Niche Magazine Issue 50

Page 1

#FindYourNiche July/August 2022



Shrinking internet emissions

The golden issue

Celebrating everything Leicester




Help to Grow: Management

Take your business to the next level

s r e l l e w e J s r e b m u L




SALLY SMITH Marketing Director


TOM YOUNG Feature Writer

EMILY MILLER Senior Journalist

SUSAN HOLMES Head of Design Studio An Adobe pro and master of creating attentiongrabbing graphics, SUSAN has worked in the industry for more than 18 years on other titles such as BBC Music Magazine and Gardeners World as well as designing the supplements for Good Food Magazine. Her husband Mark Holmes also works on Niche as our external proofreader.

KERRY has a degree in film and journalism. She writes about business news, local people, entertainment, and theatre. She loves supporting local business and arts communities and performs on stage at The Little Theatre several times a year.

KATIE BRENNAN Creative Assistant

TRACEY HUNTER Marketing Consultant

CHARLOTTE MILES Marketing Consultant

TINASHE SIGAUKE Marketing Consultant

TRACE VOSS Business Development Manager

BECCI HOULSTON Head of Digital

SHARON CLEMENT Assistant Head of Digital

BECKY DAY Digital Account Manager

EVAN-MAY GILLOTT Digital Account Manager

Currently studying for her Level 6 CIM Marketing Manager apprenticeship, BECCI’s creative writing style produces effective marketing campaigns for local businesses and helps her enjoy writing for her self-titled lifestyle blog B.Houlston, as well as TV and movie reviews for Focus Film.

SERENA JIVAN Digital Account Manager



0116 271 2573




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

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s you can probably tell, this edition is a special one as it marks 50 issues of Niche Magazine! As a Leicester-based magazine publishing only Leicester-related content, there of course wouldn’t be a Niche Magazine if it weren’t for all the fantastic businesses, events, and communities that we are so lucky to have here. So, this golden edition celebrates some of the most wonderful things that make Leicester, Leicester. With a rich history, we take a look back on some of the key events that have taken place here over the years. From Romans to royals, it’s all been significant in making Leicester what it is today. This is a year of many milestones for local people and businesses, which we list on page 25. We’ve also covered some significant developments taking place around the city and county. As part of our 50th celebrations, we teamed up with the likes PPL PRS, De Montfort University, ER Recruitment, The Little Theatre, and Charles Bentley to showcase just how great Leicester really is to live, work and visit. On the front cover, we have the directors of Fraser Stretton Property Group. They’ve taken the business scene by storm after just three years in operation. The company has flourished in that short time with the addition of a team of staff, high street offices, and national media coverage. Our interview with them reveals some of the secrets behind their success. Budding photographers sent in photos of their favourite spots around the county in June for a chance for their work to be featured in print, adding to their portfolio. See our overall winner on page 22. And finally, congratulations to Tigers for their win over Saracens in the Gallagher Premiership final in June. The victory secured their 11th Premiership title, and first for nine years. And in basketball, the Riders were voted Molten BBL Team of the Year in May. This comes after they completed a treble for the 2021-22 season, winning the BBL cup back in January, becoming six-time league champions in April, and winning the play-off final in May. An outstanding achievement. See you next at the Niche Business Awards on September 2!

Distribution Media Matters Direct Chutney Ivy The Green Grazer

We need to do another blog about our ears

Self Select Distribution

How cute are these life insurance stickers!?

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

It’s National Ampersand Day. I won’t be celebrating

I get passionate about social media stats and biscuits

Of all the dips you’d want in your eye, salsa’s not the one.

Contents JULY / AUGUST 2022


ON THE COVER CREATING WEALTH THROUGH PROPERTY Three years on: Fraser Stretton Property Group



Celebrating everything Leicester



Your photos of Leicestershire


A throwback to where it all began


Other milestones in Leicester for 2022


The history of Leicester



News 08 Key promotions and appointments


Tax advice: how to sell a bus iness


Top tips for top numbers


It’s not all about the money: investing in people Making money in your sleep


Latest confidence stats from Federation of Small businesses


Teams wanted for corporate fundraising



Generation Next finalists revealed


Escaping the legally binding contract


East Midlands Accelerator extends support


Award applications for long-term success



Thought Leaders


We Asked You


Talking Legacies


The sound of Leicester


Separation without suffering


Tales from the print room



Introducing no-fault divorce


Susie the Foodie

Help to grow: a governmentfunded course for businesses

10 years of legal advice

The Music Room

The future of working in Leicester





The Boardroom


Employees and the cost-ofliving crisis


Personality through professional portraits


A Top 200 company celebrates 40 years in business


How do they find you? Website building


Niche Business Awards semi-finalists revealed


What happens when you provide a creative space for employees


Everyday commodities that are harming the planet 51

Shrinking digital damage


The water revolution










Developing a vibrant city



Niche Networking


Building a business

Make a date with Leicester – new city guides

Real Entrepreneurs’ Awards

Mortgages for the first rung of the property ladder

There’s no business like show business at The Little Theatre





Real Entrepreneurs’ Dinner


160-years of homeware


Leicester’s biggest festivals: Caribbean Carnival and Leicester Pride


Nachural Awards


Pirates and Princesses Day at Belgrave Hall


Mental health at work


Working in health and beauty


Tickled Pink Comedy


Putting the joy back into clothes shopping


From breaststroke to brush stroke


Stress management: time out at the spa


Creating funds through social enterprise


Kazzoo’s Pink Tie Birthday Ball


In memory of victims of honour-based violence


To the Moon! An update from Lamp


Catering through Covid


A night at Mem Saab


The Parmar Collection


Hospitality dreams


Britain’s food chain: supporting our farmers

Cover Image Fraser Stretton Property Group Photographed by Hitz Rao at Hitz Rao Photography 0116 246 0475


New appointments and key promotions across the county


CHARITY LINK has appointed Susan McEniff as its new CEO, heading into its 150th year of operation. Susan held the role of Director of Marketing and Fundraising since 2012, and was appointed to the new position by the board of trustees following a rigorous recruitment process. This position has been created as part of the charity’s restructuring, ahead of the planned retirement of Senior Executive Jim Munton, who’s been with the organisation for 33 years – he will take on the role of Deputy CEO for the next three years, before retiring. DE MONTFORT UNIVERSITY has welcomed dancer and former DMU student Akram Khan MBE as its new Chancellor. He returns to the university as a figurehead, ambassador, and a beacon of creativity for DMU students. LEICESTERSHIRE BUSINESS VOICE (LBV) has appointed Sandra Wiggins as a new board member. Sandra is managing director of fabric displays manufacturer, DPI UK Limited, and will join the other nine board members in offering an independent and collective voice to represent the local business community. 08 | NICHE

LOUGHBOROUGH UNIVERSITY has appointed Professor Dan Parsons as its Pro ViceChancellor for Research and Innovation. Currently at the University of Hull, he’ll join the Loughborough in September as it embarks on its ambitious new strategy to 2030 ‘Creating Better Futures. Together.’ RUTLAND HALL HOTEL & SPA has appointed two new directors – Joanne White joins as Managing Director with Nicola Felton taking the role of Director of Revenue. Both are set to play a vital role in the growth of the business, as its extensive renovations continue. PALL-EX has cemented its long-term commitment to the global logistics marketplace through the appointment of Sue Buchanan to International Network Director. Promoted from her previous role as UK Network Director, Sue will be focusing on developing cross border growth, strengthening relationships with existing partners, and onboarding new territories, key for international expansion.

NELSONS has added to its expert dispute resolution team welcoming Lesley Harrison as a new associate and solicitor, specialising in inheritance and property disputes. An expert in family law, Naomi Bond has also joined as a new associate and solicitor – she brings specific experience in divorce proceedings, pre- and post-nuptial agreements and private children matters. THE NATIONAL SPACE CENTRE has appointed Dhara Patel as its new Space Expert. Joining from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, she will be responsible for supporting the attraction’s schools and education programme. UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER has taken on a new leader for its Development and Alumni Relations Office. Steve Corbett has an impressive track record as a senior higher education development executive, previously developing strategies for alumni engagement programmes.



Small business confidence remains steady despite challenges

“The East Midlands Small Business Index (LSBI), which measures confidence amongst businesses, has risen since the last quarter.”

In the East Midlands the confidence level currently stands at





increasing the average salary by 2% or more



of small businesses have lost staff in the previous quarter

per cent

of small businesses have aspirations next year to grow rapidly or moderately


56% General economic conditions

37% Consumer demand


Utility costs

Are the greatest perceived barriers to growth over the coming year @FSB_policy If you require this document in an alternative format please email

salaries demonstrating they are doing all they can to retain staff during these challenging times, where interest rate increases, inflation, and rising costs of doing business are taking a toll. The employment picture amongst FSB members in Q1 2022 showed that 11% had decreased staff numbers, with the same proportion also increasing staffing levels – leaving an overall net score of 0% for employment in the region. And, in the East Midlands, the domestic economy (56%), utility costs (41%), and consumer demand (37%) are the greatest perceived barriers to growth over the coming twelve months.

Charity seeks help to get to the moon Businesses and individuals have been supporting the Lamp (Leicestershire Action for Mental Health Project) 5k Trip to the Moon challenge. The charity is seeking further support from local businesses and employees in their bid to reach a very specific target. They’re hoping to achieve a collective distance of 384,400km, which is the distance from Earth to the moon. Teams can take part by taking a walk around their business premises during their breaks or organising a team building activity of walking, running, swimming, or sports day. Rutland House Counselling &

of small businesses increased the average salary over the last year


Last quarter it stood at 15%

The latest Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Small Business Index was published in May, and despite a challenging economic environment, business confidence in the East Midlands remains stable. Confidence amongst small business owners in the region has remained stable in Q1 at 17%, a slight increase from 15% in Q4 of 2021. However, growth and investment intentions have declined, signalling that for many small businesses, their focus is still very much on recovery. Rav Panesar, FSB East Midlands Policy Representative, said: “Times are clearly still tough for small firms. Business growth aspirations have declined and investment intentions have dropped, indicating that much more needs to be done to signal a stable economy for small businesses to aid planning and future proofing. It is positive though that business confidence seems to have stabilised and that there are anticipated revenue increases coming over the next three months, which I hope will bolster confidence further.” Despite tough trading conditions in which East Midlands small business owners have seen decreases in their net profit, just over half (52%) increased average


Psychotherapy’s Jenny Collard took part by swimming 200 lengths to raise money and kilometres for Lamp’s Trip to the Moon, while the team at Empire Finance went on an adventure run. Lamp is encouraging those taking part to cover a distance of 5km each, or more, and asking people to raise £1 for every kilometre covered. In partnership with the National Space Centre and sponsored by Hinckley & Rugby Building Society, the challenge will come to an end on July 20 when the first ever moon landing took place in 1969. Find out more and donate at


Make a date

with Leicester Plan your perfect escape in Leicester. Sarah Harrison, City Centre Director tells us about a collection of eight new guides to celebrate everything Leicester


ith over 2,000 years of history and a bright future ahead, Leicester is a thriving city with everything from great art to great dining, world-class theatre to elite sport and experiences from as far away as the Indian subcontinent and even outer space. Visit Leicester has released a new collection of eight city guides to showcase just some of the brilliant experiences in the city centre and neighbourhood areas.

Retail Guide

Leicester city centre and its surrounding neighbourhoods offer a great mix of high street giants and independent makers and creators, making it the shopping destination of choice for many people. Highcross and Haymarket shopping centres have over 140 high street and independent brands. Reflecting the city’s character, diversity and individualism are eclectic independent businesses clustered in the city centre’s Old Town area and neighbourhood communities. 10 | NICHE


Restaurant Guide

Japanese, Indian, Italian, Turkish, Vietnamese and so many more cuisines. The city’s diverse communities shine through in the vast range of dining options on offer. Beyond the city centre, Leicester’s neighbourhoods boast their own wonderful selection of independent eateries, each with their own story to tell. Some have been part of the neighbourhood for over 30 years and others are enjoying their first months of service, but each contributes to Leicester’s vibrant restaurant scene. This wonderful range of restaurants caters for all tastes and individual needs, from vegan fine dining and dry bars to halal menus and specialist diets.

Café Guide

Whether you’re catching up with friends, looking for a space to answer emails, having a leisurely lunch or celebrating with afternoon tea, cafés are synonymous with taking a break and savouring the moment. Leicester is home to an array of cafés across the city centre and neighbourhoods, ranging from atmospheric independent coffee shops to historic tearooms. You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to healthy breakfasts, sociable brunch venues and finding a spot for a lingering lunch. Leicester’s late-night café scene is alive and kicking, with plenty of dessert parlours as a great option for those who want something sweet after dinner or an alcohol-free place to socialise after dark.


Leisure and Culture

From crazy golf to wine tasting to theatre trips and trampolining, the city is bursting with activities. Leicester sits against a wonderfully vibrant cultural backdrop and the city’s arts, music and festival offering is one of the best in the Midlands. With a selection of incredible museums, from household historic tales to leading the UK’s space research and exploration, there’s always something new to learn as you delve deeper into discovering what Leicester has to offer.


Beauty and Wellness

Leicester is home to some fantastically talented hairdressers, barbers, beauty therapists, tattoo artists and aestheticians. There’s a lot to be said for taking a bit of time out to look after yourself and sometimes a pampering session at your favourite salon is the perfect antidote to a busy week. You might have a specific skin, hair or body concern you want to address with a trained professional, or just want a moment of tranquillity to escape from the stresses of everyday life.

Pubs, Clubs and Bars


Discover new flavours at award-winning micro-pubs, sip something cool in the sunshine in a secluded beer garden or take a tour of a brewery to get a real taste of the city. Enjoy bars that can cater for all occasions, from your afterwork social and casual afternoon drinks to dates and celebrations. Whether you are chatting over G&Ts with colleagues, looking for showstopping cocktails, fine wines, chic champagne bars or sophisticated alcohol-free options — Leicester has got you covered. Dedicated party lovers have a choice of clubs, where they will find an eclectic mix of mainstream and alternative musical genres in venues ranging from intimate and atmospheric to clubs with multiple dance floors.



Five new hotels have opened in the city centre since 2020 providing even more choice of where to stay. Whether you’re visiting the city with friends, catching up with family, attending an event or staying over for work, there’s accommodation to suit everyone’s needs. Aparthotels offer the perfect solution for families catching up with relatives, giving you a little more space to relax in (and for the kids to spread out in!). If you are planning a business meeting or conference, then Meet Leicester provides a free service to find the perfect venue. Find out more at

Tourism Guide

The story of Leicester is an epic one and if walls could talk, our city’s historic buildings would tell some fascinating stories. Uncover the story of travel pioneer Thomas Cook and his elegant coffee houses; Richard III writing letters at Leicester Castle; Alice Hawkins and suffragette lockins; and the arrival of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at the railway station. Stories of a Civil War bombardment of the


Magazine in the 17th century, visits by William Morris and George Bernard Shaw to the Secular Society, and Ramsay MacDonald MP addressing crowds from the steps of the Corn Exchange. We challenge you to look through these guides to find a new experience and then to tell us about it on social media. Go to to download the guides or pick them up from Visit Leicester Information Centre, 4a St Martins, Leicester LE1 5BD. Grab hold of your diary… it’s time to make a date with Leicester. Facebook: @vistleiecster Twitter: @visit_leicester Instagram: @vistleiecster

NICHE | 11

The next generation: Generation Next finalists revealed


epresenting some of the most promising young talent across businesses in the region East Midland’s Chamber has announced the finalists of its Generation Next Awards 2022. The second instalment of the awards, held in conjunction with headline partner the University of Derby, recognise young professionals and business leaders aged under 35, as well as organisations led by people in this demographic. A shortlist was revealed across the 10 categories, ranging from a Breakthrough Award and Customer Service Award through to marking Excellence in Innovation and Technology and the Generation Next Future Leader. New prizes for this year award outstanding contributions in diversity and inclusion, arts and culture, corporate social responsibility and sustainability. A virtual judging day took place on June 8 and 9, in which finalists were interviewed by members of the chamber of commerce’s senior management team, Generation Next board and a representative of the sponsor. Lucy Robinson, East Midlands Chamber’s director 12 | NICHE

of resources and Generation Next lead, said: “The Generation Next Awards are a celebration of the rising stars of business who make outstanding contributions to their communities. “We received some brilliant applications from a diverse breadth of individuals, and our shortlist of finalists offers a glimpse into the amazing young talent that exists here in the East Midlands.” The finalists were announced at an event held at Cosy Club, in Nottingham on May 25 in which two of the three founders of Derby-based doughnut delivery service Project D – who won the Entrepreneur of the Year category at the inaugural Generation Next Awards – talked about their journey to date and their hopes for the future. Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony with a twist – featuring street food, cocktails and live music – held at Bustler Market in Derby, on July 14. Tickets cost £65 + VAT for Generation Next members and £75 + VAT for non-members. Tickets are available at


THE FINALISTS FUTURE LEADER AWARD Sponsored by University of Derby

Craig Evans – UKATA Matilda Swanson – Loates HR Mir Patel – Unique Window Systems Theo Kirk – Express Recruitment Emma Roberts – Derby Community Parent Programme CIC Dan Heffernan – D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership David Maran – MP Digital Limited Rob Spence – Paragon Sales Solutions Umar Razah – Mauricare Homes


Danielle Harkness – Plastek UK James Hardwick – Future Life Wealth Management Anxhela Agaci – Gents of Notts Arran Gessey – Bam Boom Cloud Ben Wilkinson – MHA MacIntyre Hudson


Fred Gough – University of Derby Jake Wood – Jake Wood PT Martin Croft – Quartz Barristers Rob Spence – Paragon Sales Solutions

APPRENTICE OF THE YEAR Sponsored by Loughborough College


Emily Jacob – emh group Frank Hemmingway – Plastek UK Polly Oakes – Express Recruitment Rebecca Houlston – Cross Productions Ruby Birks – Purpose Media

Dan Poynton – On Poynt Creative Yudan Deng – Follow the Orient Joey Lever – Another World Media Katie Brennan – Cross Productions Sophie Price and Tom Dennis – My Town Vision


BREAKTHROUGH AWARD Sponsored by Nottingham University Business School

David Maran – MP Digital Harsh Shah – De Montfort University Jack Hall – Scenariio Nicola Ciaessen – RSM UK Rachel Sanders – Duncan & Toplis

SUSTAINABILITY AWARD Sponsored by MHA MacIntyre Hudson Carys Tetlaw – RSM UK Daniel Kelk – Plastek UK Jack Hall – Scenariio


George Hanvere – Paragon Law Izzy Plummer – TTK Confectionery Taylor Gee – 360 Autoleasing East


Art Lindop, Kieran Flynn and Alex Mills – Alphageek Dan Poynton – On Poynt Creative Kate Johnson – Rate Social Sophie Redman – Linford Grey Associates Kevin Kapezi & Leo Worsley – Growthack Ltd

ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR Sponsored by Fraser Stretton Property Group

Adam Bamford – Colleague Box Art Lindop, Kieran Flynn and Alex Mills – Alphageek Dan Poynton – On Poynt Creative Kate Johnson – Rate Social Katie Gilbert – TTK Confectionery

East Midlands Accelerator

extends support until autumn


usinesses in areas of the East Midlands considered by Government to be most in need now have longer to benefit from a fully-subsidised programme of training, events and consultancy – after an extension was granted to the East Midlands Accelerator project. The £5.27m programme, which is being led by the Chamber, is partfunded by Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund (UKCRF) and delivered in the seven areas of the East Midlands chosen by Government for UKCRF support: Bassetlaw, Derbyshire Dales, High Peak, Leicester city, Mansfield, Newark and Sherwood, and Nottingham city. Support, which was due to be available until the end of June but will now run until the autumn, is being offered at every step of a company’s journey – whether it be setting up a new venture, improving products and processes, upskilling staff, digital transformation or taking the first steps to decarbonise business operations and develop sustainability plans. There is a firm focus on supporting post-Covid recovery, rebooting and

growth – particularly in those sectors that have been hit hardest by the pandemic and considered to be vital to the acceleration of the region, such as manufacturing, the visitor economy, retail and wholesale. The Chamber’s deputy chief executive Diane Beresford said: “Our consortium partners of universities and business support agencies have invested great efforts in creating a wide-reaching programme of support, but the biggest challenge was always going to be delivering our ambitions by the original June deadline. “Many businesses – particularly those in the visitor economy – continue to face the effects of Covid, whether that be ongoing recruitment issues or staff shortages owing to required isolation. “This extension affords businesses more time in meeting the requirements of any grants or growth vouchers they have received. It also offers greater choice in when they might participate in training, and take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered by the Kickstart Accelerator or graduate and post-graduate placements in net zero and digital.”


The project aims to pilot new approaches ahead of the launch of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is expected to match the levels of funding previously enjoyed by the UK under the European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund. It features five strands – a Net Zero Accelerator, Digital Transformation Accelerator, Start Up to Scale Up Accelerator, Kickstart Accelerator and Financial Accelerator. Businesses can access the full range of East Midlands Accelerator support at NICHE | 13

Darren Willoughby


Managing Director at 2XL Commercial Finance

Leaders Leading by example, one opinion, one idea, one lesson at a time, our thought leaders are significant in the Leicester and Leicestershire business scene. With authority in their field of expertise, passion for sharing ideas, and commitment to helping others, they’ve been asked to express their most current brainwaves in print. Selected organisations and individuals share how and why they go about their business, reveal their ambitions, provide clarity on matters within their industry, educate on complex or novel subjects, inspire with their forwardthinking and progressive perspectives, or look backwards to evaluate what’s been learnt.

Got something you’d like to see our team of thought leaders cover? Send your topics of interest to 35 | NICHE

Making the argument


aving just come off the phone with yet another lender that operates on a ‘computer says no’ model, I found myself questioning myself as to whether I had presented the case correctly or whether the bank was just being stubborn in their approach to this particular client. This then got me thinking about whether the ability to argue or make a case in what is becoming an increasingly regimented and automated world is waning? Sometimes I find myself banging my head against a brick wall when people can’t see the facts as I have presented them. Questions arise here: have I presented correctly? Is the person I’m having the argument or discussion with not capable of seeing the point? Or do they just not want to see it? Another question could be: are we picking the right argument after all? As writer and comedian WC Fields once said: “I don’t have to attend every argument I’m invited to”. Or perhaps I am just disputant and love to have an argument or debate; a key skill in my opinion. Jonathan Herring’s book How to Argue lists the ten golden rules of arguing. It closely related

to critical thinking and reasoning. Argument skills belong among the essential 21st-century cognitive skills, especially when we face complex issues that require careful, balanced reasoning to resolve. This is particularly important when presenting lending cases to banks, but also in everyday life, particularly if you are a parent. I relate to this as I spend much of my time persuading my seven-yearold why he should brush his teeth properly, why he should go to bed earlier as opposed to watching his iPad, or why he should focus on tackling more than trying to score at football. Sometimes though, arguing (or persuading) is not what we want to spend our time doing. But avoiding those topics won’t help. This can actually have a deeper impact on a working or personal relationship in that it can cause bitterness further down the line. My advice, talk it out. Whether that’s in a professional or personal capacity. After all, as philosopher Karl Popper stated: “The aim of an argument, or discussion, should not be victory, but progress”. Let’s hope my seven-year-old can see that reasoning soon!


Jennifer Thomas Development Manager for Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, and Rutland at Federation of Small Businesses

Government action is needed to tackle the cost of doing business crisis


he cost of living crisis starts with a cost of doing business crisis. The prices that small firms pay for inputs are running well ahead of consumer prices. Businesses are trying to absorb the difference, but many are being left with no choice but to pass costs on. Only by tackling the cost of living crisis at its root –

that is, the surging operating costs faced by firms – can the Government bring it to bear. In terms of measures policymakers should consider, cutting VAT across the board would stimulate growth and consumer confidence without adding to inflation. At the local level, the very smallest firms are now

reporting unmanageable energy bills, even before the autumn rise hits them. The energy support issued through the council tax system to households should therefore be matched for micro businesses via the business rates system, alongside discretionary financial support, issued through local authorities, for firms which do not pay business rates. The smallest firms are defenceless against manyfold rises in electricity and gas bills, not benefitting from the protection of the consumer price cap, nor the leverage that big corporates can harness to get the best deals. Equally, with fuel prices at record highs, government should look again at fuel duty rates. For those who have to travel for business, especially in remote areas,

the surging price of petrol and diesel is putting livelihoods at risk. At the same time, firms are also dealing with surging staff costs and the old scourge of late payment. We recently won a concession from government with the Employment Allowance being raised, but more can be done to tackle employment costs. As new audit reform legislation is being drawn up, the key to success in tackling late payment for small businesses will be making corporate Audit Committees directly responsible for reporting on payment and wider supply chain practice. If you would like to support these asks, contact your local MP who will receive regular updates from FSBs lobbying team and who is responsible for their constituents’ concerns.

to be registered with the Office of Public Guardian and currently, registration is taking between five and six months, which has been caused by the pandemic. The Office of Public Guardian is also asking people not to contact them if it has not yet been 20 weeks since they received the documents as these queries are inundating call handlers and adding to the delays. When getting your affairs in order and making a will, some people say they would rather wait to make their Lasting Power of Attorneys at a later date in

the future, but who knows what the future holds? My advice is that whilst you are on the subject and thinking about later life planning, get your Lasting Power of Attorneys made so that the process is simple for the people who are close to you and so that they are able to take control of matters as soon as they need to. Otherwise, you are leaving them a huge headache that takes a lot of time, effort, and energy to get this sorted. Don’t wait, don’t delay, take action and put things in place.

Bhavin Gandhi Director at Paradigm Wills and Legal Services

Delays for Lasting Power of Attorney documents


ver the last few months, we have had queries from people enquiring about making a Lasting Power of Attorney to allow family members to make decisions on health

and finances, wanting them to be able to take over the assets as soon as possible. However, it’s not just about making the Lasting Power of Attorney document, it also needs

NICHE | 15

Andrea Gray Managing Director at PPL PRS

Mental health should not be treated as a tick box


was lucky enough to be asked to be the guest speaker at a LAMP Business Club event recently, to talk to its members and guests about how my business is approaching and supporting mental health within the

workplace and beyond. One thing that really struck me about all the fantastic local business people around the tables, chatting and eating lunch, was just how open and honest everyone was about their own struggles. It was

so completely refreshing to hear leaders talk about their childhoods and their adult life experiences that have affected them, without fear of judgement or ridicule. Mental health has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds and agendas recently, with Stress Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Week happening in short succession of each other – but what happens when the next hot topic takes its place? Is it just a tick box for some businesses to say they

support their colleagues who may be struggling? I believe mental health support should be a part of the values and company policy that is as ingrained and a part of the business just as much as training, working hours and benefits. Building a culture where mental health support is easily accessible, confidential and most of all, recognised by senior management, is essential to supporting our people. And it starts with open, honest conversations, and listening.

grow. And it is innovation which is regularly suggested as the solution. To innovate, as we have seen, requires investment of time and money. But R&D spend in Leicestershire is 1.5% GVA - below the UK average (1.7%) and well below the Government’s target of 3%. The LLEP recognised this some years ago and has been working on Innovation as one of four core pillars in its own Economic Growth Strategy. Productivity is another. Read more about that at Meanwhile, the County Council wants investment in R&D to increase by 2026 – along with the number of businesses in the county. Essentially, that means more new (and more productive) SMEs underpinning regional growth.

It plans to work with the LLEP Innovation Board to drive forward innovation priorities. Meanwhile, the strategy adds, it will support links between our three universities and businesses to transfer knowledge and turn research into innovation. I’m fortunate to have worked with De Montfort, Leicester and Loughborough universities on innovation projects over the years. And I can recommend – from one SME to another – the various tools they have for engaging with business through their respective innovation hubs. There is much on offer and much of it is free. Free help to make your small business more productive. On your doorstep. Now there’s a good idea.

George Oliver Director at 1284

Leading innovation in Leicestershire


roductivity growth in the UK has been sliding for about 15 years. East Midlands rates are lower than the national average. Economists partly attribute the problem to small businesses, reports the Financial Times. Uncertainty around the financial crisis, Brexit and the pandemic has understandably left companies cautious about 16 | NICHE

investment in innovation and development. It’s a challenge addressed in Leicestershire County Council’s Strategic Plan for 2022-26. It matters because almost nine out of 10 of our businesses employ fewer than nine people. The number of Leicestershire microbusinesses grew by 18% between 2014 and 2019. But businesses need to remain productive as they

This is an incredibly exciting time for Leicester. With so many varied and unique projects in progress

James Coningsby Partner and solicitor at Nelsons

‘A place of opportunity’ City lawyer comments on the future of Leicester


fter being one of the worst hit areas in the country during the Covid-19 pandemic, Leicester has bounced back and has been named the best positioned city for economic growth in the East Midlands, according to research by PwC. The Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities Index ranks 50 of the UK’s largest towns and cities using a series of 12 indicators including safety, income, work-life balance and more. Leicester ranked at 14, compared to Derby, Nottingham and Lincoln, which ranked at position 23, 34 and 35 respectively. Twelve months ago, Leicester residents would have been forgiven for being concerned about the future of the city, after 2020 saw its economy shrink by 12.2% and the Covid-19 pandemic not showing any

signs of alleviating. However, if there was ever an example of the city’s resilience and dedication to rejuvenation, then the sheer amount of development that is currently in progress or planned is just that. Take the recently opened Gresham Aparthotel, located in the former Fenwick store, that Nelsons was proud to work on. Not only does the £17m refurbishment boast 133 beds and its own restaurant, Black Iron Social, but it has also provided more than 11,000 sq ft of co-working space. Combined with the impending opening of the 191-bed Hotel Brooklyn Leicester in June, another significant addition to the area, it is clear that people’s hunger to visit and spend time in the city has returned.

We’re also making great strides when it comes to expanding the city, which has traditionally been bound by a concrete moat in the form of our inner ring road. Keepmoat’s Waterside development has bridged this gap to provide 288 residential homes and apartments, as well as an area of build to rent. It will also be home to brand-new office space, hospitality and entertainment venues, making it the first development in the city to seamlessly link residential and commercial elements. This is an incredibly exciting time for Leicester. With so many varied and unique projects in progress or in the pipeline, there’s no doubting that the city is a place of opportunity that’s on the cusp of entering a new era, and we’re all fortunate enough to be at the heart of it. NICHE | 17

As a demerger can be quite a complex area, it is important to ensure you have the correct advice

Rik Pancholi Managing Director at Pattersons Commercial Law

Shareholders’ Agreements and Demergers


s a corporate lawyer, there are often times when I am asked to put in place a shareholder’s agreement between two or more individuals to regulate the way they control a company. Shareholders’ agreements cover a range of different areas in relation to the management of the company and the one I am going to focus on today is dispute resolution. You may have come across a scenario in which two or more owners have a slight disagreement as to the way they operate their company. Sometimes this slight disagreement escalates into quite a significant disagreement, which could be a difference in opinion on the future direction of the company, or it could simply be words spoken – which cannot be taken back. If the relationship breaks down,

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then the company can be torn apart, and the value of the company can disappear. Solutions for getting out of this scenario can vary and if the shareholder’s agreement contains a dispute resolution mechanism, then the method in which the shareholders are to resolve their dispute is often already laid out. On occasion, however, shareholders – when setting up their company – may not want to incur the expense of putting a shareholder’s agreement in place and therefore, there is no such agreement and more importantly, no method or mechanism in which to resolve any disputes. There is a number of options available for consideration and this column is going to focus on one method which may not be available to every

company, but is one of my favourite options and shouldn’t be overlooked. The demerger option is useful for companies which hold multiple asset classes. We are often instructed to advise on demergers where there may be a difference of opinion and the future direction or simply a great commercial reason for splitting a company into more than one business unit. Over the last few years, the transactions we have been involved with include everything from separating multiple businesses owned by one company in order to ready specific business units for sale (or investment), separating residential properties from commercial properties and separating a trading company from its physical commercial property. As a demerger can be quite a complex area, it is important to ensure you have the correct advice and to ensure it is structured in a tax-efficient manner. Transactions of this nature will often include me working alongside a tax advisor and an accountant. It is the combination of skills which ensures longevity in a business and maximises value for all parties concerned. The moral of the story is, that whilst the demerger can be used for multiple reasons, it can also be a very effective tool to help resolve a dispute.


Kevan Liles MBE Chief Executive at Voluntary Action LeicesterShire

What is community spirit and how do you build it?


e have just celebrated the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with pomp and ceremony as well as bunting and cake. Reports suggest that about 25% of the population engaged in some celebration of the Jubilee and, on a neighbourhood

level, this will have been manifested as a street party. But not all streets had a party… I am not suggesting this is a problem because 25% of people getting involved is a huge proportion of the population. For most of my working life, however, I have

tried to encourage people to work together in their neighbourhoods for the general community good. I first came across effective community action when working on St Matthews Estate in the city. Here in one of the most deprived areas in the UK, there were residents working hard to improve the community and support those around them who needed it. I was inspired by the energy and inventiveness of people who worked hard to provide for themselves and their families – and then, in their ‘spare time’, committed to collective community improvement. There are tremendous examples of this all across the city and county in neighbourhoods and villages. Across Leicestershire for example, communities came

together in recent years to take on the running of their local library – keeping a vital service going. This is without any reference to the massive upswell of community support we witnessed through the pandemic. When I have been asked over the years for help to build community endeavour (also called social capital), my answer is always to give people real things to do. Community spirit blossoms and grows when there are pressing practical issues to be resolved. This provides a focus and rallying point for individuals and populations, meaning people will cheerfully get engaged in doing things for their ‘collective’ selves. A bit like gardening – what we need is for the authorities to provide the resources and then step back and let communities cultivate.

here that you must follow. You must ensure that your contracts of employment and processes are all in place. If you don’t have contracts, get them drawn up and implemented well ahead of any sale. Remember, if you are buying a business, you need to make sure these are in place as any outstanding liability or failure to have proper contracts in place transfers to the new owner. As the seller, you must provide key employment information generally called ‘employee liability information’ to the prospective buyer no later than 28 days before the transfer. There is a legal duty to consult with your staff about the takeover both

as the seller and the buyer. However, consultation shouldn’t be seen as a duty. Getting staff on board is key. Don’t forget, if you are a unionised business, you must consult with the trade union. At the end of the day, people are your business, and engineering a happy and successful sale of the business is key to its future success. You must write to the employees who will be transferring to notify them of the change. There are so many dos and don’ts relating to the sale or purchase of a business, so above all, talk to your accountant and your solicitor to make sure everything is in place well ahead of any decision to buy or sell.

Jay Webb Managing Director at Jay Webb Consultancy Services

Should I stay or should I go?


r so the song goes… Sometimes in business, you reach a milestone and maybe ask yourself ‘what do I do with the business?’ Is it time to sell, retire or expand by buying an established business? Reaching business milestones made me think about this recently when

asked by a local solicitor to support a client selling their business. TUPE (Transfer of Undertaking, Protection of Employment) may or may not apply when an organisation is selling a business, it depends on whether the business or shares are being sold. There are processes

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Phil Nassau Managing Director at ActionCOACH Leicester

A story others connect with


s we get older, our gathered experience builds a natural resilience. Those of us who ran businesses in our youth are likely to have done so with a naïve, youthful exuberance – trying everything to see what works, blissfully unaware of other’s best practice. The more time we

invest in our industries, the more our expertise grows. Lessons learnt from past mistakes make us bulletproof. What would’ve once been considered a crisis is now just a bump in the road. I recently read an article on by Frank Wazeter that got me thinking about this subject. To paraphrase,

no one starts a business because they think the world is perfect as it is. We all found something that we believed could be better – it may have come from a place of irritation or disappointment, but we knew it had to be improved. Those of us who were lucky enough to find and produce that solution early in life may get blown away by the hurricane of running a business. Having the idea is one skill, managing the idea is another. You must learn how to stay tethered. Write down a clear vision for your business.

What is your key objective? What have you set it up to achieve? What is your end goal? Once this is established, re-read it every day to ensure you don’t lose sight of why you’re there. A clear vision helps you tell a clear narrative. It makes you stand out from the crowd of other businesses, enables others to invest in your story, and helps you to attract the right people, be they staff, customers, or mentors. A good story is the best way to connect with others – give yours power through its precision.

recipe you found online? Or possibly even something you saw on TikTok? We’re increasingly hearing about social media users buying into a product or idea having just seen one video from a TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook creator they trust. And why do people trust them? Because they feel like they know them. These content creators have shared information about themselves or their businesses proving that they’re real people with opinions, ideas, and emotions. TikTok is the number one video platform, but the other channels soon joined in with YouTube now showing ‘shorts’ for DIY clips and Facebook and Instagram offering Reels. Even LinkedIn is trailing new

video features with some of their leading content creators. You can create a graphic with words to tell others what your business does, or you can show them with a video. Here are some video ideas for businesses to build trust and rapport with online users: ◆ A tour of your office ◆ DIY and ‘How to’s ◆ Behind the scenes ◆ Before and after ◆ The customer journey ◆ Meet the team ◆ Everyday processes ◆ Favourite tools or services ◆ Top tips and benefits

Sally Smith Marketing Director at Cross Productions

Emotional connection in a digital world


icture this… you’ve bought a new cabinet for the office and now you need to build it. There is a lovely picture book of instructions. Do you read it, or do you watch a ‘how to’ video, or do you just use your instincts and build it without instructions? Pose this question to

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someone younger than you. As Gen Z become the new-age entrepreneurs, the digital world is an essential structure of organisational marketing strategies. If this question didn’t get your buy-in let me try another… The last recipe you cooked; was it from a physical cookbook or a

Don’t get left behind in the ever-changing trends of marketing. Give the gift of emotional connection and raise your digital profile.


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I was born in Leicester city and I think I’d have to say my favourite thing about it is all the museums and things like that where we used to take the children. We also love Leicestershire Wildlife Hospital and volunteer there, which is a lovely thing to do.

Bradgate Park. It’s a place I’ve been to since I was a child, I went with my father and now I take my dogs. It’s just a lovely walk and is nice in all seasons. It’s just a lovely tranquil place to be. I go back over to Bradgate at least two or three times a week to walk the dogs.




I go to a lot of open mic nights around Leicester and locally. I’ve just come back from Leeds because I go to uni there so have been doing a lot of open mics with my dad now as well. Leicester has lots of pubs and bars that will let you play so there are lots of opportunities for musicians.










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Your favourite things about Leicestershire








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a I like Castle Gardens [in the city centre] because when I was younger, me and my husband would go there on a Sunday afternoon and take pictures because it’s a nice little park. I also like Leicester Cathedral and a place where I used to live in Hungarton called Quenby Hall, I worked for a gentleman called Sir Harold Nutting [who owned and lived in the hall before he died in 1972].

I moved to Leicester when I started studying at University of Leicester. I think the best thing about Leicester is the nightlife. Mosh is a great place to go for a night out because it plays really good music. I also like going to Victoria Park when it’s warm for picnics. I now live in Loughborough as it’s like a small Leicester, which is nice.

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From childhood memories to creative opportunities, people in Leicestershire are grateful for a wide variety of qualities the city and county boast WORDS BY KERRY SMITH AND EMILY MILLER

My favourite thing about Leicester is where I live in Wigston. I like the environment, there are not too many people like there is in the city centre for example. I specifically got a house here because I don’t like too many crowds. I like the fact that there’s a mix of a lot of people here. I’m from Nigeria and there are people from Great Britain and other parts of Europe too, so I like the mix.

NICHE | 21


Your photos of Leicestershire

Last month, Niche Magazine launched a photography competition as part of our golden 50th issue celebrations



e asked to see people’s favourite places around Leicestershire back in June in celebration of all the things that make our city and county such a wonderful place to live, work and visit. Our inboxes were filled with our readers’ wonderful images of fabulous spots around our local villages, parks, town centres, and hidden gems. Impressed with so many of your pictures, in addition to our overall winner, we’ve also chosen 10 other fantastic shots. We’ve given special mention to Reo West for her magical night-time photo of Foxton Locks, and to Rusik Joseph Masih for his artistic skateboarding action shot. Our winning photo shows off Granby Street’s Grand Hotel in all its glory. Captured by Molli Cobb aged 15 from

RUNNER UP REO WEST, 32, OADBY - FOXTON LOCKS Wigston, we thought her submission was very ‘Leicester’ showing off the city’s impressive architecture, almost transporting us back in time with its dramatic monochrome luminosity. We love the low, wide-angle making the buildings appear more magnificent, as well as the intense, imposing sky. By entering the competition, Molli has won the chance to have her work featured in print and online. As budding photographers, Molli and the other entries will be credited whenever we use their images, giving them print acknowledgements to add to their portfolios. Here is our outstanding winning photo (top right) and the fantastic runners-up images (above) as well as a selection of photos that were too good not to print (bottom right).











NICHE | 23

from the beginning to now

Scan the QR code and use the app to watch this page come to life. Check the rest of this issue for more pages to scan.


As Niche Magazine celebrates its 50th issue, we flashback to where it all began and look at some other key milestones happening across Leicester in 2022 WORDS BY KERRY SMITH

ine years ago, a young mother of three set up a business in her living room. She registered Cross Productions as an official company and its first product was a business and lifestyle publication for the residents of Leicestershire. She called it Niche Magazine. What started off as a monthly magazine carrying as much as it could about the great things people were doing in the city and county with just five people working on it, grew to become the bi-monthly, beautifully matte-finished, quality magazine you see before you today. But hey, we’re biased. It’s been clear though that the public are of the same opinion – we’ve seen and heard Niche Magazine grow as a brand, collecting more readers, followers, writers, designers, sponsors, and brand representatives as we go. It’s a free magazine so that anyone can pick up a copy and learn about what’s happening in and around the county. The decision to turn Niche into a bi-monthly title was made so that our advertisers and the people, businesses, charities and events we wrote about gained a longer lifespan in the eyes of the public. It all equals greater brand awareness for them, creating a bigger 24 | NICHE

impact, support for the local economy, and therefore, helping to promote Leicestershire as a great place to live, work and visit. Leicester has an incredibly active business community. Having interviewed many business owners over the years, I’ve often heard from those who have relocated to Leicester and have found themselves astonished at just how lively and supportive the business scene is here compared to that of other cities. We are immeasurably grateful to every single company and individual that has promoted us over the years. We’d like to personally thank a few who have advertised with us, attended our Niche Networking events and Niche Business Awards and recommended Niche Magazine from day one. Glynis Wright MBE of Nelsons, Eileen Perry MBE of ER Recruitment, Leanne Bonner-Cooke MBE of e-bate Limited, Chris Cain of Kazzoo it, the team at Curve, Torr Waterfield, Charles Bentley, Nuffield Health, Athena, Chutney Ivy, and Midlands Pro DJ, as well of course, for all those who have supported us right up to today. Here’s to another 50 issues of Niche Magazine!






since Victoria Park and Abbey Park opened in 1882

ago in 1852, The Market House and Corn Exchange, in the Market Place, was built

ago Leicester Tigers moved to their new home at Welford Road Stadium in 1892

since the formation of Leicester Drama Society, which owns The Little Theatre

of care charity Age UK. It’s also the year that the first woman Special Constable, Edna Taylor, joined Leicestershire police as a volunteer

50 of youth charity Soft Touch Arts


ago, St Mary’s Church became Leicester Cathedral



ago, The Shires Shopping Centre opened in 1992 and Leicester Polytechnic became Simon De Montfort University

in 1957, The University of Leicester was established, as was Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Society

10 ago, the King Power Stadium opened


Since King Richard III was discovered

NICHE | 25

The UK’s music licensing company for over 130,000 performers and rightsholders liked the sound of Leicester and decided to make the city it’s official home some years ago. We asked the people of PPL PRS how they’re finding life in Leicester


ack in 2017, a new business made its home in Leicester city centre. After much research of neighbouring cities, music licensing company PPL PRS chose the iconic Mercury Place building as its HQ. Leicester was chosen due to its excellent transport links to the capital, thriving local music scene and abundance of talented people keen to work for the business. Now, five years on, the company has weathered the Covid-19 storm, and is helping the music industry get back onto its feet, with the help of the thousands of businesses across the country who play music to their customers and employees and pay for TheMusicLicence. The fee paid for the licence, after operating costs, is paid back to the music creators and rightsholders, who are members of its parent companies PPL and PRS for Music, as royalties. This helps to ensure that they can continue to create and perform the music we all enjoy hearing every day. Aside from issuing TheMusicLicence though, PPL PRS has also spent the last five years becoming a part of the Leicester business community, supporting charities and events, sponsoring awards and creating partnerships with other local businesses to help build on the already very strong sense of a ‘commercial family’ that is present here in Leicester. On being part of that community, Managing Director Andrea Gray says: “It really is like an extended family unit,

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That kind of bond between businesses is quite rare, and I am really proud to be a part of it


when times are tough we all pull together and help those most in need, and when a business has something to celebrate we are all right there, cheering along. That kind of bond between businesses is quite rare, and I am really proud to be a part of it.” As the country emerged out of lockdown and businesses began to return to some sort of normality, PPL PRS looked at even more ways to support the local community and enterprises, which include the following partnerships. ◆ Business Partner with Curve – working with the theatre to make performing arts more accessible for those who may not have had the opportunity to attend shows and workshops. In particular, sponsoring a performance of The Color Purple to make hundreds of complimentary tickets available for local black, Asian or ethnically diverse community groups, young people and first-time attenders who experience a range of barriers in accessing theatre. This year, Curve and PPL PRS are working with local schools to bring theatre to young people as part of a community project across the city. ◆ Associate Partner with Leicester Tigers – music and sport have often gone hand in hand with the sound of crowds singing their team’s anthem around stadiums across the country and PPL PRS are working closely with the Tigers family to strengthen that link.

◆ Local

charities – the staff at PPL PRS are choosing four different local charities to support this year. For the first half of the year they have supported and raised money for Humanity Without Borders and Help the Homeless Leicester. ◆ Award sponsorships – the business has sponsored various awards over the last 12 months, including Niche Business Awards, Leicestershire Live Business Awards, Leicester Alternative Business Awards, and Enterprising Women Awards, amongst a number of others. ◆ BID Leicester – Andrea Gray is on the board of the BID Leicester team, which is working to make Leicester an even better place to work, live, study, and visit. Andrea has previously said of moving to Leicester: “It’s a small, friendly city that’s actually really cool with lovely little independent businesses and beautiful countryside, I was only meant to be here for two years. It’s now been five.” We are now halfway through 2022 and PPL PRS are continuing to cement themselves at the heart of the Leicester business community with plans to showcase what it is like to work with them, their commitment to diversity and inclusion, real career progression and role development, and offering everyone a place to work that is flexible, rewarding and fun. Check for jobs and find out more about PPL PRS and the benefits of playing music in your workplace at NICHE | 27

Help to Grow: Management

The government-funded course for businesses Some businesses will qualify for fully-funded places on the programme at De Montfort University’s Leicester Castle Business School WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


usinesses in Leicester are benefitting from a government-funded management course that enhances and develops their potential to grow. If you’re a business owner or leader who’s consistently seeking new opportunities to learn and take your career or company to the next level, then by now you may have heard of the Help to Grow programme, which was launched last year by the government in partnership with Small Business Charter. Help to Grow: Management is supporting senior managers of small and medium sized businesses to boost their performance, resilience, and long-term growth. The 12-week programme is 90% funded by the government, meaning businesses will only pay £750. There are around 70 universities and business schools in the UK that were specially selected to offer this course, and our very own De Montfort University is one of them. DMU has been accredited by the Small Business Charter, an award which recognises the high quality, tailored guidance that the university provides to support small businesses and the local economy. 28 | NICHE

What’s in it for your business?

The programme, which takes around 50 hours in total, will be delivered by professors at Leicester Castle Business School and is designed to fit alongside work commitments. Leaders will develop a bespoke business growth plan to help their business reach their full potential, receive one to one support form a business mentor, and be surrounded by a network of business people just like themselves. Other key areas that the programme includes are strategy and innovation, building a brand, financial management, employee engagement, internationalisation, digital adoption, and marketing strategy. During your course, students will have exclusive access to their peer network, a forum to share experiences and learn first-hand from real-world challenges that they may also face as their business grows. The course will help develop leadership and management skills that will enhance employee wellbeing and engagement in the process as well as the ability to recognise what drives productivity and growth. It


By the end, students will have developed a tailored Growth Action Plan to help lead and develop their business

also aims to teach students to develop strategies for market segmentation, operational efficiency, responsible business practices, how to innovate, and how to adopt or invest in new technologies. By the end, students will have developed a tailored Growth Action Plan to help lead and develop their business. And afterwards, they’ll retain access to expert advice through the Help to Grow: Management Alumni Network. This includes access to events, masterclasses and practical seminars, alongside other ongoing opportunities to engage with and learn from other likeminded businesses.

Who can apply?

The government funds the majority of the cost as part of a £220m package to support small business recovery and growth. Of course, there are some eligibility requirements. To join the programme, your business must be based in Leicester, employ between five and 249 people, and have been operational for at least one year. Applicants from your business must be senior decision makers and commit to completing the whole course. Thanks to East Midlands Chamber, DMU is also able to offer fully-funded places on the course to organisations impacted by the coronavirus pandemic that have been operational for at least a year and employ between five and 249 people. You do not need to be a member of the Chamber of Commerce to apply. However, you must be based in Leicester city. The next start date for Help to Grow: Management at Leicester Castle Business School is September 29. Apply online at or go to and search for Leicester Castle Business School.


training engagement training ◆ Financial management training ◆ Marketing and brand development ◆ Learning how to compete internationally ◆ Support from a business mentor ◆ Peer-learning sessions ◆ Access to an alumni network ◆ Help to develop a business growth plan ◆ Employee

Eligibility requirements

The course is for business owners, leaders, or senior managers from all business sectors. To be eligible, you and your business must meet the following criteria: Your business must: ◆ Be a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) based in the United Kingdom ◆ Employ between 5 and 249 people ◆ Have been operational for at least one year ◆ Not be a charity You must: ◆ Be a chief executive, owner/founder, or member of the senior management team ◆ Have at least one direct report ◆ Commit to completing all sessions Businesses with 10+ employees can now send register another person onto the course. Before, only one employee could participate in the programme.

NICHE | 29

Let’s Work Together A Modern Co-Working Partnership Leave it to us

Our Business Support Specialists are on hand to help businesses perform their daily tasks. We work very closely with our clients to help them prioritise and manage their time effectively. We work with you to follow the same procedures and processes as if they were a member of your team.


If you are looking for a helping hand that shares your enthusiasm and drive to make your business thrive, then consider us for all your business administration needs.






0116 366 2044



The future of working in Leicester


New co-working offices are now open for business providing remote working opportunities. Kerry Smith went to the launch event of Gresham Works to find out more about its managed work spaces


he old Fenwick department store closed its doors in 2017 and has since undergone a dramatic transformation inside. The city council has made good use of the iconic Grade II listed building by repurposing its interiors and turning it into managed coworking office spaces called Gresham Works. Crystal Carter, Workspace Development Manager, invited press and local business to a launch event on April 26 where City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby announced the official opening of the workspaces. In his opening speech, Sir Peter said: “When Fenwick closed, people felt like we’d lost something. But Leicester is a remarkable city and it pleases me to think with the collaboration we have here that we are able to achieve very special things, particularly with this grand transformation.” The bright and airy reception area opens out into a range

of spaces where workers can hot desk, book meeting rooms and private offices, or mingle in specialised co-working areas for collaboration and joint projects. Downstairs, a huge kitchen can be found offering tea, coffee and fruit, and towards the back of the basement area, a maze of silent office spaces is separated for focused working. Tenants were already occupying some permanent office spaces prior to the launch event, and freelancers were taking advantage of the sophisticated spaces when we took a look around, proving just how popular this new flexible work set-up has become. “What’s been created here is contemporary and, in these post-pandemic times, is very important,” Peter went on to say. “There was a lot of planning before the pandemic and it’s been delivered just afterwards, which is actually just right because it’s something that meets the needs of the city and the


needs of having new and more flexible ways of working. We’ve had some very positive feedback already from the tenants all enjoying what is a functional and vibrant workspace.” On the benefits of managed workspaces for individuals and Leicester itself, Crystal said: “We’ve created a place where entrepreneurs, freelancers, small businesses, and remote workers from large organisations can work. Gresham Works provides the chance for them to have more structure and focus than they might have while working at home but also a sense of community, which encourages people to collaborate and share their skillsets with others. We think it will attract people to live and work in Leicester.” Co-working spaces can be found all over cities like London and Manchester. Leicester is now catching up, with the addition of Gresham Works to the city centre. More information can be found at NICHE | 31


How much?! The cost-of-living crisis has become a real concern. Brexit, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have seen prices rise across all industries. Bespoke Benefits told us how employers can help ease this burden for their employees WORDS BY TOM YOUNG


he cost of living is increasing. As pay cheques no longer stretch as far as they used to, Bespoke Benefits’ directors, Gareth Carroll and Richard Jones, are going into businesses, delivering talks about ways to ease the pressure. “My energy bills have gone from £90 a month to £215!” says Gareth. “I put £96 of petrol in my car,” adds Richard. “And I already had a quarter tank!” With many feeling the pinch, now’s the perfect time for businesses to support their staff. There are various ways employers can help: ◆ Group Protection – Insuring your staff saves them the personal cost and provides financial security in the event of death or incapacity ◆ Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – Often used for mental health support, these can also support with debt counselling and consumer/legal advice

◆ Cash Plan – A great way for employers to fund their employees’ everyday medical expenses, such as optical/ dental costs or prescription drugs ◆ Retail Discounts Platform – These come as an extra with many products, so make your staff aware of what they have access to. Employees can access savings for hundreds of retailers, from 5% off at Sainsbury’s to 10% off at John Lewis ◆ Salary Exchange – National Insurance (NI) contributions increased this year. This is a cost to businesses that can be mitigated via salary exchange. Because part of the employee’s salary is being exchanged in return for an employer pension contribution, neither the employer nor the employee will pay NI on that amount. The saving can be passed on to the employee as a larger pension contribution or kept back to offset the cost of NI. Businesses can find more advice about how to support staff at

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LEICESTER is known for a lot of things: leading sports s teams, Red Leicester cheese and a famous king to name a few. However, it's also where the breakthrough of DNA genetic fingerprinting was discovered.

At ER Recruitment, we pride ourselves on our ability to make a perfect match between a talented candidate and a leading business. We are passionate about our city and the relationships and partnerships we have formed within it, so much so, we underwent a re-brand to demonstrate our long-standing commitment to becoming a part of our clients and candidates' DNA.

The story of DNA is woven into the history of Leicestershire. It was discovered in a lab at the University of Leicester and Leicestershire Police were the first force in the world to use DNA fingerprinting to solve two Leicestershire murders. Since then, DNA is used globally to solve crimes, identify family history and to support scientific research in curing diseases.

Whilst our use of DNA is not quite on the same scale as solving crimes, it does provide a solution to attracting and retaining top talent. Our 'DNA health check' means we are able to identify missing skill sets and recruit in areas to develop an all round functioning and successful team. Our experienced specialists work with our partners using our unique framework to help each business find the right match:

DEFINE the role by truly understanding the business NAVIGATE selection by screening potential candidates ACQUIRE the right talent by using our network and experience

To find out more about attracting and retaining or to find a candidate that matches your DNA, get in touch. t: 0116 254 9710 @errecruitment1


40 Anand International years of

A Top 200 company celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. Anand International Limited told Kerry Smith about the journey so far


ntering The 2022 Top 200 Leicestershire Companies list for the second year in a row, Anand International is a family business with roots that have been planted firmly in Leicestershire since the early ‘80s. Now run by the third generation, those Leicester roots are growing ever stronger, as do the branches of the family tree. Anand International is the largest distributor of Duracell, Energizer, GP, Maxell, Panasonic, Philips and many more premium brands in the UK. It distributes to multiple retailers, supermarkets, wholesale cash and carry outlets, online retailers and more. The family’s business plans and activities saw Anand International enter the Top 200 in 2021 at number 176. This year they jumped 69 places to 107, with 40 employees and a turnover of nearly £47m. Vic Sethi, one of the directors of the business, said: “We feel blessed and humbled to be listed in the Top 200 Leicestershire Companies especially with a climb in position this year. This achievement is very encouraging for our children who have started to enter the family business. The listing will motivate them a lot, as everyone has worked very hard

during these challenging times which we are still going through.” The family is passionate about Leicestershire, believing it to be a vibrant location for living and business, and promote it as such, expressing that it ‘should be looked upon as a role model to other cities in the UK and abroad’. The business was set up in 1981 by Mr and Mrs Anand who work hard and sacrificed luxuries to create a solid foundation for the future generation. A company representative company said: “Mr Anand was a well-known, reputable businessman who ran a successful business and also spent time supporting people who needed help or guidance.” The family embraces corporate social responsibility by promoting equality, diversity in the workplace and giving back to society by regularly supporting causes at a local, national and international level. They are currently focusing on reducing their imapact on the environment by looking at ways to cutting down its carbon footprint and waste. Mr Anand set core values which are an integral part of every decision the family still makes today. This was highlighted by recent challenging times.


Vic told us: “Despite the pandemic and Brexit affecting us, our greatest satisfaction has been having all our staff with us. For the safety of them all, we decided to lockdown our business a week before the government had declared the very first national lockdown. “The family decided that no matter what happens, we would pay the team. We are proud of our entire team who have worked hard and stood firm with the business. They too are a part of the success story.” The company celebrated its 40th anniversary last year and the third generation family members are currently working their way up the ladder from the very bottom, gaining experience in every department of the business. They are learning, observing and making their own decisions on continuous improvements in business operations. They will carry on the legacy by maintaining the success of the business and the reputation of the family. We look forward to seeing their progress next year when Niche Magazine prints the 2023 Top 200 Leicestershire Companies next year. Find out more about the family business at NICHE | 35

the semi-finalists


iche Magazine has announced this year’s semi-finalists for the Niche Business Awards 2022. We’re thrilled to have received over 400 nominations across our 15 categories this year, and to see many first-time nominees making it through to the semi-finals. As we write this, our panel of independent judges are hard at work, researching the nominees, reviewing supporting evidence, and choosing who will progress. Finalists will be announced at the next Niche Networking event on July 4. The winners will be revealed at the award ceremony on September 2 (the dress code is black-tie, so dig out your penguin suits and fancy frocks). This year’s theme is Back to the Future, so we hope you’ll make time to join us in celebrating Leicester’s diverse business community at Athena. To buy tickets to the Niche Networking event, details can be found at To attend the ceremony in September, email for tickets.

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Three Point Design Kal Sangra ~ Shonki Brothers Rutland Cycling Anokhi House of Sarees Jordan Motors AJ Bryan Construction

BUSINESS GROWTH Sponsored by Torr Waterfield VIP Bottles Fraser Stretton Property Group Food Attraction Urban Apothecary London Ignite Dating Orange Fox Studios


Clarke & Roskrow Styling Opticians Ben’s Kitchen Little City Leicester EMA Training Three Point Design Intrusted Pension Services

DIGITAL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR Sponsored by Take Me Hollogram LoyalFree e-bate Shrinker Digital Pencil and Coffee Cymer Marketing Solutions

ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR Sponsored by Breedon Consulting Narinder Nijjar - Fraser Stretton Property Group Gabby Miller - Cool As Leicester Estelle Keeber - Immortal Monkey Lee Wheeler-Tomes - Orange Fox Studios Luke Tobin - Digital Ethos Sophie Hainsworth – LoyalFree

COMMUNITY IMPACT Sponsored by Leicester Children’s Holidays

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Sophie Redman - Linford Grey Scarlett Tinsley - ER Recruitment Sabrina Sudera - Design Studio Architects Pete Talbot - Next Level Rugby Vikesh Mistry - DMU Works Laura Lane - Laura Lane Makeup

EMPLOYER OF THE YEAR Sponsored by Growth Partners Michael Smith Switchgear Mason Food Service The Superbia Group Fraser Stretton Property Group Everards of Leicestershire Paragon Sales Solutions

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Gurdev Mattu - Fashion UK Lee Wheeler-Tomes - Orange Fox Studios Greg Hollingsworth - Hollingsworths Rik Pancholi - Pattersons Commercial Law Atul Lakhani - Sanjay Foods Kal Sangra - Kal Sangra ~ Shonki Brothers

BUSINESS WOMAN OF THE YEAR Sponsored by Tilton Conway Sadie Pollard - Charles Bentley Sophie Hainsworth - LoyalFree Emily Smith - Michael Smith Switchgear Jo Sutton - Empire Finance Helen Parker - DeVOL Kitchens

BEST NEW BUSINESS Sponsored by Hollingsworths Fraser Stretton Property Group The Gresham Aparthotel isin Tor + Edge Climbing Laura Lane Makeup

PROFESSIONAL SERVICES Sponsored by Jerroms Miller

Design Studio Architects Furnley House isin Kazzoo IT ISJ Independent Financial Planning Kal Sangra ~ Shonki Brothers

LEICESTERSHIRE CHARITY OF THE YEAR Sponsored by MR H IT 20-20 Voice Cancer Wishes 4 Kids Lamp Menphys Zinthiya Trust Mission:Foodbank

ECO EXCELLENCE Sponsored by Beau Aesthetica Three Point Design Soar Valley Press Michael Smith Switchgear Design Studio Architects EcoVillage EarthSense

NICHE | 37

Starting a new business? We are here to help you start your business. We can offer advice from brainstorming ideas through to setting up and registering your business correctly. Once up and running we will help with accountancy and bookkeeping, tax advice and planning, ensuring all regulations are complied with, and offering continual business support. At AIMS we are here to help your business succeed with professional advice as you need it.

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Preparing to sell your business? As someone who recently sold his business, Pete Miller, Head of Corporate Tax at Jerroms Miller Specialist Tax, has first-hand experience. Here, he explains why professional tax planning advice is so important when getting ready to sell


s you may know, I recently sold The Miller Partnership into a joint venture company alongside the specialist tax advisory arm of Jerroms based in Solihull, West Midlands to form Jerroms Miller Specialist Tax. Part of the transaction involved incorporating – ie, transferring – my existing business into a company, which, as you can imagine, threw up some interesting practical points. Generally, incorporation relief allows a company to incorporate without any tax implications – but to qualify for this tax relief, all business assets, except for cash, must be transferred to the company. The transfer also takes account of any trade debtors, so from a taxation perspective, the sale needs to be included in the partnership profits and taxed on the partners. However, because

the debtors are transferred to the company on incorporation, the cash is payable to the company, not to the former partners. This raises the dilemma of how to extract the cash from the company without incurring an additional tax charge, which simply cannot be done. Such a scenario clearly illustrates the importance of careful tax planning and taking professional advice when preparing your business for sale. In these circumstances, reducing debtors close to zero wherever possible upon incorporation would help manage the impact of the unavoidable double tax charge. Anyone who’s been part of a transaction involving a change in business structure, knows that it carries a heavy administrative burden. From compliance areas such as updating terms of business and letters of


engagement, through to IT requirements – including secure data migration and configuring the new working environment with remote capabilities – there’s a lot to address. And, of course, there’s brand development, its wider implementation and communicating any changes with clients and other stakeholders. While these tasks might appear trivial, they are integral to the overall success of the transaction and require both time and attention, which can detract from the day-to-day running of the business. Having competent advisers on side throughout the process is invaluable to ensure a smooth and ultimately successful transition. For more advice on selling your business, just email or or call Pete on 079843 53426 or Nick on 078912 03889. NICHE | 39

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Finance Forum Kellie Chetwynd Director at The High Street Accountant

TOP TIPS FOR TOP NUMBERS As a small business owner, it is essential to have a clear understanding of your business’s financial situation. A great way to keep track of your current financial health is using a budget.

Create a budget sheet

This may seem obvious, but it’s important to create a budget document for your small business. Using your historical data to get started with estimating your income and expenses as per previous period, you might need to take into account seasonal changes and possible one-off or unexpected costs.

There are many affordable and even free technological tools that small businesses can use to save money Do not be afraid to ask for help

If you’re unsure how to create a budget or stick to one, ask for help. There are many resources available to small business owners, including online resources and small business consultants.

Review your budget regularly

Reviewing your business budget on a regular basis is an important part of being a small business owner. This will help ensure your business is on track according to your predictions, and allow you to see if resources need to be redirected or if sales performance is on track.

Refine your budget as you go

This will maintain your focus on how your money is coming in and where it is going, this is great for helping management decisions. It will give you more confidence in how your business is being managed and what lies ahead.

Keep a close eye on your expenses

Tracking your expenses is an important part of budgeting. You should keep a close eye on your business expenses so you can identify areas where you can cut costs. Be mindful of overhead costs, so these can be kept under control as these are fixed every month and not directly related to sales.

Use technology to your advantage

There are many affordable and even free technological tools that small businesses can use to save money. Utilise online tools such as accounting software to keep track of finances. Social media platforms can also be used to reach a wide audience at little to no cost. By following these budgeting tips, you can keep your small business on track financially.


It’s not (all) about the money… Niche spoke to Empire Finance’s founder, Jo Sutton, about why her values and business culture take priority over her profit margin WORDS BY TOM YOUNG


lexible working has become much more of a priority for people in recent years. For Jo Sutton, it was the reason she founded her business. Having worked in finance since the age of 24, a change of personal circumstances in 2013 necessitated a rethink. As a single parent, Jo needed the flexibility to look after her daughters, and established Empire Finance so she could continue doing what she loved in the hours that suited her. Now a national company with nine employed staff and 15 consultants,

they work with landlords, property developers, house builders and medium-sized businesses that need help financing their projects. All of Empire’s business comes from professional introducers (accountants, bankers, residential mortgage brokers, etc), referrals, or repeat custom from existing clients. Jo was recently announced as a semi-finalist for Businesswoman of the Year for the Niche Business Awards 2022 and believes her ethos of ‘culture first; money follows’ is a key factor in her being recognised.

“It’s important to invest in our people. I fully understand the challenges of being a working mum, so I’m happy to be flexible about when people work – accommodating school runs and other commitments – so long as the work is done. I focus on looking after the team and that creates the sort of business our clients want to work with.” It’s big business – certainly not pocket change – and moving forward, Jo wants to take on more consultants. There’s more guidance and advice online at and on their social media pages. NICHE | 41


Make money in your sleep Challenging financial times have meant the way we earn our money is evolving. A chat with entrepreneur and Forex trader Poonam Doshi helps Emily Miller discover the answer could lie in building a passive income to elevate your finances


f you don’t find a way to make money in your sleep, you will work until you die,” Poonam Doshi of Forex opens with a powerful quote from Warren Buffett that she tells me has brought a great deal of inspiration to her in recent years. Prompting her to change direction in her career – making it fit around her life rather than the other way around – Poonam’s life circumstance in combination with the pandemic prompted change and thinking outside of the box. “Working in the travel industry and with my husband running catering and events meant that our household was severely affected financially by the pandemic – we had to rethink things.” She says. A rethink involved discussions with friends who told her how they have discovered Forex trading, a way of making money in addition to other lines of work. “I knew about Forex, I knew that it was the trading of currencies in order to make profit, but I had a very Wolf of Wall Street view of it, to be honest. 42 | NICHE


I thought it wasn’t my world.” It soon became that, however, as Poonam discovered that she could trade from her smartphone with the support of a friendly network of traders. “I loved the way that I could earn money from anywhere, at any time from my phone – it worked around family life, I had the balance back. Learning about Forex trading and other elements in the Digital space, such as Crypto Currency and NFTs has been a big eye opener; it is the future, and it is accessible to anybody with a smartphone!” Keen to share her way of earning money with others, Poonam works with different platforms who provide training and support to those who want to trade for themselves, but it’s the passive trading that piques my interest. Who wouldn’t want to earn money without having to do anything? Poonam explains the process: “We work with a company offering training in the digital space, from Forex, Crypto, NFTs and beyond;

it’s very accessible and courses have a one-off fee starting at $50 for 14 months. The smart part is that they offer loyalty rewards for purchasing that package, therefore earning a weekly reward without having to do a thing.” Open, honest and trustworthy communication is key, particularly when finances are concerned and for Poonam, this isn’t only essential to how she does things, it also comes naturally in sharing her passion. “I am always available for support or advice, a chat to see if it’s the right thing for someone or not. It’s tiring seeing so many of us unable to shift from our current financial position, to feel like making money in finance is only for those who already have lots of it. Through trading we can all help our finances take a shift upwards; it’s for everyone.” Trading, training and investing with little to no experience carries financial risks. We’d advise speaking to a specialist first. Contact Poonam for a chat on 07973 114031.


Ever regretted signing on the dotted line? Dispute Resolution Solicitor Asit Jansari is often asked by business owners who have entered into contracts whether they are able to escape the legally binding nature of a contract. So, are they? Asit talks through what a business can do if they find themselves ‘stuck’


usinesses that have entered into contracts may potentially later regret having done so – or perhaps they have found that terms they previously agreed to, no longer fit their business model. As you would expect, there is often a right and a wrong way to approach such matters; there is also a multitude of grey in between. A great solicitor will consider the facts, weigh up the risks involved and consider the proposed course of action. Clients can then take a course of action once they are fully informed. Equally, though, there is always going to be a wrong way and this could end up causing a waste of money in legal fees, with a lawyer trying to tidy up the mess. Unless there is a termination of convenience clause built into the contract (this may depend on the specifics the lawyer engaged with when entering into the contract), it is worth starting by saying that you cannot get out of the contract simply because you have changed your mind. If you attempt to do so, you may find that the other side of the contract might make threats to pursue damages against you as a result of the breach of contract.


So, what options do you have if you have committed yourself to a legally binding contract and want to get out? Firstly, speak to a specialist commercial lawyers, as the terms of the contract you are in will need to be considered together with the reasons and circumstances for your seeking to escape the terms of the contract. It will of course be very important to understand what the potential damages (charges) for breaching the terms of the contract may well be. The three steps I would then suggest are: 1. Ask the other side if you can be released Simple as this might sound, it is often the one thing that some business owners do not consider. It could save a fortune and the working relationship. Instead, they seek to employ tactics like delaying/ceasing payments, failing to supply goods or services, or being awkward in the delivery of the contract. This rarely, if ever, works. 2. Termination clauses Once the first option has been explored, I would then consider looking at the termination

clauses within the contract itself, as there may be some opportunity to come out of the contract early – perhaps for a fee or by giving notice. 3. The small print At this stage, you may need a solicitor to assist you. The solicitor will be looking for any mistakes, unfair clauses or loopholes that will allow you to exercise a right to terminate the contract legally, without costing you anything in terms of the payment of damages. Whilst you may have a legitimate reason for wanting to terminate a contract, which could be for reasons including a perceived breach of contract by the other party, it’s important to take clear and proper advice and to act within the law – even where you believe there to have been a breach of contract, as this may not simply end the contract itself. Failure to do this can be costly, both in terms of cash and business reputation. If you need advice or assistance in relation to the termination of a contact, call Asit on 0116 319 1110 or 077613 25968. NICHE | 43


An honour

and a privilege We often forget to celebrate our successes. Always focused on the next win, the things we once strived for can end up happening with little fanfare. We spoke to Mukesh Patel from Freeths about why applying for awards can help you to celebrate your victories, even before a winner is announced WORDS BY TOM YOUNG


ward season. The red carpet’s rolled out. The actors parade along it, each echoing the phrase: “It’s an honour just to be nominated”. Watching on TV at home, we cynically mutter: “Yeah, you say that now…” But there’s an important truth to that sentiment – the work we’re proud of deserves to be recognised. Mukesh Patel is a Dispute Resolution Partner, and the Managing Partner of Freeth’s Leicester office. Freeths is a Top 50, full-service law firm, with a head office in Nottingham and 12 locations around the country. Mukesh is originally from Leicester, attending a local comprehensive before going to university and then down to London to do his articles. Initially joining a firm called Davies Arnold Cooper (now DAC Beachcroft), after nine 44 | NICHE

years, he returned to Leicester in 2000, working for Gateley, and eventually joining Freeths in November 2008. With over 1000 staff, Freeths has enjoyed phenomenal growth, and Mukesh believes award recognition plays a role in that. They won Lawyer Litigation Law Firm of the Year in 2020 and have also won awards for IT innovation in the legal world. “We’ve always appreciated that we need to embrace technology in order to work smarter and more efficiently,” says Mukesh. “The last two years have demonstrated that investing in technology and people is invaluable. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to work with the agility that we do now.” These awards can be used to underscore good practice and good decision making. Mukesh believes there’s greater

Success builds on success. If you have a lot of successful businesses in one area, other businesses will think: ‘That’s the place to invest’ – it puts the city on the radar value to applying for an award than just winning. “Applying for a particular award allows you to look inwardly at your own organisation and evaluate what’s created your recent success. It can be a real morale boost to staff and it raises your profile. If you’re not successful on the first attempt, the process will still be positive – it encourages you to believe that you’re worthy of recognition and celebration.” It’s important to take that moment to consciously consider what you’re doing well and take pride in your strengths. It’s not something we’re always driven to do, often conditioned to keep success to ourselves. “Sometimes people are reluctant to put themselves forward and shout about their success. Leicester is typical of this – there’s lots in the city to shout about, and we haven’t always done that.” Leicester has had a lot of success in recent years – the 2016 Premier League title win perhaps acted as a watershed moment – an instant of ‘Oh, we quite like this winning thing; what else are we good at?’, sparking further celebration of our strengths. “We’ve had success in the football, the comedy festival is the biggest in Europe, the space centre goes from strength to strength… they’re all giving the city more attention than it used to enjoy.” From a business perspective, continued success makes Leicester a desirable place to be. IBM and PPL PRS set up in Leicester, and Next have their headquarters here too. It’s all positive for the region. “Success builds on success. If you have a lot of successful businesses in one area, other businesses will think: ‘That’s the place to invest’ – it puts the city on the radar.” One of the best things about Leicester is its central location, with its connection to London and the rest of the country a real plus. IBM is in New Walk and has benefitted from people being able to travel up from the capital and go back the same day – with the fast train, it’s just over an hour.

“We’ve got a rich diversity of businesses, from Next down to SMEs. For me, you want everyone putting themselves forward for awards, because the small business of today could be the large one of tomorrow.” It also adds to the local job market, as businesses that celebrate their employees’ successes make for more attractive places to work. “If people can see the quality of businesses in the area, we’ll attract the best people to work in the region. We’ve got three top class universities, yet we often lose graduates to London. More award-winning business will help to keep those graduates here where we need them! “You don’t just want to be a university town or city – you want people to think that they’ve got a long-term future here, with a good quality of life, great job and fulfilling experience. We want people to be proud of Leicester and be proud of working here.” But there are more personal reasons to apply for awards than just benefitting the city. An awards evening gives people the opportunity to come together. Your team can take the night to celebrate together whilst meeting other professionals from the wider business community. “After the last two years, events are coming back into our diaries and there’s a real desire to get together in person. Awards nights are great because everybody loves positive stories and celebrating everyone’s success lifts the mood. It’s fantastic to have a chance to speak to people in person and have discussions that create opportunities. “I’ll always find someone we haven’t met before, and that adds to our knowledge of the region. That support network is really important. If you don’t attend these events, not only might you be unaware of the people who can support you, but you might not even know the support is needed! The business community is very close knit, so we all know people who can assist others.” Freeths provides events around and advice on business success at NICHE | 45


Talking legacies From divorce to death, we hear about the difficult stuff no one wants to talk about until it’s too late. We interviewed a client of our resident will writer Bhavin Gandhi of Paradigm Wills & Legal Services to hear their stories and thoughts on life and death WORDS BY TOM YOUNG

THE CLIENT Scott Knowles is the Chief Executive Officer of the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce. They have 4000 members, and work with approximately 12,000 businesses. They offer business support and representation; that could involve anything from lobbying the government on behalf of its members to helping those who want to start their own business.

THE SERVICE Will writing and estate planning

Why did you feel now was the right time to make a will? I had made a will several years ago when I was single, but I got married in 2016, and we wanted to ensure we were protecting all our assets together.

You’re a busy man – what was the advantage of working with Paradigm? In my line of work, looking after my own affairs often becomes a secondary concern, so to have someone take that burden away and present it back to us in an easily digestible format was great. They took what could’ve been quite a daunting process and made it very straightforward. They were very easy to work with and explained everything in layman’s terms. 46 | NICHE

You’re involved in many different projects; what do you consider your greatest achievement? I’d better say marrying my wife, Jo, first in case she reads this! I’m extremely proud to be Chief Executive of the Chamber; I’ve worked there for 24 years, and it supports more businesses now than it ever has, so to see it grow has been fantastic. Who do you look up to most, and what have you learned from them? We have so many great business leaders across the East Midlands – Bhav included – and there’s so many you look up to and hope to replicate their success. I look up to my parents, who didn’t have the same opportunities I’ve had. This was during the ‘70s with recessions, short working hours, and blackouts, and all the things I can’t really remember – I’m trying to get across to your readers that I’m actually still quite young! We’ve obviously been through trying times as well, with the pandemic and now the instability in Eastern Europe, so I admire those who’ve persevered through it. How do you hope to be remembered? Ideally as ‘the funniest chief executive’, but ultimately, just a good bloke who tried his best.


WHO ARE PARADIGM WILLS AND LEGAL SERVICES? A firm that truly cares about educating on the importance of making a Will and ensuring that a testator’s assets are planned correctly so their families receive the maximum benefit. As Will writers and estate planners, they gain an understanding of customers and their family dynamics and show the best way to guarantee an inheritance for their loved ones, which with the complexity of modern society, a simple Will just does not cover anymore. The use of a trust or multiple trusts is now what we call the modern Will, or as we prefer to call it, ‘The Paradigm Will’ as planning the family succession is vital. This also could include planning the succession of your business as well as business power of attorney.


Separation without suffering What if you could not only separate without conflict but could do so amicably, through open communication and honesty, resulting in an increased level of trust with your ex-partner for the future? WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


eparation is painful. Families dividing up finances, housing and child arrangements when communication is often strained and broken down feels like one of the most stressful and traumatic times a human can go through. Laws around divorce were changed in April this year, removing the necessity to make allegations about the conduct of a spouse and allowing couples to end their marriage jointly. Despite the changes, some lawyers are still concerned about potential flaws in practice. Founder of Holistic Family Mediation, Sushma Kotecha, tells us why after being a divorce lawyer for over 27 years, mediation and helping others through it became a path she chose: “I’d seen mediation work for my clients, I’d seen it save money, further pain and suffering and after going through a separation in my personal life, I knew I had to focus solely on providing this lifechanging service for others. It was a risk. Having built up a highly reputable and successful career as a family lawyer, Sushma’s move to start her own mediation service was a real

heart-based move, a calling. “Once I’d decided it was what I wanted, there was no turning back – I had to do it.” The company celebrates its first birthday in July. For Sushma, her own divorce changed her perception of her clients and their experiences. “I’d been a practising divorce lawyer for years and have always been a compassionate person, but when I went through it myself, that was when I really understood the extent of the traumatic experience. Throughout the period of my separation and divorce, I kept asking myself: ‘If I find this so difficult and painful, what must my clients feel like?’” Separation is emotional – not just a legal procedure – and if your mediator knows this, the energy is different, something Sushma tells me many of her clients comment on. “What is hugely important to me is how my clients feel in our sessions. They tell me they feel safe to express themselves and that they have the space to process what’s going on and therefore make informed choices and decisions about their future.” At a time when emotions are running high, communication


is fraught or broken down completely, when children are involved or finances are all over the place, finding a solution through talking together with a professional, calming and supportive energy like Sushma’s can make the difference – not only in the present but for the future too. “A kinder and more compassionate separation sets up your future for a happier and easier one – separation is painful, but the process doesn’t need to cause permanent suffering and pain.” A better understanding of each other’s views through improved communication with a professional and compassionate mediator isn’t only going to ease the pain now, it sets the precedence for a happier, healthier relationship with your ex and your reflection on your separation for the future. It serves you, your children and future generations much better. And, who doesn’t want that? If you have been affected by any of the topics in this article, or would like to speak to a professional, visit for more information and guidance. NICHE | 47

Divorce & separation can be complicated and emotional. We deliver the right blend of support and practical advice – empowering you, giving you a voice and helping you come through stronger. Family law issues can lead to transition in many aspects of your life. When the only constant in life seems to be change, our expert teams are here as your continual support.

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


Out with the old, in with the new: introducing no-fault divorce Hailed as the biggest shake-up in divorce law for 50 years, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 came into force on April 6 this year. Solicitor Glynis Wright tells us more


e caught up with Glynis Wright MBE, partner and solicitor specialising in family law at Nelsons, who explained the benefits of the new system. “The most significant change the new law has is that, instead of having to attribute blame to one party, a couple can mutually cite ‘irretrievable breakdown’ as the sole ground for wanting to obtain a divorce,” Glynis told us. “This can either be done as a joint or individual statement. Either spouse will be able to provide a statement saying the marriage has broken down without having to provide further explanation or evidence.” Divorce applications will be made through an online portal. Additionally, there’s no opportunity for the respondent to defend or to cross apply for a divorce. Once an application has been made, the applicant has to wait until 20 weeks have elapsed to

apply for a conditional order. “This period allows both parties the opportunity to reflect on their decision to divorce and to consider the financial issues that need to be resolved as a result of their separation.” The applicant can then apply for a divorce or dissolution final order six weeks from the date that the conditional order was made. “Sometimes, however, it may be advantageous for them to delay applying for the final order until such time as they have resolved any financial issues relating to their divorce. “Another benefit of the new legislation is that victims of domestic abuse will no longer be trapped by their abusive spouses contesting a divorce. In the past, domestic abusers have taken advantage of the law by contesting an application to exercise further coercive control over their victim.” September 2021 saw the


price of divorces rise due to an increase in court fees in line with inflation. “While it’s unlikely that this new legislation will impact fees, it’s worth keeping an eye out for firms offering fixed fee no-fault divorces, like Nelsons, as this provides people with peace of mind when it comes to knowing that there aren’t going to be any hidden or unexpected fees. “The previous law was passed in 1973 when people’s attitudes toward marriage and divorce were very different. In modern society, it’s unfair for a couple to be forced to stay together if attempts to make the marriage work have been unsuccessful. That’s why this change in divorce law has been long anticipated by many family lawyers.” If you’ve been affected by the issues in this article, you can contact Nelsons for advice on 0116 222 6666. NICHE | 49


Onwards and upwards… In their 10th year, TML Solicitors are looking to recruit new team members as the business continues to expand and explore new partnerships WORDS BY TOM YOUNG


ML have steadily grown since being founded in 2013. Ready for another expansion, they’re currently looking to recruit again. Entering their 10th year, they are the third-best reviewed law firm in Leicester. That’s no easy feat for a business that was started from the ground up in a serviced office, but Dav had a plan for quick growth. Initially offering services in commercial property, conveyancing and criminal defence, TML achieved Lexcel accreditation within their first year, and the team started to grow. Eventually moving to their current home in King Street, Dav and co-director Reena Bhalla have developed the firm by achieving the Conveyancing Quality Scheme Accreditation (CQS). This has enabled TML to join all the local mortgage lender panels, meaning they’re able to act for all high street mortgage lenders, but what really makes them different is their business development team. Business development manager Anna Pinckard and her team are unique in their nature, working with leads and client referrals to keep TML one step ahead on the legal scene. Yet

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even as they actively pursue new business, by putting client care at the forefront of their ethos, most of their business is repeat work. Having branched out into other fields of law, TML represent a range of clients with various legal needs, from those purchasing a £1m property, to divorces and child custody and advice on serious criminal offences. TML also offers advice on wills and estate planning, and maintains an experienced commercial property department, advising clients on all aspects of commercial property. Their hard work is being recognised. Dav was a finalist for Senior Solicitor of the Year at the 2021 Leicester Law Society Awards, and was nominated for Niche Magazine’s Business Man of the Year. As they enter their 10th year, TML now has a team of 26 staff – a far cry from the one-room office Dav started out in – and are continuing to grow, currently looking to recruit more staff. For TML, it really is onwards and upwards! To express interest in working for TML and to find legal advice, visit



The Green Piece

This issue we are

taking a look at the lesser talked-about contributors to carbon emissions – water and digital footprint – both of which, as we found out, are major contributors to the damage we are doing to the environment. However, thanks to our collaborators in this issue there is a great deal of pioneering work being done to make the changes needed – but they need you to help them do that. Discover how over the next few pages and join us in making the changes to help our country reach its net zero target.

Shrinking digital damage Every business’s business Niche’s recent chat with Shrinker Digital’s CEO Jal Kang and Commercial Director Smita Amlani got seriously political, philosophical, and even condemning, where truths were uncovered and the planet’s future decided. Emily Miller reports on what went down


t’s rare in my career that an interview is continued up the street as we are parting ways, but in meeting Jal and Smita, I found such a renewed sense of what needs to be done, that frankly I’ve made it personal. I admit to knowing only a little about what constitutes a digital footprint and the fact that we create them whenever we use the internet. However, full disclosure here – I didn’t know any of this until Shrinker Digital recently audited and subsequently reduced the CO2 emissions associated with Cross Productions’ digital media by 30%. Even more impressively, this was completed without any loss in the quality of our images – they looked exactly the same.. “People simply don’t realise, Emily,” Jal tells me after I admitted I was

Shrinker Digital pretty ignorant to the ‘invisible impact’ of loading a website. “If you didn’t already know, the internet is highly polluting, simply because it requires electricity to function – from the devices we use to the networks and data centres needed to send, store and retrieve data. If the internet was a country, it would be the world’s sixth largest polluter.” And it’s getting larger. Hearing that really blew my mind. I always thought that I was doing my bit for the environment and that using the internet was one way I was helping. Smita then added: “There is no exhaust pipe sticking out of your NICHE | 51


Why would we

not want our city’s

business community to be known for

being leaders in

sustainable digital change?



52 | NICHE

mobile phone, tablet or computer. We don’t wish for people to stop going online because the benefits the internet offers society are enormous. But people can do some simple things regarding their online activities whilst website owners need to implement changes to make their sites ecofriendlier.” Having already completed a small pilot test in collaboration with local government on 28 Leicester companies’ websites and their successful work on Cross’s website, Smita told me some staggering news. “The total carbon footprint of those 28 companies’ websites was over 70 tons of CO2. There are over 42,000 businesses in Leicestershire and 5.6 million in the UK. So, whilst we were delighted to be able to reduce Cross’s website emissions by the equivalent of boiling 592 kettles, we need every business to do the same.” Jal believes that for this to happen the country needs a policy change at local, regional and central government levels or, as he puts it: “They are not going to hit their net-zero carbon targets.” My initial response to the topic was along the lines of: ‘Why would any business choose to invest in making its website more sustainable?’ I now know that it’s the smart thing for any business to do, as well as helping to save the planet. The business benefits are tremendous: a faster website, reduction in data storage costs, a great PR story, and higher SEO rankings. Consumers

are becoming more environmentally aware and importantly, a greener website doesn’t reduce the quality of a customer’s online experience and can result in greater turnover and sales opportunities. Shrinker Digital would love Leicester to become the UK’s leading city for digital sustainability. “We need to rapidly reach a point where our council is helping businesses, financially or structurally, to reduce their digital emissions in such an impactful way that people will look to us here in Leicester as the ones leading the digital change. “Why would we not want to be known for being leaders in sustainable digital change as a business community and city? We want our city to be known as the first digitally clean city and we are determined to make it happen,” Jal closed. Times are changing and soon it won’t be a matter of choice or praise for businesses that have taken the initiative. Jal and his team have been pioneers in digital sustainability for years and they believe they can really help in the fight against climate change. What makes this interview particularly special is the discovery of an entrepreneur for whom passion isn’t profit – his passion is making a real difference. To start the process of reducing your website’s emissions, visit for more information, and get in touch to gain a website report for your business.

Josef Schucker: Leading a water revolution


I’ve seen the future and Luqel are in it. A water tasting invite at the Luqel HQ with founder Josef Schucker resulted in this journalist feeling like she wants to be part of the water revolution WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


don’t give a huge amount of thought as I take my plastic re-usable water bottle to the tap at home twice a day. In fact, I always felt really rather smug about the process – water is good for us, right? That was until an inspiring meeting with intelligent water company Luqel’s founder Josef Schucker where I discovered some really rather harrowing and unforgettable truths. A highly successful entrepreneur, founder Josef tells me it was a change in his outlook on life and the kind of imprint he wanted to leave on the planet, that meant he quickly came out of a short-lived retirement to do more. After the lucrative sale of his businesses, at 58 Josef decided it was time to pursue his travel dreams. “I love travel, in particular sea travel, and decided that it was time for me to fulfil my lifelong dream to build a yacht and sail the world.” Pretty soon though, he found his way back to business when he saw something which set his sail for a different course. “It was when I reached the shores

of untouched islands, with not a footprint in the sand, yet there were plastic water bottles surrounding their shores, that I started to investigate the ways in which I would bring drinking water onto the boat – I certainly didn’t want to add to the plastic bottle crisis I was seeing.” It was through this realisation that Josef starting drawing on the skills of engineers he had worked with in the past – he wanted clean water, for himself and for the planet. As he started utilising teams to research what was in the water from our taps, and how much bottled water contributed to the planet in a negative way, he was astounded and knew he wanted an entirely different system for his personal use, but also for the world. “Water is the most precious commodity on the planet. Without it, life simply cannot exist. We can’t undo the damage done, but we can reduce further damage.” This philanthropist attitude is inspiring to say the least and now, as the company grows, the groundbreaking research his team are doing

in both the health of our tap water and its effects, and the technology developed to produce the intelligent water systems is shared by all who he enlists. The systems offer the most optimum water filtering known to science, with users able to access 30 artisanal water recipes, three carbonation settings, and any degree between steaming hot to super chilled water assisted by personalised apps and ground-breaking, sophisticated dispensers. Josef’s altruistic spirit is one of planet philanthropy, a desire to leave a legacy of doing good with his money for the planet in a significant way, “I have no children, have worked so hard all my life and decided quite quickly that I wanted to leave an impact on the planet that did more, to know that I will leave it in a far better state than I would have done if I had stood back and watched.” It’s no secret that businesses need to take ownership of a greener future – are you going to join Josef in shaping that future? NICHE | 53

Tales from the

print room AN INTERVIEW WITH: Billy Allingham Steamin’ Billy Brewing Co Ltd

Every print job has a story behind it. In this regular feature, Soar Valley Press introduces Niche Magazine to the Leicester-based people who share our print-partner, to absorb the tales from when their projects go to press WORDS BY TOM YOUNG


teamin’ Billy is a Leicestershire institution. Even if you’ve not been in one of their pubs or entertainment venues, you’ll certainly have heard of them. They include The Parcel Yard, Caddyshackers and East Street Lanes (Leicester), The Railway and The White Bear (Hinckley), and The Dog & Gun (Syston) to name but a few. Managing Director, Billy Allingham, has plenty to keep him busy. Another of their pubs, The Cow & Plough – located at Stoughton Grange Rural Centre in Oadby – is currently undergoing a renovation, and they’re also opening a farm shop, farm park, and woodland wedding venue at that site during July. For Billy, with so many plates 54 | NICHE


to keep spinning, reliable business partners are vital. Enter Soar Valley Press. “Soar Valley have been great,” Billy tells us. “They make it very easy to do business. Time is money and they know how we work, so it saves a lot of time.” As the owner of pubs, restaurants, and a crazy golf course, Steamin’ Billy have a range of print needs, including signs, menus, vouchers, and score cards. Soar Valley handles all of this and more. “We had a nightmare a few years back; we’d ordered some A-boards from a completely different company to take to the DMU Freshers Fair, and they let us down last minute. I hadn’t even realised Soar Valley did them, but they stepped in at

short notice, got them done quickly, and Chris [Managing Director] drove them down to us in time for the fair.” Steamin’ Billy are aiming to reduce their carbon footprint. They’ve recently planted a kitchen garden, meaning that many of the vegetables used on their menus are now their own produce. They’re also asking local brewers to create German and Belgian style beers, rather than importing them, to cut down on food miles. Soar Valley Press have helped this further by using recycled paper. “They’re so helpful. They even send us reminders about our own upcoming events to check what our print needs will be. It helps us to stay on top of everything.”


More than a face to the name What do you want your potential audience to see when they look at your professional headshot? A question I discussed with photographer Pete Martin WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


he headshot has evolved somewhat from the days of stiff, slightly bored, and serious-looking faces. What with the global pandemic restricting our relationships with one another, a potential audience wants more than a face to the name, they want to see the person behind it. Professional photographer Pete Martin tells me: “When people look at an image of you it needs to actually reflect who the person is. It sounds obvious, but capturing a personality is something that I am really passionate about.” Of course, we know headshots are key for creating first impressions in small to medium sized businesses, but not all of us are comfortable with the process, Pete says. “The subjects don’t need to worry about that, I find ways to create a relationship that allows me to capture what we need in

a way that they barely realise it’s happening. It’s painless.” By using high-quality headshots of your team with a commitment to authentic marketing in mind, it can really show your company’s human side, reinforcing your company values and brand. In a world of heavy editing, Pete adds that part of capturing a personality and keeping hold of it is not to put the image through filters or airbrushing. “I only edit out anything that won’t be there in two weeks’ time, such as blemishes. Further editing creates barriers between the subject and the viewer that we are avoiding.” See Pete’s headshots at

NICHE | 55


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Ignite the


If you want people to find your business, you need a good website. For the last four years, 77 Rockets, led by Antz White, have been on a mission to build their clients a website with added spark. Niche spoke with Antz to find out more WORDS BY TOM YOUNG


ntz White worked as an e-commerce specialist and web designer for 20 years. He’d always wanted to set up his own business, and he got that chance in 2018. His approach was to look beyond the superficial design elements of a website and create something that can genuinely benefit the client and offer a great user experience. “Websites don’t just need pretty words and pictures,” says Antz. “There’s a lot of science behind what makes a site good or bad. Our team understands how users interact with a website – what works for them and what doesn’t.” The approach is user-first rather than business-first, because the business is what the site’s about, not who it’s for. “Most business owners think about what they want to tell customers and forget to think about what the customer wants to know. Business owners want a website that looks nice, works

for them, and helps their return on investment, but we represent the consumer as well. We try to ensure the site has a balance between both needs.” Businesses want everything to be important, but it can’t be. If everything’s important, nothing is. There are certain things a website needs to have, and 77 Rockets ensure those elements (potential minefields like compliance and legal requirements) are in place – but after that, the goal is to ensure that the truly important information is what people find first. “There are plenty of opportunities to create your own website through an online service. These might give you a good-looking product, but it won’t give you the understanding of how people actually use it. As a web design company, we want to give you a site that does more than just look nice.” It’s important to be realistic


about the client’s needs. All of 77 Rockets’ websites have search engine optimisation built-in – enough to make the site easy to find on Google and most businesses won’t need more than this. “Google fundamentally wants to find websites that answer their users’ questions. If you build a site that answers your own users’ questions, eventually Google will use you to answer their users’ questions too. “You have to do what’s right for the business. Blogging can be important, but it doesn’t suit every small business – a sole trader (such as a plumber or gardener) won’t have the time or interest to write 500 words every week, so it’s about finding what suits.” 77 Rockets have produced a booklet, available online at to serve as a guide for what makes a good website and what works best. It also explains the full service 77 Rockets offer. NICHE | 57

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fresh design? Our design studio has you covered Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy We’re on hand to help take your designs from good to great. Pick our brains when it comes to your branding and designs by booking a FREE 30-minute consultation with us today. What we can design for you: ●








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With its social media focus, digital marketing is often thought of as a young person’s game. A Loughborough-based agency has set up a recruitment process to make use of that idea, providing opportunity and experience to university-leavers WORDS BY TOM YOUNG


ften recruited fresh from university, the talent at Hollogram typically skews younger. While the company does not exist to be a developmental agency – always maintaining a high professional standard – founder Phil Holloway has created a business that gives his recruits a place to be creative and prove themselves. “I’d been working at DMU as a lecturer and tutor, and had enjoyed passing on my learnings, especially what not to do. I wanted to continue that knowledge transfer, so my plan was to develop Hollogram as a business, while bringing in young talent to help develop them through.” Phil has over two decades of experience in the marketing industry. Having run a retail design agency for 13 years, he eventually moved into the digital marketing field in 2015. Initially working as a lone consultant, he hired his first staff in 2020 to establish Hollogram as a full agency. “I’d worked with a lot of big brands like Chanel, Samsung,

Tesco, Heineken and more, and I wanted to use that expertise to benefit businesses closer to home.” While the digital and social media skills are important, it’s the broader understanding of marketing that Phil is keen to impart. “Marketing is about understanding what customers want and need and what will help businesses to sell their products or services. That might sound obvious, but the key is to create great content that engages the customer. You also need to think about how that content is delivered.” A unique innovation of Hollogram’s is the creation of a content-first channel to serve as a platform for their clients’ marketing. Their main project, Leicester Fan TV, has an online following of over 160,000. “Leicester Fan TV is run as an influencer channel that covers all the sports in Leicester. We use it to help brands and businesses get their name in front of an actively engaged, local audience. We’re really focused on growing


that right now.” It’s also important to think about the medium through which your content is viewed, and how that affects production. “We produce a lot of video content with our ‘social media first’ approach in mind. People often make their content based on what they’ve seen on TV or in the cinema, but that won’t be where it’s viewed.” According to Smart Insights’ mobile marketing statistics, 80% of all online marketing is absorbed via your phone, meaning videos are often viewed in portrait mode, so video content needs to be produced with this in mind. “It must be instantly appealing, as people make two-second decisions about whether to keep scrolling. It needs to be punchy, engaging, and eye-catching.” By having their staff adopt this way of thinking, Hollogram’s approach is strengthened by the individual’s creativity. Hollogram is setting itself up for a bright future. Meet the team at hollogram. com and get sports content from NICHE | 59








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Developing a vibrant city The ongoing developments that will enhance Leicester’s status as a ‘vibrant’ city and attract residents, workers and visitors WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


amed one of Britain’s most vibrant cities, Leicester really has become a ‘destination’ for living and working, but also for people to visit for shopping trips, nights out and tourism. Coming in at fourth place in the Top Cities: Vibrancy Report, Leicester has been recognised for its markets, eateries, bars, and independent shops. With such an offering attracting so many people to the city, it’s important that it also accommodates them. Leicester is a hive of activity at the moment with developments taking place all over. From hotels for tourists and commuters to new homes for those looking to relocate, and regeneration projects to boost trade, here are some of the key developments making Leicester a cut above the rest.

Hotel Brooklyn

The 191-room hotel stands tall next to Leicester Tiger’s Welford Road Stadium. It offers high-class corporate hospitality, versatile dining, and atmospheric accommodation with a number of skyline suites.

Waterside regeneration

This project, transforming a 150 acre, largely run-down former industrial site, began in 2015. The area is high priority for regeneration and will act as a catalyst to future investment to improve the area for residents and businesses. It aims to create 350 new homes, 455 new jobs, 5,574m2 of new commercial workspace, and unlock a follow on investment of £80m and the development of a 252bed hotel.

King Power Stadium expansion

Awaiting a decision from the council, LCFC has impressive plans to increase the capacity of its stadium to 40,000 with an added entertainment arena and a hotel. It’s estimated to create 1000 permanent jobs and that additional match-going visitors will increase annual spend in the city by up to £10.5m a year.

Construction Skills Hub

A new training hub to help people build a career in the construction industry aims to offer training in construction skills to more than 400 people over two years, with a goal of securing sustained employment for at least half of those taking part.

Loughborough regeneration

The £3.8m scheme aims to increase footfall to boost trade in Loughborough town centre. It will see footpaths widened and repaved to create attractive street scenes that showcase the area’s distinct character and heritage. A large open space in Devonshire Square is also to be created to host events.

Grand Hotel heritage project

Plans have been submitted for a major heritage project that will help restore Leicester’s Grand Hotel to its former glory. The Grade II listed building is set to be repaired and restored as part of Historic England’s High Street Heritage Action Zones. The shopfronts that line the hotel would be reinstated as close to the building’s original design as possible, using a sustainable hardwood timber and toughened glass.

Low carbon scheme

Thirty-eight new energy-efficient homes are being built off Saffron Road. The works for the £12m low carbon scheme, carried out by developer Robert Woodhead, are expected to be complete by 2024. There will be ten wheelchair-accessible bungalows. The homes will cut carbon emissions by around 75%, the equivalent to a carbon saving of around 67 tonnes per year. NICHE | 61

BUYING A PROPERTY? Get peace of mind with a trusted property surveyor

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a business When it comes to property surveying or project management, you need someone you can trust. Jordan Clarke and Sam Watt formed Clarke & Watt Building Consultancy to do just that WORDS BY TOM YOUNG


uying or developing a property is a huge investment. There are many risks involved, whether that be for maintenance or regulatory reasons, and failure to spot such issues can result in significant financial expenditure. You need an experienced hand to help identify potential problems. Enter Clarke & Watt. Jordan and Sam met at the University of Salford, in the first lecture of the first day – they were eventually the only two students on their building surveying course to complete their placements and finish with firsts. After several years of crafting their skills working at national firms, the pandemic hit, presenting a unique opportunity that both were keen to take advantage of, igniting the birth of Clarke & Watt Building Consultancy. “If you’re buying a property, it’s important to bring in a qualified surveyor,” says Jordan. “We want to give people peace of mind that the property is in sound condition. We can also

provide costs for any required repair work to ensure our clients can make informed decisions.” But that’s not their only service; they also represent both landlords and tenants in dilapidations for commercial and industrial property. When a tenant is preparing to move out, a dilapidation report assesses what it will take to restore the property to the condition described in the lease. “If the tenant has occupied the property for 20 years or more, it’s unlikely to be in the same condition as the day they moved in,” Sam explains. “Some are left an absolute mess! We go in and assess the extent of damage, calculate costs for each item, and issue a schedule on behalf of the landlord. We can negotiate a financial settlement or tender the works so the landlord can recover their loss.” “We work with both landlords and tenants,” adds Jordan, “but we’d love to get involved with block management companies too.


We offer Planned Preventative Maintenance schedules, where we help the property managers forecast maintenance works over a five, 10, 15 year period, which to prioritise and budget for accordingly.” The other side of the business is project management. If you’re looking to do a refurbishment, Clarke & Watt write a specification of works and procure reputable contractors to carry these out at a competitive rate. They’ll then draft contracts and manage the works throughout the process. “We ensure the quality meets the client’s expected standards,” says Sam. “We’re the middle-man between client and contractor, ensuring everything is done fairly.” “On all our jobs, we have a key triangle of responsibility,” Jordan concludes. “We ensure the budget’s controlled, the programme’s adhered to, and the workmanship’s good and compliant with regulations.” Visit for more information about what needs to be done when buying a house. NICHE | 67


You get a mortgage!

And you get a mortgage! ANIL MISTRY

Everybody gets a mortgage! One of the downsides of being self-employed is that it’s harder to get on the property ladder. RNR Mortgages disagree. Founder Anil Mistry told us why mortgages are now more accessible to business owners than ever WORDS BY TOM YOUNG


f you’re self-employed, the mere concept of getting a mortgage can feel like a pipe dream. Assembling two to three years of steady revenue is not a certainty for new businesses and can be pretty deflating for anyone also wishing to buy a house. Anil Mistry wants to end that worry. Founded in 2021, based on over a decade of experience, RNR Mortgages specialise in mortgages for self-employed people and first-time buyers, making the process as stressfree as possible. The key advantage of a mortgage broker over going direct to a bank is that the broker has access to many lenders with different criteria, while the bank only has their own. A broker will help you find the right lender for your circumstances. “If a client’s business had been hit by Covid, resulting in big profit jumps over a three-year period, a bank might not take them on, whereas I know which lenders are more inclined. In that situation, it’s worth going to meet

64 | NICHE


with the client, discussing the situation and figuring out what’s going to work for them.” Owners of limited company businesses might be on lower basic salaries (eg, £10k), taking the majority of their personal income from dividends (eg, £20k) – some banks might have an issue with this, but Anil knows which lenders will look at the salary plus net profits of the limited company. These could be net profits that have been retained within the company and not been taken by the individual. “If you’d only taken a £20k dividend, but your business has made £100k profit, we can go to a lender that’s going to use your salary and net profit and show them that to get you in your dream house. Self-employed limited company owners often don’t know that’s an option.” The other common issue is thinking: ‘I’ve only got one year’s accounts – I can’t get a mortgage.’ “Yes, you can. You might take a hit on the interest rate, but if the lender’s happy with the

sustainability of your business, you can still get the mortgage. It’s just about finding the right lender to get you in the property you want.” “The personal touch is very important,” says Anil. “While I might do an initial assessment over the phone, I always like to meet with people face-to-face. It helps to develop trust, which is very important when you’re arranging a massive debt for a client.” This is the key thing with mortgage brokers – the information is available from many sources, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, finding a broker that can explain everything clearly is essential. “I’m trying to get the message across in simple terms. We’ve been producing 90-second videos for social media that give a snapshot of the key information and are far more digestible than a fifteen-minute monologue.” Consultations with Anil are available via and he can be found on social media @anil.mistry.rnrmortgages.



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Through Property Meeting the team at the third birthday celebrations of Fraser Stretton Property Group, Kerry Smith discovers a lot about this Midlands agency, what they’re like as an employer, and what they’re doing for Leicester


he team at multi-award-winning Leicesterbased Fraser Stretton Property Group marked their third year in business in June. They celebrated the milestone with an invitation-only event for close business partners and friends and I was fortunate enough to be invited along. Trying to collar co-directors Jaz and Narinder for an interview would have been futile right now. Besides, it was great getting to know the team, their interesting backgrounds, and why they chose to work for the husband and wife co-founders. Their response was unanimous: ‘They’re an inspiration, they’re changing the industry, I’ve never worked for anyone else like them before’. The general consensus amongst the team was that their current employers have motivated their passion for property more than any other employer throughout their careers. One team member commented: “I’ve worked for lots of estate agencies, but none like Jaz and Narinder’s. They’re different and they’re changing the perceptions of the industry.” What was very clear to see first-hand, was how influential this dynamic duo is amongst their fellow business leaders. This is no mean feat when you consider that the company has only been in business for three years. The following day – in between having an interview on the cost-of-living crisis and the housing market with BBC East Midlands Today and fielding numerous calls from clients – Narinder speaks to me about the company’s recruitment process.

“We bring people into the business who we believe will raise the bar,” he says. “They can’t just be a bum on a seat, they have got to make a difference. When you’re a start-up, you attract a certain type of staff member and the reason for that is when your business is new, nobody knows who you are. As we began to evolve and become more successful, we noticed a different type of applicant wanting to join us. “We’re now a multi-award-winning company, which puts us in a good position to attract new team members who have good existing experience and career development, which means we save one year’s worth of basic training. This, in turn, is helping us to give a great account of ourselves and be at the forefront of the property sales and lettings market.” Fraser Stretton Property Group started life as The Lettings Business in 2019 before adding ‘Sales’ to its name a year later. They’ve become well-known in the Midlands not just for lettings and sales but also for land buying, property development, and consultancy services. This then resulted in a natural evolution of the several companies that Jaz and Narinder were directors of and a subsequent rebrand to bring them all together, seeing the Fraser Stretton Property Group come into being. Complete with six brands to represent each department of the business: sales, lettings, prestige homes, land and development, new homes, and auction, Fraser Stretton will be able to really double down to each client’s specific needs. The rapid growth of the company of course began with Jaz and Narinder, who set up the business in their living

As we began to evolve and become more successful, we noticed a different type of applicant wanting to join us NICHE | 67

“We don’t just say ‘thanks for the keys’” – not just another agent, the independent experts take a holistic approach, learning about their clients and understanding their journey room. I’ve interviewed them both many times over these three short years – this time, I remind Narinder of where they began, asking how they experienced the giant leap from home to high street. “Collectively, if Jaz and I were given a pound for every time we’ve been asked how we work together as a couple, we’d be millionaires. Our answer is two-fold. We both have different strengths, and we both have the same goal: to be successful for our two daughters. We do it for them. “We’ve set up the right foundations for the business and it wouldn’t be the success it is today if it was just one of us running it. The true power is Jaz – she’s the brains of the operation – bringing in clear structure and processes, while I network, liaise and win business. When it comes to the team we have now, we’re able to challenge and coach them to grasp opportunities. If they grow, we grow.” They’re ‘not just another agent’. Fraser Stretton Property Group takes a holistic approach with clients and landlords. “We don’t just say ‘thanks for the keys’,” Narinder tells me. The team takes them on a journey, understands what their plan is and then goes on to execute it to ensure that each client’s specific needs are met. One landlord with one property came to Jaz and Narinder for property 68 | NICHE

management help as they were struggling with their existing agent and 18 months later, the same landlord now has a portfolio of seven properties. This is how the property group helps clients to create wealth through property. The group then ensures their landlords are compliant with the law and consults them on capital growth and marketing. As new-build sales specialists, they also work closely with many developers to help them source land and financing, following up by helping them market and sell their properties. This is a particular strength of the company as they pride themselves on being able to sell off-plan properties, which results in smoother cash flow for their clients. At the birthday celebrations, a very close friend of the company, Jenny Cross, CEO of Cross Productions, made an impromptu speech: “I just have to say that we’re so proud to work with you. You’re creating job opportunities, supporting the local economy, and you’ve become the glue that holds much of the business community together.” The property group continues to make a mark in the local and national business stratosphere. As Patrons of the East Midlands Chamber and partners of its Generation Next network, they’re helping to develop tomorrow’s leaders. But it doesn’t stop there. Currently, Narinder is helping a local charity by setting up one of their properties as a care facility, while Jaz is helping to convert London properties into apartments worth over £27m. Together, they’re helping to put Leicester on the map by working with foreign investors who are looking to develop in the UK. Narinder said: “We’re keen to attract our foreign investors to Leicester. We want to change their mindset and show them there is a different world outside of London.” Narinder’s statement leaves me wondering about the next level of growth they’ll be able to share with us at their fourth birthday celebrations. “Watch this space.” Property listings and information about the group’s other departments can be found at


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Why Charles Bentley is no longer a secret A 160-year-old company was Loughborough’s best-kept secret until a financial transformation strategy helped it to become a trusted household brand in less than six years – now their products and innovations are internationally revered WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


ome and garden company Charles Bentley presented their latest collections at the Exclusively Show in London this June, which showcases leading houseware suppliers and the latest product launches. The Loughborough-based family business showcased their new cleaning range called Re.Think, which challenges the plastic status quo; a new superior brushware range, Charnwood; and their new pizza oven, OTTIMO, which was a shortlisted finalist for garden leisure product of the year. That’s a lot of innovation to celebrate over just a few short months. To get to this level of success, the brand had to evolve. The past few years have seen Charles Bentley establish itself as a well-known, global business, yet the company has been in Leicestershire since 1860. A major contributing factor to the brand’s rapid growth can be attributed to its Finance Director. Sadie Pollard, a finalist in the Businesswoman of the Year category of the Niche Business Awards 2022, she started working for the company in 2016 as a Finance Controller. Within seven months, she was promoted to Finance Director. On this quick career progression, Sadie commented: “We’re proud to say that Charles Bentley products can be found in most homes, it’s just that no one knew it, as we ‘white-labelled’ products for most of the UK’s best-known retail brands. The business had outgrown just being a keystone to other retail

brands, and I could see how I could make a positive financial difference to the business. The way the business operated was putting disproportionate pressure on working capital. The role was ideal for me, because I’m passionate about developing and implementing financial strategies, processes, software, reporting, and driving change. The business was incredibly supportive in implementing my financial transformational strategy which empowered the business to diversify and enter new categories and markets.” In Sadie’s first year, she delivered two strategic budget plans, recruited a new team, redesigned the financial reporting, wrote and developed a business plan that drilled down into every facet of the business, and purchased and implemented a new data reporting package called Qlik Sense. She was able to reduce aged stock holding by £500k, reduce the average time it took for debtors to pay invoices, and improve operating profit by £1.4m. Solidifying the new foundations of the finance team, Sadie’s work went on to have a huge impact on the culture of the family-run firm. They recently conducted an internal survey. The metrics showed that every employee was happier than before the pandemic and, it turns out, Sadie’s team were the happiest of the lot. When asked about the method behind her management, Sadie said: “I’m committed to treating everyone fairly



and equally, and it comes down to approachability and communication. I always explain why we’re doing what we’re doing and how each task feeds into the bigger process. And I always thank people. As for the rest of the company, the teams are happier because we work around them, and we’ve improved communication and opportunities.” Charles Bentley’s home and garden ranges can be found at

NICHE | 71

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Be mental health prepared


Stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 17.9m working days lost in 2019/20, accounting for 55% of all days lost due to work-related ill-health WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


ental health concerns are on the rise and as an employer, you need to do all you can to be prepared to support your team in this respect, suggests Julie Colan, a Mental Health First Aid Instructor. “There are financial implications to mental health sick days, but so much more than that; it’s about your own mental health and taking the right steps to support your team with theirs.” Running a two-day course with four live sessions, Your Healthcare Academy provides the training to give you, or dedicated employees, mental health first aider accreditation

(accredited by Mental Health First Aid England). By gaining this accreditation employers will be fulfilling the recently introduced guidelines, which explain that workplaces should invest in training Mental Health First Aiders – but more importantly, you will be making a significant difference to the culture of your organisation and to the lives of your employees. “The training provides a clear five-step programme in how to be equipped with what to do if any of your team displays any signs of mental health concerns, from anxiety, depression, eating disorders to

psychosis and suicidal thoughts,” Julie adds. In addition to Mental Health First Aider training and accreditation, Julie’s Your Healthcare Academy also provides Menopause in the Workplace training, a programme that provides crucial awareness of the symptoms and effects that the menopause can have on someone’s mental health and working life. Find further information about the importance of mental health training at or call Julie on 075720 66958 for a confidential chat.


The key to


Bev Sankey has been a business owner for over 30 years; here she tells us the key to her success in the health and beauty industry in Leicester



ith the health and beauty industry set to be worth £26.7bn by the end of 2022 (GlobalData) and outpacing many other sectors in the retail industry, coupled with the huge trend in online e-commerce, we spoke to Bev about her thoughts on the sector.

Niche: Is it important to share your experiences?

Bev: Oh yes, I have been a Leicester businesswoman for over 30 years now and I believe it is important to share our experiences within the workplace – including our struggles and triumphs. I believe in doing so to empower the younger generations. 76 | NICHE

What was your first venture?

In 1984, myself and my business partner of 28 years established The Flash Harry Jewellery Company following my BA Honours Degree from Loughborough in Silversmithing and Jewellery. We designed and manufactured in Leicester, Birmingham and London and supplied 350 independent retailers including Liberty, Harrods and John Lewis, and went on to supply high street stores such as Next, Boots, Monsoon from 1994. All this started from a bedroom, then to a basement in Saxby Street, to achieving success in our own 4,000 sq ft unit.

How did you move from jewellery to health?

My own health journey over 30 years and the struggle to be healthier amidst huge pressure and stress led to my wish to educate on the importance of good clean food as fuel for our bodies, and all aspects of health and nutrition especially achieving life balance. Now more than ever, I am focused on sponsoring and coaching people in how to grow an online business in health and wellness amongst the Leicestershire community.

What inspires you?

Being in business started as a way to support myself, now it’s about believing in the products, sharing them, sharing the knowledge, and the brilliant business model for better health for others. It’s about inspiration, encouraging people to take control of their own health and to realise that selfcare across mind, body and soul leads to success across all aspects of their life and business. Be inspired yourself at


Putting the joy into shopping Does the thought of getting dressed for the day, or even an occasion, make you excited? Or do you often worry at the prospect of finding something to wear? Journalist Emily Miller off visits DC Boutique in the one use per person with code quaint village of Kirby Muxloe and discovers at checkout before the joy in shopping again


NICHE10 31/08/2022


C Boutique, which opened its doors in Kirby Muxloe in 2017, is so very welcoming. I’m sure my resulting faster heart rate is shared by others as they step inside. Home to rails of carefully curated pieces of clothing, the ranges are purchased by owner Debbie Clark, whose eye for detail and pieces that her customers will love has made the boutique the retail destination of choice for women who want to feel good in the clothes they are in. “I just wanted to offer a good value range of fabulous clothing and accessories that you don’t see on the high street – all at an affordable price in a location that was fun and not intimidating,” Debbie told me. Greeted by smiling, relaxed staff and rails of tonal coloured clothing, accessories and shoes to accompany the palette and look, I can tell immediately I’m going to like it here. The pieces, which are handpicked by Debbie, come from all over the world and you can see that her eye for fashion buying is that of a stylist – a stylist that her customers appreciate and trust.

“We have lots of lovely customers here at the boutique and when I’m buying, I do sometimes have people in mind, but more often, I choose pieces that I know will work for real women, things I know my friends and family would love to wear and, of course, for the seasons ahead,” she tells me before waving goodbye to a regular customer, DC Boutique bags in hand. The boutique’s atmosphere is truly welcoming and not the least daunting. It’s clear the customers think so too. Complete strangers chat amongst themselves, helping each other choose outfits and celebrating each other’s dressing room reveals. It’s a real shopping destination and one that people travel far and wide to visit. “We have customers locally of course, but so many visitors come from places like London and Birmingham simply because they want something different, it’s hugely flattering,” she says, beaming. This warmth translates to their online community too, fresh from a fashion show the night before, orders are flooding in to


the store and online – the easy-touse website is a delight – with real images of the store’s friends and family modelling the latest looks available. Their unique Facebook Live coverage in particular is lots of fun and is a great way to be able to see the latest ranges modelled on real women with whole outfits, taking away the pain of knowing what to put with what. Catch the live fashion shows on “We find that our customers like to see the clothes ‘in action’. They often order complete outfits from our Facebook Lives all from the comfort of their own home. it gives them the confidence to put things together that they might not have ordinarily done.” That’s the key really here at DC – it’s all about making women feel good in clothes and in the process of buying them. “More than anything I want our women to feel good, that’s what we are all about; making shopping exciting and fun, as it should be!” Shop the collections at and visit the store in Cherry Tree Ave, Kirby Muxloe, LE9 2LQ. Ask about thier loyalty scheme when you shop. NICHE | 77

Stress management:

making smart decisions Mental health has become a topic many people now feel comfortable with. but how much are we actually doing about it? We tell one another to be kind, to slow down, and to talk but how often do we take our own advice? WORDS BY JENNY CROSS


aking breaks has been shown to be vital in recovering from stress – which we all feel. This can, in turn, improve your performance. Recovering from work stress can restore energy and mental resources and decrease the development of fatigue. So why are we not prioritising a time out? Sometimes life runs at such a fast pace that we need to just stop, get off the merry go round and take time out. I took some time out last week and spent the day at Ragdale Hall. Leicestershire is lucky enough to have this awardwinning privately-owned, destination spa. Situated in the beautiful Melton Mowbray countryside, Ragdale Hall Spa combines state of the art facilities with the charm of traditional Victorian architecture. Greeted with a warm welcome, I was given my day’s schedule and a latte. I looked over the day’s plans and slowly made my way to the changing rooms to dump my bag – a metaphor for the stress I’ve been carrying around with me – before heading over to the Heart 78 | NICHE


and Soul Studios for a PT session with Harvey. In all the years I have been going to Ragdale, I have never taken the opportunity to do a workout, but as someone who often visits a gym to destress, I think it was a great way to shake off the weight of all my responsibilities before truly unwinding. Harvey talked me through the session and set out a circuit for me. Bike, Slam Bags, TRX Row, Farmer’s Walk, Hilt Mill and Wall Sits – short 45 second bursts of full-pelt exercises with 30 seconds between each activity. It was a tough session, but I was made to feel at ease throughout by an experienced PT who paid attention and made me feel at ease whilst pushing me to train as hard as I could – a great skill to have. Having bust my backside in the gym, I showered and hit the jacuzzi. Making the most of the facilities is a must. With six pools, heat and water experiences in the thermal spa, this place exceeds all expectations every time. Taking a walk over to the dining room, I enjoyed a buffet and

a glass of fizz. I am always amazed at the quality and choice available. Taking my time, I then chose to relax in the outdoor pool, letting the jets hit my shoulders before moving around to the treatment area. My name was called by senior beauty therapist Baljit who treated me to a 50-minute massage treatment. Baljit, was fantastic. Words can’t begin to explain how good it felt to lie there and truly unwind. After some more relaxing, I decided to have a look around the shop and treated myself to a few products (I just can’t help myself when I’m there!). I left feeling destressed as I had been able to unwind. The time out allowed me to reboot my mind, making me more productive in the days that followed. I also noticed my concentration levels had increased and I was making clearer, smarter decisions. Taking time out isn’t selfish, it’s smart. It’s also needed when you work hard. My advice is book a day at Ragdale! Find a menu of treatments designed to destress at


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Susie the Foodie FOODIE THINGS IN LEICESTERSHIRE Now summer is here, what better way to make the most of the sunny weather than having a drink and a bite to eat with friends or family in a beautiful pub garden


5 Main Street, Great Bowden LE16 7HB The Red Lion in Great Bowden has found the perfect balance between a traditional indoor pub and a modern outdoor seating area. Both spaces are the perfect environment for food, drinks and a catch up with friends or family. The pub’s garden has been recently renovated and is the perfect asset to an already well looked after village. The à la carte wasn’t available on this particular visit, but we were still spoilt for choice when it came to the pizza, burger and cocktail menu. After a long debate between which option to go for, I chose the Royal Burger, which came with a 6oz beef burger, smoky streaky bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo. All burgers came served with paprika mayo, house pickles and skin on fries which made for the perfect pub burger fix. If you’re looking for a pub with delicious food, refreshing drinks and a welcoming atmosphere with midranged prices, then it’s definitely worth paying them a visit!


London Rd, Great Glen, Leicester LE8 9FL The Yews in Great Glen is an imposing building, but don’t let the three-storey Victorian frontage intimidate you – round the back there’s a lovely big garden to stretch out in. It’s large enough not to feel rammed even when it’s busy, with plenty of room and an expansive feel. The pub itself has had its interior decorated in a modern country pub style and there’s a family-friendly feeling throughout, with the garden a safe place for kids to explore. Food is good quality pub grub, with good helpings and the staff were friendly during our visit. Located just off the A6 on the other side of Oadby, this place is easily accessible from the city, especially if you’re not keen on driving round country lanes. A great place to take the family to unwind.


Waterfall Way, Medbourne, Market Harborough LE16 8EE Set in beautiful, rolling countryside in south Leicestershire’s Welland Valley, the village of Medbourne is well worth a ride out – and the Nevill Arms occupies an idyllic spot in the village. Looking out on Medbourne brook, the whole place oozes history and character, with outdoor seating for drinkers and diners right next to the babbling waters. It’s a great place to take members of your family – especially if they’re fans of ‘proper’ country pubs hewn from the local stone with open fires and lots of wood panelling. The interior beautifully blends the building’s tradition with a modern twist, while those outside benches next to the brook are coveted spots on sunny days. At the time of out last visit, work was being finished on the garden at the rear of the pub and associated hotel, with some disruption to normal services, so it’s worth a call to make sure what’s on. Bar food is usually available and there’s a stylish restaurant at the back if your appetite is running away with you. Just be warned: the car park’s pretty tight and this place gets very popular on fine days – especially as it’s on the B664, a popular road for motoring enthusiasts.


Sileby Rd, Mountsorrel, Loughborough LE12 7BB Everything you could want from a pub garden can be found at Waterside Inn. Families enjoy a safe space in the middle of the green with a giant bouncy castle. Four-legged family members are also catered for with communal water bowls and treats. And mate-dates and date-dates do not get any better with stunning views of the Grand Union Canal. Life is made easy with a digital menu and table service, meaning you can soak up every minute of the sunshine, and families need not worry about having to leave the table. A mini shack-type bar is also available just outside the main pub for those who prefer face-to-face service. Plan a day out to Stonehurst Farm to feed the lambs before taking a stroll over the quaint little bridge to Waterside Inn to feed the family.


Cooper Way, Leicester LE19 2AN Just opposite Fosse Park, Everards Meadows is home to the state-of-the-art brewery, beer hall and shop.


Main Street, Peatling Parva, Lutterworth LE17 5PU Great if you have kids, with a large garden and wooden castle to keep them occupied for hours.


99 High Street Leicester, LE1 4JB City centre location with beer garden serving up freshly made food, tasty beers and cocktails.


198 London Road, Leicester LE2 1NE A real ale pub supporting local microbreweries with a large garden.


Reservoir Road, Cropston, Leicester LE7 7GQ Country pub with resevoir views, great for a bite to eat after a good walk round Bradgate Park.


Gartree Road, Oadby, Leicester LE2 2FB The newly refurbished Steamin’ Billy pub will be expanding to include a farm park along with a deli farm shop and distillery. And to encourage sustainabilty, they will be growing herbs, salad items and many vegetables on site.


What’s for dinner? A great event rests on four pillars – a welcoming venue, great company, memorable entertainment, and – of course – incredible food. Niche spoke to Atul Lakhani, the CEO of Sanjay Foods, to learn how his event catering business survived through Covid WORDS BY TOM YOUNG


vent catering is big business, and rightfully so. To be entrusted with the responsibility of feeding large groups of people requires a lot of skill. Get it wrong, and it’s the thing everyone talks about for weeks after… but get it right, and it makes the event. Sanjay Foods was founded by Atul Lakhani as a food production outlet for ready meals. Feeling that this wasn’t his passion, the business was reorganised for event catering. “Having attended a few prestigious events in London, I was bitten by the bug and wanted something equally as glamourous, with the chance to create jaw-dropping experiences for guests.” It’s now grown even further, becoming a fully-fledged event management company, helping clients to design and deliver weddings, corporate parties and charity events. They have

82 | NICHE


catering rights at over 120 venues across the UK, even acquiring one in 2019 – the multimillion pound IXL Events Centre. It’s now a popular location for weddings, car launches and big seasonal events such as Christmas. “To go from being one of seven caterers, to winning the exclusive rights, to then taking it over – it wasn’t something we’d ever expected, and it still blows me away, to be honest.” It’s been a long journey, but it’s not over yet. Successful growth has come from Atul’s belief in focusing on his own business and his own team. “We empower our staff to uphold the high standards we expect. You’re only as good as your last event, so we heavily invest in training with this in mind.” Atul’s investment in and loyalty to his staff became crystal clear during the pandemic. With the hospitality industry shut

down, and at risk of losing all his profits, Sanjay Foods managed to avoid letting go of any of its staff by reforming into a takeaway business. “We have state-of-the-art kitchens at our Leicester unit, so we made sure they didn’t go to waste, and the reaction was great. We also embraced the Zoom revolution with virtual live cooking experiences.” Having seen the devastation Covid had ravaged upon the industry, Atul was nominated to chair the Large-scale Weddings working group on the UK Weddings Taskforce. This presented information to the government about the industry’s urgent requirement for financial support and helped shape the roadmap out of lockdown. “I was concerned that we would lose all our staff. The government’s furlough scheme provided a lifeline, but the longer the pandemic continued and the wedding industry remained closed, we were inundated with demands for refunds and utility bill payments. Thankfully, our lobbying led to the Prime Minister’s announcement that our industry could reopen in July 2021, giving us a lifeline.” The future is brighter, but there are certainly fresh challenges in the present. “This is the new normal, with unprecedented demand, supply shortages and bottle necks, huge increases in costs and Brexit-led staff shortages. My team and I are very resilient and – despite suffering huge losses – we have bounced back, and are planning to expand our operations.” You can find out more about Sanjay Foods’ catering and event management services at


Culinary elegance:

A night at Mem-Saab For Raj Kooner, great food is the family business. After a threeyear break, Leicester’s award winning restaurant, Mem-Saab, has returned to action. Tom Young spoke to Raj about his approach to running a restaurant and accepted an invitation to dinner


here’s an undeniable elegance to Mem-Saab that greets you from the moment you enter the building. Immaculately decorated, they’ve kept all the original coving and ceilings, consistent with the general advice about Leicester – always look up to see the city’s architectural beauty. Located on Vaughan Way, Mem-Saab was founded by Raj’s mother, Pam, and her brothers in August 1996. “We own the building,” says Raj. “Some of my earliest memories are from running around the place when we were kids. I started working here when I was 14 – my dad dropped me off, having told me I was coming for a meal; next thing I knew, I was working in the kitchen!” There’s a personal touch to the restaurant that adds to the authenticity – Raj is very hands-on, greeting me and my

partner on arrival, making menu recommendations, and ensuring we – and all his guests – were well looked after. I was quite keen that we each order different things to get a broader sense of the menu, and Raj recommended some excellent choices, including the Butter Chicken Masala (ordered for me, but my partner enjoyed it so much we ended up swapping) and the Achari Paneer Shashlik starter. “There’s a lot of Indian restaurants in Leicester,” Raj told me, “but if you want luxury and elegant surroundings, coupled with great food and a friendly service, there was a gap in the market. I wish there was more, because I love eating out too!” Mem-Saab uses all fresh ingredients, with new deliveries twice a week, and take great pride in where they source their quality produce. Raj tells me all dietary requirements are catered


for, ensuring there is something for everyone to enjoy. One of the chefs has been at Mem-Saab for 15 years, the other has just moved over from one of the best restaurants in Dubai, Armani/ Amal. Luxury is taken very seriously here. Raj is particularly proud of Mem-Saab’s dessert menu, and he’s right to be – my girlfriend works in the area and is already planning to pop in for the homemade pista kulfi (pistachio ice cream) as often as she can. “Everything’s made in house, including the desserts. Dessert sales in Indian restaurants are usually non-existent, but we do very well. We perfected our pista kulfi during lockdown!” A thoroughly enjoyable dining experience, I’ll certainly be going back to Mem-Saab in the future. Visit to view the menus and to make a booking. NICHE | 83


The Parmar Collection’s further expansion Leicestershire hospitality group The Parmar Collection are expanding their stunning venue offerings and moving to a new creative hub, continuing their rise in success WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


s a resident of Leicestershire, you will already be familiar with The City Rooms and Winstanley House, which is also home to restaurant Black Iron. Both have luxury details at the heart of their design and service, the boutique venues and hotels are synonymous with stunning design. Now, The Parmar Collection, the group which owns the venues and

which has built a reputation based on high-style and substance, also launched Black Iron Social in the heart of the city centre. Few will currently know that one brand is responsible for these locations, but The Parmar Collection – whose commitment to good style, memorable design and excellent service can be seen in all locations – continue to

further their exceptional hospitality in the area. The group is growing and will soon be moving to a new head office called the Creative Hub, where the company will come together as a team to innovate and build on their exciting hospitality offerings in the city. Discover more from the group at

Black Iron Social

The City Rooms

Winstanley House and Black Iron

Launched just this year and set in the extraordinary surroundings of The Gresham, Black Iron Social is a relaxed yet stylish addition to Leicester city centre. With menus designed to be fun and enjoyable and of course delicious, there’s a plate for every occasion. Inspired by the fantastic ingredients sourced from local suppliers, Black Iron’s food combines traditional and modern cooking techniques. Using classical and further afield flavour combinations, you can expect an interesting and diverse menu that caters for all. 86 | NICHE

The City Rooms is a Georgian, Grade I listed wedding venue and banqueting hall with luxury boutique bedrooms in the heart of Leicester city centre. This stunning, historic venue attracts guests from all over Leicestershire, the East Midlands and further afield. Built in 1792, it is a venue steeped in history, with many fascinating features, giving evidence of the original plans for the building to become the premier hotel in Leicester. The four lavishly decorated boutique bedrooms are also one of the best kept secrets in the city centre.

The venue is a Grade II Listed Georgian house located just outside of Leicester city centre with 19 stunning bedrooms, two elegant ballrooms, a modern British restaurant, private dining room and beautiful terraces all set in 168 acres of rolling public parkland. The British Steakhouse, Black Iron, which is complete with a charcoal-fired oven, attracts diners from far and wide. Set amid parkland with its illustrious history and contemporary renovation, Winstanley House is one of the Midland’s most prestigious locations.

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Raise a glass! Becoming a footballer, buying a sports car, owning an alcohol business – the dreams of many a man, but not many achieve any of them. Niche spoke with Harvey Uppal, managing director of VIP Bottles, to discover how he made one of those dreams a reality WORDS BY TOM YOUNG


corporate job isn’t for everybody. Up until 2014, Harvey Uppal was working for a large technology corporation, and wasn’t loving it. Meanwhile, his friend and future business partner, Bhupinder Gill, was similarly disenchanted with his job. The pair had met at college, gone to university together, and now trained together and went out for drinks at the weekends. Deciding that the corporate life wasn’t for them, they elected to start their own business. “Deciding what we wanted to do was a challenge – I liked the idea of a milkshake shop or dessert restaurant, but then Heavenly Desserts opened on London Road. After discussing it, we realised we had two passions – working out and health supplements, and going for a drink.” The latter won out. There was a gap in the UK alcohol market: US Imports. This involved taking

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some risks that ultimately paid off. “We took a gamble and bought an entire pallet of Ciroc Pineapple vodka, which cost us £17-18k, that wasn’t small change for us. Again, no-one else had it in the UK at the time, but now it’s available in every corner shop – that was us! That’s become our business model, finding unique products, and importing them to the UK.” Both Harvey and Bhupinder have computing degrees, so they built their business online, launching the website in October 2014. “I was just a young, ambitious guy who wanted to do something different and prove people wrong.” Harvey is proud of the fact that they’ve never taken money out of the business, instead, pumping it back in for continued growth. They expanded by starting their own trade line. “We recently signed up Teremana Tequila – Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s brand – again; we were the first to import it, and



it’s been a big part of keeping us above the rest.” Surviving Covid by moving all business operations to their warehouse, Harvey and Bhupinder went full-time. Often working 20-hour days, the business kept growing, and their annual turnover hit £5m in 2020. Last year, it reached £7.5m. VIP Bottles has now become The VIP Group, which includes their retail business, trade line, and VIP Bars & Cocktails, a mobile bar that has been hired for A-list events at prestigious locations such as the Savoy, The Landmark, and The Fairmont Windsor. What’s next? “We’re looking at starting our own line – we’re both very passionate about tequila; we’ve both always enjoyed it and the market is booming, especially in the US where it’s soon to overtake vodka. So we like the idea of getting into that.” You can find out more at



The lay of the land Ensuring the stability of British farming is of paramount importance after exiting the EU and while the effects of Covid-19 and the Ukraine war continue. Parliamentary spokesperson for South Leics Lib Dems Paul Hartshorn tells us why



t’s a difficult time for everyone – the cost-of-living crisis is driving up the price of essentials we’ve long taken for granted. Weather issues in the US and the war in Ukraine have restricted the supply of imported wheat. This could just be the beginning, so it’s vital that we commit to reinforcing food security here at home. In the face of rising costs, British farming must be supported. I recently visited Fay Johnson at Eyebrook Wildbird Feeds in Market Harborough and asked her about the challenges farmers are facing. “Pre-Brexit, the government’s farming agenda was for us to produce food, look after the countryside, and create energy. Now, they need to decide which of these – or what combination – is the priority. “The production and environmental sides can go hand-in-hand, but a balance

has to be struck.” At present, the government has no target to bolster food chain resilience that corresponds to its ambitions to secure biodiversity or tree planting. If both are going to be priorities, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) needs to introduce a statutory target for UK food selfsufficiency, to at least maintain the current level, and with the ambition to grow. But it’s not just on the government. Fay told me how we can all help UK farmers. “Buy British produce. There’s a worry post-Brexit about the possibility of poorer quality imports, with food that’s not been raised or grown to the same standards as we would expect here. Plus, there’s the carbon footprint of importing. So, buy British, especially from local farm shops, if you can.” NICHE | 87

Leicester’s fascinating history The rich tapestry of Leicester history from Romans to more recent landmark events WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


s one of the oldest cities in the UK created by the Romans, and the 10th largest, its history is what makes it the incredibly diverse and vibrant city it is today.


Early Settlements

Pre the Romans, the area was an important tribal centre, with settlements centring around the River Soar. The Romans took over the native settlement and built a large fortress beside the river marking it as their own. When the Romans moved on in the fifth century, there was a dip in the area’s magnitude but, things soon expanded again with the new Saxon settlement in the later fifth and sixth centuries. By the ninth century, Leicester was one of five established boroughs under Danelaw; the Viking-ruled north of Britain. When the Normans took hold in the conquest of 1066, William the Conqueror ordered a castle be built as a way to make sure that the city co-operated with Norman ruling. The city grew to over 4,000 inhabitants by the 14th century – many significant medieval buildings were built at this time, Guildhall, the Newarke Gateway, (c. 1400) and Wygston’s House, built around 1490. Due to Leicester’s support of Parliament in the Civil War, King Charles ordered a siege of the city in 1645, in which he conquered, but not for long with the king’s forces losing the Battle of Naseby to Oliver Cromwell a mere three days later.


Industrial revolution

During the 17th century, Leicester became part of the industriali revolution with its manufacture of stockings and later a woollen trade. This industrialisation meant the population increased to over 200,000 by the late Victorian period. The addition of the railway meant that this population gave the working classes an opportunity to get away, making seaside holidays for midland settlers a possibility. Here’s where Thomas Cook comes in with the packaged train holiday departing from Leicester, seeing the city become known as the ‘birthplace of tourism’. Remarkably, it wasn’t until 1912 that Leicester became an official city, and in 1927 the medieval church of St Martin was raised to cathedral status.

Richard III (he gets his own section)

Leicester’s history became front and foremost in the public’s consciousness in recent years.

The year 1485 saw Richard III stay at Leicester on his way to battle with Henry Tudor at Bosworth. According to legend, the king accidentally struck his spur on a stone as he crossed Bow Bridge – it’s said that his head hit this same stone as he was brought back by horse, which was foretold by a wisewoman of the time. Richard’s body was lost for centuries, buried in the ruins of Greyfriar’s, until it was found under a car park! After the discovery, Richard was reburied with full honours in Leicester Cathedral, very close to where he was found.

Recent History

Modern history saw our city’s rugby team Leicester Tigers form in 1880 and Leicester City Football Club in 1884. The birthplace of local radio was in Leicester in 1967 and, the discovery of DNA in 1984. Then of course, we can’t leave this piece without mention of Leicester City Football Club’s Premier League win in 2016.

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There’s no business The Leicester Drama Society (LDS) is celebrating its centenary year. After holding its initial meeting at The Turkey Café in 1922, its home has been The Little Theatre in Dover Street since 1930. Over the years, the likes of Richard Attenborough, Joe Orton, and even Sooty have tread the boards. Today, Niche feature writer Tom Young and editor Kerry Smith are regulars at the theatre, each actively involved in productions, supporting as audience, and even joining the board. They told us why the theatre is so important to them

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Sponsors required! Help rebuild our theatre

The theatre’s big ambition is to renovate and extend the building. The City Mayor has agreed to sell neighbouring land to LDS for just £1 on the condition that the necessary funds can be raised to start building. Individual donors and legacies have purchased silver stars – engraved and displayed in the theatre bar – to support this effort, with naming rights and other packages available for major sponsors. For more details about the project, or to donate online, visit 90 | NICHE

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What’s On at The Little Theatre

There are many great shows coming up; here are a few highlights:

Black Coffee Leicester Drama Society September 12-17 Poirot investigates in this Agatha Christie classic

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (Aged 13 1/3) Leicester Amateur Operatic Society September 20-24 The musical adaptation of Sue Townsend’s eponymous hero

Entertaining Mr Sloane Leicester Drama Society November 14-19 Scandalous black comedy from Leicester’s Joe Orton

9 to 5 Knighton Park Amateur Operatic Society November 22-26 Dolly Parton’s musical of the 1980 working girls comedy

Aladdin Leicester Drama Society December 15, 2022 – January 8, 2023 The LDS classic pantomime, directed by John Bale

Educating Rita Leicester Drama Society January 23-28, 2023 Willy Russell’s Pygmalion-style drama Tickets for all shows at The Little Theatre are available via the box office, by phone on 0116 255 1302, or online at NICHE | 91

WHAT’S ON IN LEICESTERSHIRE As we celebrate all things Leicester, we look ahead to a summer of blockbuster events – Niche has sought out some of the best things happening in our wonderful city that you won’t want to miss WORDS BY TOM YOUNG

Caribbean Carnival and Leicester Pride Caribbean Carnival Saturday, August 6 – 11am-8pm Victoria Park eicester’s annual Caribbean Carnival commemorates the emancipation of slavery in the West Indies, which took place on August 1, 1834. First held in 1985, the lively and vibrant celebration of Caribbean culture is now one of the largest in the UK, and includes food, music, dance, arts, crafts and more! It’s a multicultural event that allows the community to experience Leicester’s unique array of lifestyles


and heritages, filling the city with the sound of drums, calypso, soca, reggae, banjos, feathers, glitter, beads, sequins, and happy people dancing the day away! The parade – led by the Leicester Carnival Queen – will feature floats, performers, dancers, and musicians, all dressed up in spectacular costumes, adorning the city with colour and sound. The carnival village at Victoria Park is open from 11am, with the parade setting off from Granville Road at 1pm.

Pirates and Princess Day Wednesday, August 3 – 11am-3pm Belgrave Hall ring your little landlubbers to Belgrave Hall for a circus of shipwrecked, swashbuckling souls. Enter Edem Theatre presents a day of pirates and princesses, offering games, treasure hunts, storytelling, and even a mermaid! Highlights of the day include the Cross and Bone Circus (Privateer Patrick and Pirate Pete lead circus workshops, magic, and balloon modelling), the Pirate Playground (including Captain Calico’s twisted treasure hunt), Tilly’s Roaming Tavern (a puppetry walkabout), and Stories from the Seas (Princess Pearl and Coralia the Mermaid regale us with a tale from the oceans). Come dressed up in your best pirate or princess costume for a fun family day out. Booking is advised with £5pp tickets available via


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Leicester Pride Saturday, September 3 – 12pm Victoria Park en thousand people will be lining the streets of Leicester, ready to enjoy the annual LGBTQ+ festival, held in the first weekend of September. Celebrating equality and diversity in the community, the event is free to attend and family friendly, with entertainment and attractions suitable for all ages. The parade starts at noon, weaving through the city centre, and leading to the festival site on Victoria Park. Entertainment includes live singers, dance acts, cabaret and the best local DJs. Market stalls provide plenty to see and buy, as well as a variety of options for food and drink to keep you energised for the entire party. There will also be a selection of rides and games, courtesy of Billy Bates & Sons fun fair. A day about love and acceptance, Pride is one of Leicester most colourful, vivacious, and inclusive parties. More information is available at the website.



The Music Room It’s been the toughest of times for our music venues in the last few years. Live music venues are more important than ever as we support our venues and the live musicians who tour them. Leicester has some great venues. Here, Emily Miller shines a spotlight on just a few of them

The Shed

The Shed is a music venue in Leicester city centre that was established in 1994 and lovingly ran for over 20 years before new ownership took over and breathed new life back into the much-loved building. After re-opening on April 1, 2017, The Shed has now played host to a whole plethora of incredible artists with a huge range of performance styles and followings.

The Musician

Tucked away in a quiet back street in the heart of Leicester, The Musician is the Midlands’ premier independent music venue. With live music at least six nights a week, it holds 220 people and features comfortable seating, full disabled access, easy parking and a selection of real ales. Since opening in 2000, The Musician’s reputation has been built on presenting the very best homegrown and international performers in a relaxed and friendly environment. With a supremely eclectic booking policy, the venue regularly features everything from contemporary singer-songwriters to rock, blues, folk, ska, punk, world, bluegrass, reggae, metal, soul, indie, avantgarde and Americana.

O2 Academy

Situated on campus at University of Leicester Students’ Union, O2 Academy Leicester opened its doors to both students and music-loving residents in the city in September 2010. Housed in the award-winning Percy Gee building, the O2 Academy sits on one of the oldest sites on the main campus. Originally built in 1957, there was a fantastic line-up of musical icons that played here in its former incarnation with the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Smiths and The Jam all appearing. An 18-month major refurbishment transformed the original Students’ Union into an amazing new space and O2 Academy Leicester was added as part of this project. You can catch a host of nationwide touring musicians here.

The Soundhouse

The Soundhouse is another great independent music venue here in Leicester, located in St George’s Cultural Quarter of Leicester, it’s a much-loved part of the music scene. From local musicians and open mic nights the venue welcomes in a range of genres to cater to all music tastes. To continue its arts supporting vibe the venue also has some up and coming artwork on the building and in its beer garden. The venue also has a friendly and informal, pub-like atmosphere yet with professional sound and lighting delivered by highly experienced in-house technicians. NICHE | 93


Working pink The UK comedy industry is going through an evolution. Women in stand-up are (finally) getting more opportunities in a long-standing boys club, and Tickled Pink Comedy is proud to be showcasing them WORDS BY TOM YOUNG


n Leicester, Judith Critchley’s Tickled Pink Comedy Night has been shining a spotlight on the best of femaleidentifying comedy. In 2018, Judith – who lives with bipolar disorder – attended a stand-up comedy course at BrightSparks, the Arts in Mental Health group. She couldn’t have known at the time that four years later she’d have established her own comedy gig, moved online during a global pandemic (forming a partnership with a Californian comedy night in the process), run her first gig in London at 21 Soho, and produced shows for Leicester Comedy Festival, even earning a nomination for Best Promoter in 2021. Judith said: “I’d really enjoyed the course, but as a single parent, I couldn’t commit to the stand-up lifestyle of being out every night. I started my own gig so I can do it on my terms.” Having seen the lack of diversity in the Leicester

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comedy scene, Tickled Pink Comedy has been a standard bearer, creating more opportunities for female-identifying comedians. It offers representation, encourages diversity, and gives the opportunity to perform. Acts have included Samantha Day, Sonja Quita Doubleday, Hannah Silvester and over a hundred other fabulous comedians. Judith has learned on the job and continues to seek new collaborations with venues and sponsors. Her comedy night has been celebrated for its inclusivity, and the comedians are grateful for it, especially those who had felt isolated by less diverse line-ups elsewhere. “It’s a different way of doing things, and it seems to be working!” Tickled Pink Comedy have upcoming shows at Big Difference and The Y Theatre, as well as more London dates later in the year. More details at



Pool to paint swimming champion turned animal artist Why a local girl who’d chased her Olympic dream her entire life, chose to leave the water and step foot in the land of animals and art WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


wenty-four-year-old swimming champion Danielle Tomlinson from Danes Hill in Leicester has become a renowned artist painting contemporary graffitistyle animal portraits. What started out as pen drawings is now a full-time business model. It’s afforded her to graduate from a home space to a quirky studio in Makers Yard, as well as the prospect of buying her first home after only two years in business. While Danielle was an established swimmer competing and representing Britain internationally, even qualifying for Olympic and Commonwealth world trials, she’d slowly lost her hunger for competitive swimming. Destined for the deep end, Danielle was swimming since the age of four and, with a love of science and sport, she naturally wanted to study sports science at Loughborough University. But in between lectures is where another passion grew. Animals and art are the two other great loves of the multi-talented Danielle, meaning she would often be found scribbling pet

portraits using ball-point pens. When people began asking her to draw their dogs, she would sell her work at £40 a piece. It was actually her parents who encouraged her to pursue a career as an artist. “My parents have been so supportive,” Danielle said. “They’ve never pushed me to do anything, so I’ve always had the freedom to try new things. My dad built me a garden studio in lockdown and my family encouraged me to set up the business. They’ve always told me to do what makes me happy.” Quitting swimming and diving into business must have been daunting: “I’d just fallen out of love with swimming and my love of exotic animals and art took over. Stereotypically, people might not make money as an artist, but I quickly had to start turning work away.” Now - with over 13k Instagram followers, clients around the world, and being on the market for a house - the exotic animal and pet painter has been approached by eight galleries. But, she’s declined their offers, deciding to represent herself instead.


On gaining the confidence to become a business owner and how to market herself as an artist, she said: “I did a marketing course and then things started to pick up and I was able to make it my full-time job. But it did become really stressful, and I felt like I had to take on all the work that was coming in. I learnt that I could say no and that I will sometimes have to turn work away. Putting a price on my work to begin with was challenging.” At the start of the pandemic, work that Danielle would sell for £800, now sells in the region of £1500+. But making money as an artist is an idea that some people still struggle to understand. “People still ask me what my real job is when I tell them I’m an artist,” Danielle said. She often has people ask her to paint their pets declaring that they’ll ‘pay her for it’ as though painting is her hobby. When people think of artists they think of Michelangelo or Van Gogh, they don’t expect that the girl next door is able to buy a house from her artworks. Find Danielle’s work on Instagram @danielletomlinsonart or at NICHE | 95


The path to hope Raising funds to continue the battle with cancer remains vitally important. Local charity, Hope Against Cancer, is keen to get businesses more involved


ope Through Business has been a roaring success since its inception generating vital, regular income for local cancer research projects. In order to move with the changing times and organisational priorities, we are now offering a monthly membership model. For just £75 a month, local businesses will be able to support our life changing research projects and receive all the benefits of being involved with and a partner of a highprofile local charity. Without the support of local businesses, we wouldn’t be able to run lifesaving clinical trials on potential new drugs and treatments that give families more time with their loved ones, nor would ground breaking projects like blood tests for cancer be on their way from testing to in-use drugs to benefit patients. Please contact jessica@hopegainstcancer. for more information on how you can contribute to the future of oncology, and benefit your business.



Forum Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan Founder and CEO of She Inspires (Global)

FUNDRAISING THROUGH SOCIAL ENTERPRISE Setting up a social enterprise helps generate additional income for charities – Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan, founder of the Zinthiya Trust and She Inspires Global explains how. Running a social enterprise that supports your charity or not-for-profit organisation can not only create a stream of unrestricted revenue but can also help your charity’s mission. Offering products and services as opposed to asking for donations is a more progressive idea, as it increases awareness of the work you do and builds on your profile. Currently, the social sector in the UK is growing rapidly, offering a range of products and services such as cafés, restaurants, training providers, and shops being run using a social enterprise model. These enterprises generate their income through trading with profits reinvested to fund charitable activities or to grow the enterprise. Social enterprises aren’t just sources of funding. They can also provide work or volunteering experience for service users such as the Chapel Café Based in Bishop Street Leicester or the Leicester Community Shop promoting your mission as well as becoming an access point for people to your charity/not-for-profit organisation. Running a business can also help you to build your own skills and become more in tune with potential corporates, as you will face some of the same challenges these businesses face. Your social enterprise can also partner with other businesses as a supplier or subcontractor in the long term. If you want to learn more or need help, there is a range of support organisations locally, regionally and nationally such as She Inspires, The School of Social Enterprise and Social Enterprise UK. NICHE | 97


Rallying help for the homeless The cost-of-living crisis is costing more people their homes across the county


etween April 2020 and March 2021, homelessness charity The Bridge (East Midlands) received 6,202 referrals – an increase of 39% compared to the same period of 2019-20. They were able to prevent or resolve homelessness for around 92% of beneficiaries. The process of becoming homeless is stressful, exhausting, and dangerous; but in many cases is preventable. The charity’s early intervention, prevention, and relief services provide guidance to address the very real issues of housing and homelessness that they say is an escalating emergency in the local area. The immediate pressures of the cost-of-living crisis is being witnessed now by the charity’s frontline workers. Mary, on their Young People & Families team, recently met a single mum reaching crisis point (we’ll call her Sarah). “It was distressing to see a young mum worrying about how she would be able to feed and bathe her children.

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This situation is equally sad as I know she is not alone in struggling with the rising costs – there are so many more families in the same situation, and it will only get worse.” The Young People & Families team were able to help Sarah and will continue to ensure that she, and many others, are accessing support to help with budgeting and to prevent the homelessness. But more help is needed. A representative from The Bridge said: “To continue offering this life changing support to those who urgently need it, we need your help. Our essential core costs just to keep our organisation running are over £500,000 each year so we desperately rely on the support of the local community to prevent and overcome homelessness, together.” To help prevent local homelessness, contact our Community Engagement Lead Magda on 077174 67872 or visit


Pink Tie Birthday Ball

As IT business Kazzoo approaches its 20-year anniversary, the team aims to raise £20k to share between multiple charities and projects with its biggest event ever WORDS BY KERRY SMITH


can’t believe Kazzoo is going to be 20 years old. It just proves how quickly the time has gone by as my youngest daughter is the same age,” Kazzoo owner Chris Cain shared, putting the milestone into perspective. Kazzoo is made up of team members dedicated and committed to supporting local people and community projects. They’re excited to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday next year on May 12 with a ‘Pink Tie Birthday Ball’, which they’re hoping to raise the majority of their £20,000 charity target with in 2023. The team has worked with and supported many prolific local businesses such as the Leicestershire Law Society, Glenfield Electrical, and ActionCoach (Loughborough). It has also built a reputation in the charitable sector. Refusing to select a ‘charity of the year’, as is the norm for many companies, Chris believes in sharing the funds raised at his

many charity events throughout each year among multiple local organisations. Kazzoo has supported many charities including Soft Touch Arts, Zinthiya Trust, Lamp, YMCA, Help the Homeless, Shama Women’s Centre, Mosaic, and Helping Hands, to name just a few. On his £20k goal for 2023, Chris explained: “I want to raise money for charities so they can be a part of Kazzoo’s 20-year success. Supporting charities helps them to keep up with the success of the business community.” Rather than only donating funds to local charities, the team likes to see positive end results for local people. “We don’t just want to give money. We’d rather do something that makes a difference like raising brand awareness or buying something physical that a person or charity can actually use.” Kazzoo donates items that charities are in need of most recently including a computer for community interest company


Koi Sports. Each year, he delivers hundreds of Easter eggs to charities too. Coming up, Chris is putting on his annual charity Kazzoo Golf Day, he’ll be abseiling to raise money for Alex’s Wish and he’ll walk up Ben Nevis for Menphys and that’s just over the next three months. The Pink Tie Birthday Ball is the largest event Chris will have ever produced. Marc Bolton will be compèring and welcoming pop star and X Factor winner Sam Bailey to the stage for a live performance. As his most challenging event to organise in Kazzoo’s 20 years, Chris is hoping to raise the majority of the £20k target on the night and in the run-up to the event. “And if all this means I’ve not got to jump out of a plane for charity again then great,” he laughed. Tickets to the Pink Tie Ball on May 12 are £85pp or £750 for a table of 10. Buy tickets online at restaurant/pg/winstanley-house/ private-events. NICHE | 99


Behind closed doors July 14, 2022 marks a day dedicated to the memory of the victims of honour-based killings. Here in Leicester, the Zinthyia Trust supports victims of honour-based violence before it’s too late WORDS BY EMILY MILLER


t’s estimated that there are 5,000 honour killings worldwide per year. However, many victims go missing and therefore escape the statistics. So, the true number of victims is thought to be far greater. Honour-based violence (HBV) is defined as ‘violent crimes or incidents committed to defend the honour of the family or community’. Those who act in ways generally thought not to be in keeping with traditional beliefs and practices of their culture are targeted. Perceived ‘crimes’ include becoming romantically involved with a person of another culture or religion, avoiding arranged marriages, or wearing clothes deemed unacceptable in the

eyes of their persecutor. “We see women and young girls who are victims of this type of honourbased abuse. It can be very hard to spot before it’s too late, as it goes on behind closed doors. The women we support are typically fleeing such violence or are victims of it and have nowhere else to turn,” The ZInthiya Trust founder Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan tells me. HBV isn’t a gendered crime. So many people in the UK and the world over are punished for choosing to live their lives with autonomy. “Victims simply don’t speak up for fear of the abuse escalating or of becoming completely isolated from

their community or even being killed. It’s so important that communities or families report honour-based crimes before it’s too late for the victims,” Zinthiya warns. If you’re concerned about your welfare or that of someone else, visit Always call 999 in emergency cases.


To the Moon! Mental health charity Lamp continues its fundraising efforts by encouraging people to walk 5k to combine their efforts and reach the distance to the Moon WORDS BY KATIE BRENNAN


uring mental health awareness week from May 9 to 15, Lamp encouraged people to join them on their ‘Trip to the Moon’ by inviting people to join them in traveling 5k by walking, running, cycling, skating, swimming, or using a wheelchair. Everyone’s distances will be added together to achieve the target of 384,400km, which is the distance between Earth and the Moon. Lamp is a mental health charity that advocates for all kinds of mental health issues. The idea behind the Trip to the Moon was to get people active, a proven method of boosting mental health. The charity is recruiting people from all over the world to help them achieve their goal. They aim to raise £1 for every kilometre covered to provide much needed support for people struggling to access mental health 100 | NICHE

services across Leicestershire. So far they’ve covered a distance of over 66,000km and have raised the magnificent sum of £13,848. The Trip to the Moon will come to a close on July 20, which is the date of the official first moon landing. Lots of people have been involved in many different sports and activities, but one man stood out for completing three 5k walks barefoot. Stewart Bint, a local author, decided to tackle the challenge with no shoes in an effort to represent the unknown journey through life and the unpredictable effects it can have on our mental and physical health. Stewart’s first walk marked the official launch of the Lamp 5k event. The National Space Centre is working with Lamp to engage with local schools about space and mental health. Schools involved took part in

various 1k walks, combining to achieve 5k, demonstrating the importance of working together. Lamp provides independent community mental health advocacy to the people of Leicestershire including support for families and carers. Each pound fundraised will help those who need it. If you or someone you know is struggling, you can reach Lamp at, or feel free to donate to the charity via the website.

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Niche Networking


n May 9, Niche Networking pulled double duty as we announced this year’s semi-finalists for the Niche Business Awards 2022. The event was held at Leicestershire County Cricket Club, with guests treated to a range of canapés and a welcome drink. The inclusion of the semi-finalist announcements meant that there were a range of new faces present for the event, and it was a delight to welcome them into the community. It was also a pleasure to catch up with many of our long-time friends and partners. Rob Ricketts spoke on behalf of the NBA’s headline sponsor, Leicester Castle Business School. He told us

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about the 12-week Help to Grow course aimed at owners or senior leaders of SMEs, offering a fresh perspective on business and ways of working. Divyesh Chudasama also spoke on behalf of event sponsor, Tattel. He told us about their new app that connects up-and-coming entrepreneurs with experienced business mentors. The full list of semi-finalists, each announced by their category sponsor, can be found elsewhere in this magazine – congratulations to all the nominees. The finalists will be announced at the next Niche Networking on July 4.

Real Entrepreneurs’ Awards 2022


he inaugural Real Entrepreneurs’ Awards took place on April 28, at the Radisson Blu at East Midlands Airport, sponsored by Morningside Pharmaceuticals. The evening celebrated entrepreneurship across the East Midlands, with businesses from Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire represented. Hosted by Llewela Bailey, the event included a three-course dinner, two keynote speakers, and 10 awards. Professor Peter Stokes from Leicester Castle Business School delivered the first keynote. He discussed the pragmatism of UK businesses compared to the theory-driven

work of our European neighbours, as well as ‘micro-moments’ and their impact on an entire organisation. Our second speaker was Jaimon Thomas, the founder of the Kayal and Herb restaurants. He took part in a Q&A with Llewela, answering questions about founding his businesses, his thoughts on entrepreneurship, and menu recommendations for his restaurants. The 10 awards were presented across the course of the evening, acknowledging the efforts of the region’s entrepreneurs in different fields, including innovation, collaboration, and education. NICHE | 103

Real Entrepreneurs’ Dinner J une saw the latest edition of the Real Entrepreneurs’ Club dinner. It’s a chance for entrepreneurs from across the East Midlands to network, share ideas and enjoy a meal together. The event began with a welcome from Cross Productions CEO, Jenny Cross. She welcomed two new partners to the club – DMU’s Crucible Project and Oliver Rayns. “Everyone in the club shares the ethos of knowledge sharing,” said Jenny. “If you’re a business leader with an issue that’s been niggling away at you, ask someone in the room because they’ll have an answer for you.” 104 | NICHE

Barry Randall of The Garden Design Company delivered an excellent talk about the seven life lessons he’s learned by owning a business. It was very well received, and we’d encourage others to hear Barry speak in the future. “It is always such a pleasure to spend time with entrepreneurs, but this event was really special,” said Glynis Wright MBE, a member of the club. “I am very proud to be a founding member of the Entrepreneurs’ Club and equally delighted that Nelsons have also become partners. It’s going from strength to strength!”


Nachural Awards Winners Over 500 Midlands business people attended the Nachural Awards at King Power Stadium in May. Here are the winners: Business Start Up - What A Goal Small Business of the Year - Design Studio Architects Business Woman of the Year - Jenny Cross Entrepreneur of the Year - Amarjit Binji Excellence in Technology - Evolve Automation Enterprise of the Year - Business 2 Business UK Excellence in Customer Service - Your IT Dept

International Business of the Year - Genesis Innovations Contribution to the Region - Chan Kataria EMH Group Contribution to the Region - Kevin Harris Business Person of the Year - Graham Colbourne & Pat Carnan Excellence in Innovation - Creative-62 Excellence in Real Estate, Construction and Architecture AJCS Roofing Excellence in Legal Services - Fishers Solicitors Community Excellence - Help the Homeless Leicester Business of the Year - Davidsons Homes

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Directors, specialists, CEOs, MBEs, PhD holders, and other higher-ups… they’re all people you might meet in the boardroom. It’s a professional space where best behaviour is upheld. But these successful types are people too! They have lives and we want to know what goes on in them. We squeeze answers out of them on subjects you wouldn’t normally discuss in the boardroom

PROFILE: Greg Prangnell mason’s Hall Head Chef at Free Age: 47 Wight Born in the Isle of rborough Lives in Market Ha rking in many ef for 22 years wo ch a en be s Ha y: Noteworth House, and ford Park, Kilworth le ap St ng di clu in venues won the ere he and his team wh op Sh rm Fa Farndon Fields rant title. Farmhouse Restau FARMA 2016 Best w would you FRIENDSHIPS: Ho as a friend? describe yourself , and dependable. Hopefully loyal, fun I would look for in I think that’s what other people.

IPS: LOVE RELATIONSH ionship lat re st be ur yo What’s w you ho le advice? Treat peop lf. se ur yo d want to be treate act u yo If g. on wr You can’t go n ca u n yo like an ass, well the . ck ba t tha only really expect

hat’s the craziest ADVENTURES: W ? thing you’ve done done some very e I’v u! I can’t tell yo n we come back to stupid things… Ca that one? here would your ENVIRONMENT: W est look for you? nearest and dear ge, surrounded Definitely the gara tools, among all ng rki by my woodwo . sorts of other tools NESS: What’s your HEALTH AND FIT r ? Chocolate. Suga unhealthiest habit r, ga su ch mu way too in general. I have e. tiv dic ad so t is jus it’s no good but it gary drinks or the su e lik y all re n’t I do and cakes? I can’t like, but puddings stop myself.

E: What do you INTELLECTUAL LIF odworking tools! geek out on? My wo actical or scienceAnything that is pr on YouTube, which based, especially . videos on all sorts t has loads of grea

od at SKILLS: Weirdly go g? anythin my own trumpet, I’m not into blowing it would be but I am a chef so t’s really boring! tha ow kn cooking, I r at woodworking! I am getting bette od is like cutting Cutting through wo ead, except it’s a through a loaf of br lot tougher. Which of life’s SPIRITUAL LIFE: u up at night? yo ep mysteries ke ughts to one flag – I have tied my tho . It’s the idea that it’s called absurdism any real meaning nothing in life has the meaning that behind it besides to it. humans project on the worst part CAREER: What’s eryone likes Ev ? about your job inion. Tastes are food and has an op one person loves subjective, so when else hates it, it e on a dish and some find a solution. can be difficult to

tside of work, CREATIVE LIFE: Ou eate’? ‘cr t what did you las back of my the r fo I made a shelf as a very small Mini so I can use it van. t’s your most FAMILY LIFE: Wha childhood? fond memory from on my od Eating my mum’s fo ve ha me let birthday. She’d ner. din r fo d nte wa whatever I E: Which political COMMUNITY LIF t interested topic are you mos since reading er Ev w? in right no ineteen Eighty George Orwell’s ‘N y the media Four’, I notice the wa ople just don’t pe d an presents news t if we can’t question it. I feel tha it as a society properly scrutinise it stress me out then I can’t really let the way it should.


To get a well-rounded feel for our interviewee, our questions are based on Vishen Lakhiani’s 12 Areas of Life Balance





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