate Eye Hospital

We understand your vision is precious

Our team is here to ensure you receive the best possible outcome with outstanding care and support. T H E EAST MI DL A N DS’ O N L Y D ED ICAT ED P R I VAT E E YE H O S P I TA L Strict COVID safety measures in place

Tel: 0116 270 8033 E: w: 376 London Road Stoneygate Leicester LE2 2PN

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Cataract surgery (including femtosecond laser-assisted) Laser eye surgery Refractive lens exchange Vitreo-retinal surgery Eyelid and lacrimal surgery Glaucoma surgery


Some much needed

time out

As the winter chill sets in, and after what has been a stressful year for so many of us, Cross Productions CEO Jenny Cross visited Ragdale Hall Spa for a day out of her busy business life WORDS BY EMILY KIRTON


ocated in the heart of Leicestershire’s rolling countryside, Ragdale Hall Spa boasts a stunning spa area, treatment rooms, beauty and gift shops, a café, dining room and new bar as well as beautifully appointed accommodation. The Thermal Spa, which was especially designed for Ragdale, boasts 12 luxurious and unique heat and water experiences. The entrance, accessed from the main swimming pool, features natural materials including rocks, stone and lush planting, creating a wonderfully tranquil setting. So, even if you wish to spend the day at the hall without having any treatments, you can experience a truly relaxing environment that will leave you feeling like you have enjoyed a real break away. To enhance the experience even further, the awardwinning spa has recently unveiled the Twilight Bar – a brand-new cocktail bar and lounge. Featuring luxurious and ‘Instagrammable’ settings including brass fittings, fringed lampshades, plush pink

scalloped velvet chairs and a sweeping art-deco inspired bar, it provides the perfect setting to reconnect with loved ones before or after dinner, or after a day spent relaxing in the spa and pools. Guests can expect to receive a warm welcome from the dedicated bar team before choosing from a carefully crafted drinks menu, featuring muchloved classics and ‘Ragdale’ signature cocktails inspired by seasonal themes and using local ingredients. Here, CEO Jenny Cross of Cross Productions shares her recent day at Ragdale Hall. “As we pulled up for our Refresh and Revive day at Ragdale Hall, we couldn’t have needed it more. Welcomed safely by friendly staff, we started out with a coffee and croissant as we looked at what the schedule for our day looked like. After getting changed and exploring the spa facilities and rooms, we were surprised at how carefully the team had laid out social distancing measures which allowed for the right


number of guests in each of the rooms, stating how many clearly. Everyone abided easily to the layouts. The restrictions didn’t feel restrictive at all and the morning was very relaxing indeed. “Lunch was served at midday and where there is usually a healthy buffet service, it is now a sit-down meal served at your table. The new menu was beautiful and there was a great choice which was all healthy and delicious. “We took some time to browse the beauty and gift shops before heading for our treatments. I had a 50-minute face and back treatment which was absolutely fantastic. I wanted something to revive me after such a busy few months working hard and the treatment really did wonders for my stressed skin. Finishing with a pedicure and then a rest in the quiet room to finish the day, I felt amazing.” Give the gift of me-time this festive season with a Ragdale Hall Spa gift voucher. Order online at or call 01664 433 030. E-Vouchers are also available. NICHE | 75



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a brighter future The property market has, like many industries and sectors, suffered as a result of the pandemic. But, with the Government keen to get the housing market moving again – a stamp duty holiday until March 2021, and a new scheme to help first time buyers – could the country soon be seeing a rejuvenated housing market?


he PM has announced plans for a new five per cent deposit mortgage scheme for firsttime buyers to help “fix our broken housing market” as part of a bumper plan to rebuild Britain. Then, once we have bought our homes and got on that ladder – or further up it! – there is the fun part of getting things decorated to exactly how we want them. It’s certainly a pleasurable pursuit to turn our homes into somewhere we would like to be more, especially given the year we have all had. Lockdown has sparked a boom in home renovation and ever since March, we have been staring at our same four walls, assessing our housing needs. Never before have we done so much living in our own homes and, it seems, felt

so dissatisfied with our lot. Home offices and bigger kitchens are top of most of our lists now, aren’t they? Why not add an extension and make the most of what you have? We have all seen some of the great outdoor transformations and creative offices to fit into quirky sizes and spaces. Changing our homes to suit our lifestyle and needs is a must as we move into the new year, a change is definitely needed for all of us, and creating a zen space – when everything outside of it feels hectic – is essential. Here, we bring you a range of experts to help you meet your new year home goals, – whether you are buying your first property or building a property portfolio.

NICHE | 77

‘Not just another agent’

It was a challenge for us on a personal level but we also had a responsibility to our staff


Running a property agency during a pandemic Although businesses in the industry are not untouched by the pandemic, the property market is booming, and one company’s owners have seized their opportunities to follow in its footsteps WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


t’s under great strain and uncertainty that businesses have adapted to the changes brought about by the coronavirus outbreak, but a lettings and sales agency based in Stoughton, was unknowingly prepared for such an event. The aptly named Lettings and Sales Business was formed in June of last year with virtual tours created for the benefit of home hunters, sellers, and landlords alike. They had already built two offshoot companies: 1 Stop Maintenance specialising in repairs and renovations; and Fraser Stretton, a bespoke new build sales specialist for small- to mid-sized developers. They’d also previously adapted quickly to the end of tenant application fees and began cost-saving measures with ideas such as e-signing to replace paper forms, an idea that co-director Jaz Kaur says “seems simple now” but at the time was just one small change to demonstrate their future-proofing way of business. The company was originally run from home as The Lettings Business by Jaz and husband and co-director Narinder Nijjar. But with an increasing amount of properties adding rapidly to their portfolio, they needed to hire a team, and with it came the need for office premises. When the sales arm was added on its first birthday this year, Jaz and Narinder did the maths and discovered their property portfolio had grown by 116%, and by September, another 84%. As the team gathered at Winstanley House for Niche’s cover shoot, and partly in celebration of a 200% growth spurt, the room was full of excitement. The team, Narinder says, is another component in their company’s growth story. He added: “We wouldn’t ask anything of our team that we wouldn’t be willing to do ourselves. And we’re not just the face of the business, we’re not just another agent, we’re at the forefront for our clients too.” As the photoshoot took place it was clear that this was a group of people who have enjoyed sharing in the success of the Midlands property consultancy business.

But how is it that the company has succeeded through what has been the toughest year of all for most businesses?

Motoring on through lockdown

It started long before the news of the pandemic came about. When Jaz and Narinder worked as property consultants for other lettings and sales agencies, they witnessed the bad behaviours carried out by agents unwilling to adopt the practices and processes they were advising on, for the benefit of the companies and their customers. These experiences formed the foundations of what would later become The Lettings and Sales Business. Since setting up the business, the couple have been so driven that they were even working on the beach soon after its formation. But it wasn’t a chore, it was a shared goal that was driving them. “There’s a common goal for us to provide NICHE | 79


for our daughters. We have a very family orientated ethos for our business,” Narinder said. It’s also their eagerness to help those who are buying, selling, renting and letting that has seen them through lockdown. When consulting for other agents, the pair were taken aback by the customer neglect they saw taking place. Jaz said: “Do they not understand what a person has gone through to make sure that they can even get a mortgage and a deposit, and then find the right house? Agencies should be reassuring and updating their customers and keeping that excitement alive for them.” The Lettings and Sales Business has continued supporting its clients and customers in this way through lockdown, maintaining enthusiasm on all sides. It’s not always been easy though. In March, Narinder lost his father to Covid. He commented: “It was a challenge for us on a personal level, but we also had a responsibility to our staff. My dad used to say to me if I was ever having a challenging day, ‘you’ve got to dust yourself down, you’ve got a responsibility as a father and a husband but you are now an employer as well’ so that’s been a big driver for us.” Two new members of staff were taken on in March,

When it comes to people remortgaging, there’ll be a levelling out of house prices and when mortgage lenders come to value, owners may realise they are in negative equity

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meaning the company wouldn’t receive any furlough payments from the Government due to their start dates. This turned out to be another driver of success as Jaz and Narinder were determined to keep them on. “We didn’t want to lose them, we’d taken these girls on for a reason. So we motored on,” Jaz explained. Motoring on through the pandemic wasn’t all they’ve achieved though. The Lettings and Sales Business is now a named patron of the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce, Narinder has been asked to advise Leicester Tigers players on how to get into property after retirement from the sport, they now have a six-strong team, and they have been shortlisted as finalists for the East Midlands Chamber’s Outstanding Growth award.

The property market right now

As the stamp duty holiday was introduced this year, Narinder commented on the initial upturn that has been witnessed in the market. He told us his predictions for what will happen once the scheme comes to an end in March 2021. We’ve seen a tremendous number of houses coming on the market to sell. This has a lot to do with people looking at upsizing and taking advantage of the stamp duty holiday. Buyers are now just looking for their dream home and as a result, a lot of houses are being sold above what the average property price would be. What would be a £250k house becomes a £270k because buyers are factoring in the stamp duty relief and increasing their offers. Buyers are not really looking into the long term impact at this point. “When it comes to planning long term, buyers are not really too concerned about how the market may behave. The uncertainty that the pandemic has produced is again being reflected in the buying behaviour of customers. Of course, lenders are taking a very cautious approach to this as well. We have seen many lenders revisiting mortgage applications for applicants who are currently furloughed and as a result, some products are no longer being offered to the said clients. I can’t say for sure but my gut feeling tells me there’ll be a massive levelling out of the housing market. “From the lettings point of view, if those wanting to increase their portfolio hold on for another six months, they’ll find there’ll be more coming on the market at a truer price, which means the yields will increase by a couple of percent.” For more no obligation advice, call the team on 0300 124 5656 or email



Buying a house

in lockdown

Airborne Mortgage Solutions

Single full-timer Kerry Smith on buying her first home


or 10 years I’ve been saving for a deposit. It was only because I was still living with family that I was able to live without too much FOMO (fear of missing out) in life, and save at the same time. Office for National Statistics (ONS) last year reported that people aged 20-34 living with parents had increased by 46% over the last 20 years, while average house prices soared from £97,000 to £288,000. I’d managed to hit the 10% deposit mark for my budget and turned straight to mortgage broker Kamlesh Lodhia from Airborne Mortgage Solutions earlier this year. Kamlesh was recommended to me as he would do the work for me from start to finish. And that he did. At the beginning of lockdown

when banks’ loan to value (LTV) ratios plummeted, the deposit required of me doubled. I thought it was going to be another year before I could buy. But Kamlesh was having none of it. He called as soon as the LTV recovered. I only had to save an extra £1,000, and with my Help to Buy ISA bonus, I had secured the 15% deposit now needed. Most importantly, Kamlesh got to know what kind of lifestyle I wanted from the outset. He sat with me for as long as it took to find me a suitable mortgage deal. The next day, I had my Decision in Principle (mortgage promise from the bank). After I found the perfect little coach house, he applied successfully for the mortgage, updating me with every detail along the way. He even helped me haggle the price, giving me pep

talks to increase my confidence. Kamlesh told me he’d be there for me until I had the keys in my hand. And he was. He certainly has an invite to the house warming – when it’s possible. Get in touch with Kamlesh on 07801 450 231.

Confused by conveyancing? Conveyancing is how a property is legally transferred from one owner to another You’ll need a Conveyancing Solicitor when purchasing, selling, re-mortgaging or transferring a property If you don’t hire one, you run the risk of ending up out of pocket by thousands of pounds

It’s no DIY job

A good conveyancing solicitor will conduct the complex transaction on your behalf and carry out checks and searches against the property with a finetoothed comb, alerting you to any issues they may find. Buyers gain an added level of protection by hiring a conveyancing solicitor. Conveyancing solicitors are required by law to hold professional indemnity insurance covering any loss to clients, resulting in a stress-free service.

Contact BP Legal for protection and advice when moving home 221 Belgrave Gate Leicester LE1 3HT

Tel: 0116 253 6856 Fax: 0116 253 9656

email: web: NICHE | 81




keeping people & pipes connected One company is engineering a revamp of the trades industry to eliminate the stress associated with waiting in for tradespeople WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


ou’ve taken the morning off to wait in at home for a tradesperson to come and service the boiler, fix the heating, or sort that dripping tap. Most of us are familiar with the anxieties this entails: when will they arrive? What if I don’t hear the doorbell? Will they even turn up? Work needs me back in the office as soon as possible. Will I make my appointment later? Arranging repairs and maintenance around the home is a common stress for homeowners and tenants. And now, with the added concerns around coronavirus transmission and social distancing, the process has become even more anxiety-provoking. Iwona Walsh, a local landlord, explained: “I suppose what’s previously irritated me, is when [contractors] don’t turn up when they’re supposed to turn up. [I’d rather be] actually dealing with the property management side; when you’re not having to chase someone you can tick the box, complete the task and move on to the next thing.” And as Mandy Woodman, another local landlord, told us: “[Contractors] like to do the big jobs, but don’t want to come and do the small jobs.” Brits spend an average of 15 days of their adult lives waiting in for tradespeople, according to a study conducted by TrustMark. Sham Singh, Director of Leicester-based company CRS Gas & Heating, acknowledged the issue: “There is a stigma attached to tradespeople that we are unreliable, we won’t answer the phone, turn up on time, or even turn up at all. And too often previously this has been the case. “Our customers lead busy, fast-paced lives. They don’t

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need the extra stress of waiting around for a tradesperson. Our customers have a delivery arriving, they need to pick something up from the shop, they’ve had to take time off from work to wait in for us, they need to get their kids from school, and so on. “We’re aware there are a multitude of things people have to consider when booking an appointment with a tradesperson. And the situation can sometimes be even more stressful for tenants, when the landlord might have booked the tradesperson and the tenant is unsure of who is coming to their home.” After seven years of working as a gas engineer, Sham set up CRS Gas and Heating in 2007. Keen to transform the reputation of the industry, he set about building an ethos that remains firm over a decade in business later. He told me how CRS aims to provide a service in which the work is completed to the highest standard, but also where the whole process is as smooth and as stress-free as possible for the customer. He believes the key to this lies in communication. There can be issues such as when companies are too busy to correspond with customers in a timely fashion, or when communication between three parties is necessary, such as is the case when working with

Expecting poor service shouldn’t be the norm, let’s all raise the bar together










landlords and tenants. When he began to explore ways of improving such communication processes, and the overall experience of his customers, he found himself looking to technology. He explained: “I decided to begin exploring the use of technology to help us improve our service. “I wanted to find a platform which would not only help us streamline our work, but would also enable our customers – homeowners, landlords and tenants – to be kept more up to date on the progress of their works. “I began to research different software packages, and we eventually chose a web-based customer relation management (CRM) service that has led to real improvements in the day to day running of our business, but most importantly in the experience of our customers. “Customers now receive email and text notifications about job bookings, and can see live reporting on the progress of jobs. Clear invoices are generated quickly, and documents such as gas safety and service certificates are automatically sent to homeowners. They’re sent helpful reminders, for example that their boiler service is due. “For our team, the package is invaluable. Our admin process is streamlined, and accurate information can be shared between us and our customers more quickly. We have an accurate history of work completed, and we are able to generate reports that help us guide our business. But for us, the main benefit of the package is the elimination of hassle and worry for our customers.” CRS has continued to explore the use of technology to improve the customer journey and have recently


implemented an Uber-style engineer tracking system. Customers can now see exactly where their gas engineer is, and exactly when they will be arriving, thus eliminating the inconvenience and stress of waiting around. Sham added: “Customers shouldn’t be experiencing these anxieties anymore, because there’s an evolution that’s happened with information, communication and technology.” And with the recent launch of the CRS Warmth Service Plan, a pay per month service plan designed to save landlords money by eliminating callouts, reducing admin and adding fluidity to the process of property maintenance, it seems it is an exciting time to be a customer. When asked what’s most important for a company to ensure, John Husain, owner of Clarendon Park restaurant Barceloneta, landlord, and a longstanding CRS customer, expressed: “There’s a few things: reliability, courtesy both to myself and my tenants, and good communication. I suppose also I should say, competitive pricing.” Mandy Woodman concludes: “What I like is to have faith in the contractor. I want them to complete the work and I want to trust in their competency and their character.” And finally, what can we, as customers, do to improve our own experience? Sham has a passionate belief about this. “Expecting poor service shouldn’t be the norm, let’s all raise the bar together.” For information about the Warmth Service Plan, contact CRS on 0116 262 5788 or email at

The biggest mistake first time buyers can make What first time buyers can do to find the best mortgage deals in the current market


he uncertainty of many mortgage applicants’ financial situations during the pandemic means most lenders are offering a higher loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of 85%. In other words: a 15% deposit is needed, which is higher than most will have accounted for. To advise, independent broker Penny Smith, who runs Market Harborough-based Penny Mortgages, told us that first time buyers often make one mistake in particular when stepping on the first step of the property ladder. Penny, who deals with all major high street and nonhigh street banks and building societies, said: “One of the biggest mistakes first time buyers make is going straight to the bank that their wages are paid into when they could have the pick of the market with an independent brokerage.” Penny, who buys and lets properties, set up Penny Mortgages after gaining a better deal on her mortgages through a broker. “I always used my high street lender until I came across an independent broker and saved over £100 per month on each of my mortgages.”

With this experience in tow, Penny has been doing the same for others and was recently able to bring a first time buyer’s mortgage term down from 33 years to an astonishing 23. For those struggling to save or those with a poor credit rating, she says: “It’s just not the case that you won’t be able to get a mortgage. I have non-high street lenders who will still take a 10% deposit and some who will take into account adverse credit. “Of course, you may have higher interest rates, but it gets you on the market. After a couple of years, you can look at remortgaging to lower your monthly repayments or mortgage term.” For free, no obligation advice, call 07743 353 507, email, or visit

Save by repair With budgets somewhat tighter after the global pandemic, many of us are looking for ways to be canny with our cash – and repairing rather than replacing is the new way to do it


eicester based company Secure Homes provides affordable and reliable repairs to existing windows and doors, saving customers hundreds (sometimes thousands) of pounds compared to replacing them with new items. “Generally speaking, people often aren’t aware that profiles can either be repaired with a like for like part or an upgrade as opposed to replacing entire units. It’s not only budget friendly but is far less wasteful and time consuming too,” Company Director Kully Gahir explains. Ahead of the winter season, ensuring your home is weatherproof is essential, not only adding comfort to your home, but also saving money on bills and jobs that may only get increasingly more costly as the damage worsens. “As with most products, repairing PVC, glass and aluminium as early as possible is better. Sooner rather than later can save a great deal of money and problems later on.”

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It’s not only replacements and repairs that the team do efficiently, they are also invaluable for landlords who are looking to access their own property, either through keys which need changing or due to being locked out. “We do non-destructive entry which is the least invasive and then naturally lower cost.” All jobs by Secure Homes are carried out as a full service and come with full guarantees. Customers comment on the professional yet friendly service the team provide. “We are in people’s homes and we take that position seriously; we know that now more than ever that customers want to be assured of our professionalism and we pride ourselves on it.” Visit to discover money saving repairs or call 077 9314 5585 to discuss your specific repair needs.

The people behind theis at the Community Corn Exchange Case Study

heart Fusion Electrics CornofExchange


During the first lockdown period, the Leicester-based The dedicated team of Fusion engineers are no strangers specialist electrical contractors stayed operational to working with buildings from past generations. “We are throughout, working at many locations, including the CAMHS Electrical company sheds light onresponse its involvement the with market squareofregeneration very in familiar the challenges working with listedproject and unit at Glenfield Hospital which was given a first recognition due to its importance. In addition, Fusion historic buildings. Within the same area we’ve been involved orn Exchange electrical works that were part of and Garterthe andKnight King Richard III pubs, within the same engineers worked on COVID conversions of city hospital in revamping and Garter and King Richard III pubs, both within the same wards and installation of additional electrical thethe £1.9m renovation of Leicester marketsupplies. were regeneration area.regeneration area.”


completed in October last year. The work was

Another community-focused project that Fusion is carried out by local company Fusion Electrics. Company particularly proud of its involvement with is the high profile bosses haveproject revisited theirMarket work on the site year later, regeneration of New Square, in a the heart of reviewing the team’s proud involvement in the project. the city of Leicester.

Jason Skinner, Managing Director of Fusion Electrics,

“Our replacing external lighting withpart of the said:remit “Theincluded Corn Exchange has been an integral environmentally friendly lighting more that changes colour exciting plans to make LED the square attractive with to new highlight various aspects and characteristics of the iconic cafés, bars and businesses. We are proud to have been Corn Exchange building,” explains Jason Skinner, Managing commissioned to install a new crowd-pulling screen which Director, Fusion Electrics.

covers the back of the Corn Exchange building, promoting interactivity with thehas general public. “The Corn Exchange been an integral part of the exciting plans toincluded make thereplacing Square more attractive with new “Our remit external lighting with cafés, bars and businesses. We lighting are proud tochanges have been environmentally friendly LED that colour commissioned to install a new crowd-pulling screen which to highlight various aspects and characteristics of the iconic covers the back of the Corn Exchange building, promoting Corn Exchange building.” interactivity with the general public. The works for this The team is familiar the challenges of working with project were completed inwith October 2019.” listed and historic buildings. Within the same area Fusion Electrics has been involved in revamping both the Knight

Jason added: “It is a pleasure to see these listed

“It is great to be part of the regeneration of our city and to be buildings get a new lease of life and the area around so involved in the positive changes that are taking place in the theof market square of choice. heart Leicester. It is becoming a pleasureatodestination see these listed buildings Introducing state-of-the-art lighting and electrical get a new lease of life and the area around the Market Square equipment into an oldofbuilding is always a state-of-thechallenge, but it becoming a destination choice. Introducing artislighting and equipment intoand an maintenance old building iscosts, worth it forelectrical the savings in running always a challenge but it is worthbenefits.” it for the savings in running as well as the environmental and maintenance costs, as well as the environmental benefits,” Fusion Electrics has remained operational throughout adds Jason.

lockdown, having safely completed high profile works in

the CAMHS unit at site Glenfield Hospital. Fusion is offering free surveys to all businesses to Fusion is offering site surveys to all businesses encourage reducing theirfree business CO2 emissions and allowing companies to reduce costs andemissions to make those to encourage reducing theirenergy business CO2 and important towardstonet zero 2050. Getcosts in touch allowingsteps companies reduce energy and iftoyou make want to find out more about lighting usage, solar photovoltaic, those important steps towards net zero 2050. If you want battery storage or commercial EV charging solutions. Call to find outon more about usage, Fusion today 01530 249lighting 752 to find outsolar whatphotovoltaic, savings your battery storage or commercial EV charging solutions and business could make by changing your fuel footprint. what savings your business could make by changing your fuel footprint, call Fusion on 01530 249 752.

Fusion Electrics - sparking change in local energy use For 23 years the Fusion family has been helping businesses in the Leicestershire region find the best solutions for all their electrical needs. With an offer of a free site survey, Fusion have also been changing corporate fuel footprints to greener, cleaner, safer and more sustainable options. Engage Fusion as your electrical partners to save time, money and energy. Services include: Energy Saving Lighting Design & Installation

CCTV & security systems

Solar energy solutions

Commercial electrical installations

Installation of electric vehicle charging points (there’s a grant scheme available for help with this type of project).

Electrical maintenance Secure data networks & cabling

Spark a change in your fuel footprint today and book your free site survey. Call the friendly Fusion team on 01530 249 752 or visit

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in the built environment Construction boss Learie Gonsalves calls for better representation of BAME communities in the property building industry WORDS BY KERRY SMITH



orkers in the UK construction sphere from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds amount to just 4% of the total workforce*. Learie Gonsalves is a businessowner in the sector who hopes to see that figure rise. As the Director of One Building Solution Ltd, which offers surveying, consultancy and architectural design services, and as an executive committee member at The Race Equality Centre, Learie believes there should be a “better reflection of diversity” in the industry. In 1988, Learie began his career as a trainee architect for a housing association, obtained a degree in building surveying and became a chartered member of RICS (Royal institute of Chartered Surveyors). He’s also been a senior building surveyor and worked for EC Harris (now Arcadis), CBRE and Pick Everard before setting up One Building Solution Ltd in 2015. He was attracted to the career as it afforded him the opportunity to develop a broad range of skills

along with being able set up his own business. Learie was able to meet clients across varying sectors, travel and work abroad with the possibility of relocation, as well as to continue the skills and qualifications he obtained in architectural design. This chosen career path also equipped him with the knowledge and experience to enable him to set up his own business. He said: “In setting up my business I followed my passion and believed in the product I was offering. The basic principal I follow is to deliver your work with pride, integrity, being friendly, provide a good quality of service, and become a trusted adviser to clients. “I believe there needs to be a drive and better reflection of diversity in this industry. I have enjoyed and continue to have a fantastic career in the industry supported by a lot of people who do not look like me. However, there are not enough of them out there.’’ Learie has produced numerous interviews with RICS on his career path in an effort to build diversity in the built environment,


but he says more needs to be done to reach out to BAME communities. “More people who do not look like me need to do more to encourage and welcome people from a diverse background. In return, there will be better representation at all levels and talent discovered amongst potential surveyors, architects and engineers who may not have considered these professions as a career without prompt or some sort of guidance. “I would suggest anyone wanting to start a business seeks advice from Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership. Those particularly from BAME backgrounds might want to visit the RICS website and read my RICS article on my journey into the built environment. They can also contact Divercity Surveyors.” For career advice, or for residential, education, public, commercial, retail or leisure property enquiries, contact Learie on 0116 4300321 and find out more at NICHE | 87

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A NOTE FOR THE DIY HEROES We’ve all been that hero; poised over the radiator, key in hand, ready to bleed the radiator. It’s a fairly standard piece of DIY – even if you haven’t done it yourself, you’re more than likely aware of the principle. Bleeding is generally prescribed when radiators are showing cold spots and not heating evenly. Air doesn’t retain or transfer heat to nearly the same degree of efficiency as water. It stands to reason that if we remove the air from the radiator, giving the water unimpeded access for the conduction of heat to occur, this simply leads to an improvement to the convection of heat to warm the space. Right? Well, yes, but there’s a key issue to consider. When you bleed air out of a radiator, fresh water is introduced into the system, a key component of which is, of course, oxygen. Compounded water is H2O; the oxygen in the water is the diluted oxygen from the atmosphere. When it gets agitated by the circulator (pump) this releases the diluted oxygen from the water, which then interacts with the iron. This produces an elaborate kind of ‘rust’ otherwise known as magnetite (Fe3O4). Magnetite directly causes poor system water quality – a very high volume of the boiler breakdowns we deal with are directly connected to this. Prevention is better than cure, in fact boiler manufacturers are becoming more stringent, insisting on system water quality being properly managed in order that the warranty on the appliance remains intact. Premature component failures and unnecessary repairs are hallmarks of poor system water quality – fortunately, this issue can be tackled quite simply with the proper application of chemical treatments. Something to consider next time you bleed a radiator.

90 | NICHE

In the new-build market, builders and developers have greatly benefitted from the current Help to Buy (HTB) scheme in which buyers only need a 5% deposit and the government provides 20% of the house value. The new-build market has come back extremely strongly since lockdown. However, there are clearly some uncertainties ahead in terms of the economy and subsequent consumer confidence as a result of the impact of coronavirus and Brexit. The replacement Help to Buy scheme has been received very warmly, as the existing scheme has played a major part in the doubling in supply we have seen in recent years. It remains to be seen what impact the new scheme’s rules, in particular the regional price caps, will have on take up. We’re currently assisting with builders and developers to ensure that we, as the selling agents, are ready to face any challenges the new HTB scheme will pose. We’re already seeing more two and three-

NARINDER NIJJAR Co-Director at Fraser Stretton bed houses at values of around £350k becoming the norm on the developments we are marketing. Monthly conference calls with the Bank of England (BoE) enable us to take a proactive approach in consulting our developers. BoE is currently exploring negative interest rates which could be a very unprecedented development for lenders. One of the major hurdles for this will be the readiness of software systems being able to support negative interest rates. Builders and developers who are already – or are in the process of – building new homes can call us on 0300 124 5656 for guidance on the best course of action for their situation at no obligation. We are always willing to assist wherever we can and help make a difference.

TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY? JAZ KAUR Director at The Lettings and Sales Business The existing Help To Buy (HTB) scheme ends in March next year. Currently, you can buy a home with a 5% deposit and the Government provides 20% of a new home’s value for an initial five year interest-free period. This scheme even applies to those who already own a home, as long as the new property becomes their primary home. All buyers will also benefit from the stamp duty holiday until March 2021. So, if you can get the ball rolling now, you may be able to move by early next year. But should you? We have a situation right now where people are willing to make higher bids for the perfect home due to stamp duty holiday savings. We’ve noticed an

increase in house prices of up to 2-3% because of this. Brexit and Covid-19 have started to influence buyer behaviour and people have decided that putting the perfect roof over their head is more important than the price they pay for it, or what it may be worth in the future. The current demand that is pushing up these prices is partly driven by sales previously being put off – partly due to the fear of Brexit – while others are being brought forward due to people being unhappy during lockdown or the stamp duty savings. We foresee that the market will remain busy until the end of October, but then people may hold off looking until January. Sales are likely to then pick up to the end of March and, although some pre-Christmas bargains may be available, prices will probably remain relatively stable during this time.

Joel LaRosa Design D ES I GN WIT H IN R E AC H


@ J O E L L A R O S A D ES I G N


@ J O E L L A R O S A D ES I G N





Local artist: upholsterer and up-cycler of furniture Emily Miller meets local artist and maker Janet Ireland to discover the lady behind the talent as she applies her creativity and skills to repurposing old furniture in need of TLC adopting a sustainable and environmental ethos


hroughout her childhood, Janet Ireland enjoyed watching her father making things and helped by holding items. Her passion, talent and love for finding form, design and art all around her and creating something beautiful has been a positive driving force in her life. “As a teenager I remember spending hours thinking about the design of the furniture in my school. I would redesign the pieces in my head and always want them to look better as well as being functional. I also had my own ideas for textiles and made prints for duvet covers.” Unable to afford university when she was younger, she realised this dream at last in 2015 by completing a Foundation diploma in Art and Design at DMU. “I enjoyed doing my diploma, it was just so great to be able to explore different art forms. 92 | NICHE

It was here that I developed a passion for sculpture.” After completing her diploma, Janet set about looking for job roles in the manufacturing industry but struggled to find a role which suited her. Janet started to attend upholstery and soft furnishing class at Leicester College, and soon discovered a love for upholstery. “I really enjoy taking something which looks tired and giving it a new lease of life,” Janet continues. In 2018 her plaster sculpture ‘Acceptance and Ignorance’ was selected for the ‘open’ at Leicester Museum and Art Gallery. Then in 2020, her wire sculpture commission ‘Petra Honey Bee’ was installed in the community garden in Bulwer Road, Leicester. Among the projects she has completed, a set of four wooden chairs and set of drawers


have been sold to delighted customers in Leicestershire. “I recently upholstered a blanket box of which I am very proud; I love the fact that it was so tired and neglected, it now has a new lease of life.” Janet is open to mending and repurposing items for customers as well as selling her own pieces on Etsy and eBay. Interior Designer Anke Summerhill says, “In light of the current communal feeling of supporting sustainability, 2020/2021 will see people steering away from trends and fashion in interiors and choose timeless classic pieces that stand the test of time. Individuality in interiors will be very important, along with finding unique custom-made pieces.” In addition to her upholstery work, Janet also has a keen eye for photography and produced a set of four stunning photographs depicting the seasons, with all the proceeds going to the charity Menphys. You can find Janet’s work on the following pages.


Joyful giving can be two-fold this year This Christmas, shopping local has never been more important


or shopping in the centre, the way you buy for your friends and family this year can joyfully be two-fold in its giving. Remember, try to shop safely and responsibly this year by buying gifts early to avoid last-minute shopping crowds.

y purchasing locally you will be helping to boost the local economy. From gift cards to beauty treatments, Leicester businesses really have all you need. Whether it’s smaller shopping areas in pockets in and around Leicestershire

Keep up to date with local business offerings at


want to extend my warm thanks to customers, business friends, and my team here at the garage for the unwavering support that you have given through this year.

These have been challenging times. My family has suffered the grief of a loss due to Covid-19, but the way everyone has been so hugely supportive has been very heartening, and for this I will always be truly grateful.

Wishing everyone a prosperous, healthy and joyous



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FOOD COURT In this issue, local businesspeople choose their favourite places to eat in and around Leicestershire

The best eating establishments in Leicestershire SIMON WINFIELD


Director at Red Monkey

Where do you go when your friends ask you to choose the venue? I opted to go where I know we always get a friendly welcome, attentive service and a fantastic meal. Yet again, we were not disappointed by our visit to Spice Bazzar on Welford Road. It’s where Abdul and his team provide excellent service and quality food in a pleasant, intimate environment. They serve a wide selection of starters, main courses and sides that will satisfy any preference, and my wife loves their vegetarian options. You will always find something to your liking and if you are still struggling, they will make a recommendation or provide a dish to your taste.



Business Student

98 | NICHE 0116 270 5110 326 WELFORD ROAD, LEICESTER LE2 6EH

Esquires Coffee offers everything you want in a coffee shop. Sat right in the city centre opposite John Lewis, Esquires is the perfect spot to take a shopping break and enjoy the easygoing atmosphere whilst slurping on a chocolate milkshake. The extensive breakfast and deli menu have you spoilt for choice – especially the freshly made juices! The kale, cucumber, spinach, lemon and apple juice is full of vitamins leaving you feeling refreshed, while their generoussized cappuccino is the perfect pick-meup to kickstart your day. Whether you are looking to grab a baguette to go, or enjoy the fresh, modern décor whilst eating in, Esquires

We started with poppadoms and a selection of seven sauces which work fantastically well together. Then we moved to a selection of starters that were all exquisite and our friends were duly impressed. Main courses were plentiful. Two of us asked for recommendations and both dishes were top class, meeting our heat preference and were happily devoured with rice and Naan. The service was excellent throughout, maybe that’s why they won ‘Best Fine Dining Restaurant’ in the Leicester Curry Awards. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening out for all and the following morning a text “that curry house is fantastic” confirmed the decision to visit.

will satisfy your needs. The smashed avocado on toast was delicious with a tasty chilli kick and side salad, while the sweet breakfast waffles tasted just as good as they look with Greek yogurt, honey and berries. Large windows and the light airiness of the building creates a chilled atmosphere. Contemporary décor with a stylish twist makes Esquires the perfect coffee shop to bring your friends and snap for Instagram, while also catering for families by offering an alternative small kids, breakfast menu. The staff are also friendly and ensure all the essential coronavirus precautions are in place, so you can enjoy a catch-up safely.


GARETH SAYER Leicester Linen and Solid State UK Events

LUCY CONNELLY Lead Generation Consultant at Cross Productions

ORTON’S BRASSERIE 0116 248 9100 ORTON SQUARE, LEICESTER, LE1 1RD I visited Orton’s Brasserie last month for a lunchtime business meeting, it was my first visit. My initial impressions were that it was fantastic to see one of Leicester’s great buildings being repurposed and an addition to Leicester’s Cultural Quarter. Orton’s sits on a striking corner position of the Cultural Quarter with an impressive façade. The entrance was through a side courtyard that included a seating area and lighting which I am sure creates a lovely ambience in the evenings. I was greeted by friendly staff upon my arrival and offered a choice of seating arrangement; we opted for a booth which was ideal for a business meeting. The inside was spacious and extremely well appointed throughout.

The menu is exquisite with a really tasty range of starters, mains, tapas and desserts. We ordered three tapas dishes: chorizo sausage roll, baked camembert and ham hock (rillettes and apple), which were all beautifully presented. The excellent quality of the food matched the excellent presentation. My camembert was accompanied by a delicious house chutney and toasted brioche, and the generous portion size was more than sufficient for a lunch meal. I was, however, able to save some room to sample the ham hock which just melted in my mouth. The only down side was that I had no room for dessert, although that gives me a very good reason to return in the near future.

ROTHLEY COURT HOTEL 0116 237 4141 WESTFIELD LANE, ROTHLEY, LEICESTERSHIRE, LE7 7LG Eating out was something we took for granted before lockdown. It’s like they say, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. A favourite of ours is Rothley Court. The grounds are stunning and service is as good as the food. It always makes for a lovely evening out. There is something special about the place. It’s so much more than just going out for dinner. I have to admit I am a sucker for the handmade Scotch egg served with caramelised red onion chutney – it’s out of this world. For mains I am always torn between the hunter’s chicken and the BBQ beef burger. The hunter’s chicken is grilled chicken breast with smoked streaky bacon, topped with

melted cheese, BBQ sauce and served with chips, onion rings and dressed mixed leaves. The burger is topped with IPA BBQ beef burnt ends, mature Cheddar, crispy shallots and served with an IPA BBQ dip. It’s made my mouth water just writing this… I know where we will be off later this evening! As part of their social distancing promise, Rothley Court currently have fewer tables available. They’re very happy to welcome anyone whether they just pop by or book ahead of visiting, however they do recommend booking to guarantee a table. They also offer a range of wine, bottled beer and bottled cider to order. And the great news is, they now deliver.

BANGLA SPICE 0116 284 8894 77 MAIN ST, COSBY, LEICESTER, LE9 1UW Bangla spice is always my go-to for authentic Bangladeshi and Indian dining. There is always a warm welcome from the owner, Mamz and his team and a great atmosphere inside. Nothing is too much trouble. Not only is there a vast selection of dishes, which they can tailor to your taste if need be, if there’s any dish you want that’s not on the menu, the chefs will gladly take on the challenge and recreate it for you. We opted for poppadoms with pickle tray and some Indian beer to start – it’s the only way to start an Indian meal! We also went for the garlic tikka chicken and a chicken shashlik, which came out on a sizzler to start, a

chef’s special succulent lamb shank massaman, and a lamb makani, which came with a delicious creamy sauce. All the sundries that come with the dish are so delicious you just cannot help but keep eating. Normally, I’m unable to finish my meal, so a goody bag is happily sorted for me to take home. Bangla Spice also provides a delivery service. They’re currently offering 10% off when you order online. I’m very lucky to have such a great establishment on my doorstep. They also support local charities by feeding the homeless at Christmas. And I’m more than happy to keep supporting my local eateries whenever I can. NICHE | 99


A passion for spice

makes this a Cosby hotspot The chefs at Bangla Spice have over 20 years of experience and their flair for creating authentic, delicious, and exciting Indian cuisine is known in the local area and beyond


he Bangla Spice Restaurant and Takeaway in Cosby has been serving the local people for many years now, with owner Mamum Rashid taking pride in their freshly prepared dishes using high quality ingredients. He said: “We always strive to create dishes with authenticity and passion, making every dish to the highest quality. Customers have come to appreciate our warm welcome too.” Bangla Spice offers a rich range of dishes for guests to choose from to create the perfect Indian meal whether to be enjoyed seated in the restaurant or as a delivered takeaway. “We have of course seen a real increase in our takeaway service in 2020 and we have built a strong reputation for delivering delicious meals which are all freshly prepared to order in the local area.” The restaurant, which of course adheres to all social distancing measures, provides a social, thriving atmosphere in which to enjoy an evening out eating good food.

“Our restaurant is very much open to guests and we have created a safe yet relaxing restaurant for our guests to enjoy,” Mamum adds. With an extensive menu of classic dishes and varied specials, Mamum tells us that his team relish creating food which “plays on strong flavours and individual spices to develop a unique and striking taste which is unique to Bangla.” Open seven days a week, the restaurant’s Sunday Buffet is hugely popular, providing guests with a selection of starters, mains, and accompaniments all for a set price and all you can eat! “Sundays are a real favourite for our locals in particular, who enjoy a wide choice of dishes for a reasonable price for the whole family.” Order your food online for delivery or collection and receive 10% off, when you order from or call 0116 284 8894.

Covid-19 and the events industry Catering and events businessowner’s outrage at MP’s suggestion that people in the sector can get “better jobs”


hile Reading MP Alok Sharma claims his “better jobs” comment referred to helping young people find jobs, workers in the arts, weddings, and events sectors are upset at the idea. Atul Lakhani from Leicestershire, who is CEO of multi-award-winning Sanjay Foods and runs IXL Events Centre, had something to say about the comments. In a LinkedIn post directed towards Mr Sharma, he said: “Your assertion that all of the talented individuals from #wemakeevents #whataboutweddings #letthemusicplay should retrain and get better jobs is an insult to our intelligence and the £84 billion industry which in your opinion is not viable!” He went on to tell us: “The UK is one of the biggest exporters of events around the world. Our sector can make 100 | NICHE

a hugely valuable contribution to the economic recovery of the UK.” In August, the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme helped almost 85,000 restaurants, something Atul later found to be unfair. “All we have asked for is to be treated fairly and given the same opportunity to survive as the Government has afforded to other areas of hospitality such as restaurants and bars. “By preventing us from trading, the Government has perpetrated a prohibition upon the wedding industry which has resulted in weddings going underground. In order not to contravene the European Convention on Human Rights – Article 12, the right to marry – the Government has provided a token gesture of weddings being permitted for a maximum of 15

people including the bride, groom, registrar, etc. “It is absolutely incredible that large restaurants are catering for 200-300 covers and yet a socially distanced wedding for up to 50-100 guests is not permitted.” Mr Sharma told BerkshireLive: “Although the scale of the challenge we face as a country means it is not possible to save every job or every business, we are doing all we can to create new jobs and new opportunities for young people which will allow our economy to move forward.”



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Finally Leicester Locally known sports author has released a new book covering the city’s most prominent teams


est known locally as coauthor of the Leicester City history Of Fossils & Foxes, it’s not only the city’s football team that Dave Smith has focused on in his latest book, Finally Leicester. This new publication branches out to take an ambitious look at Leicester’s five major sporting clubs, covering not just football, but also rugby union, cricket, basketball and speedway. Fans of Leicester City, Leicester Tigers, Leicestershire Foxes, Leicester Riders and Leicester Lions will find this is the ultimate record book covering all of the assorted finals contested by these five teams, in their various guises – from that very first trip down Wembley Way in 1949 right up to the success of the reconstructed Lions in the autumn of 2019. There have been a lot more finals involving these five teams than you might think over the years. Finally Leicester covers all 80 finals and finals days contested in what is sure to 102 | NICHE

eventually become known as the pre-Covid era. Not only are all the finals covered, but there is also a plethora of memorabilia contained within the pages that is sure to jog a few fans’ memories along the way. The idea for this book has been kicking around in Dave’s head for almost 30 years, since the first edition of Fossils was published. As a massive sports fan and follower of the fortunes of all of Leicester’s teams – he has been found at all local venues at various times, even being a season ticket holder at three of the clubs in the past – this was a book that he always wanted to write. As with Fossils, it was a task that no-one else was likely to complete for him, so eventually he set about it himself. Originally, the idea was to cover the three major sports of football, rugby and cricket. But, having been a regular at Blackbird Road some years ago, it seemed appropriate to include the Lions as they have a sizeable and loyal following. An increasing


interest in the Riders in recent years, coupled with that club’s run of success, made it obvious that basketball had to be added to the mix. And, with plenty of help from the Routledge family of chairman Kevin Routledge, and the hoops community in general, it became possible to do the Riders justice in a similar way to the other leading clubs. Of course, a line has to be drawn somewhere and there were still some teams that came into consideration but did not quite make the final cut. Dave feels women’s sport in Leicester does not yet command the same sort of attention that the men do, but perhaps a future volume might expand to cover the distaff side of football, basketball and hockey. Dave would certainly encourage any budding expert on women’s sport in Leicester to get stuck in and produce a sister volume. Finally Leicester can be purchased from the publishers at, ordered on Amazon or found at selected book stores.


In memory of Tracey Miller Partner of The Miller Partnership


















t’s with great sadness that we regret to inform our readers of the passing of our culture columnist, our dear friend and avid ambassador Tracey Miller. Tracey passed away in hospital on October 16. Leaving a huge hole not only in our hearts but also in the business and charity community, Tracey’s zest for life was like no other. There won’t be a single person who met Tracey who doesn’t have a story to tell. There won’t be a story told that doesn’t make you smile. She was one of a kind and unique in every way. Our deepest sympathy, love, and strength are with her husband Pete as he is faced with the challenge of life without his love and soulmate. Many people have asked what we could do to celebrate her life as she would have wanted us to – with copious amounts of fizz and songs such as Uptown Funk. As we are unable to gather in the usual way to share memories, may we ask those wanting to share a memory and photo to please email jenny@crossproductions. who will be personally coordinating a testimonial feature for our January issue where we can each share our fondest moments.

The church, the charity and the city centre café helping Leicester’s economy The Chapel Café initiative has provided work placements for young people during lockdown


ased in Bishop street, the Chapel Café is run in partnership by local charity, the Zinthiya trust, and the Bishop Street Methodist Church. The Chapel Café has been running since 2013 supporting the local community. In particular, it has assisted young people and people with disabilities to build skills and move into education or employment. Director of the Zinthiya Trust, Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan, said: “Like every local business, the lockdown has had an impact on the Chapel Café. “However, it has now reopened and we are continuing to support our beneficiaries. We are also creating a safe space for local people and groups to meet and socialise while adhering to the social distancing guidelines. Since opening, the café has provided apprenticeships, paid work

and work placements, which have been a welcome contribution to Leicester’s local economy. The café also acts as a hub for local groups. It provides meeting spaces and opportunities for exhibitions and other events including music shows and fundraising events. Zinthiya added: “We will not be able to continue the work we do without local support. We encourage anyone to visit us to enjoy freshly made food and drink at an affordable price in a relaxing and safe environment.” Profits made by the Chapel Café support those suffering hardship and disadvantage in Leicester. The Chapel Café is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 3pm. NICHE | 103

Days of Activism A local charity is offering gender equality training as part of the UN System’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


he UN System’s 16 Days of Activism against GenderBased Violence campaign activities will take place from November 25 to December 10 this year. Coining the slogan ‘UNiTE to end violence against women by 2030’, the campaign has involved over 6000 organisations in approximately 187 countries since 1991. This year, the theme is ‘orange the world: fund, respond, prevent, collect’. The feeling is that for far too long, silence and stigma have allowed violence against women in its various forms to escalate to epic proportions — it is thought that one in three women worldwide experience genderbased violence. The Leicestershire-based Zinthiya Trust works to prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG) and focuses on engaging men and boys for gender equality. Its leader, Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan, says the campaign is needed more than ever this year. “It’s said that one-third of women worldwide will experience physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives. And actually, a lot of this violence takes place in the workplace. It happens in offices, factories and

104 | NICHE

global supply chains. “The recent media focus on the exploitation of workers (mainly women) in garment factories in Leicester, as well as the increase in domestic violence levels during the lockdown and in the aftermath, was a stark reminder that women and girls in our communities are equally affected by violence.” A BBC survey in 2017 found that 40% of women and 18% of men had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace. “It is a time to be a part of the wider discussion of the role of the private sector in not only responding to violence against women but also ending it,” Zinthiya adds. In recognition of the UN System’s campaign, Zinithiya Trust is reaching out to businesses to offer training on gender equality in the workplace through its Community Champion programme established in 2018. The charity works with community businesses to advance gender equality in the workplace through training and developing policy. If your organisation would like to benefit from this support, email or call 01162515168.

Ending violence against women Zinthiya Trust’s list of practical measures for businesses to consider ◆ Implement a domestic abuse/safeguarding policy across your organisation ◆ Provide training to support staff (ie HR/ welfare/first aid etc) on forms of abuse and how to identify and support your employees facing abuse ◆ Create a caring environment where employees facing abuse or emotional issues can speak up without being stigmatised or judged ◆ Ensure all employees are aware of any available in-house welfare schemes and how to access them ◆ Ensure all HR and welfare representative know what advice and support is available to victims/ survivors in the community (Zinthiya Trust, Juniper lodge, Jasmin House, Quetzal, UAVA, legal aid solicitors and housing advice centre, etc) ◆ Establish a fund/distress loan scheme to assist any employee fleeing violence, which they can tap into in an emergency – many people who have suffered physical abuse will have also faced financial abuse. The lack of access to finance can keep them trapped in an abusive relationship ◆ Support local organisations who are working on issues such as domestic violence and build links with these organisations so that employees can access specialist support if needed


Charnwood charity’s

Covid support A charity’s efforts to fight the deterioration in social, emotional and physical wellbeing of its beneficiaries over lockdown


ohn Storer Charnwood (JSC) has a 54-year history of supporting and enhancing the wellbeing of individuals, groups and communities. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, it offered a varied programme of stimulating and therapeutic activities for adults with support needs, mainly those with learning disabilities, older people, or those living with dementia. Unable to offer its wellbeing programme through lockdown, the charity has been in regular phone contact with all 72 wellbeing customers, their families and carers, offering support, social contact, activity packs and ideas, a listening ear, and where needed, referral for additional support. During lockdown, in collaboration with Charnwood Borough Council and Charnwood Food Poverty Group under the umbrella of Charnwood Community Action (CCA), JSC has been delivering over 100 food parcels a day at its peak to those suffering hardship in the borough. It has been hosting a community hub, offering telephone support, advice and guidance with 24/7 availability. It has successfully applied for funds to cover the cost of food,

staffing and other costs associated with its Covid-19 service, including a vital £10k donation from the Randal Foundation. The work of CCA will continue into the foreseeable future, with all partners recognising the growing demand for food poverty provision. It has also taken on the administration and development of Loughborough Against Corona, a mutual aid organisation set up to match volunteers to provide neighbourly support for shopping and prescription collections. JSC has planned a phased return to its usual charitable services to accommodate smaller groups in line with Covid-19 safety regulations. It will require more staffing hours to cover extra wellbeing sessions and lunch clubs, and the kitchen will need to provide nutritious meals without the income usually received from a very busy community café. You can support the charity at johnstorercharnwood. or donate via the Facebook page. *Space sponsored by Morningside Pharmaceuticals.

Changing lives in Leicester & Leicestershire Voluntary Action LeicesterShire (VAL) is a charity that has been helping local people to change their lives for the better for over 50 years.  Supporting local charities by providing advice, training and resources  Promoting volunteering across the city and county  Helping people find work through our YES and GREAT projects  Supporting people with learning disabilities to live fulfilling lives  Low-cost office space for local businesses and charities

If you’d like to help VAL improve the lives of local people, get in touch with us today 0116 257 5050

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Hope in Covid-19 We chat with Nigel Rose, CEO of Hope Against Cancer, to discover how the charity sector has coped this year


support fund, but this went to charities providing front line support to vulnerable groups and individuals. With approximately 166,000 registered charities in the UK, needing £53bn to sustain current levels of activity, this was a drop in the ocean.

Was the charity able to receive any government support? No. We have always had to rely on raising voluntary income to fund our local research. The government announced a £750m

How do you think the pandemic has affected the charity sector? The effect on smaller charities will be felt most heavily, when one considers that eight out of 10 of the 166,000 registered have incomes of less than £500,000. Hope Against Cancer has a loyal, local support base, and as cancer patients have suffered due to missed diagnoses and treatments during this difficult time, our world-class, life-saving research is more important than ever. I’m proud as CEO and a small team that we have not only survived but thrived too – and the feedback we’ve had from supporters and volunteers has been remarkably profound and moving. People needed to connect and give; we’ve stood together through this crisis and are stronger as a result.

ovid-19 has had a huge impact on the charity sector. Hope Against Cancer’s Chief Executive Nigel Rose tells us just how much of an effect the pandemic has had.

How did it impact the charity initially? The pandemic had a significant impact on research capability within the Hope Clinical Trials Facility. In order to facilitate research into treatment for the Covid-19 infection, some of the research staff had been effectively seconded to work on Covid-19 studies. Despite this extremely challenging scenario, Hope Against Cancer was determined to play its part in continuing to support life-saving cancer research within our NHS and universities and we managed to still raise £1.4m towards our £1.5m Hope for Life Appeal to double the size of the Hope facility at the Leicester Royal Infirmary.

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Provides a young person with a place on a community action project Video Thank you message on FOCUS Charity social media posts | Updates on what impact your support has on the charity six+ mentions during the year | Additional promotion/promotional opportunities, including having materials at FOCUS events, and a FOB pull up banner for your reception/office | Opportunity to host and a be the Keynote Speaker at one of our FOB events | Recognition as a silver member on the FOCUS wall of supporters and influencers | Feature in our regular e-newsletter Provides a place for a young person on a ‘life-changing’ year-long personal development programme Video Thank you message on FOCUS Charity social media posts and twelve+ mentions during the year | Recognition as a Gold member on the FOCUS wall of supporters and influencers | Facilitated half day team building session for your staff | Exclusive Staff Volunteer days for your company


Christmas List Can you help Menphys to provide gifts to 500 disabled children & young people across Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland this Christmas?


Every donated to The Menphys Christmas List, will enable us to provide an age-appropriate gift from a specially selected list, sent directly to the family in COVID-friendly manner to be put away for the big day. All donations large and small will enable Menphys to do MORE this Christmas.

WWW. ME NP H Y S. O R G. U K /T H E M ENP H Y SC H R I ST M A SLIS T Our bank account details are: Natwest Bank Account Number: 01319752 Sort Code: 56-00-55 Registered Charity Number 270700