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s we patiently wait for the Government to review the current situation, we’ve got a whole heap of ideas, advice and news to help you in planning future trips away, business goals, and more. Our Driving Economic Recovery columnists give their final piece of advice in this issue. They’ve been writing for us over the past year helping local people and businesses piece their lives back together after the devastating effects of the pandemic. Have a read of what they have to say on pages 12-18, and find their previous columns at nichemagazine.co.uk/back-issues. The front cover this issue focuses on some hard-hitting subjects. From poverty to honour-based violence, Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan covers it all. She’s battled through the coronavirus crisis as more and more people came to her in need last year. We look at it through her eyes on page 30. Cross Productions, Niche Magazine’s parent company, has formed a new partnership with Leicestershire County Cricket Club as they transform the Uptonsteel Ground as we know it into a more engaging space for fans. In this issue, we cover the rebranding of the Running Foxes and how the Grace Road cricket ground is also becoming a large-scale events venue. We have themes throughout on how to raise your digital presence and increase online engagement for businesses that were born in the pandemic, how to choose between home care and care homes for your loved ones, a UK travel feature to give you some ideas of where to explore when we’re able to, we discuss the effects of same-sex education, and we take a look at Nuffield Health’s work during the pandemic. Keep an eye out on our socials for the announcement of the Niche Business Awards 2021 finalists on July 6.

Contents JULY / AUGUST 2021






08 Should Covid vaccines be compulsory?


Is confectionary the new business card?


Lunch time at the office


Branding’s sweet tooth


Getting social media right


Cover Image Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan photographed at the She Inspires Hub Photographed by Hitz Rao at Hitz Rao Photography 0116 246 0475


49 What ‘good’ looks like for websites


Addressing gaps in mental healthcare provisions


Digital rebrand


How music affects mood


Digital marketing advice from the experts

74 One hospitals work in the pandemic


Branding through pictures

55 Your digital marketing carbon footprint 56

Firetree Visual: lessons learnt


One Creative logo


The digital marketing skills gap


How to choose between them


Why this lady switched from IT to care


Care in the comfort of your own home


Owner of Vans shoes chooses Leicester for its new base

09 The #BleedForHayley campaign 10

Uncover the Story; Leicester’s gripping tales

DRIVING ECONOMIC RECOVERY 12 The latest views and advice from local professionals


Reliving the last 16 months in finance


HMRC clearance update


An accountancy firm with a face


In conversation with… Amanda Daly

23 Are you claiming R&D tax relief? 24

To lease or not to lease?


Leasing company revamps






25 Are you ready to sell your business?


A spark for learning



What are all-girls schools really like?


Orton’s Brasserie and Curve team up


Legal advice from the experts



Law firm makes the semi-finals for three awards




68 Marketing tips from the experts


What’s new at Uptonsteel Cricket Ground


Tell Me on a Sunday at Curve


The joy of shopping locally


10 things you must do when hiring someone


The formula for learning


Your DiSC personality traits and alter-ego


Is hybrid working?


Streamlining IT solutions

68 How siblings started a business


The real person behind this Virtual PA

69 Switching gear to excel in the future


The future of travel


Investing your money


Generation Next


Chamber helps businesses ‘grow back better’


Meet the judges of the Niche Biz Awards 2021


Building strong foundations


Real estate opportunities


Broom makers turned house hold brand


Food bank donations decline


Third sector steps up to the plate

91 Demand for homelessness support 92

Cycling for Hope


94 Workshops resume at Soundcafe

74 One hospital’s work in the pandemic 77 Beauty in imperfection, a new fashion range

94 Leicestershire 3 Peaks Challenge 95

Land’s End to John O’Groats

96 Outdoor performances by Bamboozle


The legalities of compulsory covid-19 vaccines for care workers Covid-19 vaccinations are set to become compulsory for staff working in care homes for the elderly in England, with Matt Hancock saying workers will have 16 weeks to have both jabs from the time regulations are approved by Parliament. Since its rollout, nearly 42 million people in the UK have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, with just over 30 million having received both doses. As the programme has progressed, there has been a lot of debate on whether it should become compulsory to have the vaccine and whether employers can require employees to take the vaccine. According to a consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care in April this year, 47% of care homes for the elderly in England had more than a fifth of staff yet to be vaccinated – in a sector where there have been more than 40,000 deaths due to Covid-19. 8 | NICHE

Laura Kearsley, partner and solicitor specialising in employment law at Nelsons, said: “Employers in the health and care sectors will be very keen for their staff to benefit from a Covid-19 vaccine. Having a full complement of vaccinated employees will mean a dramatic reduction in the risk of the virus and less concern for the employer. “The reports indicate that care staff will be given 16 weeks to have the jab or face being moved away from frontline duties, or where that isn’t possible, losing their jobs. Those who cannot have the vaccine on medical grounds will be exempt. “The worry for the care sector is the impact this might have on recruitment and staff retention, given that there is already a shortage of staff in this sector. The detail of how this is to be implemented remains to be seen but this unprecedented move could prove unpopular with care staff who do not wish to have

the vaccine.” On what’s next for the care sector, Laura said: “Until these proposals are implemented, we continue to recommend that you encourage your staff to be vaccinated rather than taking any steps to insist on this if they are reluctant. We’d advise our clients to do this by ensuring staff have access to reliable information about the vaccine, so they’re able to make an informed choice, and even to allow paid time off for vaccination appointments.” There is a worry that this may create a precedent for a ‘no jab, no job’ policy in other sectors. Laura commented: “An employer cannot compel you to be vaccinated if you do not wish to be so. However, it may be within their rights – depending on the circumstances – to take action if you are not going to be vaccinated and they think there are good reasons why you should be.”

Global business sets up state-of-the-art base in Leicestershire The owner of Vans, Timberland and North Face has chosen Leicestershire for its new multimillion pound fulfilment centre. VF Corp, which also owns Red Kap and Dickies, is setting up its 600,000sq ft centre in Bardon and will employ around 250 people during peak periods. Darren Miller, VF’s Vice President, Supply Chain EMEA, said: “Expanding into this prime location will allow us to further strengthen our operations to ensure we can continue a highquality service to our many retail and ecommerce customers across the UK.” On why Leicestershire was

selected, he added: “The warehouse will enable VF Corp to provide more distribution services for its brands’ wholesale, ecommerce and retail customers in the UK – serving almost 90 per cent of the market within a day.” Speed and efficiency are the centre’s core attributes with direct flow of parcel shipments having a capacity of 200,000 units per day, in addition to 18 stations with the capacity to pick 170,000 units per day. Recruitment for the fulfilment centre began last year. A majority of the roles have been filled, with additional operator jobs added as volume increases throughout the year. Matthew Hibberd, Director of Distribution commented: “In line with VF’s ‘people first’ culture, the

new centre has been designed with employees’ welfare in mind. It offers a safe and comfortable working environment, with open space and breakout areas for colleagues to collaborate and meet informally. In addition, there is an onsite canteen and gym, to encourage a healthy worklife balance.” The building features innovative systems to significantly reduce its impact on the surrounding environment. A number of green technologies including low water usage fittings and electric solar gain devices have been installed to reduce energy and heat waste.

Recruitment company resumes its #BleedForHayley campaign Covid-19 has changed a lot of things, but one thing that has not altered is the need for blood donations. ER Recruitment, based in Salisbury Road in the city centre, launched the #BleedForHayley campaign in 2019. Since then, 300 lives have been positively impacted or saved through the blood donations provided as a direct result of #BleedForHayley. The initiative first began when Eileen’s good family friend Hayley passed away from leukaemia which she was diagnosed with at the age of just 35. Throughout her treatment, Hayley received 67 blood and platelet transfusions, which without, her life would have been cut even shorter. In Hayley’s legacy, the ER Recruitment team wanted to increase awareness of giving blood and encourage the business community to make giving blood part of their corporate social responsibility activities. Managing Director Eileen Richards MBE said: “The Leicester business community is incredible and as suspected; they did not disappoint when it came to donations.” Throughout lockdown, the #BleedForHayley group campaign had to come to a halt but, the amazing NHS Blood and Transplant team continued their great work and supporters of the campaign continued donating too. Despite this, the numbers in overall UK donations have dropped,

which is why the company is asking for your support. “If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that life is short but together we can prolong the lives of those who need it through blood donation,” commented Scarlett Tinsley, brand and marketing executive. Karen Ellis, Leicester Blood Donor Centre Manager, said: “We are very thankful to Hayley’s family, friends and the business community for their continued support and blood donations. We were so sad to hear the news about Hayley and we hope she continues to inspire people to give blood. The #BleedForHayley campaign organised by ER Recruitment is truly transforming lives.” It takes between five and 10 minutes to give blood. To give blood as part of the #BleedForHayley campaign, contact scarlett@eileenrichards.co.uk. Find out more at eileenrichardsrecruitment.co.uk/post/ bleed-for-hayley-campaign. NICHE | 9

What do King Richard III, Buzz Aldrin, Shakespeare, Richard Attenborough, Joe Orton and Sue Townsend have in common? Sarah Harrison, City Centre Director, tells us about Uncover the Story, the exciting new tourism campaign for Leicester and Leicestershire

Gripping Tales T

he value of tourism to Leicester and Leicestershire pre-pandemic was £1.96bn and supported around 23,000 jobs*. Twelve million visitors visited our attractions, ate in local restaurants, went to the theatre, shopped and stayed in our hotels. If all the new hotels planned in the city centre are developed, there will be a 159% increase in bed spaces over the next few years. Following hot on the heels of the opening in January 2020 of the Novotel and Adagio hotel complex are the Travelodge, Haymarket Shopping Centre, and the soon-to-open aparthotel at The Gresham: the former Fenwick unit in Market Street. The Place Marketing Team has established a new business tourism service to secure conferences and events in the city and county. The tourism and hospitality sectors have been most impacted by the Covid restrictions and, in Leicester, we saw a 74% decrease* in visitor numbers in 2020. The delay in the final step in the Government’s roadmap to at least July 19 has been a setback to businesses that benefit from tourism. Providing much-needed support to these businesses is a priority. The aim is to get more tourists staying overnight in the city and supporting our economy. Most people have heard of the incredible story of the anointed King of England who was found under a council car park and the CSI-style investigation that followed to confirm his identity as Richard III. It was a cracking story that captivated the attention of the world and really put the area on the map. What we discovered was that we

have a wealth of other unique stories to share and we could use them to invite visitors to Uncover the Story of our area. The Uncover the Story campaign is designed to promote the area through the intriguing and quirky stories that sit behind our great visitor attractions. The more stories you read, the more you want to uncover what the area can offer the visitor. Leicester has over 2,000 years of history, so is full of great stories. It's where one of the first English Parliament was held, where the last Plantagenet King of England is reinterred, where Thomas Cook developed modern tourism, the Attenborough brothers developed their love of natural history and acting, and where one of the greatest footballing stories of all time was created. To add to this, why are we known as Space City and why do we have Buzz Aldrin’s Space underpants? Where in Leicester can you dine in a medieval wool merchant’s house, an Edwardian banking hall, a former knitwear factory or one of the oldest grammar schools in England? How did the Golden Mile get its name? We have four of the rarest beam engines in working order in the world, but what have they got to do with going to the toilet? Can we claim to have theatre in our blood through our connections to Shakespeare, Richard Attenborough and Sue Townsend? Why did the city’s Guildhall get involved in some of our greatest national dramas including the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the English Civil War? If you want to find the answers you’ll just have to visitvisitleicester.info/uncoverthestory.

10 | NICHE


Leicester has over 2,000 years of history, so is full of great stories. Its where one of the first English Parliaments was held, where the last Plantagenet King of England is reinterred...

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

Director, 2XL Commercial Finance


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.

Repaying borrowed money

s the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve, the time has come for many businesses to assess what their business will look like in a post-Covid era. It has always been clear that vaccination was the way out of the crisis and hopefully this strategy is working but what next? As business activities have decreased, some companies are seeing lower revenue resulting in stunted cashflow. Yet now things are set to move forward, businesses will need to find the cash to actually make business happen, particularly in the retail and hospitality sector which has had little or no revenue for well over a year. Businesses may seek a cash injection in the form of a loan or overdraft to get them through this period. Others may consider the Recovery Loan scheme which can be taken in addition to Bounce Backs loans and CBILS lending. Other possible solutions could include invoice discounting or factoring – all designed to put cash into a business in order for it to trade. 12 | NICHE

Have something on your mind? Write in to us to request a topic of discussion via kerry@crossproductions.co.uk.

The months ahead will see these support loans having to be paid back, which for many businesses in the early stages of recovery will make cashflow even tighter – especially for those that have accessed the support, spent it, and still need assistance. A Barclaycard survey reveals 22% of small firms plan to pay off Government Covid-19 loans within a year. However, the poll indicated as many as 16,000 firms may default. The National Audit Office estimated last year that between 35% and 60% of borrowers might default on their loans. More than 1.6m small businesses borrowed around £70bn from emergency loan schemes and the first payments are due this month. A separate survey by Liberis shows 46% of small business owners asked family for financial support during the pandemic and more than a third asked parents for help. Some 40% turned to banks, 37% took a second job to keep their companies afloat, and a further 28% considered doing so. This borrowing will need to be repaid. One way to consider this would be to release equity from property or assets that allow for a longer period of repayment. If the business owns property in or outside of the business by way of premises or buy-to-lets, remortgaging these could mean monthly repayments drop significantly, freeing up cash. By way of example, a £250k CBILS over five years at 4% could cost around £4,600pm, whereas if this was done on a longer term facility of say 25 years, this would drop to approximately £1,300pm, freeing up cash of approximately £40kpa. Over the longer term, you would pay more interest, but eliminating a weighty monthly burden could be the difference between it ‘surviving or thriving’.

HR Director, Affinity HRM


Ready for hybrid working?

s working arrangements continue to evolve through the pandemic, hybrid working is the phrase on everyone’s lips (it makes a change from “you’re on mute!”). Many businesses I have worked with are struggling with a range of issues. First, there is a challenge around planning: who should they send back to the office? For how many days a week? How do they make this work? Second, there is a question of fairness: who should be allowed to stay remote? Will remote workers be evaluated and managed the same way? Third, how should communication be approached? How will businesses ensure that office and remote workers can communicate effectively? Is there a risk of having two cultures?

Partner at Nelsons Solicitors


What is hybrid working? Hybrid working has always existed, but it has risen in popularity through the pandemic. It’s a fancy word for when staff work part of their time at their workplace and part remotely. The benefits of hybrid working ◆ Employees want it, so by offering it, it will help attract and

Lockdown pets – who gets custody if we split?

s a result of the pandemic, there has been a big increase in the number of families purchasing pets due to them having to spend more time at home. According to statistics, a total of 3.2 million households bought a pet since the start of the pandemic, meaning that the UK now has 17 million pet-owning households. Pets understandably become very important members of the family household. However, when a couple decide to separate, there can often be disputes as to who gets to keep the pet and how they should be cared for. In recent years, family law practitioners have seen more separation disputes over pet ownership and they are now a common feature. In separation proceedings where there are disputes surrounding pets, they tend to involve couples who may have been together for a number of years but don’t have children. In those instances, the couples may have invested a lot of emotional energy in a pet, so it can be traumatic for

keep a more diverse pool of good ones. It can boost your corporate image, clearly signalling that you have a flexible culture built on trust. ◆ Research shows a hybrid arrangement makes employees feel happier, healthier, more productive, and, in turn, they feel like they can better integrate their home and working life, meaning they’re more likely to deliver results at work. ◆ Fewer people in the office at once means less space is needed. Reducing property costs and bills is a real benefit. It’s a great chance to rethink how you use the space you have and get the best from it. Watch outs While the benefits are clear, hybrid working isn’t risk-free. Here are some of the issues you need to consider to ensure your approach is inclusive. When the majority, or some, of your workforce isn’t present in the office, inclusion becomes more important than ever. As leaders, you can: ◆ Ensure your team know their work is valued no matter where they are working from. ◆ Keep an eye on employee wellbeing. It’s not about offering a gym pass. For example; wellbeing has to be embedded into everyday communication. ◆ Make sure meetings are engaging for everyone no matter where they are. ◆ Keep communications going so that anyone working remotely doesn’t feel out of the loop, or like they’re missing out. ◆ Above all, trust your team and keep communication open. Hybrid working can be a win-win situation for both staff and businesses. However, in reality, without a careful HR plan, it might create new forms of inequalities between office and remote workers if not carefully managed. Just remember: trust is the bedrock of hybrid working!

them if they separate from their partner and then have to decide who keeps the pet. Very often, if the couple have children who the pets are attached to, it is less of a problem. The courts tend to find this issue a bit difficult to deal with and, ultimately, the Judge will treat the family pet as an item of property in the same way as the contents of the house. If a pet belonged to the wife before the couple were together, then the Judge will say that it should stay with the wife, even if the husband has invested a lot of love and care in the pet while they have been together. A Judge is more likely to tell the couple to decide who keeps the pet between themselves and if they can’t then he/ she will order that the pet be sold and the proceeds of the sale to be divided between them, though this is only likely to work if there is any value in the pet, eg a pedigree dog or cat. One way to avoid such disputes is for couples to enter into a written agreement, referred to as a pet-nup agreement, which records who gets to keep the family pet should a couple separate in the future. These type of agreements can assist during a separation, making discussions more amicable and give couples one less thing to dispute. They have also become more popular in recent years and provide evidence to the court during proceedings. This will assist the Judge to decide what is to happen to the family pet. Whilst these type of agreements, along with pre-nuptial and cohabitation agreements, are still fairly rare and not legally binding, due to the fact that there is a growing number of pet related arguments between separating couples, they could become more popular and given more consideration by the courts. NICHE | 13

Corporate and banking partner at Nelsons


Commercial Contracts – Covid-19

ith the UK gearing up for a summer in the ‘new normal’, organisations should take the opportunity now when engaging in commercial arrangements to consider the terms and conditions that will govern their relationship(s). Such a review should be undertaken by organisations that are supplying or receiving goods or services, or both, either as a customer or as a supplier. What contractual terms do organisations need in order to protect themselves? Subject to the intended contractual relationship, organisations should consider a variety of terms when engaging with another party. Typically, the key clauses in most commercial arrangements that organisations should 14 | NICHE

Partner, Begbies Traynor

hen lockdown one was announced, many workers had to get creative with their ‘home office’, especially if they lived in a small apartment. Lap trays, camping chairs and dealing with an over-attentive cat was the new 9-5 in some homes. But it was our mental ability to deal with the situation that saw many of us struggle with lockdown and the working from home rule. At first it seemed like a challenge; the well-timed (or not) visit to the supermarket, the family visits through the lounge window, and the endless Zoom quizzes with friends! Meanwhile, whether you had Zoom fatigue or not, there was still work to be done – but now, it was all on-screen. But human beings are social animals by design, so this way of working literally felt unnatural to most. We soon realised that the chat over that first coffee in the office, the office quips that make us belly laugh and the team motivation you feel when you’re together were all far more important than we’d realised: work wasn’t just about getting things done, it was about people. As we enter this new phase of hybrid working where many businesses choose to keep staff working from home (WFH) whilst offering an office environment too, we must always remember how we felt back when WFH wasn’t a choice. Wellbeing and mental health are of paramount importance for employees – without it, people and businesses suffer, sometimes irreparably. So, if an employee is continuing to work from home, do check in with them regularly and remind them that you care, because a Zoom call is great, but a visit or a phone call is better. In a time where we are thankful for technology that connects us but we are ‘allowed’ to connect as human beings again, let’s go back to basics.


CEO, e-bate Limited


The balance between digital and human interaction

New recovery support for Leicestershire businesses

he Government’s new Covid-19 Recovery Loan Scheme is garnering some attention as a muchneeded lifeline. But is it suitable for your business? What is the Recovery Loan Scheme? Launched on April 6, 2021, it replaces the original coronavirus loans. The Government will provide an 80% guarantee for all loans, with no personal guarantees needed for borrowing up to £250,000. Interest rates are capped at 14.99%, with loan terms ranging from three to six years, depending on the type of funding used. These include: ◆ Term loans and overdrafts of between £25,001 and £10m per business ◆ Invoice finance and asset finance of between £1,000 and £10m per business. Who is eligible? All companies trading in the UK, except for public sector bodies, state-funded primary and secondary schools, banks, building societies, insurers and reinsurers. Eligible businesses must have been adversely affected by Covid-19 and show they would be viable were it not for the pandemic. It must not be in collective insolvency proceedings at the time of application. What if you’ve already had a CBILS or Bounce Back Loan? Even if you have previously taken out a CLBILS, CBILS or Bounce Back Loan, you are still eligible. However, there is

review and focus on include: the scope of what each party is being obliged to do; indemnities being requested or given; warranties being requested or given; caps on liabilities; rights to terminate (particularly for non-payment or insolvency events); payment terms; data protection; and ownership of intellectual property rights. A contract should reflect the commercial reality between the parties. If a clause does not apply – remove it! Alternatively, if there is a genuine benefit from including a clause – include it! In a time of Covid-19, when supply chains could be disrupted or lockdowns can be enforced at short notice, it is prudent for organisations to include a suitable force majeure clause. A force majeure clause often refers to ‘events outside the control’ of the parties. Such events are typically unexpected and disruptive, therefore the force majeure mechanism serves to alleviate a party from its obligations under the contract without liability in such circumstances. Typically contractual force majeure provisions will simply refer to ‘events outside the control’ of the parties without being specific – and where they are comprehensive, pandemics and lockdowns will almost certainly not be mentioned. As there is no standard meaning or implied definition of a force majeure event, they are always interpreted restrictively. Therefore, organisations should very carefully consider the way their force majeure provisions are drafted – and consider whether to expressly mention future epidemics, pandemics and lockdowns as events of force majeure.

Managing Director, PPL PRS Ltd

no interest-free period with this loan. A major appeal of a Recovery Loan is that a personal guarantee is not required for loans taken up to £250,000. So if your business is unable to repay the loan, you, as the business owner, will not be personally liable for the money owed. That said, the Recovery Loan is not risk-free, and if you already have any CLBILS, CBILS or Bounce Back Loans, you must be sure your business is in a position to make all of the necessary repayments. How to apply You can find a lender accredited to offer Recovery Loans from the list on the British Business Bank website. Lenders will conduct credit, fraud, anti-money

laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) checks for all applicants. Given the eligibility factors of the scheme, lenders are expected to take a longer-term view of business performance and suitability, and the application will be assessed on the basis that the pandemic had not happened. You will need to prove you can afford to repay the funds, including management accounts, historic accounts, details of assets, and your business plan. Where can you find additional support? Directors of companies in distress who are unable to take advantage of the Recovery Loan Scheme need to tackle any fundamental cashflow problems in their business now before it is too late.

Financial Planner, Brewin Dolphin



rom the Royal Mile down to Oxford Street, the great British high street is the life and soul of many UK towns and cities. Nottingham’s Lace Market and Leicester’s High Cross alone are home to a variety of high street names and independent businesses, while smaller surrounding towns such as Melton Mowbray and Beeston share in an array of retail stores, coffee shops, and beauty salons. As businesses open once more, the high street we all know and love is once again our local saviour, offering more than just a fashion or coffee fix, but the opportunity to socialise and ease back into working life.

As we look forward to getting back to the high street, the high street can get back to its best – and music can help. A recent survey by BPI found that people increased their music listening during lockdown with over half of those surveyed saying they listened to music to raise spirits. Music helps welcome customers back by creating a sense of familiarity. It could help your customers relax, and it could help staff transition back to work who may have been used to listening to music at home. Music lifts the mood and enhances the atmosphere, which may encourage your customers to stay longer, giving them more opportunity to get to know your services or products. As customers enjoy heading back out again, they may think about trying new places too so now is the perfect time to make a good impression. Playing music can be an important part of your identity and could help you to reflect your ideas and individuality. Upbeat summer songs for example may help to promote certain products while softer melodies may help customers unwind into the late afternoons and evenings. Whatever the situation, the right music can help to enhance the environment and help create a unique and appealing space. The high street has been silent for a long time, but now it’s time to revive and restore the rhythm.

Fall back in love with the heart of town

Financially thriving in difficult times

o one could have foreseen the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on people’s health, employment, and the wider economic landscape. Here are some tips on how to manage future financial pitfalls. Set a household budget Draw up a list of your regular and essential bills and use this as a basis to set a household budget. Consider creating a simple spreadsheet, splitting your outgoings into ‘essential’, such as your mortgage and utilities, and ‘non-essential’, including entertainment and holidays, while giving yourself monthly spend and save targets. Build on your savings habit Consider what you can afford to save each month and stick to this by setting up a direct debit into a savings account. Avoid unnecessary spending. For

example, give yourself 24 hours before buying a new item, and unsubscribe from store emails to avoid temptation. Boost your safety net It’s generally considered wise to have enough cash set aside in an easy access savings account to meet at least six months’ worth of expenditure. This money could provide peace of mind if you suffer a salary cut or a drop in dividend income, and need to meet your outgoings. Check your protection Protecting your family from financial difficulties isn’t just about saving and investing. It’s also about ensuring they are provided for should you suffer a serious illness or die. There are various types of financial protection, including income protection, life cover and critical illness cover. An adviser can help you decide the right level of cover and benefits for your personal circumstances. Start – or continue – investing Ongoing periods of economic uncertainty are undoubtedly unsettling. Yet if you’ve no immediate need for your spare cash, and enough set aside for emergencies, investing for the long-term could be wise. Stock markets go down as well as up, but history shows that, over the long term, shares tend to perform more strongly than cash. It doesn’t typically pay to hold off on an investment decision if you’ve got spare money and time on your side, whatever the wider economic circumstances. Seek help An adviser can help you plan effectively to financially safeguard against the future. A good financial plan helps you manage your financial risks, while helping you maximise opportunities to increase your wealth over time. NICHE | 15

Senior Lecturer in Enterprise Development, DMU


What next?

hat do we do now that we’re moving out of Covid-19 and back to some kind of normality? Coming out of this pandemic is in some way like coming out of a long-term illness that has you laid up and unable to work, and for most small business owners, it’s just you in business and therefore it’s down to you and that’s not easy for the best of us. So, what do we do? Looking for answers or solutions can have us running around in circles getting nowhere fast, so creating a plan for ‘what next’ is the best thing you can do. Here are some tips to get you moving again. 1. Create a plan/strategy for the short and long term: Financially, make a robust budget and keep to it; when money 16 | NICHE

Chief Executive, VAL

t’s an exciting time for business, many ‘threatened sectors’ including hospitality, leisure, and tourism are thriving once more and businesses have begun making the transition back into offices. A common question lingered in previous months as to whether the ideology of the workplace had shifted to remote working without the need of a physical office to operate from. Whilst there have been several organisations that have taken this approach, the overarching feeling from business leaders and employees at the moment is excitement to get back into the workplace to collaborate with colleagues and feel part of a team once more. Whilst technology has literally aided the survival of businesses over the last year and is likely to be an effective and efficient way for us to continue to communicate going forward, there is a real appetite for the return of face-to-face meetings and events. The ‘death of physical networking’ is a phrase of the past, with many individuals welcoming back corporate events and coffee meetings. There has been so much fantastic support and collaboration across East Midlands businesses, which deserves to be celebrated, and there is something about the community feeling when present at an event which cannot be replaced. So although we as a business ourselves will continue to utilise the variety of incredible virtual platforms to stay in touch with our clients, candidates and connections, we are very much enjoying the ability to communicate through an old fashioned meeting once more.


Director, ER Recruitment


Back to the office?

Reflecting on a difficult year for the voluntary sector

n the past year the charity sector has played a vital role in supporting the economy towards recovery. At the start of lockdown we noticed a drop in services being delivered by established and recognised charitable groups, but the community stepped forward to develop locally-focused support groups to ensure the most vulnerable families had help. Even when services did resume, delivery often had to be completely transformed to incorporate new government guidelines. Organisations invested their limited resources in learning new skills, introducing new technology and creating new pathways for the community to access support. The resilience and adaptability of the sector has been inspirational. Several groups expanded their support to mitigate gaps in provision and provide a holistic package of services, stretching resources to the maximum, whilst others utilised reserves to bring in additional manpower. However, the voluntary sector has endured a huge financial setback, with fundraising halted, income generation opportunities paused and reserves used to cover ongoing core and delivery costs. In 2020, 59% of charities delivering public service contracts had to use other sources of income to ensure successful delivery. For some this has resulted in losses of longstanding, experienced staff members or worse still, closure. But the community’s desire to help has shone through the adversity, with thousands of people signing up to volunteer across Leicester and Leicestershire despite the growing risk of exposure.

is tight, we need to make every penny count. Plan out what needs to be done and what it will cost to get your business moving again. You may need to take out a small business grant or loan to make this happen, it’s normal for businesses to need financial help from time to time. 2. Get out there, this is the only way to be seen. Find out what networking/conferences or tradeshow events are on and how you can get involved. Design your strategy and stick to it – let people see you are open for business. 3. Contact your clients/customers. All customers like surprises, so send them something; it could a discount, voucher, competition or something else that will get their attention; this will remind them you are still there and ready to serve them. 4. Keep it simple, do not try and over-stretch yourself. Although it’s not the same as starting up from scratch, you are reigniting your business after a long period of inactivity and this will take a fair bit of effort on your side. Write a plan for the next six months on what you want to achieve and stick to it. Once completed, write the next plan for the coming year. 5. You need to look after yourself in all this. Remember there are only so many hours in a day and days in a week. Although you’re getting the business moving again, take time away from it. You are no use to your business or your family if you are constantly tired or, at worst, burnt out. Stay focused and to plan and you should be up and running again in no time.

Owner, The Turnaround CEO


Resistance to change

or many of us we know what we want, but something in our mind holds us back. Very little time is given to explore our resistance to change and the triggers that can create a resistance to change. Our lives get busy and we continue with our usual habits and cycles of behaviour, even when sometimes we know it is not delivering the outcome that we want or desire. It always astounds me how we can often think of failure more easily and readily than success. We often revert to the ‘why not?’ as opposed to ‘how can I?’. Our emotions often create the unease to prevent us from taking action. We allow a variety of excuses to let us

Partner, Charnwood Accountants


VAL recruited over 2,000 volunteers in the early stages of the pandemic and this commitment has continued through the rollout of the vaccination. Volunteers have played a huge role in continuing vital services throughout the past year, and local organisations have been extremely successful in recruiting and managing these teams to deliver food, medicines and other essential support to the most vulnerable within communities. Despite the setbacks, the sector has come out strong through learning new skills and economical ways of delivering services and helping the hardest-to-reach communities. Many organisations have explored opportunities to collaborate and work together for increased positive impact. This way of working is likely to be encouraged. With the launch of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), the sector will have opportunities to partner with local organisations to pilot a programme of support. The priorities will include investment in skills and supporting people into employment. Whilst half of those furloughed during the first lockdown had returned to work by September 2020, 9% had lost their jobs, with younger people, low-paid workers and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities hit the hardest. 25,600 jobs had been lost in the charity sector by August 2020 and a further 34,100 were estimated to have lost their jobs by December 2020. Whilst we transition towards recovery, public and voluntary sector services will continue to be affected by Covid-19. Many services will face increased demands, particularly those addressing loneliness, mental health difficulties, educational inequality, homelessness, unemployment and poverty. Charities are remarkably positive about their funders, but only 47% of organisations who receive money from independent funders thought that they offered appropriate core funding and only 45% thought their funders collaborated well. A lack of flexible core funding could affect charities’ resilience, and a crisis on this scale demands more collaboration between funders across the voluntary, statutory and private sectors. The community has grown stronger through difficult times, and this needs to continue to ensure we can follow through on the roadmap out of lockdown.

Take aways from the last 12–16 months

or this final article I thought I would share some of my key take away points from working with a wide range of clients over the period since March 2020. 1. Cash is king: An old adage but more true than ever. Everyone should have a cashflow forecast, no matter how basic, to ascertain when issues may arise to give them the best chance of dealing with them. 2. Many businesses were over resourced: A lot of companies had too many resources and it wasn’t until they had to restrict them that they realised they could easily run the business to the same capacity with less resources. The take away from this is that you shouldn’t just assume you need what you already have. Constantly review and assess, to ensure that you are as efficient as possible. 3. Many businesses had costs they didn’t require or could reduce: Subscriptions were a common one! But also, general costs such as stationery etc hadn’t been reviewed or negotiated on for years and, therefore, better deals were possibly available. 4. Pivot and diversify: I wasn’t a fan of the term ‘pivot’, but what did come out of the pandemic was that a lot of businesses had opportunities they had either not known about or not had time to think about prior to lockdown. I am sure you have all seen local businesses that have adapted and added a new service offering to help them maintain an income during that time – maybe you have done the same with your business. Hopefully, we all have something positive we can take away from a period that has been very difficult for many businesses and business owners.

procrastinate about taking actions that could create a very different result if we just did it. If you could not fail, what would you do differently? Would you go about your day differently if you knew success was guaranteed? Our brain, our emotions, and our experiences often are the cause of resistance. We all have a story and we allow this story into our lives to shape our behaviour and actions. If you believed failure was impossible and you became the creator of your reality, for many, the resistance to change would disappear. A different energy would be created and our whole way of being may change. If you could bottle that and bring it into your everyday existence, imagine how that would change the dynamics of your day. As an individual, you are active in determining what you see and, on most levels, it is totally subconsciously done. Each and every one of us can be an architect of our own experience. Each brick we lay can be unique to us as we see and perceive it. Sometimes it is important that we take steps to change our rules and the emotions that guide us and create a new story or prediction that is going to motivate and drive us towards change. Next time you catch yourself resisting important actions, ask what story is coming through and think what new thought patterns can be introduced to change your outcome. NICHE | 17

s we come out of the pandemic, a lot of my clients have been reflecting on the longer-term impact on their businesses. In the main, these conversations take two different forms. First of all, there’s the purely practical stuff around how the business is actually organised and run in the future. For example, many of you may have seen my recent newsletter with a picture of my new home office, as I have decided to work from home permanently. For many people and businesses, the advantages of working from home are obvious, such as saving time and money on travel and reducing costs associated with running commercial premises. Many business owners are seeing financial, environmental and lifestyle benefits from home working, both for themselves and for their staff. Of course, this won’t suit everybody. Some people enjoy spending time in the office with colleagues; some roles within a business require supervision, meaning both the supervisors and the supervised have to spend time in the office together; and almost all businesses recognise that, whatever the extent of home working, it’s important to get the team together now and again even if that’s only once a week, or even less frequently. Even so, I think we are going to see a massive change in these structural ways in which businesses are run. The other conversation I’ve had with a number of clients is how the pandemic, itself, has impacted their views more generally. Many people have focused on their own mortality, for example, which is hardly surprising, and many business owners are starting to think about how and when they might sell the business. Readying a business for sale takes a variety of forms. If you are simply thinking that you might want to sell a company, you might start a conversation with potential buyers or you might ask a specialist agent to help you identify purchasers. If you are considering selling the business to people who already work within it, in a management buy-out, you will need to initiate conversations with the potential buy-out team to make sure that they are interested and to start negotiating a price and working out the best structure for the business going forward. In many cases, you might also decide that there are certain elements of the business that you would prefer to retain, while selling the main business. For example, many 18 | NICHE

Director, Pattersons Commercial Law

RIK PANCHOLI Partner, The Miller Partnership


Selling your business to your employees?

Looking to start up a new business?

f you’ve been thinking about starting a fantastic new venture this year, here are a few tips and tricks to get you thinking about your next steps. Many people dream about becoming their own boss and it all sounds great, but some never do. We asked ourselves why this could be and what could be done about it. Sometimes it’s because there’s an excuse such as the lack of funding or where business may come from. Will it work? Sometimes, it’s the fear of reputational damage if something goes wrong. Taking ownership can be worrying but it should not necessarily stop you from taking what could potentially be the biggest step of your life. As a law firm, clients often ask for advice and for us to provide solutions to their problems. When thinking about your business proposition, are you able to find a solution to problems others face? If so, you may be able to carve out a nice niche for yourself as the go to person in your sector. If you know what your clients and customers want, you just need to be able to deliver. Once you figure out how you are going to deliver your solution, you need to take it to the market. There will be some great marketing and business development opportunities and whilst this may cost money, there is no use in being able to offer a great solution to problems other people face if you do not tell anyone about it! Talking about costing money, as a new venture, access to money is likely to be a challenge and you will need to be mindful of how much your business is spending. Keep your overheads as low as possible but flexible enough so that it does not stifle your growth. You will also want to think about how much you personally need to survive on whilst you get your business off the ground. This is why we sometimes see people keeping their current jobs whilst they get their business off the ground. So… are you ready to take the plunge?

people try and keep an interest in the business premises, which they can then rent out to the new owners of the business, so that they have an income stream for their retirement. This will often require some kind of division or ‘demerger’ of the business. In other cases, your company may have two or three businesses in it and these might need to be separated so that they can be sold individually if they are not obviously saleable together. In all these situations, it’s important to get appropriate tax and legal advice to make sure that you get the best possible post-tax return for selling your business and that you don’t generate any unnecessary tax charges when readying the business for sale.

The year that was in commercial finance

Darren Willoughby of brokers 2XL Commercial Finance relives the last 16 months illustrating the UK’s journey through Covid-19


t’s 11.30pm on March 24, 2020 and I’ve just put the phone down on my 87th call of the day. The world is in the depths of a pandemic and the economy is showing signs of crumbling. Frantic business owners are scrambling around to see what support is available, while many stare into the abyss as the Prime Minister enforces lockdown. You remember it well, I imagine. BBL and CBILS loans are launched in an attempt to keep an already fragile economy afloat in the backdrop of Brexit, and as commercial finance brokers at 2XL, we are often first port of call for clients and professionals. Information is scatty at first, but then comes the availability of £50k in the form of a BBL without credit checks and no personal guarantee, which sends business owners into a frenzy and bank managers to throw the rule book of lending out the window. It causes one commentator to state: “we may as well put a skip at the end of the road with bags of £50k in and clients just sign to say they will pay it back.”

CBILS Loans are available for in excess of £50k but only to those who can prove they can pay back based on previous years’ performance, which leaves a big gap for those who can’t or haven’t traded long enough. Then comes the inevitable lull as businesses in the main put off major business decisions until the turbulence passes. This allows some business owners breathing space, although for those with children, that is replaced by schoolwork as schools are closed and the economy grinds to a halt. When it’s thought green shoots of hope are around the corner, the death toll continues to rise with government borrowing reaching stratospheric proportions and consecutive lockdowns halting any enthusiasm of a recovery whilst we continue to clap the NHS for their sterling efforts against a backdrop of turmoil. ‘Resilience’ and ‘diversification’ are the cries as many businesses adapt, and in some cases, thrive. ‘Out of adversity comes triumph,’ as


15 years

07736 359 413


some say while businesses adapt to the ‘new norm’ and, thankfully, at the time of writing, the vaccine seems to have come to our aid. So what next? The recovery loan scheme has been launched to help UK businesses access finance as they recover and grow. It aims to help affected companies and can be used for business purposes such as managing cashflow, investment, and growth. Take up of the scheme has been slow, which could be a good sign as it may mean businesses are finding their feet again, or the alternative view is that we haven’t quite reached the bite point yet as most businesses haven’t yet started paying off Covid support and may be reticent to take on more debt. Let’s hope the vaccine enables us all to get back to what we all do best… which incidentally in my case isn’t a six-year-old’s science homework! Darren Willoughby is Managing Director of 2XL Commercial Finance, a Commercial finance brokerage specialising in all things business and property finance.


National Presence



Directly Authorised by the FCA


Commercial Mortgages | Development Funding | Asset Finance | Commercial, Business, Personal Insurance | Bridging Loans | CBILS Loans NICHE | 19

















PETE MILLER Partner of The Miller Partnership

HMRC clearances update HMRC is engaging with the tax community over clearance changes concerns


efore completing a company reorganisation, restructure or demerger, in many cases you can apply to HMRC for statutory clearance in advance, so you know how your transaction will be treated for tax. HMRC must respond to your clearance application within 30 days, and this usually happened without a hitch. But, after the unit’s relocation from London to Birmingham two years ago and a new team, this deadline has frequently been missed, with some clearances taking as long as six months in cases where the unit has asked for further information. Clients have also encountered difficulties with the new team misinterpreting or misunderstanding the ‘commercial reasons’ statutory test, which has meant in some instances having to go to the Tribunal to get the decision we can’t get from HMRC. To try and prevent this situation from arising, we are now having to write much longer and more detailed clearance applications, to try and persuade HMRC that the transaction has a genuine commercial purpose. As a corporate tax adviser who moved into private practice after many years in senior roles with the Inland

NEW 1 20Ad.indd | NICHE

Revenue, including having had a clearance role myself, I’ve been taking a personal interest in these issues. I’m pleased to report that HMRC is now engaging with the tax community on this pressing matter. Thanks to representations from my own professional body, the CIOT, as well as other interested parties, HMRC is listening to our concerns. Although there are further discussions to be had, we feel that we are making progress in helping HMRC understand the commercial drivers for business transactions. And it has been helpful that there have been several Tribunal decisions in favour of the taxpayers that have explained how the Tribunal judges view these questions of commerciality. 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. We’re experts in HMRC clearances and have many years’ senior-level experience in dealing with them. Email pete.miller@themillerpartnership.com and we’ll guide you through the process, including drafting your application and dealing with any questions that HMRC raise.

30/09/2019 19:04

This is what accountants who do more than crunch the numbers look like. The High Street Accountant have adopted a refreshingly open-door policy, they’re doing more for their clients and ask them to expect more WORDS BY EMILY MILLER

Expect more than numbers


he Leicestershire office of the close-knit High Street Accountant team is quite different to the stuffy accountants of yesteryear – bright, open and with a no appointment necessary policy. Director Kellie Chetwynd describes how when establishing the business she wanted to create an environment for her clients which enabled a lasting relationship to develop. “I set out to create an accountancy firm with a face. A place clients can drop in and out of, where they could feel welcomed and comfortable enough to ask for our assistance without fear of it being costly or time consuming for them.” Her aim in creating an open environment was achieved, but then, as the global pandemic’s restrictions came into place, the forward thinking company had to rethink. Executive Assistant Megan Lawson adds: “We were still here. That was the key message from the start; yes our

shop front may have had to turn the lights off for a little while, but we kept in touch with our clients through social media and phone calls to ensure they knew we were there for them in what was a minefield for so many.” An initial conversation with the team invites a working relationship which is honest and supportive – delving further into the relationship than the paperwork would ordinarily take it, “Working together in real-time we meet our clients’ needs with extensive experience and up-to-the-minute training to provide bookkeeping, VAT, PAYE, financial reports and year end accounts of course, but in addition we also work to provide the best outcomes for a business and their finances. “For us it’s about working with our clients to get their finances in the very best shape to enable them to grow and prosper,” Kellie explains, “It’s always about more than the numbers!”


Now, as their doors open once again, the team are back to providing the face-to-face bespoke advice and support to help businesses grow from their high street location. With a variety of packages and transparent pricing, the modern, fresh and welcoming office is a place where you will want to pop in ad hoc or for regular check ins to see where your finances are positioned, “It’s not about ensuring our clients have regular meetings with us; if they don’t feel they want to, we can handle everything for them, but for those that appreciate a more informed approach to their finances we can guide them through it all!” Kellie concludes. It’s far from concluded in terms of their work with you and your business, though – contact the team on 01509 767 415 or visit thehighstreetaccountant.co.uk and start to expect so much more than you thought your accountant could provide. NICHE | 21


Money Talks Rajesh Modha of Tilton Conway, a leading female-focused financial planning firm, interviews Amanda Daly, the founder of The Turnaround CEO, an award-winning business leader coach, about her relationship with money and why happiness isn’t in the material

In conversation with: AMANDA DALY


manda Daly is passionate about business and the success of everyone around her. She’s won numerous business awards and is the epitome of practising what she preaches.

What is your most deeply held belief about money?

It’s very different, thankfully, now than it was five years ago. Back then I was always chasing the turnover; I worked and worked until I felt it really was the sole purpose in my life. From the outside looking in, I appeared to have it all: the beautiful house with a swimming pool, the amazing wardrobe of clothes, the high income – but on the inside, it was a very different story. I was miserable in all honesty! Work became everything, it was all my life and marriage had become. I lost my sense of identity and enjoyment in life, I just lost what it was all about. All of the material ‘perks’ of the lifestyle didn’t make me happy – they 22 | NICHE

certainly weren’t worth what it cost me in terms of my own fulfilment. I had built a security for myself with the wrong foundations – it was false, an illusion almost.

What was the shift?

I woke up! I had what can only be described as an awakening. With the help of two very important people in my life, I realised it all had to change and I left. I left the business, got off the treadmill, made the leap of faith – people thought I was crazy. But I knew I had to allow for the change to realign with myself again.

Did you feel a vulnerability?

It takes a great deal of courage to change your life path when you are on one that you have worked so hard to ‘get to’, and sadly it often takes us getting to that pain point, that breaking point where it all becomes unbearable. You often simply cannot see it until that point. I needed the direct and blunt approach, and it took great friends and a coach to show me, to question it all and to give me the courage I needed. They helped me to switch on the light.


What are your beliefs around money now?

I am an entrepreneur, it’s who I am, and I believe there are two types of us – those motivated by the big money and those who are motivated by making a difference. I want to make a difference. Money is lovely, but I want to build an empire on helping people; my goals are to help people who find themselves in that same space I was in and to turn on the light help them have a different life, that’s the sole purpose behind The Turnaround. Interestingly I might not have the same multi-millionpound turnover with my company now like I did in the one before – but I have the same income and I am a hell of a lot happier.

What core advice would you give to a female entrepreneur?

Know your worth as a person, don’t let that be taken advantaged of or abused. Speak to Rajesh if you wish to improve your relationship with money and create a financial plan to match your aspirations at tiltonconway.com, or call 0116 262 1414.

Research & Development

Are you claiming the tax relief? Did you know you can claim tax credits for research and development as part of a scheme that has been running for over 20 years? Mike Waterfield, director at accounting firm Torr Waterfield, explains


any businesses are always looking for new ways to develop with new products and processes. In the right situation, Research and Development Tax Credits are a UK tax incentive that can provide valuable support. Assisting clients to make a claim for research and development (R&D) tax relief since the launch of the scheme some 20 years ago, we have come across many diverse and interesting projects. We are constantly amazed by the range of innovation in the businesses we work with and admire the dogged enthusiasm of the business owners who constantly strive to push the boundaries of what is possible within their respective industry. Many companies fail to appreciate the breadth of activities that may be considered as R&D, meaning that they miss out on tax refunds, tax savings,

or cash credits (for loss-making companies). If you can answer yes to the following questions, then there is every chance that your company may qualify for R&D Tax Credits. Do you: ◆ Employ engineers, scientists or IT personnel? ◆ Undertake engineering or software design or feasibility studies for other companies or yourself? ◆ Develop (create or improve on) products, processes, materials, devices, services or systems for others or yourself? Remember, whatever it is your company is looking to introduce, it does not have to be something brand new – it does not even need to be particularly innovative (doing work to replicate the specifications/ effects of existing products and/or processes but in a


fundamentally different way is equally valid). R&D tax relief applies equally to product, process and systematic improvements. The key thing is that the solution is not readily deducible, ie there were significant uncertainties around the potential for success and the company faced challenges and setbacks when attempting to realise the improvements (specifications and/or functionality) sought. Most importantly success is not required. If you would like to explore this further, please contact me to arrange for one of our R&D tax relief specialists to speak with you by emailing mike.waterfield @torrwaterfield.co.uk.

NICHE | 23

How does vehicle leasing work? To own or not to own… that is the question, or at least it is for this article. Take a look at our pros and cons on leasing your company vehicle WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


few pointers about the ups and downs of leasing a vehicle instead of buying. While there is no right or wrong answer, it’s for you to consider whether leasing is right for you. Control of cost With leasing, you are able to control the cost of your usage based on time and distance. Those that put high mileage on a car in particular should lease as the user can exact the cost of usage. Lease depreciating assets, don’t own them it makes sense not to invest in a vehicle which is going to depreciate as soon as you have purchased and driven out of the dealers. Bigger tax deductions The write offs on leases are almost six times larger than ownership. If you leased the same car rather than owned it and used it 100% for business you could write off 100% of the lease payment with no limits.

Leasing is easier and quicker Because the manufacturer knows that leasing leads to a greater possibility of a customer becoming loyal to the brand, they hope that the customer will repeatedly come back as they renew their lease. Everyone including the dealer wants this repeat business, so they endeavour to make the whole leasing process as easy as possible. You won’t own the car The car belongs to the leasing company so if you prefer to ‘own’ a car then leasing might not be for you. Damage and repairs If you’re known to make the odd bump now and then, you will have to be more careful with a leased vehicle you will have to pay for it. Usage limitations Lease payments are calculated according to the amount the car may depreciate. The more miles you do, the more the car’s value will decline.

Vehicle Consulting

Leicester grows Big changes at a vehicle leasing company mean greater access to better deals for Leicester WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


n adorable chocolate Labrador is not the only new thing that’s come about during the pandemic for Paul and Jayne Stephenson who run Vehicle Consulting Leicester. The business is a part of Vehicle Consulting Group, which recently took on a new investor, director, and additional businesses, meaning Leicester customers are benefitting. “We have a bigger buying power because there are now more of us and we’re able to gain better deals with more major funders coming on board. And due to the group’s credibility, we work with some of the largest contractors in the UK,” Paul told us. “We’re making changes because the industry is changing; there are more people going toward electric 24 | NICHE

cars for example. So, we’re getting ourselves in a place to better move with the times.” With changes resulting from the evolution of the group, the Vehicle Consulting Leicester website – presenting Paul and Jayne themselves on the homepage – has been revamped to drive what the local leasing company is all about: personal, friendly, and industry-leading. “We thought it was a good time to develop the website and logo. We are Leicester’s personal vehicle leasing team and myself and Jayne deal with customers personally. Jayne sends out a card to everyone for Christmas, birthdays, and Easter. This was started in lockdown as it was nice to receive something you were not expecting in the post. We’ve also been keeping

ourselves busy since we got a new puppy in lockdown called Coco!” While Jayne comes from a family that has run a Ford dealership for over 80 years as well as a job that saw her win Manager of the Year two years in a row, Paul has been selling cars for more than 34 years and has worked for the likes of Porsche, BMW and Mercedes Benz. Both are keen to continue providing car-leasing benefits to the people of Leicester. Visit vehicleconsultingleicester.com to find out more.


Are you ready to

sell your business? Pattersons Commercial Law managing director Rik Pancholi advises on business sales for buyers and sellers


s specialist commercial lawyers, we have advised on hundreds of transactions over the years and have seen many businesses purchased and sold. We are often asked about what a seller should be doing to prepare and what a potential buyer is likely to look for. This article explores some of the things a prospective buyer and a potential seller will want to understand before negotiating a business sale. Aside from knowing the price the business will fetch, a seller will want to prepare their business for sale before putting it on the market. This will range from mentally preparing themselves for the sale and accepting they will no longer be the owner, through to carrying out their own due diligence to make sure their business does not have any ‘holes’ which the buyer can poke to get themselves a better deal. The buyer will, of course, want to get the best possible bargain they can and is likely to want to carry out a detailed due

diligence exercise to understand if the price the buyer has asked for is worth it. Some of the key areas of due diligence will revolve around the financials, property, employees, and the commercial prospects. Property is an area which often comes to the forefront of both the buyer and the seller’s minds when negotiating the sale. Sometimes the transaction is carried out on the basis that the buyer can enter a territory which they don’t currently operate in and therefore they will want to place close attention to any lease obligations, potential dilapidation costs and any rent review provisions. Buyers will want to be aware of any personal guarantees they may have given, and these may need to be released as part of the transaction. If the property is owned by the seller, consideration will need to be given to whether they will become the landlord or whether the property will be sold to the buyer at the same time as the business. When considering the


employees, do they all have a current and up to date employment contract? If they don’t, the business may not only be in breach of its employment law obligations, but it may expose itself and end up costing more in the long run. A buyer is not likely to want to take on a business where there is already a breach of employment law and end up inheriting a potential liability. Buyers will also want to consider if any of the employees are surplus to requirements and this is often a key area of discussion between the buyer and the seller. If you are a prospective seller and would like to find out more about how you can prepare yourself and your business for sale, we are here to help advise you on your next step. Contact Rik Pancholi and his team at Pattersons Commercial Law on 0116 319 1110 or at pattersonscommerciallaw.com.

NICHE | 25


Legal Forum


FIRST HOME SCHEME The First Home Scheme was launched on June 4 in the East Midlands. It offers discounted homes for key workers and local residents. This incredible pilot helps first-time buyers, many of whom will be key workers like NHS staff onto the property ladder by offering homes at a discount of at least 30% compared to the market price. That same percentage will then be passed on with the sale of the property to future first-time buyers, meaning homes will always be sold below market value. This scheme helps benefit local communities, key workers, and families for generations to come. There has been a surge in the current market with first-time buyers. Delivery of the scheme is part of the government’s wider pledge to build one million new affordable and attractive homes and help put home ownership within reach for people across the country. The campaign highlights the support available to help make home ownership a realistic and affordable option for more people than ever. Most lenders have announced that they will be offering 95% mortgages for first homes. The Government wishes to encourage people who want to purchase their own home. Other government home ownership schemes available are the Help to Buy: Equity Loan, Shared Ownership, and Help to Build. We at BP legal also wish to help first-time buyers, by offering a 10% discount on legal fees. 26 | NICHE

How and why to settle disputes in business according to litigation and commercial law specialist Greg Hollingsworth, director of Hollingsworth Solicitors A settlement gives the business certainty and closure, and avoids the anxiety of having to wait for a judgment from a court and the uncertainty about that outcome. It also avoids the expense of continuing with litigation. Even if the business wins in court and is awarded costs, it will rarely get all of its costs back from the other side. Review your case Undertake an early analysis of the case - compare the analysis with possible settlement outcomes. If an offer is made, consider its value, bearing in mind how long it will take to get to trial and the potential cost of litigation. Settlement negotiations aren’t a sign of weakness, and can take place at any time during the case.

GREG HOLLINGSWORTH Director at Hollingsworths Solicitors How to discuss settlement Settlement discussions are conducted on a “without prejudice basis”. This means that anything said about the dispute during the settlement negotiations or in any written settlement offer cannot be used later at the trial. This protection only applies to statements made purely in an attempt to settle the case – something which businesses sometimes forget. Recording the Settlement Ensure that any settlement is recorded in a written settlement agreement – this is essential if a claim has been started. Having reached acceptable terms, businesses want to avoid another dispute arising on the settlement terms.

FIVE ESSENTIAL TRAVEL TIPS BHAVIN GANDHI Co-Director at Paradigm Wills and Legal Services When travelling in the past, you’ve likely forgotten an essential item or two? Your sun cream, plug adapter, sunglasses, and toothbrush are all replaceable. But what about your things back home? Going on holiday poses a risk to our lives, wellbeing, and finances. It sounds morbid but that’s why there’s travel insurance. You should have all of your affairs in order every year before you go on holiday, especially while the coronavirus is still about. You may visit a destination on the Government’s green list that ends up going into amber or red. And, travelling by airplane is a risk in itself. Consider these five points before you travel. 1. Do you have a will? If so, is it up to date? If you answered no to either

question, it’s important you action these in case you’re involved in any accident, or catch an illness or disease. 2. How often is your will reviewed? Is should be annually. Any changes in your circumstances or situation could mean that your will needs updating or amending. 3. Did you get round to making the Lasting Power of Attorneys that you said you’d do at a later stage? If anything happens to you while you’re away, your family and friends may not be able to access bank accounts etc. 4. Where are your documents stored? If at home, who knows where they are? Can you even remember where these vital documents are? We provide a secure storage service for your documents to keep them safe. 5. Have you informed someone where your documents are? If you’re travelling with that person, is there anyone else who can access them if they need to?

Protect what is most precious to you With the sudden, devastating losses many suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of us were reminded that life is short and precious


The thought of writing a will can be daunting but sometimes we forget that one of the most essential things you can do for you and your family is to make one. A will allows you to distribute your assets as you please and protect and support the ones you love after you have moved on. So don’t wait. Leave a legacy behind so you may continue to be loved and never be forgotten.

Still unsure? Here are a few words from our previous clients. I was hesitant to write a will and didn’t really understand the technicalities of it but, Bhavin was fantastic, and I am glad I took the steps to do it. Bhavin made my parents feel prioritised by offering a respectable and high standard service. It is something we all have to do eventually, and I had the right team behind me who respected my choices and were very understanding. Paradigm truly changed my views on wills. I no longer look at it as a sad thing but more of a positive. I now have a way to look after my family when I am gone. I am at peace with that.

paradigm-wills.com 0116 464 7055 | 0800 999 7750 info@paradigm-wills.com Studio 7, Phoenix Square, 7 Burton Street, Leicester LE1 1TB


Glynis Wright & Co are now an integral part of our team, together providing unrivalled expertise across all aspects of family law. Divorce & separation can be complicated and emotional. Our experienced team deliver the right blend of support and practical advice – empowering you, giving you a voice and helping you adapt and come through stronger.

Provincial House 37 New Walk Leicester LE1 6TU 0116 222 6666

Good things

come in threes Dedication to providing opportunities for young people and out-of-hours service has seen this firm qualify in three categories of the Niche Business Awards 2021 WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


hey say being nominated for an award has many benefits. From employee engagement to brand awareness, award nominations certainly mean a lot to those on the receiving end, especially small, independent businesses. To then be shortlisted as a semifinalist must multiply the benefits. But to be named a semi-finalist in not just one but three categories must be exceptionally gratifying. BP legal is a semi-finalist in the Best Small Business, Best Customer Service, and Rising Star categories of the Niche Business Awards 2021. Bhumika Parmar established the firm 12 years ago in a small office with just one computer. She now employs three solicitors, a trainee solicitor, and some support staff. The company commits to building good rapport and strong working relationships with clients, fellow solicitors, and other professionals. To accommodate client needs, the team operates an out-of-hours phone line, diminishing the idea that solicitors operate only on a 9

to 5 basis. Bhumika said: “We believe this is crucial for many clients as they may not be able to contact us during the day due to work commitments. This contributes to our differing nature from other firms. It reinforces the notion that our services are accessible always.” Bhumika is keen to provide opportunities for young people entering the law sector. Most of her team started with her as training solicitors and have worked with her to qualify. She commented: “So many doors were shut on me when I was starting out. This is why I am very open to having work experience students because I know what it was like. Someone once took a chance on me as a new solicitor, and it was that chance that led to me being able to set up my own practice and continue the work I love.” Over the years, Bhumika has appeared in various news, radio, and television programmes. Her role in a Pro Bono asylum case for Afusat Saliu to support her right to remain in the UK


attracted global media attention. And, her work leading the case of Chandegra v Pankhania (2012), which reached the High Court, is now is a principal case featured in textbooks referred to by tutors at various institutions. Trainee solicitor Reema Patel, who will qualify as a solicitor this year, said: “It is this reallife experience that we require to qualify and knowing there is someone who believes and supports you on that journey and will take the time to help you is great. Education in the workplace is vital and helps you appreciate the industry and have real-life learning experiences.” Harpreet Kashb, a solicitor at BP Legal, is a semi-finalist in the Rising Star category. The 31-year-old said: “I feel honoured. I take this opportunity to thank Bhumika and team BP Legal for nominating me and encouraging me to be the best that I can. Wishing all those who have been shortlisted the best of luck.” Keep up to date with the Niche Business Awards 2021 online after finalist announcements on July 6. NICHE | 29

10 things you must do

when hiring an employee HR tips on how to employ your first member of staff


ne thing Covid-19 didn’t put a stop to was the public’s entrepreneurial spirit. According to the National Office of Statistics UK the percentage of businesses currently trading has increased to 87%, the highest proportion since comparable estimates began in June 2020. So, if you are a start-up looking to take on employees or an existing company who is growing and expanding to more staff there are a host of HR hurdles you need to consider. Aleena of Affinity HRM brings you a handy checklist to help get things started. James Clear, author of the number one New York Times bestseller ‘Atomic Habits’. Affinity HRM offers experienced, honest, and supportive advice in a friendly and professional manner. Aleena said: “It’s

actually an exciting time for new and expanding companies and taking on employees is a huge step which can feel overwhelming at the start. I can help guide a client through.” Follow these ten steps on making the process of hiring your first employee smooth and problem free. You can find more information by getting in touch with Aleena on aleena@ affinityhrm.co.uk or call 0116 478 0025.

P x E x S3 It’s the formula for learning how to learn, according to Action Coach Phil Nassau


o you find it frustrating – especially in our current moment of great change – that you can never move as fast as the things that come at you? Emails pile up, reports go unread, people waiting for you, your industry’s evolving, your world is shifting, and all the while you’re bombarded with noise and distractions and it’s why you’re waking up early, grabbing your phone and responding to everyone right away, as if that’ll stem the tide. Many business owners are burnt out, not because they’re doing too much but because they’re doing too little of the things they really value. The number one skill set is to learn how to learn. How do you learn how to learn? Think in the abstract of a Russian nesting doll. One category of thought opens up to reveal another category, which opens to reveal another. To learn how to learn, you must combine mindset, methods, and motivation. This is why I love the formula to fix this: P x E x S3. P is for purpose: A passion is what lights you up and purpose is how you use that passion to light other people up. E is for energy: It’s about managing your energy like you manage your time.

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S3 is for small, simple steps: Breaking things down into manageable tasks. What keeps people from acting is being either intimidated or confused. Ask yourself: “What is the tiniest action I can take right now that will give me progress toward my goal?” I will leave you with this Tweet from James Clear, author of the number one New York Times bestseller Atomic Habits.


What your left and right says about you Identifying which parts of your personality are dominant can help you adapt to different situations. Kerry Smith finds out how


f I was Mrs Potts all the time I’d be invisible,” coach and owner of The Turnaround CEO, Amanda Daly, told me. In her home life, she thinks of herself as Mrs Potts from Disney’s 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast; nurturing, softly-spoken, and selfless. But in the business world, she’s more of a Fifi (a name she’s given to her alter ego), a no-nonsense, problemsolving conversationalist. “Within everyone there’s a left and a right personality; you cannot have one without the other,” according to Amanda. “Sometimes you need to switch from one to the other – in my case, from Mrs Potts to Fifi! It’s about knowing which parts of your personality you need to pull on more and adap,t depending on who you’re dealing with. “One colleague might make you react in a different way to someone else, but if you were able to understand how they work, think, and respond, you

can adjust, and avoid getting wound up by their behaviour, and therefore, communicating better.” Amanda is associated to use the well-known DiSC personal development tool, which is used by more than one million people each year to improve teamwork, communication, and productivity in the workplace. She’s using it as part of her coaching packages to assess what type of personality and behaviour someone is bringing into a business, whether they’re missing out on a promotion because they’re lacking some ‘Fifi’ about them, or they’re encountering conflict because they’re not enough ‘Mrs Potts’. DiSC – which stands for dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness – will identify how many of each type of person you have in the business, if you have too many of one type, where you’re underperforming, any improvements required, and


areas you’re strong in. “Often, you have traits in all four areas. Identifying which one is more dominant helps you adapt to different circumstances.” A specialist platform ‘Catalyst’ is also available to view everyone in the business (if security and access permits), which Amanda analyses, interprets and diagnoses from. You can then look at a colleague’s behaviour profile to understand their actions and reactions. “If someone was snappy with you, it might be because of the particular way you spoke to them, or if there’s a negative culture in the business, you can also identify where it’s being established. You might have too many D personalities and not enough Cs, for example.” And you yourself might be a little too ‘Mrs Potts’ where you could be more ‘Fifi’. What are the names of your left and right? Find out more at theturnaroundceo.co.uk.

Who do you think you are? The main traits of the four DiSC personality types. discprofile.com D – DOMINANCE Direct Firm Strong willed Forceful Results-orientated

i – INFLUENCE Outgoing Enthusiastic Optimistic High spirited Lively

C – CONSCIENTIOUSNESS Analytical Reserved Precise Private Systematic

S – STEADINESS Even tempered Accommodating Patient Humble Tactful NICHE | 31

Hybrid is here Working from home or working from the office – which one’s best? Recruitment specialist ER Recruitment explains why both have their pros and cons


ormality’ is slowly but surely beginning to sneak back into our lives, with physical meetings taking place once more, events creeping back into the calendar, and team socials back in play. However, there is one notable change that many businesses did not have in place prior to Covid-19 – hybrid working. When speaking with our clients, a significant amount have now adopted the parthome, part-office working approach with ourselves also enjoying the benefit of both. It has become the norm for employees who can work from home to be given the flexibility to do so, with many stating it improves work-life balance without impacting productivity. From a recruitment perspective, hybrid working seems to tick numerous boxes. Many candidates are attracted to the ability of having the option to work from home some days. This flexible working is now a selling point when recruiting for new talent. For employers, it also means that top talent who may have

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previously not been in their candidate pool due to location are now accessible as they are willing to commute further as it’s not an everyday commitment. Naturally, with a new way of working comes new rules and guidelines that need to be put into place – for some businesses this will be more formal than others, but in general, it’s important that the employer and employee are on the same page in terms of what hybrid working looks like for individuals. The standard concept seems to be the agreement of set days in the office and set days working from home to ensure consistency and communication remain, but there are a variety of ways hybrid working operates. The best way to identify suitability is to assess what worked well in 2020 and where the challenges lay. The most common appeal of hybrid working seems to be the ability to ‘have your cake and eat it’. Employees like being present with their colleagues and sharing ideas, but many state they also enjoy the ability to utilise the time they would spend commuting doing something

else productive such as exercise or spending extra time with family. Some business leaders still hold the opinion that staff are less productive at home and are better in the office full-time, and for some individuals this may be the case. However, overall, it tends to be the opposite, with many employers telling us the biggest issue is staff actually shutting off. A work computer is shut down at the end of the day, but with workstations being set up at home, there is the issue of some team members failing to disconnect from work commitments, which could lead to potential burnout. Whether it’s loved or loathed, hybrid working looks like it is here to stay for the foreseeable. So it’s unsurprising that more and more businesses are adapting to this new way of working and, as a positive for both employers and employees, it’s likely to be the favoured way of working for most going forward. Feel free to contact us if you would like to understand more about what other businesses are doing.

Tailored IT solutions Streamlining IT solutions may not be top of the list for business owners this year, but trimming costs and aligning with a strong business strategy will be. Emily Miller meets with Anil Motivaras to discover there is more to your IT systems than you think


ethinking and realigning are things that business owners will be doing as they recover from the changes that are already taking place post-pandemic in the second half of 2021. Anil Motivaras, Director at Giga Ops, a leading IT & Telecommunications Solutions company, tells me that whilst businesses may have existing telephony and IT systems in place, there is a lot to be done to save money, time and efficiency, not to mention security and compliance. “During the pandemic, whilst staff were being furloughed and businesses were doing all they could to respond, businesses had to re-think their systems overnight and many existing telephony and computer systems had to adapt fast. “The result is that many workplaces are changed for the foreseeable and companies have made their systems work for them – this won’t shift, adaptability is here to stay. “Security is another major

factor to consider,” he continues, “Cyber Attacks increased by 300% in 2020 and most businesses do not have the correct security systems in place or haven’t been keeping them up to date. They simply must adapt to protect themselves.” Going into any business and working with business owners from start-up full IT and Telephony installations and support or streamlining existing systems, Giga Ops are embracing the changes that the global pandemic has brought to business. “I enjoy being part of the ongoing changes a business needs to make in order for them to be streamlined, adaptable and effectively to save money and post-pandemic businesses are more aware than ever that their strategies and processes need to be flexible but strong.” With vast experience and training, Anil is keen to bring his expertise to medium to large businesses in the area providing tailored support for elements of


a telephony and IT system or for the whole of these technologies. His personable approach, along with a blue chip large corporate background means each client gets experience combined with a personable, down to earth approach. “Watching a business grow and thrive is all part of the day-today satisfaction I get from doing what I do. Helping clients grow their business at no extra cost and reducing stress by helping them create a system which continuously works for them, not against them, whilst being at the end of the phone or over a cup of coffee is hugely rewarding – and in the wake of the pandemic it’s never been more so.” Rethinking, reassessing and restrategising your processes is a continuous process, having experts on your side like Giga Ops as you adapt and grow will help take your business from existing to thriving – even in these tougher times. Call Anil on 03300 101 098 for that support. NICHE | 33

Meet Jo Peters We got personal with a woman who created her own company to provide virtual personal assistance to local businesses WORDS BY EMILY MILLER 34 | NICHE


I get to work with some amazing and inspiring clients and what I particularly love is the diversity of my work from one day to the next


hat motivated you to start your own company? Well, as a single parent I wanted to support my family in a way that meant I could work flexibly around them without compromising either my work or my family. I applied for lots of admin roles, but honestly couldn’t find anything to ‘fit’; it was then that I decided I could work remotely offering admin services to businesses that needed the essential services I could provide without being employed by one company specifically. You have grown in the last few years, has that happened organically? It’s been through our clients’ feedback mainly, so yes I guess we have Emily – by working closely with them and their needs, we can discover additional services that they might need. We currently provide a wide range of admin support including reception services, virtual PA and credit control, and over the last couple of years I have extended the team in order to meet the growing demand, so that shows our growth too. How has the global pandemic affected your business? It actually impacted our business in a positive way. Initially, businesses put everything on hold, but slowly and surely as things started to open up we have found

a huge increase in demand for our services. Some companies have had to re-size their companies and have outsourced where they may have once had a sole person to do that role. Many people seem to be changing their attitude to remote working in a positive way. In addition, business owners appear to have used the time to re-assess their work/life balance and are using our services to alleviate their time. What do you get out of running your own company? I love it! And that’s just for starters, it does work around my family life too – which was my initial goal when setting up. I get to work with some amazing and inspiring clients and what I particularly love is the diversity of my work from one day to the next. I actually didn’t imagine it would be where it was today – I really enjoy seeing how far we can take this. I also really like the networking aspect of working within the business community in Leicester; it’s a really supportive community and this has been especially true of the last year. Tell us something we don’t know… I am a self-confessed gym bunny and love my shoes and handbags. I also believe in the importance of having a positive attitude in this life and can often be seen dancing and singing away on Instagram and LinkedIn! NICHE | 35

The future of travel We’ve seen the future of vehicle mobility and it isn’t queuing up outside a taxi rank or waiting for a cab driver who says they’re, ‘just around the corner’ when they are, in fact, five miles away. Nope, according to David Hunter, Director at Take Me, things are about to get ultra-efficient... WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


ake Me, which was once ADT – a solo taxi firm in the most traditional of senses – has been acquiring small to medium taxi firms up and down the country. Its aim to create a network of mobility services quite unlike any other (including that app with the four letters starting with U). Having operated using the latest technology for quite some time now, the acquisitions are about taking the locality of their app further afield than Leicestershire. In addition, Take Me are utilising technology that will allow the user to have their entire day mapped out, able to book and pay for each detail at their fingertips. From the journey pickup through to the restaurant reservation and hotel bookings,

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each stage will be in real-time with updates made to the next ‘steps’ of the journey to ensure a streamlined and smooth experience. On the subject of the app, Take Me Director David Hunter said: “The future of getting about is changing and we want to create a national brand with Take Me here in the UK. There is no reason why clients can’t enjoy a certain ease of freedom of movement with the technology that we have now. Bringing our customers up to date with the tech available is an exciting process.” The app won’t replace the customer service elements that travellers will have enjoyed from the days of ADT however. There is still a person at the end of the phone for all those

requiring a tailored taxi service for things like weddings and events which need more intricate attention. With mobility services becoming more streamlined like this, David is keen to highlight the shift in the general public away from owning their own cars to now enjoying an easier, often more cost-effective way of getting around. “With the rise in demand for taxis combined with the more economical vehicles available, the costs associated are able to come down and with that the public are becoming more open to the idea of a convenient and more wallet-friendly travel in favour of owning their own car.” Download the future of mobility with the Take Me app now – go to adt-taxis.co.uk.





Expect more






Utilising the latest technologies and supporting their advisors in unique ways is proving to be a winning combination for this financial planning group. It’s all about tech with a personal touch WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


ruinvest founders and directors Mark Smith and Micky Johal have pioneered a way of arming their advisers with the very latest technology, whilst providing them with dedicated administrative support so they can focus on the client providing a supportive environment. The group, which has grown exponentially since its inception in March 2020, recognises first and foremost that a client wants to receive the kind of customer service which truly adds value to the services they can’t get through technology platforms alone. “Technology has been used for those looking to invest for a while now, but it’s important our clients get expert advice which really informs the decisions they make alongside the technology,” Mark says. Micky explains that, in addition, the innovative tech they use does more than provide a platform for simply inputting data to get a result. He said: “The apps we use allow both the client and the adviser to be in continuous communication about their needs with an app

at their fingertips, allowing advisers to support their clients with anything from appointment requests through to assistance with online investment tools.” Streamlining and becoming highly efficient in their tech and processes isn’t the only reason they are paving a new way for themselves; the human element to what they do is hugely important for both adviser and client alike. The result of being part of this dynamic group’s vision for an adviser is that they feel equipped and empowered to be able to do their job well. “We have different advisers within the group who all have different expertise to bring to the table. Our background admin and paraplanning support frees up our advisers to get out there doing what they are good at – advising clients on their investments!” In turn, clients receive a level of commitment to their long term investments with a relationship built on strong communication, dedicated time and personalised advice which, as Mark points out, is “nothing less than anyone in the relationship dynamic deserves”.


I ask the duo what effects establishing the business in the height of a global pandemic, had on their clients. “They expected more from their advisers and quite rightly. They want advisers who are with them for the long term, who can talk them through the best possible outcomes for their investments.” When I extend this question to how it’s affected them, Mark says: “It’s pushed us to create an environment to provide this opportunity to enhance relations. It’s also enabled great changes to happen with everyone embracing technology that they simply wouldn’t have before the pandemic. Things are moving forward in a way where everyone expects more and we are providing it.” Truinvest is a highly regarded financial planning business, with thousands of clients and managing client funds of over £1bn with more than 70 employees across four offices. To become part of this financial planning group as an exciting opportunity for growth –either as an advisor or client – visit truinvest.co.uk. NICHE | 37

We are the



Meet the future of local business support – the Generation Next board members


eneration Next, the new East Midlands Chamber network for young professionals, has launched a board of ‘champions’ to help shape its offer. The group of 11 individuals will take an active role in the development of the network’s activity and profile. Generation Next supports professionals and the next generation of business leaders aged between 18 and 35, based in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, via a series of networking events and educational workshops. East Midlands Chamber’s director of resources and Generation Next lead Lucy Robinson said: “Our board of ‘champions’ features 11 truly fantastic young professionals, representing a range of sectors and backgrounds, and we look forward to working closely with them all. “Generation Next is passionate about developing and retaining young talent in the East Midlands, so it is crucial for our activities to be as relevant as possible for our target audience – and what better way to achieve this than involving those people in our strategy planning.” The champions will meet with the Generation Next team quarterly to inform the network’s future direction. The group was also involved in the judging process of the Generation Next Awards, which has now unveiled its shortlist across seven categories. Emma Baumback, an independent financial planner at Future Life Wealth Management who was recently listed in the Top 35 Next Generation Advisers in the prestigious list compiled by New Model Adviser, has been elected as chair of the board. She said: “Working in the financial services industry and being a young woman in business, I am in a fortunate position to help to deliver the Generation Next mission and I’m thrilled to be joining the board.” Generation Next headline partner, University of Derby, will also put forward two members of its student base to sit on the board. To become a member of the network, visit generationnextemc.co.uk/become-a-member or email gennext@emc-dnl.co.uk. Keep up with the network via LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook. 38 | NICHE


Rubina Lokat (below left): Managing director of Leicesterbased design and print house PrintPrint Scarlett Tinsley: Brand and marketing executive at Leicester-based recruitment consultancy ER Recruitment Lee Tomes (below right): Award-winning filmmaker and managing director of video storytelling company Orange Fox Studios, based in Leicester


Emma Baumback (chair): Independent financial planner at Future Life Wealth Management Beth Bearder: Senior associate solicitor specialising in employment law at Keebles Byron Burghart: Investment manager at Brewin Dolphin Chathura Sudharshan: Founder of digital fashion technology business Chanodil Daniel Nikolla: Marketing manager at professional and digital signage company Hardy Signs Hope Thorley: Senior resourcing advisor at multi-disciplinary construction and property consultancy Pick Everard Katie Gilbert: Head of product development at food gifting company TTK Confectionery Katrina Starkie: Space and community manager at the Dryden Enterprise Centre, based at Nottingham Trent University


#EMComingTogether: Chamber helping businesses to ‘grow back better’


wo-thirds of East Midlands businesses now engage in social or community activities – with an increasing number seeing the benefits of giving back, according to a new report. Research by East Midlands Chamber, in partnership with University of Derby, found the proportion of companies that are involved in corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity has grown from 60% in 2017 to 66% in 2020. However, there are significant discrepancies between large firms and SMEs, with those not engaged in charity activity citing a lack of time and financial resources. The report, ‘Growing Back Better – East Midlands Businesses’ Approach to Community Engagement’, was unveiled during the Chamber’s CSR Summit as it also launched a new-look #EMComingTogether campaign to raise awareness of the positive impact businesses are having on their communities. Chris Hobson, director of policy and external affairs at the Chamber, said: “The impact of the pandemic has been

A top organisation

to work for


reating a family-like workplace culture with complete transparency and strong support has helped East Midlands Chamber to be recognised as one of the top organisations to work for in the region. It features in two categories of the Best Companies to Work For lists – ranking 77th in The Midlands’ 100 Best Companies to Work For and 13th in the national Business Services’ 20 Best Companies to Work For. The recognition follows in-depth staff surveys by the industry-leading employee engagement specialist that reflected well on a steady programme of changes in recent years to improve workplace culture at the Chamber, which employs 180 people across offices in Chesterfield, Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, Glossop and Mansfield.

uneven in terms of the communities most impacted and, as the economy recovers, there is a chance to demonstrate how we can grow back better. “While the biggest drivers for giving back among organisations are emotive, we’re beginning to detect that it’s becoming a more important part of business strategies. Four in 10 were seeking to build their profile and a quarter viewed it as an opportunity to develop staff. “In fact, when asked on a scale of one to 10 how important community activity was to them achieving their overall strategic objectives, the average score given was 5.8. This suggests it’s not just something that people view as a nice thing to do, but is an integral part of their wider business purpose. “Our #EMComingTogether campaign will show how it does make business sense as we seek to break down the barriers to community engagement for our region’s companies. But we also want to demonstrate how we can get more businesses doing more varied activity in a more impactful way – as this can only benefit everyone.”

These include improving internal communication methods, establishing new online meetings in which all employees are invited, and adopting and benchmarking against a set of values. East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “Being recognised in the Best Companies to Work For list, which is one of the most well-respected rankings for recognising an excellent workplace culture, is a huge achievement for our organisation and the work we’ve done over the past five years or so. “But more importantly, it gives us something to benchmark ourselves against for the future to ensure everything we’re doing is in line with best practice and to measure our continual improvement.”

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Meet this year’s Judges RAJESH MODHA

Director at Tilton Conway For Rajesh Modha, the further he progresses in his career as a Certified Financial Coach and Chartered Financial Planner, the more determined he is to help everyone, but especially independent women to understand the ‘truth about money’. Known for his honest and empathic delivery of advice, he has worked with professionals from all over the world.


Development Manager at Federation of Small Businesses As the Development Manager for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland, Jennifer represents and works with the FSB’s 4,500 members across that area. The work of the FSB centres on campaigning for fairness and support for small businesses and helping them to compete and succeed with a range of member services. With a background working across the UK in retail management and merchandising at Sephora and River Island and marketing and fundraising at the NSPCC/ChildLine, Jennifer joined the FSB back to combine her love of business and making a difference. 40 | NICHE


Director at e-Bate Recognised as an individual and a business leader, for her entrepreneurialism, professionalism and innovation, Leanne has received awards such as Businesswoman of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, and her MBE for Services to Women in Business in the New Year Honours list 2018. Leanne has been running her own technology businesses since 2007 working with an impressive client base of large international blue chips. E-Bate Ltd is the provider of the UK’s first end-to-end affordable web-based platform for decision makers who need to implement and gain control of Rebate and Price Management quickly.


Ian Guyler Business Consulting With extensive experience in a variety of industries, Ian recognises the need for businesses to evolve successfully and realise commercial goals. Pragmatism, teamwork and financial focus are tenets and principles he works to. A specialist in identifying strategic direction, Ian acts as a catalyst for change and its implementation. He began his consultancy practice in 2002 and has guided many clients through challenging and changing times. He has a strong financial background (FCMA qualified) and, with a wide range of management experience, has assisted, influenced, and guided many leaders to bring teams together to point in the same strategic direction.


The seventh annual ceremony will take place on Friday, September 24 Semi-finalists were thrilled to have made it through to the next round, and finalists, which were announced on July 6, will no doubt be eagerly anticipating awards night on September 24, ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ in theme. Each year, a panel of independent, local judges dedicate their time to assess every nomination and application form. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. Here’s who judged our nominees this year.



Director at 1284 Ltd

Director at Fraser Stretton

George’s consultancy, 1284, was founded in 2020, working with people and organisations on communications strategy, media relations and stakeholder engagement during periods of change. Based on the LUSEP campus in Loughborough, 1284 works with public organisations and founder-led businesses across Leicestershire. It is also interested in regional innovation, particularly graduate startups and social enterprise. Fundamentally, 1284 is curious about people and ideas. George is an experienced news executive with understanding of the media landscape in Leicestershire and beyond.

After a brief foray into the world of law, Jaz realised her true calling in life was property. She has been working in the property industry for more than 20 years gaining vast experience and knowledge of the lettings and sales sector. Jaz founded and has been running Midlands property agency Fraser Stretton since 2019. Her clients range from landlords through to new-build developers. Providing a world-class service, clients benefit from the long-lasting relationships that Fraser Stretton has built over the course of Jaz’s career in the industry.



The Turnaround CEO was established over three years ago by Amanda Daly who is passionate about business and the success of everyone around her. Amanda started working in PR representing sales software and IT. She has won numerous business awards, including East Midland Chambers Employee Development and was a finalist in the Women in Business Entrepreneur category. She recently featured in a book ‘I am a woman who’ by Sandra Garlick. Amanda practices what she preaches, likes to keep fit and has just completed her fourth marathon. She enjoys yoga, cycling and taking advantage of all that life can offer.

Rik Pancholi is the owner and one of the Directors of Pattersons Commercial Law. Rik is a Corporate Solicitor who advises his clients on buying and selling businesses, restructuring companies, investment transactions and general commercial advice. Pattersons Commercial Law is a multi-award winning law firm which specialises in advising owner managed businesses on matters ranging from corporate law to property and employment. Following its merger with Ashteds Solicitors in 2020, Pattersons Commercial Law also advised on insolvency matters and dispute resolution (from complex shareholder disputes to debt collection).

Director at The Turnaround CEO

Director at Pattersons Commercial Law

NICHE | 41



NOMINATIONS NOW OPEN Shining a light on established entrepreneurs as well as those who set up breakthrough businesses, saw dramatic growth, or even pivoted their business to adapt in the ever-changing face of our economy. We are here to share your story and enable others to learn and, of course, grow!

THE CATEGORIES ARE: Start-up Entrepreneur of the Year

Entreprenurial Collaborator

Entrepreneurial Educator

Entrepreneur for Good

Food and Drink Entrepreneur of the Year

International Entrepreneur of the Year

Scale-up Entrepreneur of the Year

Innovation in Entrepreneurship

Entreprenurial Spirit

The Entrepreneurs’ Entrepreneur

N O M I N AT E N O W at realentrepreneurs.co.uk


















A spark for


For Mital Thanki, founder of tuition provider Spark Academy, learning and achieving is far more than the grades you get – here, she tells us what learning really means to her WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


tarting out as a tutor at the age of 25, Mital Thanki has always believed that education should be equal for all. With a desire to make her mark on this world, Mital is growing a business with the sole intention of providing an opportunity for learning to young people everywhere. “My motivation for starting Spark Academy has never been about making money of course I have to earn a living, but it’s always been about helping people access tuition to help them flourish in life – that’s where I get my fulfilment from,” she says. And flourish they do, with students aged between nine and 18 enjoying lessons in maths, science and English to boost their traditional schoolwork. Their students achieve more with the tailored help that the trained teachers at Spark provide. Led by Mital, whose enthusiasm for learning is infectious, the tuition school sees hundreds of students pass through the doors each year. Word has spread and Spark is now renowned for providing

extra tuition that students not only get results from, but that they love too. The ‘Spark way’ incorporates cutting-edge scientific and educational research. These include things like metacognition, the language used with the classroom, motivational techniques, wellbeing, and mindfulness. Spark Academy has developed a specific model for learning called SQ5RE which aims to help students become better learners and better versions of themselves. Mital will launch a book on the topic this year. She also used this model to achieve a distinction in her MBA and gain global recognition with MBA Student of the Year 2021 at the AMBA & BGA Excellence Awards. “Our students thrive when their confidence grows. It’s not about robotic results – it’s about teaching them in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s about that at least. “There are lots of pressures on young people today that mean they want to achieve the best grades possible – and of course we help them with that.


But also we work to help them prepare and understand a bit more about the way their further education and workplaces might be for them. We support them emotionally as well as academically at a time when pressures are high,” Mital explains. Keen to ensure she is practising what she preaches, after a three-year course she had to apply herself in a way that she teaches her students and stepped up to the challenge. “I am still achieving things myself I didn’t believe I was good enough for. Growing my confidence culminated in me winning a Global MBA Student of the Year this year; working towards this made me truly fall in love with learning again!” Our chat leaves me reaching for the course brochure. Keen to feel part of the infectious learning Mital shares, I sign up for that course I’ve told myself I don’t have time for. Discover the power of the right kind of support for your child’s learning at spark-academy. co.uk or call 0330 174 1760. NICHE | 43

Why some families

choose all-girls schools

A look at why Leicester girls opt for single-sex education at this ‘one of a kind’ school WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


ifty-five languages are spoken at Sir Jonathan North College on the outskirts of the city centre. The school’s catchment area has recently grown, naturally rather than intentionally, creating a culturally diverse environment ‘where girls learn without limits’. It would seem girls and their caregivers are seeking out all-girls schools and are willing to look further afield if they have to. We took a closer look at Leicester’s only non-fee paying, multi-faith, all-girls school to find out more about the appeal of single-sex education. Sir Jonathan North teaches students aged 11 to 16 and forms part of Leicestershire’s Lionheart Academies Trust in which students benefit from a central curriculum developed by subject specialists. The school has increasingly welcomed girls from further across the city and county while remaining a strong local choice, a key point Principal Rose Angus is keen to stress. “The catchment area has organically grown beyond its core traditional local area because of the very reason that Sir Jonathan North is the only multi-faith all-girls state school in Leicestershire. We’ve found that parents are choosing to travel beyond their local school choices to attend Sir Jonathan North,” Principal Angus suggested. “As a ‘one of a kind’ school in Leicester, Sir Jonathan North has attracted girls from across the county, making for a diverse community for our more immediately local students to benefit from, too. Some parents and students choose our school because it’s their preferred local choice, some because our exam results are high and we are 44 | NICHE

recognised as outstanding, and some because they are specifically seeking a same-sex education.” But why does a single-sex education appeal to local girls? Preparing students for the real world Single-sex education has been feared to deny students real-world experience; after all, boys are part of the world too. But at an age when girls and boys are delicately developing their self-esteem, values, and personalities, could one affect the other? Same-sex school environments allow girls to feel confident, according to Girls’ School Association. They are more likely to raise their hand in class and try out different sports. The organisation says stereotyped gender expectations are minimised when boys are not present. In all-girls schools: “There is no such thing as a girl’s subject or a boy’s subject and girls are free to follow their inclinations with little of the pressure they might otherwise feel,” claims Girls’ School Association. The Institute of Physics supported this idea, reporting that students who attended an all-girls school were significantly more likely to study physics to A-level than girls in co-educational schools. Research has also found that girls participate more in sport when they’re in a singlesex environment (‘The Effectiveness of Interventions to Increase Physical Activity Among Adolescent Girls: a Metaanalysis’ by Biddle, Braithwaite & Pearson). At Sir Jonathan North specifically, Principal Angus says students’ educations are enriched. “Our now wider

catchment has added a rich cultural diversity to the school’s population, giving each girl the broad experience that some parents may fear is lost in a single-sex school. And all faiths and cultures are celebrated, meaning the school is truly reflective of Leicester’s wonderful diversity.” While some may say co-ed schools allow girls and boys to relate to one another, education expert Robert Kennedy wrote for ThoughtCo. that in single-sex schools: “There are no boys to impress, no boys to compete for between other girls. They don’t have to worry about being called tomboys. Their peers understand what’s happening. Everybody feels comfortable being themselves.” Parents also want the hard facts about a school before choosing their daughter’s education. A SchoolDash report, based on Department for Education data, showed that girls at single-sex state schools gained significantly better GCSE results than those at mixed schools. Data from Sir Jonathan North’s last set of exams taken in 2019 puts them in the top 20% of schools nationally. The Progress 8 benchmark measures progress made in eight subject areas. The average score for all schools is 0. Sir Jonathan North has been above average for the last four years, and in 2019 achieved a score of 0.34. And of course, it’s great news to see the school graded ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, as well as receiving the World Class Quality Mark in 2019. But it’s not just about the numbers, Sir Jonathan North has facilities including a huge indoor tennis centre and a trampolining centre. Principal Angus explained the school’s values: “We develop the whole child, ensuring that we not only teach and motivate each person to be the very best that they can be academically, but we pay equal importance to holistic development and the personal characteristics that are needed in today’s society. “Every girl at Sir Jonathan North has the opportunity to become a leader, whether that be as a student councillor, Literacy, Numeracy or Sports Leader, or captain of a team. This helps our students to develop confidence, learn how to inspire others, shoulder responsibility and consider risks, which are all great skills that are needed beyond their education. These characteristics support academic success too. “The real world includes people from all different backgrounds. It’s important the next generation is able to communicate effectively with people with different personalities, faiths, ideals, and experiences.” You can register for the next open day at sirjonathannorth.org.uk.

There is no such thing as a girl’s subject or a boy’s subject and girls are free to follow their inclinations with little of the pressure they might otherwise feel

Scan the QR code to get a feel for life at Sir Jonathan North

NICHE | 45

Sweet, sweet branding Who doesn’t enjoy a sweet treat every now and then? In particular, who doesn’t love a sweet treat on their desk which is complimentary and delivered straight to you by a company? WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


eceiving branded sweets, chocolates, or hampers as you sit working away certainly makes you stop and look at who is gifting it to you doesn’t it? For any company or brand, it’s all about getting noticed. With social media everexpanding and new businesses starting up faster than any of us can keep up it is proving harder and harder to make your brand stand out from the crowd. Traditional promotional stationery has its place (we never sniff at a notepad or pen here at Niche Magazine HQ, FYI), but for those wanting to make an impact, especially after the last couple of years and their more challenging times for workplaces, a sweet treat is just

46 | NICHE


the right pick me up. If you are looking for a new way to win back business, or to let people in your area know you are new to market and of course to ensure your brand is reaching its full potential, then finding your way to the consciousness of your audience through their sweet tooth could be the perfect brand awareness tool. Add your contact details and it’s a really great alternative to the business card. Or, if you prefer to keep your employees sweet and posting on their socials, a branded biscuit, cupcake or jar of sweets could be an ideal way to keep your team posting on their work and personal grams. Another great use for branded edibles is in meetings. Along with the

essential cups of coffee, why not add a unique twist to the board room with some printed cakes or biscuits. Print with your brand’s logo or personal artwork and you will create the perfect lasting impression. A fantastic way to sweeten up the meeting room is with a branded sweet jar. Go for traditional sweets to really get them talking and reminiscing. Whether it’s for a moment as they enjoy their sweet treat or as they spread the word about receiving your treat on their social media – it’s marketing in a way that promotes you in a sweet, sweet light and actually for very minimal costs. A little goes a long way when it comes to giving your clients or potential clients a sweet thank you!

the green grazer


Lunch time at the office Eating at work can turn into a social event, so this catering company has created lunch boxes to suit everyone WORDS BY ISATOU NDURE


he food and lodging industry has been one of the most severely affected by Covid-19. Green’s catering, which was initially a sandwich shop before going into corporate, fine dining, and wedding catering, has now been running for 10 years but sadly didn’t qualify for any hospitality grants resulting in losses in the form of staffing. Owner Danielle Fraser said: “It’s been just over a year since we catered for our last event and had a regular income. Having seen how 2021 is planning out, the majority

of our postponed events have now postponed again, meaning a two-year window with no regular work. With restrictions finally being lifted, things are looking up for The Green Grazer. “I started the Green Grazer for regular income – I could see a gap in the market and seized the opportunity. Little did I think that eight months later I would have sold just short of 900 boxes. “We already have our first Grazing Table wedding booking, as well as having obtained over 2000 followers

on both Instagram and Facebook which provide regular business.” The Green Grazer has been delivering corporate buffets and individual graze boxes to teams across Leicestershire this year. Danielle said: “We have a large corporate following that provides regular business for corporate gifting, small business events and an innovative lunch that’s a welcoming change from your standard business buffet.” To order a Green Grazer box for you or your team, email greengrazer@yahoo.com.


sweet tooth As a business you want to stand out from the crowd, give a lasting impression and leave a sweet taste in the mouths of potential and existing clients. Bespoke Chocolates tell us just why their promotional confectionary branded gifts are the tool for the job


ith the ever-growing market of new businesses popping up, it’s vital for businesses to be at the top of their game with marketing. Their brands need to shine through in order to keep opportunities being bought their way,” says Amar Dattani, Director of Bespoke Chocolates, a local company supplying branded chocolates for businesses across the county who want to get their name out there. Their promotional confectionary is vegetarian and vegan friendly whilst being locally sourced with taste paramount. “The flavour of our chocolates is hugely important, when people are literally putting their brand where their mouth is, the taste has to be perfect,” Amar continued. Working with their clients to promote their brands in the best possible light, Amar and his team are aware of the growing trend for new business start-ups, which, according

to the Office of National Statistics are up 87% compared to the previous year. Amar said: “For so many, it has been a challenging year; those companies want to show gratitude to their existing clients with a thank you chocolate or two and the new start-ups are finding our products a great way to launch their brand into the consciousness of the public.” Working and supporting those in the business community as well as local charities, Amar highlights the positive aspects to have come from our communities working together to reignite the local economy. “There is a great deal of positivity to have come from a difficult year for the Leicestershire business community in particular, I am proud to be part of it,” he said. Spread your brand awareness and leave a sweet aftertaste with your clients, visit bespoke-chocolates.co.uk or call 07305 086 910. NICHE | 47

How to have a real digital presence When social media is done properly, from your website to Instagram to LinkedIn, your brand will stand in the forefront of an audience’s mind. Done badly, however, the opposite can happen WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


y engaging with your customers and potential leads on social media, your business can build stronger customer relationships. These stronger ties and impressions help to set your business apart from your competition by showing your audience how your brand is different and reinforcing that your business cares about its customers. Social media is a costeffective, efficient, and essential piece of any business marketing strategy. Social platforms help connect you and your customers, increase awareness about your brand, and boost your leads and sales. With more than three billion people around the world using social media every month, it’s no passing trend. Your social media should reflect your brand personality through building a digital presence that develops the business brand and personality, encouraging

48 | NICHE


positive engagement. When done properly, social media will improve your digital footprint and your business will see increased traffic and sales from social media use. The ultimate goal of a social media package is to help you effectively promote your brand across social media channels more effectively in less time. This allows you to hand off social media marketing chores to professionals while focusing on growing your business. Having a professional in this area will do more than just guarantee an active social media presence; it will improve customer service, perfect branding, increase sales and much more. So, how do you gain the right ‘tools for the social media job’? For a start, you call in the experts. Harking back to our earlier comments about getting it wrong, it’s easy to do so, by enlisting experts you get it right first time, it’s as simple as that.

A user-friendly website is just the start. To give customers the best journey, you need to look at professional copywriters, photographers, and designers. Creating a platform that has the user at the forefront and within 30 seconds has them understanding what the product or service is and can easily navigate to the information they were looking for. Each element online should be used to compliment the next. Following on from the national lockdown, many business owners have used their time to make their own updates and start building a better digital presence. As businesses emerge, their time will be cut short again and awareness for the need for good social media and digital presence has grown. Showing who you are in an authentic way via a digital presence that’s true to your brand has never been more important. Get the right tools for the job and get it right first time with the right people in your corner.


Websites: what good looks like A web designer shares what your website wishes you knew about it WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


can’t see this internet thing taking off,” said John Cooper in 1991 when his uncle, who built NASA satellite components, showed him the World Wide Web for the first time on this newfangled thing called a ‘laptop’. It, of course, wasn’t too long before John ate his words. Today, John runs the Leicester franchise of web design company It’seeze. John launched It’seeze Leicester in 2015 and celebrates its sixth birthday this July. He previously spent nearly 20 years working for National Grid, looking after their websites and intranets, which took him across the pond coaching his American colleagues to do the same. John’s also been a radio presenter in Spain, a parish councillor, owned a marketing business and is a qualified printer, but has primarily built websites for over 25 years. These varied experiences make him his unique selling point. “My website opens with a picture of Old John at Bradgate Park; then goes to a picture of me; from one Old John to another! We work on the premise that every client receives a personal, local service,” he told me. Since the start of the pandemic, John now updates his medical and dentistry clients’

websites for free, so they can focus on their vital work. He also designs websites for hotels, equestrian centres, health and beauty businesses, trades, and many more, including celebrity chef Kwoklyn Wan and Eastenders actress Tanya Franks. Sharing his top tips, here’s what John says you need to know about your website. It’s like a car Buying a website is akin to buying a car. You learn how to drive a car, you learn how to use a website’s content management system. A car has a destination, a website has objectives. You power a car with fuel, you power a website with search engine optimisation (SEO). A car needs a service and MoT, a website needs a refresh and security checks. It needs updating If your content is out-of-date, potential customers may click away before getting to know you. John explained: “I’m always updating my current website, which was rebranded just a year ago. Things have moved on since then. Technology and trends change daily.” If your content is out-of-date, potential customers may click away before getting to know you.


It needs a purpose Should your website simply raise your company’s digital presence? Or do you have a product to sell? Or are you an electrician who needs quick contact touchpoints? If your website doesn’t know what it’s supposed to do, neither will your customers. Websites should convert visitors into prospects. It should be taken seriously A website should be part of your business plan, which could include digital and print marketing for a joined-up user experience. Think of your website as an employee. What are the goals of your website, and how will you measure its performance? How can it improve? It wants to stay cool and current Do you update your content regularly, and do your site photos reflect you and your business? Do you have testimonials? Does your website meet accessibility guidelines? Visit John’s website to see what good looks like at itseeze-leicester.co.uk.

NICHE | 49

What’s in a name? There’s a new-term feel at Axies Digital as the company formerly known as Marketing Voice open their offices up once more to the wider community WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


he specialist SEO and digital marketing team at Axies Digital know exactly the direction in which they are heading – and company director Harmeet Singh feels that the change of name and rebrand was needed to reflect this. “When we started the company we of course knew what we wanted to achieve and how we wanted to do it, but we weren’t always so clear on our identity,” he says. “Now we are – particularly so in this extensive opportunity for growth that we have had in the last year. The change in rebranding reflects exactly who we have become as our team organically grows.” Believing that a brand is about representing the personality and culture of a company, more than its name, Harmeet adds: “I do believe a brand comes to life from the inside and not what’s on the surface to the rest of the world.” With a strong reputation for real, effective communication, discovering what their clients actually need and never offering anything other than honest and open advice, the agency is building on relationships with 50 | NICHE

an open door policy. And now, as offices are once again bustling hives of activity, the Axies Digital offices are slowly getting back to being the welcoming, flexible working space environment it was pre-pandemic, with Harmeet and his team keen to ensure that clients and associates in the area can drop in and use the space whenever they like. “Whilst technology has allowed a great deal of flexibility in communication, people do want to be working around their work colleagues and networks again.” We all thrive from working creatively side-by-side with the business community here in Leicester and Axies Digital have created lasting relationships with their clients by opening our doors like this. Harmeet concludes: “Sure, a company is more than its name, but change is good and in light of the changes we have all had to go through in the last year a new name felt right. We have all got a bit of that new-term feeling – let’s work with it, not against it!” To be a part of the growing Axies Digital community, visit axies.digital or call 0116 3184 131.


Whilst technology has allowed a great deal of flexibility in communication, people do want to be working around their work colleagues and networks again


Marketing Forum


THREE STEPS TO WRITING SOCIAL CONTENT When it comes to creating social media content, you never want to post for the sake of it. Like with all marketing activities, you need to bear your audience in mind. At Cross Productions, we write digital content daily and have created a step-by-step guide for writing high quality and leadgenerating content: Step 1: State your point. What message would you like to convey? Step 2: Use an audience pain point. Your target audience is always the hero in your story, with your business becoming their guide. What obstacles are they facing that you can help to resolve and create a happy ending? Think of the pain point as the villain. Step 3: So what!? How do the two previous steps link and how can you help? Having this hook to round off your post will help you build a deeper connection with your potential customers and allow them to trust in your products/services. Before you head to social media to give these steps a go, just remember: what is your post about? What’s the problem you can help with? And how can you resolve this problem and take their headache away? If you want to take your content even further, consider a more personal touch. Be relatable, speak directly to the reader and provide something for them to take away. The more relatable you are to your audience, the more likely they are to trust your brand and the more your content will resonate with them. 52 | NICHE

Making your marketing more sustainable makes sense in a world where corporate social responsibility (CSR) takes centre stage. Here are a few of our tips for making your marketing more sustainable. 1. Rethink your promotional products Promotional products are essential to many marketing campaigns. But, traditionally, most are made from single-use plastics. The good news is that many suppliers are producing eco-friendly branded merchandise alternatives. These products include recycled cotton tote bags, ball pens made from renewable resources, water bottles made from PET scraps, and notebooks filled with recycled paper. 2. Greener mailings Direct mail is still a great way to get your brand into the hands of your target audience. But is using all that paper sustainable? Yes! Switching to sustainable paper, using recycled envelopes, ensuring your mail is targeted to reduce print overruns, and printing on both sides of your postcards can ensure your mailings are kinder to the planet.

CHRIS GOODMAN Managing Director at Soar Valley Press 3. Eco-Friendly packaging According to YouGov, eight in 10 consumers are trying to reduce their plastic waste and over half are willing to pay higher prices for eco-friendly packaging. Switching to biodegradable and sustainable packaging is safe, healthy and beneficial for individuals, and improves your business’s eco-credentials. 4. Partner with an environmentally conscious printer One of the biggest myths surrounding print is that it’s not sustainable. This is not true. Many printers have worked to reduce the impact of print on the environment by printing on sustainable paper, using plant-based inks, and offsetting carbon production. Who you work with reflects on your business. Working with sustainable businesses ensures ecofriendly processes are implemented throughout your organisation and its supply chain.


helpful in designing and production of exhibiting materials.

Director at Cymer Marketing Solutions

CAPTURE LEADS The quicker you can get the details into your CRM, the quicker you can follow up and improve your chances of converting to paid business. Using multiple digital methods, you can save the pain of deciphering illegible scribble or remembering what a prospect was interested in. FOLLOW UP Have an email template planned before the event so that you can respond as soon as possible to potential interest. With a CRM in place, you could even have a communication during the event to really ensure that you are remembered by the prospect! If you are exhibiting and don’t have your CRM connected, it’s time to get in touch with Cymer Marketing Solutions.

In-person events are starting back up and many of us are keen to start meeting face-to-face after so much time spent virtually networking and exhibiting. While it is great to be showcasing your business again, are you set up to justify the expense of exhibiting? Collecting business cards or writing down email addresses is not necessarily the most efficient way to prospect. Here are some tips: STAND OUT Invest in your exhibiting space by making it attractive and easy for passers-by to know what you are offering. Soar Valley Press are very

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Branding through pictures A photographer shares how small businesses can make more of an impact digitally WORDS BY ISATOU NDURE


usinesses must have an internet presence to identify their brand. This plays a factor in the purchasing intention of your consumer. Images engage clients. They are more than a picture; they’re a virtual bookend of the message you share, and with social media evolving, they are more important now than ever. With over a decade of experience running J Nandha Photography and Video, Jay Nandha knows first-hand how small businesses can raise their digital presence and stamp their brand through imagery. Jay says: “Your business, website, social media, online presence, how you

approach and stay connected with the client is your brand, and it represents your business. When someone recommends your business, the first thing people do is check out your social media.” The second thing people do, is look at your website, according to Jay. He says new businesses generally use stock images on their websites, but these don’t truly represent the company. “Prove to people they were right to recommend you to their friends by showcasing your own work. “I’m not against stock images, but use your own photos where possible, even if taken on your phone. Get a


quote for professional photography – it’s not always as expensive as you might think.” Jay works closely with a web designer, marketing, and branding business. He says: “Web designers and marketing specialists find out exactly what type of photos clients need, orientation, pixel size, and profiles, to make websites look their best and drive more sales and enquires. Work with a web designer and help them by updating your images once a year. “To hold your site visitors’ attention in the first few seconds, you need good images that represent your brand.” See more of Jay’s work at jnandha.com.


Soar Valley Press DESIGN + PRINT

Cost effective WAYS to PROMOTE your brand Low minimum quantities and fast turnaround. 1000s of products to choose from. Get free origination with all orders over £250, until 31st August 2021, with code NICHE. CONTACT US FOR A BROCHURE CALL: 0116 259 9955 EMAIL: orders@soarvalleypress.co.uk VISIT: soarvalleypress.co.uk 54 | NICHE



Soar Valley Press

Sustainable digital marketing

for all

Can you picture your personal life without your smartphone, apps or GPS? Or your business without the cloud, emails or downloaded files? These actions have an associated carbon footprint that is now as large as the global aviation industry – but Shrinker Digital are leading the way in reducing it WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


any of us aren’t aware that every search query, streamed video, and every email we send adds up to an ever-increasing global demand for electricity. Multiply that by billions of users worldwide and the fact that most of our electricity still comes from the burning of polluting fossil fuels, and you have an industry that accounts for a lot more CO2 emissions than anyone realises. Our increasing reliance on digital devices has an environmental impact that’s increasingly harder to ignore. For the past four years Shrinker Digital, a Leicester based digital marketing company, have been helping organisations to get their messages out to the widest possible global audience, whilst taking into account the negative impact that traditional digital campaigns would have on the environment. “We are incredibly proud of the marketing campaigns we have done in collaboration with local governments, charities, and NHS departments – particularly in getting coronavirus messages to communities whose first language isn’t English,” Smita Amlani, Shrinker’s Digital’s Commercial Director, told us. “We have devised and implemented innovative ways of overcoming barriers to information that many people

face, such as data poverty, language, and learning difficulties. Of course, what really set us apart from the competition is the factoring in of the digital carbon footprint when creating our messaging. This is incredibly important when dealing with organisations in countries such as Switzerland with their strong focus on their ‘net-zero plan. “Reducing the digital carbon footprint of any digital message will soon become as important as the quality of the message itself, for both businesses and public institutions,” Smita explains. “The environmental impacts of digital products and services are starting to be recognised and discussed in the media. People are waking up to the fact that the ‘cloud’ is in reality massive, energy-guzzling data centres that presently consume approximately 3% of the planet’s electricity and are only getting bigger and dirtier. This problem will remain until we either achieve 100% renewable energy or are able to place such servers into space or under the sea.” Consumers are already shifting their purchasing decisions to companies that actively consider the environmental impact of their business operations. Using their innovative digital roadmap, The Shrinker Methodology, Shrinker


Digital consult with businesses and educate consumers on how we can all begin making small adjustments to our digital behaviour today to help mitigate the impending climate crisis of tomorrow. 5 tips to help shrink your digital carbon footprint 1. Delete old emails on all devices and don’t send anymore ‘thank you’ emails – should every adult in the UK send one less thank you email, it could save 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year – the equivalent of taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road! 2. Consider the size of your email attachments. 3. Turn off autoplay on videos on your phone. 4. Lower your monitor brightness or switch to ‘dark mode’ on your phone. 5. Download videos rather than streaming them. In a world where digital communication is only going to grow, it is more essential than ever to consider its associated carbon footprint. Partnering with digital marketing experts will become crucial to any business that wants to remain relevant in the eyes of its customers. Find more on how to reduce your digital carbon footprint at shrinkerdigital.com. NICHE | 55

The highs and the lows As it sinks in that a Niche Business Award nomination for Firetree Visual Media is real and not a scam, we catch up with director Kyra Williams and discover the highs and the lows


elighted at her nomination and somewhat disbelieving it, Kyra Williams says: “I was very surprised to hear I had been nominated, it came completely out of the blue to be honest. I will be truthful, my first thought was that it was a scam!” Resilience and taking risks are what got her business through what has turned out to be one of the toughest times in business in living memory. A large percentage of Firetree’s business came from wedding and event media, but this vanished overnight. “It hit me awfully hard in the beginning, I had wedding after wedding cancel and had to refund a large number of bookings. In the long term though, it pushed me to focus solely on business media production, which has strengthened the business.” This change in direction focus taught Kyra to go with her instinct, to face change as a challenge and to not look back. “It has definitely taught me resilience and not to ruminate

over things. There was no time to agonise over decisions, I just made them.” Bringing business visibility to so many during the pandemic is only ramping up as more and more businesses want to show they are still here. “My business is all about visual communication,” says Kyra. “Right from the start my clients realised they needed to keep communication going despite physical distance. “It has been wonderful working with businesses figuring out how to do this. My work allows businesses to show visitors around a venue without personal contact, deliver a business briefing or meeting to staff and clients across the UK, without meeting with anyone in person. It has been challenging but hugely rewarding.” To share in the lessons Kyra has learnt, contact her on 07773 280 492 or visit firetreevisual.com.

charity logo How one local charity’s logo travelled the world WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


ocal charity Lamp (Leicestershire Action for Mental Health Project) created the ‘Around the World’ campaign for Mental Health Awareness Week in May to get people taking part in a 5k challenge to total 40,000km, the circumference of Earth. For the campaign to reach its target, they enlisted the help of avid Lamp supporter Steve Walker of design agency One Creative. On how he came up with the campaign logo, Steve explained: “I wanted a logo that would appeal to all abilities, and the colour scheme worked with Lamp’s blue branding, making it a recognisable arm of the charity.

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“To create a logo, you have to ask questions about what the company wants to achieve. They needed people to sign up and for it to be instantly recognisable as a Lamp project. A professional logo builds trust. If I asked you what colours Sainsbury’s uses, you wouldn’t even think twice. That’s how effective a logo and brand can be.” Lamp’s 5k logo was seen all over the world, gaining participants from as far away as America, Kenya and Peru – a job well done from Steve and the Lamp team. Over 1,400 people joined Lamp’s online Strava Group, with many going beyond 5k, meaning they

completed 85,000km over the week – double their target. With the help of their logo, the campaign saw a 70% increase in shares of Lamp’s social posts and 90% increase in interactions. “You can build your brand more than ever before. It used to just be in print and the odd email, but now social media gives us more tools,” Steve told us. For affordable marketing, rolling contracts, and monthly retainers, sign up to One Creative’s VIB (Very Important Business) package by emailing steve@onecreative.me.uk.

The future of

digital marketing As more marketing vacancies than candidates become available, how can we find the next generation of digital marketers? WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


he boom in digital marketing during the pandemic has caused an avalanche of marketing jobs being advertised. LinkedIn’s ‘Jobs on the Rise’ report found that social media and digital marketing jobs increased by 52% in 2020, attracting a younger demographic with an average age of 28. Demand for digital marketers is now outstripping supply, wages are increasing, posts remain vacant, and remote working means that the most qualified candidates can work from anywhere. One Leicester-based CEO says she can see trouble ahead if the sector doesn’t address this problem now. Anicca Digital’s founder and CEO, Ann Stanley, explains: “Demand for our digital marketing services has doubled since March and we are currently recruiting for 10 roles. Some of the specialist and more experienced roles are proving very difficult to fill and we have seen a typical jump in salaries of around £5k, as compared to last year. “Fortunately, we offer a flexible-working and attractive remuneration package, so we have been able to recruit from all over the UK as there is a definite shortage of experienced candidates in Leicestershire.” During the pandemic, the company has embraced

flexible working and this year has already recruited six new staff members, including three Kickstarter trainees as part of a Government-funded scheme. Anicca now aims to increase staff numbers to over 30 by August. “Our staff aren’t necessarily from Leicester. We have several new staff from different parts of the country,” Ann told us. “As part of our growth plans, we have also employed a new Head of Strategy, who lives in Stafford and commutes to our Frog Island office one day a week. There is a real danger that the companies that aren’t offering this flexibility will lose staff to the others that do.” Over the next few years, Ann and the team at Anicca are planning to develop a unique approach to tackle the digital skills gap by developing a programme called the Generation X - Digital Upskill Initiative. The programme looks to bring experienced traditional marketers, PRs, or other professionals into the digital marketing industry for the first time, most likely aged 40-55. The Anicca team will train and upskill them on specialist digital marketing skills they missed out on during their careers. They plan to double the size of the business in 12 months and Ann says she will need


senior candidates to facilitate that growth. “There are lots of schemes for 16-24-year-olds that we participate in; however, there is a big talent pool of people who would make brilliant employees who just lack those now-needed technical skills. “We will be developing the Gen-X Digital Initiative over the next six months and potential candidates will go through an extensive selection-bootcamp later in the year. “These will be proper jobs within our agency, with a mix of classroom and on-the-job training leading to further marketing qualifications. There will also be opportunities for rapid promotion for the most ambitious and highest performing candidates.” Anicca is already helping to fill the digital skills gap by offering a range of training programmes, including a 12-day course leading to DMI and CIM qualifications. The company has also been assisting local companies and individuals since the very first lockdown by giving open access to its training materials and running a webinar every Friday at 9am providing free training on all aspects of digital marketing. Watch over 100 digital marketing webinars or sign-up for upcoming webinars at anicca.co.uk/resource-library. NICHE | 57


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Strong foundations Scope Group are delivering major commercial projects across the region and they are building things their way with passion, creativity and vision WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


alking with Scope company director Maz Patel it’s clear his approachability and passion are a significant factor in the construction firm winning major contracts ahead of larger, well established firms in the area. “We are approachable and transparent in our approach, clients feel that from the start, right from our tender,” Maz confidently explains. Since its inception, the firm has undertaken a variety of high profile residency contracts and now larger commercial projects too, with many at completion or in the pipeline. “Starting the company in 2019 was at least a decade in the making for myself and business partner Paz. We were both working in high profile commercial roles at major blue chip companies but wanted to do things our way, bringing a high level of design and professionalism to construction projects here in the region. “Scope Group was established before a global

pandemic and of course no one could never have predicted the year that followed, but despite its challenges, we have risen above them and won major contracts, both residential and commercial – it certainly hasn’t held us back.” With a major contract for Rodin Cars in Donington in the pipeline, as well as further commercial and residential projects, Maz explains things are busy, but in a way which is suitably challenging for the team. “Our clients continuously feedback that they are impressed with the way we work and not only on a design level, we are of course skilled at bringing projects together, but it’s the way we do it in our communication with clients from what we can deliver to the way we deliver it that they trust.” Growing in experience and learning from each project they complete, Scope are keen to ensure their reputation for attention to detail. As a result of their hard work, passion for good design and well executed


delivery they have elevated their standing within the business. The directors, who are both university construction management graduates thrive on delivering exciting and innovative projects. “We have both worked in design and construction backgrounds in London and each and every project we have been involved in has inspired how we deliver the residential and commercial projects Scope has undertaken. We are proud of each one and to us that is really important.” Their fresh and open communication, combined with a well vetted supply chain, robust procedures and exceptional attention to detail and planning, Scope are delivering leading, innovative solutions to their clients. In short, Scope Group are breaking the mould, building things their way with tailored, personable customer service no matter the size of the project. Watch them deliver at every turn, visit scopegroup.co.uk or call 01509 435 877. NICHE | 59


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Creating real estate

investment opportunities A 24-year-old who has delivered multiple property schemes in Leicester is up for two entrepreneur awards WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


yan Thakrar (24) is a nominee of the currently postponed Asian Business Awards 2020 in the Young Entrepreneur of the Year category, and is a semi-finalist in the Entrepreneur of the Year category of the Niche Business Awards 2021. He set up his own business, RST Group, four years ago and which has provided work for 12 local builders and multiple Midland-based subcontractors for each of the company’s projects. This year, Ryan has already purchased three schemes and has worked on seven others for private institutions and developers in the past 14 months, despite a number of obstacles caused by the coronavirus crisis. They’ve included medium to large scale refurbishments for offices, student accommodation, residential properties, and private rental schemes. On how he’s achieved such success in his early twenties, Ryan said: “I’ve had a good support network of property developers around me and

my family are in the Leicester property business too, and RST Group’s finance director is also my uncle. “I started an apprenticeship in project management when I left school at the age of 16. I then ventured into projects alongside family members. RST Group has delivered multimiliion pounds worth of real estate in Leicester in four years.” While Ryan researches schemes in order to add another five to the company’s project pipeline by the end of the year, they are currently working on a building in Long Street, Wigston. It will have two commercial spaces on the ground floor, five first-floor apartments, and four penthouses with rooftop garden access. “It’s our new urban regeneration scheme, which will bring this old property back to life,” Ryan commented. RST Group has recently worked on converting a warehouse into four four-bed en suites and 11 studios for students, and 54 apartments in the city centre complete with


gym, cinema, and communal areas. The company also recently completed a three-bed luxury home in Sileby, as well as 23 studios in Leicester with communal areas, laundry room, gym, and study pods. Ryan is currently searching for new opportunities in Leicester. If you are a solicitor, banker, an estate agent, or an investor, get in touch by emailing ryan@rstgroup.co.uk. To see more projects by RST Group, visit rstgroup.co.uk.

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Standing the

test of time From one man making brooms from his home in the 1800s to employing people from all over the world today, this Leicestershire company made it through the pandemic thanks to 160 years of business experience WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


ou may not know it, but the broom in your cupboard was most likely made by Leicestershire company Charles Bentley & Son, for sale in many big-name retailers. More than 13.4m brooms have been manufactured by Charles Bentley – and that’s just over the last 15 years. The company has factories and employees all over the world and supplies internationally, which is a major leap coming from the cottage industry 160 years ago when owner Charles Bentley’s very own great, great grandfather produced 24 brooms a day from his Loughborough workshop. “I’ve not been around for all 160 years personally,” Charles laughs. “But this is a sixthgeneration family business, which is quite unusual in itself.” The current Charles Bentley worked with his father to build what is now the largest brushware company in the UK. Trusted partners of many high street and online retailers, Charles Bentley, with factories in the UK, China and Sri Lanka, has always been quick to adapt. As the internet grew, the business developed online sales rather than depending on










wholesale business and ventured into new areas such as garden, home, pets, and play. Named BuyDirect4U, this online arm eventually joined under the Charles Bentley brand. Head of Marketing Kelechi Okereke explained: “BuyDirect4U was incredibly profitable as a functional purchasing journey. Now under the Charles Bentley brand, it’s more emotive, inspiring, and lifestyle. We’re establishing ourselves as a loved UK brand, and the way we’re perceived by shoppers has changed positively, which has culminated in an increase in average basket spend, repeat purchase, and loyalty.” The team now has its own photography studio, complete with garden scenery to produce lifestyle imagery for the brand and its retail partners. It’s this kind of forward-thinking that saw them through the pandemic. HR Manager Claire Perry says: “We started night shifts for the first time and employed people from students to those who were in the airline industry to keep up with online orders. Staff numbers increased by 15%, totalling 165.”




1980 1970

2005 1995



Andrew Steel, eCommerce Director, says: “There was a challenging increase in orders. The company was built to be scalable, but not as fast as the pandemic demanded. We saw a 200% increase in orders received in April 2020.” During the lockdowns, the market turned to home improvement, gardening, and DIY. Steve Law, Sales Director comments: “Seemingly everyone decided to be the next Handy Andy, and with many carrying out DIY tasks for the first time we were able to leverage our exposure in those categories in retailers across the UK and Europe. We secured new retailers for our decorating products, marking and fixings ranges, Marxman and Gripit, and launched a plastic-free home cleaning range in conjunction with the Marine Conservation Society.” The team is a key supplier to the NHS and also donated £10,000 to Leicester’s new Children’s Hospital. Sadie Pollard, Finance Director said: “It’s been difficult for everyone globally over the last 18 months, but we’ve managed to be successful so it’s important to us to give back to the community – and what better way than supporting the new Children’s hospital.” On a final note, Charles adds: “When you shake up new ideas with the traditional, you get a company that has stood the test of time, hopefully for another 160 years.” NICHE | 67

Local family business turned national brand From spare room to household brand, we look at how a brother and sister started their own family business WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


nderby-based company Fraser James Blinds has maintained the loyalty of its customers throughout the pandemic. It’s perhaps in part down to the DIY and home improvement craze that occurred as a result of families being stuck at home, but we suspect they were a company of choice for many due to the reputation the company has gained over the last 11 years. Brother and sister Fraser and Kimberly Tuttle started their blind, shutter, and awning business back in 2010 from their parents’ spare room. Fraser James Blinds has become a household name since then, which has multiplied beyond the walls of their family home, across the borders of Leicestershire – and now, Fraser and Kimberly’s products are featured in homes and offices in Warwickshire, Coventry, Stratford, Northampton, and beyond. 68 | NICHE


Both Fraser and Kimberly worked from a young age in their uncle’s blind manufacturing business, which gave them the opportunity to fully understand the concept of blinds and learn the trade that they would later progress into themselves. Fraser James Blinds now has over 16,000 likes on Facebook, a five-star Google rating, and 19 members of staff. Wanting to run the company truly as a family business, Fraser and Kimberly’s mum, dad, auntie, uncle, cousin and sister-in-law also work for the company. The hiring of the siblings’ dad in 2020 also brought over 20 years of experience in sales and blind manufacturing into the business. Since the beginning of their journey, the co-owners chose to continually use the same manufacturers that they have built great working relationships with and trust to meet both

theirs and their customer’s expectations, one of which is their uncle’s manufacturers, which is also based in Leicestershire. Fraser James Blinds also has a longstanding relationship with many Leicestershirebased student accommodation developers, as well as local and national private and public sector developers including Mattioli Woods, Stepnells, Davidsons, and CITI Base. Since 2018, the company has been based in Enderby after significant growth that saw the need for a hub for local and national suppliers and deliveries. Following a successful period over the course of many lockdowns, Fraser and Kimberly are keen to continue their success at running the family business for many years to come. Visit fraserjamesblinds.co.uk for home décor ideas and inspo.

Switching gear to excel in the future When Sean Smith took over running his dad’s company eight years ago, he never would have thought he’d have it in the running for not one but four categories of the Niche Business Awards WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


ichael Smith Switchgear was formed by Sean Smith’s dad in 1985 and Sean, along with Emily Smith who also runs the company, has driven the firm into the future. The company continued to recruit throughout the pandemic, never ceased manufacturing, and avoided furloughing staff. The company is through to the semi-finals for Employer of the Year and Business Growth in the Niche Business Awards 2021, while Sean is up for Businessman of the Year, and Emily for Businesswoman of the Year. Emily, who Chairs a manufacturing committee for Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, commented: “I was really proud watching the announcement on YouTube. The calibre of the other semifinalists is really high, so to be recognised is a real accolade.” Further proof of Sean and Emily’s achievements has come with as another award announcement. “Just yesterday we found out that we’ve won the Health and Safety Gold Medal Award by RoSPA. This is only awarded to companies that have won the Gold Award for five consecutive years, which is a great achievement for a company

of our size,” Sean told me. But the pair admit not many people understand what Michael Smith Switchgear really do. “We build fuse boxes that you have in your house, but on an industrial scale,” Emily laughed. Sean added: “Any business with premises over the size of a football pitch generally needs one of our switchboards for electrical distribution. We’ve done work for local and national universities, we were classed as key workers for local hospitals last year, and we work with big companies such as a large crisp manufacturer in the local area. A lot of people who work in office blocks probably have no idea that our switchboards are the reasons their computers turn on every day!” While Sean runs the sales, operations, and technical side of the business, Emily takes care of HR, health and safety, and finance. Together, they’ve built a ‘family business mentality’ between their 50-plus employees. Employees are a business’s best asset according to Emily, and Sean says they get to know each team member and their families, with some staff having worked there more than 20 years. “No one is a payroll number here. We encourage


achieving a work-life balance, promote internally, and reward overtime whilst monitoring why staff may feel they need to work extra. We also have dedicated mental health first aiders,” Sean explained. Since Sean and Emily have run the business, it has sustainably grown by 156%, their premises doubled three years ago, and they’ve just finished an office extension making their building over 28,000sq ft. Michael Smith Switchgear hasn’t just grown physically though. “We want to be at the forefront of all the things changing in the world,” Emily expressed. “Especially for mental health and the environment. We want to lead people into the future, not just by running our business based on our products. We’ve just replaced all lighting with LEDs, installed solar panels, and we’re looking to invest in electric vehicles, a green roof, and aiming to be carbonneutral, which would be a real achievement for a manufacturing company. Our packaging is also environmentally-friendly.” Watch this space for the results of the Niche Business Awards 2021. Visit mssl.uk.com for more information on Michael Smith Switchgear. NICHE | 69

Wellbeing in the workplace

A wellness drive focusing on the employees of local companies


he World Health Organisation (WHO) defines wellbeing as “a state of mind in which an individual is able to realise his or her own abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community”. We have heard a lot from the WHO in the last eighteen months, sure, but this statement couldn’t be more fitting to the current circumstances in many of our lives. How we approach our wellbeing in the workplace is one of the most talked about subjects post 3x lockdowns, and rightly so. With so many of us spending so much of our week now either working full time in the office, flexi-time or entirely from home still, how we feel about our working lives has changed and it’s up to employers to ensure their team are suitably equipped to not only handle the changes but to thrive

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after them too. Working from home might have initially seemed like a win-win but there are plenty of added pressures with balancing home life and work life. Recent data from the Office for National Statistics states that employees working from home did on average six hours of unpaid overtime a week. That compares to 3.6 hours for those not working from home. Whilst it might seem like a plus as an employer for your team’s productivity, burnout for each member of staff may well escalate. The Covid pandemic may appear to be receding, but there are longer-term impacts on health and wellbeing that are only just beginning to fully emerge. Businesses and employees alike will be encountering a plethora of issues. Businesses need to place a large emphasis on ensuring that their staff’s emotional welfare is right at the top of priorities, but

WORDS BY EMILY MILLER with that said, they also need to feel like they are able to access the right resources and training to be able to offer that support. Within this issue, we look at how businesses are supporting their staff with the transitions and what they are doing to ensure they are offering the right support at the right time. For this campaign, we will be highlighting different companies that have a structure ready and available to support and guide businesses and their employees through these changes. This will see us touch on flexi working arrangements, wellbeing in the workplace, and ongoing support available to establish and maintain changes for the better. We want to educate on signs we can look out for and recognise in behaviours, helping to take a more proactive and responsible attitude towards wellbeing in the workplace. What’s more, we want to provide signposts to companies to help employers navigate their way through these different waters.


We’ve had the

conversation, so what is the

solution? In the last eighteen months mental health has been brought into sharp focus. Emily Miller asks how businesses can address gaps in their mental healthcare provisions


e spoke to the former director of adult mental health services for NHS Leicestershire Partnership Trust Linda Neville, who runs SanaMente Hypnotherapy on the subject of how owners can support their employees and their mental health. Are businesses coping with the increase in mental health issues? Whilst it is extremely positive that mental health has moved up the agenda, it has increased the anxiety for business owners as they look to find the right solutions to support their workforce. Is there enough support available for businesses to help staff with mental health concerns? I feel the need for training and support varies from workplace to workplace and therefore requires different solutions to be considered within the wider context of the workplace. However, training to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health conditions is crucial. Training reduces stigma and this is essential as our society develops. Support for individuals in the workplace, I feel, is an issue that requires a dedicated solution. The solution should address the immediate needs of staff who are currently experiencing mental health difficulties. Access

to good talking therapy and medical support if needed. The wider issue is prevention and this I believe is achieved by providing resources that allow the individual to develop and build upon healthy coping strategies to increase their resilience, personal resources and productivity. This approach aims to achieve lasting benefits, reducing the need for reactive interventions to address distress or sickness. What do you feel the consequence will be long-term if adequate support is not provided? Without adequate support, the number of people experiencing mental health difficulties will inevitably increase. We know from HSE information that the rate was on the increase preCovid and this is expected to increase post-Covid. An increase in days lost to presenteeism is also expected to increase. Let’s keep people feeling well enough to work.


and personnel, otherwise they may be placed in a position of trying to support people without the appropriate infrastructure. This could be a lonely and stressful place if the approach to supporting mental health difficulties is tokenistic. How can you help? We help businesses support their workforce and themselves, by giving them access to tools and resources to overcome barriers that hold them back. Our online community provides a safe, non-judgemental space for our members to learn effective coping strategies, access to talking therapy, group events and a digital journal that can track progress which can be used for Continual Professional Development (CPD). We are providing businesses an effective solution to maintain a mentally healthy, happy, productive workplace. For more support, visit sanamente-hypnotherapy.co.uk or call 0116 340 0630.

Do you feel that companies appointing a Mental Health First Aider is a good solution? Absolutely, it’s a great start towards growing the awareness and reducing the stigma. However, it is important that the Mental Health First Aider is supported by the company in terms of policies, procedures NICHE | 71



music affects mood

Did you know that listening to music can have both a mental and physical impact on your body? Music licensing company PPL PRS can tell us more


hile most of us listen to music for entertainment, we should also know that it can help boost your overall wellbeing,” Andrea Gray, managing director of PPL PRS told us. “From reducing stress and improving cognitive performance, to encouraging and inspiring creativity, the power of music is truly amazing. In fact, researchers at Stanford University have even claimed that music seems to be able to affect brain function “to the same extent as medication in many circumstances”. Here are three ways music can affect us.


Music can influence your mood Music can have a huge effect on emotions, that’s one of the reasons why composers add music to films – they want you to feel sad, happy, angry or scared at the right time. You’ve probably chosen music yourself to evoke a particular reaction in your brain, just like when gym-goers put on a motivational playlist to get them through a workout. ‘Impact of Music on Mood:

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Empirical Investigation’ 2015 research by Nawaz Ahmad shows that music can affect our emotions. Happy, upbeat music causes our brains to produce chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which evokes feelings of joy, whereas calming music relaxes the mind and the body. But, whilst music can influence our mood, our mood can also influence the music that we choose to listen to.


How music affects mental health According to the British Association for Music Therapy, music can help those with psychological, cognitive or communicative needs. Aiming to help mental health patients address issues they can’t address through traditional therapy; music therapy, relies on a sensory stimulation to provoke a positive response to certain situations. It can include not only listening to music, but making music too. One of the main reasons for the success of music therapy is that music helps keep your cardiovascular system in tune. Listening to or performing music


can have an effect on your heartbeat, either speeding it up if there’s a higher bpm on the track or slowing it down when you hear more relaxing beats.


Music can reduce stress levels Listening to music has the potential to relax our minds as well as our bodies. One study at Marien Hospital Herne in Germany, revealed that even heavy metal music can help lower your blood pressure. And with high blood pressure both a cause and symptom of stress, this shows that even the most intense music can help you cope. Cortisol is the human stress hormone, and the higher it is, the more stressed we feel. Research has found that symphonic music can lower cortisol levels, regardless of the listener’s music preference. Whether you’re into the Beatles, Beethoven, or Boyzone, it might be worth popping on your favourite playlist while you’re at work to help manage your stress levels and boost motivation. Visit pplprs.co.uk to find out more.

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17 Allandale Road, Stoneygate, Leicester LE2 2DA


The vital work of Leicester’s

‘How you feel tomorrow starts today’ according to Nuffield Health Leicester Hospital, which has developed a number of programmes that have helped local people during the pandemic WORDS BY KERRY SMITH

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Nuffield Health Hospital A s the UK’s largest healthcare charity, which is working to build a healthier nation, the charity has recognised various needs of people living through the coronavirus pandemic and provided solutions to truly deliver on their message of building a nation that’s healthier. Nuffield Health delivers flagship programmes in local communities across the UK that are either free or offered at a reduced cost, widening access to the services and addressing unmet health needs. Nuffield Health Leicester Hospital has been supporting NHS trusts and their patients during the coronavirus pandemic and continues to offer help to NHS trusts and support the needs of local communities. During the winter, all 31 of Nuffield Health’s hospitals were made available to help the Covid-19 efforts, including in NHS intensive care and vaccination teams, and Nuffield Health Leicester provided ventilators to UHL whilst they took medical stepdown patients. Stephen Haselip, sales and services manager at Nuffield Health Leicester Hospital, thinks the effects of the pandemic have helped to develop their affiliation. He said: “We believe there will be a legacy of


strengthened relationships between us and the NHS as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Our purpose is to build a healthier nation, we’re dedicated to helping people live healthily, get better and stay well.” Something the local hospital team expressed concerns over during 2020 was local people’s ability to take walks during lockdowns as their only form of exercise and activity outside of the home to be able to maintain their mental wellbeing. Those suffering from joint pain, or even requiring surgery, may have found it difficult gain that much-needed form of welfare. Nuffield Health Leicester Hospital specialises in orthopaedic joint care, with appointments with leading consultants available within just days. “People with hip pain and those requiring surgery have access to our innovative joint care, including minimally invasive hip surgery. This type of surgery is just as safe and effective as traditional hip surgery, but with quicker recovery times,” Stephen explained. In comparison to traditional hip surgery, minimally invasive replacement hip surgery reduces how deep the consultant surgeon creates an incision as rather than cut muscles to gain access to the hip joint, the soft-tissue is

We believe there will be a legacy of strengthened relationships between us and the NHS as a result of the coronavirus crisis simply moved aside, which reduces trauma to the softtissue around the hip. Prosthetic implants are fitted through the small window created between two muscles at the top of the hip. Some of the implants are aligned and impacted with an instrument inserted through an additional keyhole incision lower down the leg. “Patients at Nuffield Health Leicester Hospital undergoing this innovative surgery are supported with a connected care pathway, including physiotherapy and NICHE | 75

We empower our patients to look after their health and wellbeing in a convenient way Recovery Plus at Nuffield Health Leicester Fitness and Wellbeing Centre.” Recovery Plus embodies Nuffield Health’s complete end-to-end approach to healthcare. Once patients have completed their programme of physiotherapy, they will work with the hospital’s exercise professionals at Nuffield Health Fitness and Wellbeing Centre to create a personalised programme of exercise which will help the patient’s path to recovery. Participants receive a health check, exercise and diet advice, together with a three-month membership at a Nuffield Health Fitness and Wellbeing Centre where patients have a recovery coach. The aim is to maximise the recovery of patients who have had orthopaedic joint surgery, helping them return to their hobbies and normal life quickly and enjoy outdoor exercise that they may wish to continue post-pandemic. Additionally, Nuffield Health Leicester Hospital runs a 12-week Joint Pain Programme to help people manage their joint pain without surgery. Based on a mix of education, physical activity and psychological support, the programme is designed to break a cycle of inactivity. Stephen commented: “We understand that surgery for orthopaedic joint conditions may not always be the best solutions. Our physiotherapy team provide a range of nonsurgical options that help support people of all ages return to playing sport or walking their dog – pain free.” Nuffield Health Leicester Hospital is part of the UK’s largest healthcare charity, which comprises of 31 hospitals, 76 | NICHE

113 fitness and wellbeing centres, healthcare clinics, and over 150 workplace wellbeing services across the UK. It’s one of the leading healthcare providers in Leicestershire and has been delivering high-quality hospital care to people in the local community for over 50 years. “Our end-to-end connected services make us stand out,” Stephen told us. “We empower our patients to look after their health and wellbeing in a convenient way, with clearly signposted referral pathways encompassing services ranging from fitness and wellbeing to treatment and recovery. “We are uniquely placed to do this as we offer hospitals, physiotherapy, gyms, emotional wellbeing, health assessments and much more.” Over 310,000 NHS patients have benefitted from the care provided at Nuffield Health’s hospitals, including Covid-19-positive patients, people needing intensive care or oxygen support, those undergoing cancer treatment (shielding vulnerable patients from Covid-19), and people needing urgent surgery. Other Nuffield Health programmes have been useful to throughout the pandemic too. Nuffield Health has responded to the issues facing people with long Covid by developing a flagship programme. Their Covid-19 Rehabilitation Programme. blends physical therapy and emotional support and works with local NHS trusts and referrers. To find out more about Nuffield Health’s flagship programmes, or for a friendly chat with a member of the Nuffield Health Leicester Hospital team, call 0116 298 2612.

Nuffield Health Working to build a healthier nation



NHS patients

benefitted from Nuffield Healths

hospitals’ care

200+ workplace

wellbeing services across the UK

113 fitness and wellbeing centres

50 years of hospital care

Beauty in

imperfection Fashion designer Sukhina Garcia is not one for giving up easily. Sukhina’s perfectly imperfect journey to this point hasn’t been easy, but it’s about to take an unexpected, liberating turn WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


s we sit in a shaded café garden surrounded by green plants, Buddha statues and water features in the leafy suburb of Allandale Road Leicester, Sukhina Garcia, owner of fashion company Betty Brown, reflects on the fact that she’s been let down by clothing manufacturers not once, but twice, the result of which left her not far off from bankruptcy. She’s working hard to come back from that place, and besides, she affirms: “it’s about the future isn’t it? I’m excited about it.” “I’m really nervous too,” she adds before taking a sip of coffee and smiling. “I haven’t really told anyone about this new collection yet… and it’s, well, it’s different!” Intrigued, I set my cup down, loving an exclusive. “Do tell!” She leans in: “OK, well it’s a Japanese and bondage-inspired collection for women, but wait, it’s not how you think! It’s inspired by the Japanese techniques of bondage called Shibari, it’s an ancient Japanese art form using ropes.”

The origin of Shibari is thought to lie in Hojo-jutsu, a martial art used by Samurai in Japan in 1400 to restrain prisoners. To show their prisoners respect, they used rope, different tying techniques and patterns to symbolise the social status of their prisoner, as well as the type of crime. Hojo-jutsu took on a new, erotic form in the late 19th Century and became Kinbaku ‘the beauty of tight binding’ – in today’s western world, it’s called Shibari. Sukhina is using this as her inspiration for equality and feminine empowerment. In the same vein as her previous collections, everything from the cotton produced (organic), which is sourced from a settlement in India where the mothers and women work from home and are fairly paid, empowering them to provide for their families, through to how it’s made is ethical. And this time Sukhina isn’t putting the manufacturing in the wrong hands, she’s working from her workshop solo. “It’s tiring but


worth it; I am so happy with the collection so far and can’t wait for people to see it.” The versatile pieces are “wearable, comfortable and empowering” for women; there will also be a tiny section for men and maybe some unisex pieces too. The collection will be launched as part of a three-day exhibition at a secret location this September. Called Wabi-sabi, which means the discovery of beauty in imperfection (the opposite of the western world’s views of symmetry and importance of perfection) the collection encompasses this perfectly imperfect journey that Sukhina has had. What’s more, it carries an important message about feminine power too. “Feminists embody the potential for self-directed feminine power and sexual and intellectual freedom.” Follow @lifeofbettybrown on Instagram for the new collection, set to empower and liberate, launching soon. NICHE | 77

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

The best eating establishments in Leicestershire LEANNE LATHAM


Operations Director at Cross Productions

There’s only one place for me to get my Japanese cuisine food fix and that’s Wagamama. One of my favourite restaurants for eating in or to takeaway and with restaurants not yet seating inside at the time of this review, I was excited to settle in for the evening with my partner and order our favourites from the Wagamama takeaway menu. My lockdown feast included a variety of dishes such as the Chilli Squid and Chicken Yakitori for starters – both were full of flavour and delicious. As I have quite a palette for spice I went for the Chilli Prawn and Kimchi Ramen too but my partner balanced this out with a less fiery and classic Chicken Ramen. I went for my favourite main



Executive Assistant at The High Street Accountant

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wagamama.com 0116 253 0046 UNIT R15, 6 HIGHCROSS LANE, LE1 4SD which is the Yasai Katsu Curry and it was as always full of flavour. For all you vegetarians out there many of Wagamama’s favourites can be adapted to suit meat-free eaters. If you are gluten-free Wagamama’s have still got you with their range of gluten free dishes. They also do a great vegan menu with Sticky Vegan Ribs being a popular choice for a non-meaty starter. For a girl who loves a bit of Tupperware, the containers that the food comes in are a great asset to use for food storage, in keeping with the eco-friendly vibe for 2021. I can’t wait to be able to dine in their trendy restaurant to get the full Wagamama experience!

falconlongwhatton.co.uk 01509 842416 64 MAIN STREET, LONG WHATTON, LE12 5DG I’m lucky enough to live ten minutes away from this treasure situated in the quiet village of Long Whatton. As well as a pub and restaurant, The Falcon also offers a bed and breakfast service from a converted schoolhouse and stables. Ian and Suzanne took over The Falcon Inn in October 2020, which was is a very brave move in the middle of a global pandemic! On my last visit, myself, my husband, and some friends sat outside (following covid rules) in the beautiful surroundings complete with a new funky outside bar. The pub had all the covid regulations in place and we all felt really safe and comfortable. I was a bit nervous as this was the first time we had

been out in months. After a few Aperol Spritz my worries soon drifted away. We ordered from their ‘around the world’ street food menu with a choice of Indian, Greek, German, American and many more delicious foods to choose from. All the options on the street food menu are also available for take away on Friday and Saturday nights to be enjoyed at home. I opted for the tandoori chicken naanwich and I lost count of how many times I said, ‘oh my god this is amazing’. Ian is also the head chef as well as the owner and it’s safe to say he is very talented. I have my next reservation booked in and I can’t wait!

KATIE BRENNAN Creative Assistant at Cross Productions

ASH PAYNE Sales Director at Mason Food Services

ADAM BURRAGE Managing Partner at Trident


woktowalk.com 74 GRANBY STREET, LE1 1DH

Wok to Walk had a great ambience and the friendly staff welcomed my guest and I. I especially enjoyed the ‘build your own’ style menu which allowed you to choose a base and sauce for £3.95 and then add in meat and toppings for extra. I decided to have Egg noodles for my base and Hong Kong (Sweet and sour) sauce with chicken Kastu and a topping of sesame seeds and fresh lemonade. My guest had Egg noodle base with Seoul (Dark soy and ginger) sauce with chicken Kastu, Cashu nuts and coriander topping. I liked being able to see the cooks tossing the noodles as they cook in front of you. The fresh lemonade was really refreshing and nicely sweet. As a person

who can’t handle much spice, I’m glad to say there was not any in my dish but was still very flavoursome and tasty. The portion sizes were large and easily filled me right up. They come served in boxes so you can take your leftovers home for later or eat on the go. The restaurant offers you the option to use a fork or if you’re more adventurous you can use the chopsticks for a more authentic Asian cuisine experience. This was a great place to pop in for a quick bite and also to take with you on the go. I would defiantly recommend a visit when you want oodles of noodles on the go. Wok to Walk started in 2004 in Amsterdam, they now have more than 100 restaurants around the world.

ATTFIELD’S FARM SHOP & CAFÉ attfields-farm-shop.co.uk 0116 277 1476 LODGE FARM, COUNTESTHORPE RD, LE8 6LD One thing that the pandemic has taught me is that how important it is to shop and eat local. My top pick of one of the best places to eat would be Attfeilds Café. Local to where I live, it must be here. Attfeilds Café is a little hidden gem. Located on the outskirts of Cosby as you head out to Countesthorpe, they offer much more than what you would find in your everyday café. From lovely, yummy main meals to your amazing cakes and coffees, they really do cater for everyone’s taste buds. You really get the taste that the produce is bought from a local source, if not grown themselves. They’re open for breakfast,

lunch and afternoon tea and pride themselves on great tasting food from wholesome soups and mains to home baked cakes. And they’re open every day of the week. I highly recommend going there to try one of their breakfast options, my choice would be their poached egg and flaked smoked salmon with a flat white coffee. While you are there, check out the farm shop, which offers loads of fantastic items to enjoy at home. They stock a fantastic selection of local and homegrown produce, whether you’re looking for fresh milk, or eggs courtesy of our free-range hens. As I say, it is a little hidden gem!


greygoosegilmorton.co.uk 01455 552555 LUTTERWORTH RD, GILMORTON, LE17 5PN On the outskirts of the village of Gilmorton in South Leicestershire, the Grey Goose is a favourite restaurant of mine. It’s a place you can count on for any occasion, whether that’s for a client lunch or a night out with the family, they always deliver for you. Based in an old converted inn, it retains enough of the original features with an open fire to make sure that it feels cosy in the bar area and then opens out to a more expansive restaurant area. From the time that you arrive, the staff are always attentive to your needs, but not to the point that you feel suffocated as you can in some restaurants. The menu has a wide variety of options and having personally eaten a

number of different items from there, it doesn’t matter what you choose, you’re going to be in for a treat. The grilled meat is always cooked to perfection using quality cuts of meat, and if you’re a fish lover this is something that the Grey Goose also does well (check out the specials for the fish). The wine menu at the Grey Goose always has something available to suit your occasion and taste, so you can be sure to pair the food with a nice drop of your choice. I’ve normally found when visiting here that it’s futile in kidding yourself that you’re not going to have a dessert because the menu will always have something to tempt you to do so! NICHE | 79

Join us at our two locations: 21 Leicester Road, Blaby, LE8 4GR Everards Meadows, Cooper Way, LE19 2AN Find us on social media: @jennoscoffee


Dinner and a show? A new creative collaboration will see exclusive discounts and theatre productions performed in this popular Leicester bar WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


he city’s Cultural Quarter was designed to turn Leicester’s former textile and shoe hub into a thriving area for the arts. It’s an ethos Guy Kersey is keen to get behind. As the owner of Orton’s Brasserie, which opened in lockdown in the heart of the Cultural Quarter surrounded by artistic and creative businesses, supporting the arts is something Guy is eager to take part in. Showcasing wall art and graffiti works created by local artists while paying homage to Leicester’s famous playwright Joe Orton, Orton’s Brasserie is inclusive of people from all walks of life, celebrating their individuality, something the professional and amateur theatre scene is known for – welcoming

and resonating with all. Dining in at the stylish restaurant and gazing out of the large windows that front the building, a view of Curve just across the way spotlights the creative atmosphere that Orton’s embodies. It’s fitting, then, that Orton’s should form a new official partnership with the theatre. Magdalena Korytkowska, Head of Fundraising and Partnerships at Curve, said: “Orton’s Brasserie is a really exciting addition to Leicester’s Cultural Quarter. As the city reopens and visitors once again enjoy all our great city has to offer, we’re thrilled to work alongside Guy and the team to benefit our audiences and Curve Members with exclusive discounts.


“Having opened during lockdown, it’s great to see Orton’s now thriving and we wish all the very best to our new neighbours across the square!” The new partnership with Curve will mean that a creative collaboration between the restaurant and theatre teams will bring a range of intimate performances to be staged exclusively in Orton’s basement bar, Joe’s. Members of Curve will receive 15% off food and drink at Orton’s, and non-members will receive a 10% discount when presenting their show tickets on the day of the performance. To find out more about the exclusive performances coming to Joe’s underground bar, visit ortonsbrasserie.co.uk. NICHE | 81

There’s a new breed of

Fox in Leicester

Leicestershire County Cricket Club boss discloses the evolution of the club and team after vital changes were set in motion last year WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


nswering the phone while taking a walk around the newly named Uptonsteel County Ground, Leicestershire County Cricket Club CEO Sean Jarvis was cheerily checking over the venue in preparation for the return of spectators the next day on May 27, with Middlesex arriving for a LV= County Championship fixture. “I’m getting my steps in and inspecting the ground ready for spectators tomorrow,” he told me. The ground in Grace Road was renamed in January, with Uptonsteel becoming the new official ground naming rights partner and this season’s front of shirt sponsor. It’s not the only thing Sean’s achieved for the club in his 12 months with the Running Foxes. They now have an international brand with B-Cure and Good Energies joining 37 other official partners of the club. Sean said: “We’ve always had partners from Leicestershire, but as we grow and develop, we attract partners from around the world. Having international companies get involved in a Leicester sports club is brilliant. It’s great to see global companies take note and be 82 | NICHE

involved in the team and county.” A partnership with South African team Cape Cobras has also been established and, while things take off worldwide for Leicestershire CCC, developments are taking place closer to home. With a new premises licence to hold two major events a year with a crowd capacity of 19,999, the Uptonsteel County Ground is beginning to unlock its potential to be a premier outdoor venue. Sean added: “We have an awful lot of people from around the Midlands and North come to the ground, but we only play so many days of cricket a year, so we have to make sure we generate enough income after the pandemic.” The ground can host concerts, family days out, openair cinemas, corporate and wedding functions, which will benefit the people of Leicester too, Sean says: “Together, they will generate wealth for the town, hotels, and attractions as we draw people to the area.” The club have also rebranded too. Sean commented: “Leicester lost its way a bit over the past eight years, so we decided to use the pandemic to press the


reset button and reinvigorate Leicestershire County Cricket Club. We wanted to bring the team back to its roots.” Going back to their traditional colours of green and red, after a stint of red and black, as well as being identified as the Running Foxes, Sean says supporters can better understand their heritage. Keen to engage more with supporters, the club has named the four sides around the ground; Champions Way celebrating all 11 trophies won by the club; Partner Drive displaying logos of the club’s official partners; International Boulevard honouring the international players who have played for the club; and one yet to be named. “We want to build Leicester back to its old ways having developed very good cricketers like Jonathan Agnew and Stuart Broad, who came through our academy. Leicester City Football Club, Leicester Tigers and Leicester Riders are all very successful. Now it’s our turn to contribute and put Leicester’s cricket on the map,” Sean said. Find out what’s on at leicestershireccc.co.uk.


Tell me on a sunday starring Jodie Prenger Experience the classic musical live at Curve this October


roducer Jamie Wilson has announced a UK national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s classic musical Tell Me On A Sunday starring Jodie Prenger, coming to Curve from October 12-16. “We are thrilled that we are able to revive the acclaimed Watermill Theatre production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s Tell Me On A Sunday to be able to play a part in the reopening of theatres around the UK,” Jamie said. “Tell Me On A Sunday, with its cast of just one actress, is probably the most naturally socially distanced musical in the world! We are delighted that Jodie Prenger is able to return to this role to reprise her incredible performance as ‘Emma’. This production is the perfect way for audiences to support their local theatre with this classic show.” Jodie Prenger most recently starred in the National Theatre’s West End production of A Taste of Honey. She’s starred in Oliver!

at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, One Man Two Guvnors at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, and Spamalot at the Playhouse. Other works include Waterloo Road and Let’s Dance For Comic Relief. This iconic musical features Andrew Lloyd Webber’s wonderful score, accompanied live by West End musicians, including the chart-topping Take That Look Off Your Face, and title track Tell Me On A Sunday. Tell Me On A Sunday charts the romantic misadventures of a young English girl in New York in the heady days of the 1980s. Brimming with optimism, she seeks success and love. But as she weaves her way through the maze of the city and her own anxieties, frustrations and heartaches, she begins to wonder whether she’s been looking for love in all the wrong places. Originally conceived for television, Tell Me On A Sunday has been performed by many legendary musical theatre stars


including Marti Webb, Bernadette Peters and Sarah Brightman. This new production for 2021 will include an intimate chat with Jodie and Musical Director Francis Goodhand about life, love and playing the role of Emma. Andrew Lloyd Webber is the composer of some of the world’s best known musicals including Cats, Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, School of Rock and the forthcoming Cinderella. He’s received many awards including seven Tonys, seven Oliviers, a Golden Globe, an Oscar, two International Emmys, and the Richard Rodgers Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre. Don Black is an Oscar winning lyrist for Born Free and has penned numerous James Bond theme tunes and chart hits including Michael Jackson’s ‘Ben’ and Lulu’s To Sir, With Love. Buy tickets for Tell Me On A Sunday at curveonline.co.uk or call Curve’s Box Office 0116 242 3595. NICHE | 83


Exploring England Our journalists’ pick of places to visit in the UK



ow we’re allowed to venture slightly further than our own back yards, people are itching to get back out there. Day and weekend trips have been deeply missed by those who took them for granted (me) before the pandemic forced us into lockdown. No doubt there will be a boom in people travelling around

the UK when all this is over. In the meantime, planning your getaways might just keep you occupied for now. We’ve put together a selection of our favourite hotels out of the QHotels group in not-toofar destinations for you to satisfy your travel bug when it’s safe and sound to do so.


Where to stay You could stay at Crewe Hall and not have to leave the grounds to feel like you’re far away from all your worries and everyday life – and not just in distance. Built in the 1600s, Crewe Hall oozes history from its walls, furniture, and maze-like corridors. The private tree-lined road and horseshoe driveway is a preview of what to expect from the stunning grounds. Serenely quiet, Crewe Hall provides a uniquely comforting environment whilst stimulating all the senses with its antique opulence. Stumbling across a grand wall-to-wall library and an elaborately ornate chapel is jaw-dropping, and a swimming pool, spa, and brasserie complete the experience. crewehallcheshire.co.uk How to get there Driving to Cheshire can take around 1hr 40minutes while the train will get you there in just over three hours. Crewe Hall is just 2.2 miles away from Crewe Station. Things to do Visit the stately homes and extensive parklands at Lyme Park, Tatton Park, and Arley Hall, as well as the Ness Botanic Gardens. Cheshire Falconry and Chester Zoo are nearby. Families can enjoy a fun-filled day at Gulliver’s World or Legoland. Shop til you drop at Trafford Centre and Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet. And Chester Cathedral is must-see. 84 | NICHE





Where to stay Chesford Grange, a traditional English country manor, is set in 17 acres of land surrounded by huge trees and nature trails, perfect for exploring and outdoor dining for families. After a recent reception revamp last year, the space is modern and sleek while paying homage to its history with dark woods and subtle floor tiling. The rest of the hotel mixes the contemporary with traditional placing colourful furniture and artwork among ornate fireplaces, Georgian style wood wall panelling, and a grand staircase. The French windows in the light, airy and stylish restaurant provide wholesome views of the nature outside. A fullservice spa and indoor pool are beautiful and make for a perfect getaway. chesfordgrange.com How to get there Chesford Grange is 1.8 miles from Kenilworth Station and 3 miles from Warwick Station. The drive from Leicester is around 45 minutes. Things to do Soak up some romantic yet rogue historical tales at Warwick Castle, Kenilworth Castle, and Shakespeare’s family homes. Gardens are plentiful with Charlecote Park and The Mill Garden both banking the river Avon. Rent a canoe at St Nicholas Park or visit The Mad Museum, Hatton Adventure World, and Cadbury World. Warwickshire is full of specialist boutiques, with Bicester village not too far away.


Where to stay The Queens Hotel has been part of the fabric of Leeds for over 80 years and with its multi-million pound transformation earlier this year, it has been modernised in a way that feel luxurious and welcoming all at once. With every one of the hotel’s 232 rooms having enjoyed a makeover, The Queens Hotel is modern, vibrant and social. Style, sophistication and serenity are all part of the experience at The Queens, with many rooms boasting spectacular views of the city. Guests can enjoy a social area and a delightful food and beverage offering – both jewels in The Queen’s crown. A gym complete with a wide range of modern equipment, in addition to being in a prime position for exploring the city, makes the hotel an ideal base for pleasure or work. thequeensleeds.co.uk How to get there Driving will take just under two hours and rail just over three. Leeds train station is adjacent to the hotel with its own direct private entrance. Things to do A hotspot for those who want to enjoy a thriving independent scene from arts to food to fashion and music, Leeds is the perfect city to explore culture, good food, excellent shopping and a bit of history too. Lively bars and gig venues, opera, ballet and theatre attract people from all over the UK. There’s plenty of history too with the city enjoying more listed buildings than any city outside of London as well as plenty of museums.


Where to stay The Oxford Belfry boasts 154 beautifully appointed bedrooms and sumptuous suites all designed with comfort in mind. Nestled in stunning grounds and the ideal locale in the heart of Oxford, The Oxford Belfry provides a sound night’s sleep whether your room is a modern, comfortable king or queen room, or a luxurious suite. A real escape from the hustle and bustle, the facilities include a spa and invigorating experience shower as well as a relaxation room. Dining comes courtesy of passionate and talented chefs who know how important it is to have a variety of dishes that appeal to all palates – you can indulge in traditional dishes and contemporary classics from a menu to appeal to all. theoxfordbelfry.co.uk


How to get there Just an hour and half drive from Leicester and you will arrive at The Belfry whilst a train is 2.5 hours. Things to do You’ll be surrounded by lush green countryside with an abundance of landmarks and attractions to visit here. The city provides endless sights including the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology which opened in 1683. And Blenheim Palace provides a beautiful day out in the Cotswolds. NICHE | 85

The joy of shopping


How much do you enjoy a visit to the supermarket? I haven’t for some time, particularly in the last year where the atmosphere is more unnerving than social. Craving a more enjoyable way to shop, I visited Harborough Market WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


he supposed convenience and perceived lower-cost chain supermarkets lure me in, despite being aware of the benefits of shopping locally. However, one sunny bright day I picked up my straw basket shopper and decided it was time to put my money where my mouth is and visit Harborough Market. Market Harborough has enjoyed a market for over 800 years, with its indoor market carrying on the tradition of bringing shoppers the very best produce and products that the region has to offer. Straight away, I was impressed by the discovery that the indoor market has its own car park and could no longer say it wasn’t as convenient as a supermarket in terms of parking and access. I headed into the building which is home to over 100 businesses over the trading week. It’s an absolute shopping mecca, bringing the very best of local independent businesses 86 | NICHE

together under one roof. From the top-rated Dim Sum restaurant to a fantastic local butcher, fishmonger, cheese monger, clothing retailers, artisan bakery, and nearly everything else in between, I was instantly impressed with the range of goods on offer and the bustling atmosphere. Each trader has extensive knowledge of their products, and this social exchange is reminiscent of shopping presupermarket when you could visit your local high street and go to each shop to purchase your household goods. Being served by a seller who not only knows their product and where it comes from, but who is also happy to create a relationship with their buyers and knows their buying preferences, feels like shopping that holds far more community spirit than a corporate loyalty card in your wallet. I could choose smaller quantities of items, or plastic-


free produce, something that I wouldn’t be able to do from larger retailers, so this was not only cost-efficient but environmentally friendly too. The vibrant food hall area and Market Café makes for a lively and social area to enjoy anything from traditional fish ’n chips to crepes, and homecooking for either dine-in or takeaway. I was struck by the social and community feel to the dining experience and didn’t in the least feel intimidated by eating alone. Grab your basket, shopper. Fill it with local high-quality goods, grab some lunch, and do your bit for your local economy, the environment and see how enjoyable your weekly shopping experience can be. Harborough Market is open Tuesday to Saturday 8am to 4pm, and Sunday 10am to 3pm for the popular Antiques Market. Find out more at harboroughmarket.co.uk.


On a mission Paul Hartshorn reviews ‘normal’ working life as foodbank donations decline


returned to the Blaby District Council chamber for council meetings in June. Who would have guessed when I was elected as a councillor for Blaby two years ago, over a year of my time in office would be spent in a virtual Zoom council chamber? Many of us have changed our lives and how we behave to acclimatise to a new way of working. Now, we are being asked to return to ‘normal’ working life. Employers will need to be supportive and understanding, as they were at the beginning of the pandemic, and employees should recognise that change isn’t always bad. But there are some people whose jobs and income have suffered more than others. Many people were contacting me as their local councillor, asking where they could donate food as people understood that many families had been thrown into financial turmoil. For some,

this happened overnight, while for others, it was a gradual decline. Families also asked me where they could turn for help. I spend my spare time helping our local food bank Mission:foodbank. My driveway acts as a ‘drop-off’ for food donations, which was set up at the start of the pandemic. I got behind the foodbank to ensure families can put food on the table for their children. However, in more recent weeks, donations to this food bank and many others nationally, have reduced significantly. Perhaps people think the pandemic is hopefully over and the demand for foodbanks is declining? This could not be further from the truth. Mission:foodbank coordinators tell me they are now supporting record numbers of families across a large radius, continually growing to meet the need for help. They deliver over £1,500 worth of food per week, this is a tenfold increase compared to numbers before the pandemic. They rely heavily on public donations and are hoping to gain support from local businesses as local authority grants are reducing. If your business can help, please contact myself at phartshorn@mrhit.co.uk or support@missionfoodbank.org.

Third sector

steps up to the plate It goes without saying that 2020/21 has been one of the most challenging years the modern world, let alone the Charity Sector, has ever faced


ovid-19 delivered a global health crisis unparalleled in living memory. A staggeringly high death toll, mass hospitalisations and an economic crisis has led to multiple fears and anxieties throughout the world’s population. In the UK, Leicester has been in the eye of the storm, with some of the highest infection rates and the longest lockdown bar none. The impact of Covid-19 has been felt nowhere more alarmingly than amongst racially minoritised communities. Death, infection and hospitalisation rates have been greater than host white communities, leading to higher levels of anxiety, depression

and more complex mental health impacts. How has the Third Sector responded? Ferociously positively. Even in some of the areas hardest hit, such as Highfields, charities have stepped up to the plate to support their communities. Think Funding clients including Wesley Hall Community Centre, Highfields Centre, Bangladesh Youth and Cultural Shomiti, the Afro Innovation Group and the Pakistan Youth and Community Association have all mounted pro-active community campaigns to tackle food poverty, job losses, mental health issues and domestic abuse. We have also

supported the establishment of new organisations: Matt Piper’s FSD Academy CiC and Ben Stocking’s Green Circle Nature CiC will achieve mighty things in the future. The next couple of years may be problematic for many, but they won’t be entirely bleak, especially if groups that have re-engineered the delivery of their services during Covid continue to innovate. With the onset of the Community Renewal Fund and the Shared Prosperity Fund just around the corner, there is the prospect of new funding sources too. Chris Shaw, owner of Think Funding think-funding.co.uk. NICHE | 87

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Staring down

domestic abuse What goes on behind closed doors lingers in this woman’s eyes – here’s why Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan always dreamed of saving women from domestic abuse WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


ocal lady Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan has witnessed injustice throughout her life – from growing up in war-torn Sri Lanka to setting up a charity in the UK helping women experiencing domestic violence, financial abuse, honour-based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and other forms of cultural abuse. Despite the untold heartbreak she’s seen, she remains strong for the women who need her. The stories behind her eyes and those yet to come will not break her. She’s funny. A joy to talk to. But she commands attention. Despite her laughter, her eyes give away that there’s more she’s heard and witnessed than she could say. There were over 250,000 domestic abuse-related cases recorded between April and June in the UK last year, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS), a figure that has risen by 7% compared to the same period in 2019. In a normal year, Zinthiya Trust registers around 700 people coming to her for help. However, last year was anything but normal. Between March and December 2020, Zinthiya Trust had over 1,800 new beneficiaries accessing its services – and that’s without logging the anonymous selfreferrals who just needed a safe space for a five-minute chat. The organisation also works to alleviate poverty. With 4.7 million people furloughed over the course of the pandemic, Zinthiya has had her work cut out for her. Women and men have turned to her needing financial advice, fleeing abuse, energy advice, and practical support by way of emergency food, school uniforms, and sanitary products. “We predominantly support women, but I believe in helping men too, as they a part of all our lives,” Zinthiya told me. “I want to support my community here in Leicester, but I understand the challenges and patriarchal structures women

Geographical borders are imaginary. We all have the same needs; all women, whether you’re here or over there face around the world, which is why I want to work with women. I believe if you support one woman, you support a whole community because women are the centre of the family. Geographical borders are imaginary. We all have the same needs; all women, whether you’re here or over there.” The charity leader came to the UK from Sri-Lankan with her husband in 2000 while pregnant. She was eventually able to study for her postgraduate degrees whilst juggling work and motherhood. “I didn’t imagine I would end up doing this today; this is what I always dreamed of doing,” she said. Zinthiya knows first-hand what many women experience when moving to a different country. Speaking of the challenges new-arrival women face, she said: “There is a segment of women with a passport clause that states they’re legal citizens and can work but can’t claim benefits. Women who come as a spouse will have that on their passport. But if you have young children to look after, you can’t work. And if their relationship breaks down, many of these women have nothing; they don’t have bank accounts, don’t speak the language, can’t NICHE | 89

ZINTHIYA’S PROJECTS Here’s a rundown of just some of the initiatives funded by Zinthiya Trust CHAPEL CAFÉ

The Chapel Café in Bishop Street sells affordable food, generating a small income for the charity. It provides volunteering and work placements for young people and people with a disability. It also offers a safe pace for the community to come together.


After running food banks in the city centre, New Parks, and Beaumont Leys since 2012, the Community Shop was set up in Bishop Street as a solution to the food poverty faced by the community. The shop sells low cost food and sanitary products from as little as 20p. “It’s a way for them to preserve their dignity. Some people don’t want things for free because of the stigma attached to it.”


“There’s an awful lot of women who have skills but no confidence or opportunity. We all talk about who is not at the table but not about how we can bring those people to the table.” That’s why Zinthiya created She Inspires Enterprise and Community Hub; to reach people who aren’t in the room such as those from low economic backgrounds.


Zinthiya donates period products to communities in Leicester and provides a monthly subscription service called Bare Earth. People can subscribe, paying as much as, would in a supermarket while knowing their money helps women locally and internationally. “There are women in our city who use toilet paper. If women here face period poverty, imagine in the rest of the world. Women in Nepal, for example, are locked out in sheds when menstruating. It’s not for me to say their ways are wrong, but to educate them on better ways.” 90 | NICHE

We are one of the only agencies that provides accommodation to women with no recourse to public funding access public funding, can’t work, and have no confidence. They’re destitute.” Many become homeless. Between March and December, the trust provided over 10,000 nights of emergency accommodation: Zinthiya’s biggest challenge. She spends much of her working week building relationships with local private landlords to secure accommodation for her beneficiaries. The organisation has become a vital port of call in Leicester, with referrals made by the police, social services, Citizen’s Advice, and a range of other organisations. Funding for the charity’s services come from various funders such as British Gas Energy Trust, National Lottery Community Fund, Cadent, Smallwood Trust, Henry Smith, and others. “We are one of the only agencies that provides accommodation to women with no recourse to public funding and we are stretched to the maximum. Securing funding is a full-time job, taking up time we don’t have.” But Zinthiya adds: “No charity holds a permanent seat in the charity commission. I am a strong believer in the quality of the service rather than the years that the charity has existed, and if there comes a day when we have to close our doors, I won’t have any regrets because we have made a change to the lives of the people we support.” When asked how she’s built her empire, she said: “I can identify opportunities when I see them, and I’m not scared of taking calculative risks. That is what is lacking with some third sector organisations – leadership.” As to what her husband thinks of her achievements: “He says ‘don’t you start anything else!’” she laughed. There’s a glint in her eye. “I always have another plan!” Keep up to date with Zinthiya’s life-changing work at zinthiyatrust.org.


The number of those seeking the services of The Bridge (East Midlands) during the global pandemic is astounding, with a 72% rise in 2020-21, compared to 2019-20

Demand for homelessness and welfare support grows


or over 25 years The Bridge has been striving to build resilient and compassionate communities often supporting those most vulnerable and most in need of support in our society – in particular, those with complex needs, ex-offenders, young people, and those entrenched in rough sleeping. Along with addressing the immediate housing and accommodation issues, it is part of the charity’s mission to support clients holistically; assisting individuals to tackle the root causes of their housing crisis, including health and wellbeing issues, in order to create positive and sustainable futures.

Delivering not one, not two but 12 different services, which include advice, support, assistance, and accommodation interventions to the homeless and those at risk of housing crisis, The Bridge also provided adapted services in response to the rising demand for services during and after the global pandemic. It has been no easy feat, but with support from local individuals and the business community, the team set up a free phone 0800 number, ensuring everyone could access support and information when they needed it most, as well as an extensive programme of foodbanks, deliveries, welfare support, and advice.

Much of their work is preventative, particularly in their Youth Homelessness Services, including talk2sort Mediation Service and Single Access Point, which have won national awards. Whether an individual is in need of a food parcel, or requests long-term support for complex housing needs, they strive to offer every client the same warm welcome and respect. With their services more vital than ever before and demand growing daily, you can discover ways in which you and your business can help by visiting thebridge-eastmidlands.org.uk or calling 01509 260 500.

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Cycling for

Hope Against Cancer

Sunday 8th August 2021

Hope Cycle Challenge

Race Guidance 60 Miles

60 Kilometres

Registration from 8am Start at 9am

Registration from 8:45am Start at 9:45am

Start & End Countesthorpe Meadows Sports Ground LE8 5QW

Which route will you be taking?


eople can take part in one of two routes around the beautiful Leicestershire countryside in aid of Hope Against Cancer on Sunday, August 8. A 60-mile route and a 60km route both set off from and end at Countesthorpe Sports Ground. Entry is £20 and includes a professional warm up from The Fitness Works gym, a refreshment stop with cakes, with the chance to take part in a cool-down yoga session from Love Yoga Leicester. Entrants commit to raising at least £30 in sponsorship and those who raise over £100 will receive a free Hope Against Cancer cycle jersey. On the day, sustainable transport app BetterPoints will be helping the charity to fundraise by donating 500 points, worth 50p, to Hope Against Cancer, and 500 points into the personal account of every user who registers at least a 10-mile cycle from the Countesthorpe starting point. Download the BetterPoints app to sign up to donate the points you generate from all your sustainable travel to Hope Against Cancer. Numbers are limited for the cycle challenge. To secure your place, sign up at hopeagainstcancer.org.uk/bike-for-hope.

Pit Stop

Langton Community Hall LE16 7SZ

To sign up today:



Each year VAL’s Annual Conference Future Focus brings together Leicester and Leicestershire’s charity sector to share insight, collaborate and celebrate the past year working in our sector. Delegates can engage in a range of workshops on key topics affecting the sector, share ideas and innovation and be inspired by stories. This year’s conference will be taking place digitally over 21 and 22 September, with the possibility of in-person networking dependent on Covid-19 restrictions – watch this space!

 helpline@valonline.org.uk  @valonline 92 | NICHE

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Come on in to SoundCafe is excited that the easing of Covid restrictions means that their face-to-face workshops will soon return


eicester’s charity for providing creative opportunities for people who are homeless, SoundCafe, brought back its well-supported football health and wellbeing programme in April, due to it being delivered outdoors. However, faceto-face creative workshops have been replaced by virtual events since January and whilst the team have managed, it’s not the same as the faceto-face support they were able to offer. “The staff and volunteers here at SoundCafe are delighted that our June workshops will be able to take place for small groups in person once again. Alan Fletcher, Co-Chair of Trustees told us. “We have been providing a variety of services to our guests during the pandemic including some outdoor events, but to be able to resume indoor services too is a relief.” Held at the Booth Hall in the David

Wilson Foundation Centre next to St Martin’s House, activities will include a variety of arts and crafts as well as guided creative writing projects to provide inspiration and to support learning and wellbeing. Another notable SoundCafe event coming up soon in July is the Speaking of Homelessness project supported by Arts Council funds. This innovative skills development project will empower people who are or have been homeless to create and perform high quality drama, poetry and song to express their experience of homelessness. A series of guest stories will be combined to create an artistic filmed piece sharing their guests’ lived experience of homelessness. To support SoundCafe Leicester in their work creating safe creative spaces for people who have been

or are currently homeless, contact Alan on 07780 607063. The charity is keen to embark on new creative collaborations and build long term relationships with corporate sponsors. Find out more about SoundCafe at soundcafe.org.uk.

Charity Link’s Leicestershire 3 Peaks Challenge Have you got what it takes to take part in this unique charity adventure?


his year’s Leicestershire 3 Peaks Challenge, a key fundraising event of Charity Link, which has supported people in financial hardship for over 140 years, is more vital than ever, says the team. During the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, Charity Link helped over 6,600 people, a third of which were children. The organisation provided food, clothing, beds, cookers, grants for utilities, and other essentials, all whilst many of the charity’s usual fundraising activities were postponed. The increase in need that the charity has experienced is expected to continue for a considerable time

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to come. Charity Link is now looking for individuals, families, friends and teams of work colleagues to take part in its 3 Peaks Challenge on Sunday, September 26. There are also support opportunities available for local businesses to get involved. Starting and finishing at Bawdon Lodge Farm, one of Charity Link’s proud business supporters, the event sees challengers walk (or run!) a unique 16 mile route around beautiful Charnwood scenery. The event takes place in the two highest peaks in Leicestershire, Beacon Hill and Bardon Hill, along with Old John Tower in Bradgate

Park, plus plenty of other hills, fields and woodlands along the way. After a fantastic inaugural competition in 2019, the charity wants to see more businesses take part in the Corporate Team event this year, with the Competition Cup kindly supported by Steven Mather Solicitor. Due to Charity Link’s unique way of working, every £10 raised helps to provide £50 worth of essential items for those most in need in the local community, so by taking part you really will be helping to make a difference. To take part on September 22, visit charity-link.org/leics3peaks or call 0116 222 2200.


The challenge

of a lifetime

A grieving son is raising money for Alzheimer’s Society by taking on the challenge he promised his dad he would tackle WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


hen a teenager travelled to Land’s End with his dad, he was told he’d now been to the southernmost tip of the UK. And when his dad took him to John o’Groats in Scotland, he told him he’d now been to the northernmost tip of the UK. After Chris Marr told his son Miles that people cycle from one end to the other, Miles swore one day he’d do it too. After the passing of his dad last year, Miles decided there’s no time like the present. Now, aged 35, the service manager will cycle the almost-1000-mile distance between Land’s End and John o’Groats with his girlfriend Sophia. The pair will set off on August 22. Their cycling challenge has raised £1,370 so far for Alzheimer’s Society from monetary and item donations which Miles has auctioned. Alzheimer’s Society cared for Chris when he was diagnosed with dementia aged 65. He lived


with the disease until his death five years later. “It really amazed me the support they gave to my parents,” Miles said. “When an advisor came round, it was a weird time because dad had just been diagnosed but was OK so it was quite scary for him. They were really reassuring and helped fill in forms to apply for pension credit and carers allowance, which they weren’t aware of and really would have struggled without. “People assume it affects your memory, but it attacked my dad’s logic. He could remember things from the week and from 20 years ago, but he couldn’t make a cup of tea. He ran two businesses in his life and could build a car from scratch, so to see him deteriorate was awful.” In preparation for the twoweek charity challenge, Miles has been riding to work and back every day as well as 25-mile rides in the week, and 50-60-mile rides at the weekend, pushing himself

further each time. “We’ll need to be travelling around 80 miles a day, which will probably take eight to 10 hours with all our gear, not to mention getting lost now and then!” They’ll be staying at camping sites until they can wild-camp in Scotland. If you or someone you know is affected by Alzheimer’s disease, Miles recommends reading Dementia: The One-Stop Guide by June Andrews. He added: “The first port of call is getting a diagnosis. Remember, it’s not a death sentence. My dad could still come to car shows with me. He couldn’t express things anymore, so I would sit with him and tell him my plans for the year and, if nothing else, it was cathartic for me. Focus on what they can do rather than what they can’t, you never know how much time you have.” Scan the QR code to donate at Miles’ Just Giving page. Follow Miles’ journey on Instagram @miles_onabike. NICHE | 95

takes it outside and online The arts play a vital role in all our lives, but here’s how one theatre is making a difference to those who need it most WORDS BY ISATOU NDURE


he theatre company that produces immersive, accessible theatre for disabled children and tours the UK and worldwide has adapted to continue their work providing vital benefits to vulnerable families. Bamboozle theatre company has been grateful to receive funding from Arts Council England, BBC Children in Need, The Henry Smith Charity, National Lottery Community Fund, and many local supporters, which has aided the production of new Covid-safe shows. On the significance of their performances, Artistic Director Christopher Davies said: “One boy was in hospital when his turn came for the session. Because it was on Zoom and not in a theatre, he and his mum Jade were able to join from his hospital bed. Jade said that this was the highlight of their week in hospital.” Through the pandemic, Bamboozle created new ways of reaching families after having to cancel all fundraising events

and three projects including a performance at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. Christopher added: “We wanted to connect more personally than with just the online content – which is certainly valued by our families – so we created five further projects.” Bamboozle considered outdoor activities for families for many years and the pandemic made it possible. The five new productions take place outside. These projects have been successful with audiences, with senior teacher Jaqueline Wheble at Oaklands School, Edinburgh commenting on the company’s Down to Earth outdoor production: “The way young people were included in the world of the play was magical. Bamboozle made it look so simple and effortless when we know how hard it is to engage with and make theatre relevant for our pupils.” To find out more about each show, book online, or to donate, visit bamboozletheatre.co.uk/shows.

Morningside Pharmaceuticals is the headline sponsor of the Real Entrepreneur Awards 2022, and as part of their support for charities and the local community, the company is pleased to gift space in this edition of Niche to help raise awareness of the amazing work of Bamboozle

Upgrade your support through either a donation or fundraising activities Provides a vulnerable young person with weekly one-to-one mentoring support Feature in our monthly e-bullition | Bronze FOB logo | Support for your fundraising events | Video Thank you message on FOCUS Charity social media posts | Enhanced recognition on the FOCUS wall of supporters and influencers

Standard package includes: Use of our FOCUS On Business logo on your website | A membership certificate | Annual statement for tax relief benefits | Monthly e-bulletin updating you on the impact your support is having | Printed version of our inFOCUS Newsletter | Copy of our annual impact report | Access to all FOCUS On Business events | Exclusive Early Bird Tickets to our Annual Black Tie Dinner | Recognition on the FOCUS wall of supporters and influencers | Members networking events | Thank you message on FOCUS Charity social media posts on becoming a member

Contact: Emily Taylor for more information emily.taylor@focus-charity.co.uk 96 | NICHE

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

Homecare vs Care home A guide to choosing what’s best for your loved one WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


hen it comes to deciding whether your loved one would be better suited to receiving care in their own home or in a residential setting, there are many things to consider. it’s not a competition between what’s better but rather an assessment of what’s best to suit an individual’s needs. When we reach an age where we need additional help, many of us would wish to stay in our own homes in our own familiar surroundings, able to have visitors as and when we choose. This can work for some but with the increasing demands around many potential family carers and their own busy working and home lives, the reality today for too many people is that they are isolated and lonely with inadequate levels of support. There are options of course, it’s just about finding the most suitable one.

CARE HOMES In residential care, staff are able to build long-term relationships with their residents getting to know them and understanding their changing everyday needs. Care homes work hard at creating an environment that is stimulating and social for their residents with activities and friendship opportunities – no one feels lonely or isolated, a common ailment at reaching an older age. Care homes can provide round-the-clock care and often have specialist equipment and resources to ensure their residents are as comfortable as they possibly can be. Over the years, care homes have received a certain degree of negative press, but now, with many independent bodies regulating them, they are thankfully few and far between. HOME CARE Residential care homes aren’t the only answer to an increased need for care. From care delivered at home on a drop-in-and-out daily basis through to residential carers, there are a range of options for those who would really rather stay in their own home.


Of course, care in the home doesn’t allow for the community elements that you find with residential homes, but good relationships with an individual’s home care worker can do a great deal to combat loneliness. In addition, care at home allows your loved ones to remain in their own homes and retain their sense of independence and dignity, and for them to have visitors whenever they choose. Live-in care also ensures that people’s loved ones are given specialist one-to-one attention throughout the day by professional and highly trained carers and is a viable option for those who require more than a daily drop-in. There are of course costs to consider, but both good care homes and good care-at-home providers will work with you and your family to find the best solution for your loved ones; taking in all the considerations of the individual and what will best suit them. Homecare.co.uk is a great resource for checking independent reviews and feedback for both residential care and home care packages. NICHE | 97

Care like family The Oxford Dictionary defines a carer as a family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person and for Pure Homecare, the familial aspect of this description is wholeheartedly an accurate embodiment of the way they care for their clients WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


ure Homecare, which was founded by Lola Ojomo in 2007, has grown its services to span from traditional day-to-day home care to the more clinical, specialist end-oflife and complex care services today and the team work closely with the NHS. Caring is in Lola’s blood, with every female family member she can think of having been nurses. It was only later in life that Lola came to it herself though after embarking on a career in IT that simply stopped fulfilling her. “I wanted to do something which gave back, something that I could reflect on at the end of my day and feel like I had made a difference in some way. I started Pure Homecare and learnt as I grew the company,” she said. Speaking of her team highly, Lola explained to me the ethos the company has when hiring new members. “We like to attract

98 | NICHE

people that have cared for family members, it’s the experience of giving that care to a loved one than I want in my team so that they can provide that level of compassion to their clients. We call this the ‘Mum test’ – caring for a client at the standard you would for your Mum or a loved one. It takes a certain type of person to be able to provide the level of real care and warmth we provide.” The team, which she puts down to the reason the multiaward-winning company has been so successful, are not only supportive of those they care for, but for each other too. “There are many aspects of what we do which are difficult for those with such caring hearts – we support one another in a way which continually amazes and encourages me. “The work that they do isn’t for the faint hearted, it’s not easy and can be very humbling to see


some of the things that they do but I’m confident that they know they are valued for what they do. Its reflected back in the way that they care for their clients.” Visiting clients in their homes for day-to-day-care through to residential 24/7 care, the team’s approach – no matter the circumstance – is always one of warmth. It’s not only the care workers themselves that speak so highly of one another and the management team though, a glance at homecare.co.uk, the independent review site for care providers, and you can see that what they preach as a company is actually practiced with the emphasis being on how real and supportive the care is – it’s personal and it shows. One reviewer wrote: “We know that my aunt is receiving a very high standard of care. We recently experienced a bereavement, and one of my Aunt’s carers has been such a wonderful comfort, and even bought her flowers - such a kind and caring gesture which reinforces the fact that this was definitely the right company to employ. So thank you so much to everyone at Pure Care; we really do appreciate the kindness of your staff.” Embodying what it means to care for another, call Pure Homecare on 0116 2549 450 they are ready and waiting to give you or your loved one the support they deserve.


Care in comfort

We believe that the very best environment for a customer is their own home

at home

None of us want to leave the comforts of our home environment, but what do you do when you are no longer able to live without physical support? Are care homes an inevitable part of later life? Not necessarily WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


roviding private home care to individuals in a way that is entirely tailored to them, the Bluebird Care team members are, importantly, matched with those they look after, to suit their personality and needs. “We really get to know an individual, to the point that we are then able to match them with a carer who we feel they will form rewarding relationships with,” Jay Ghaghda, Director at Bluebird Home Care Leicester explains. “This dynamic works positively both ways – our team are more fulfilled in their roles and of course the people they are caring for feel more at ease and fulfilled.” The relationship focus means that their team are not only able to give the necessary care to their customers, but they are able to go above and beyond that with a real level of care and attention. With kindness, time and attention they build trust

and friendships whilst remaining professional and efficient. From 30 minutes a day to full time live-in option, Bluebird Care enables its customers to remain in their homes and live their lives as independently as possible. With assessments made at the start and continuously to tailor a service which works for all, Bluebird Care is an entirely adaptable service; the needs of its customers are placed at the heart of everything they do. “We believe that the very best environment for a customer is their own home; that’s why we do all that we can to provide high quality care so they needn’t be anywhere else.” Having care in the home as opposed to living in a care home allows for a flexibility for users to continue their normal routines as much as possible, and Bluebird Care works very hard to enable them to remain


in the comfort of their homes. “By staying in their own homes there is a plethora of benefits, not least including the feeling of staying where they know and where they love their environment – a home is much more than a building after all,” Jay adds. Bluebird Care’s 24/7 live-in care service enables users to receive the right level of oneon-one care without leaving their familiar surroundings, routines and visiting family and friends. “Of course, care homes provide excellent care, but with our home care residential facilities the client receives round-the-clock attention, which can be hugely beneficial to their physical and mental health.” Moving from your home needn’t be inevitable if the care within your home is right. Visit bluebirdcare.co.uk/leicester or call 0116 217 1405 to find a tailored solution. NICHE | 99

Restore the Rhythm Your business may be back up and running, but understandably, it may not be quite back to normal just yet. Playing music is one way in which you could help get your business back to its best. Even small changes could make a big difference, and music could help enhance the atmosphere, lift the mood and create a more positive environment. If you are going to introduce music, or if you are already using music in your business, you’ll usually need a music licence. TheMusicLicence covers virtually all commercially released music available – millions of songs & recordings, including the most popular & well-loved music, not just from the UK, but globally. So while you are making all of the arrangements to get your business back to its best, now is the perfect time to turn the music back on and ensure you that you are appropriately licensed, and set up TheMusicLicence for your business.

Music could help your business get back to its best.

0800 0868 801 pplprs.co.uk/restore-the-rhythm

Profile for Niche Magazine

Niche Magazine Issue 44  


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