unLTD. Connecting business across Sheffield City Region #74

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After dedicating nearly 25 years to the energy industry, Russell Thompson made the bold decision to venture out on his own as a consultant focused primarily on corporate. However, a recent pivotal moment prompted him to adapt his business model, extending his expertise to empower SMEs as well. We found out what inspired the change of tack…


We are launching our first ever unLTD Business Expo for the whole region! Find out how you can get involved to promote your business, raise brand awareness, increase sales and network to your heart’s content.


Sheffield is beginning to rewrite its narrative from humble to exciting and innovative. Claire Fletcher from Sheffield Technology Parks highlights one compelling reason for this shift: the city’s emerging status as one of the UK’s most promising hubs for startups and innovative thinkers.


Could Sheffield one day claim the title of Britain’s podcasting capital? According to Dino Sofos, founder of the award-winning podcast production company Persephonica and co-founder of Crossed Wires, the city’s first podcast festival, there’s every reason to believe so.


Katie Ash, Director, Shareholder, and Head of Employment Law at Banner Jones, reflects on her path from a working-class upbringing to a successful career rising through the ranks of the esteemed law firm.


Welcome to the latest edition of unLTD!

Once again, we’ve been immersed in assembling our monthly showcase of the regional business community, engaging with innovative and inspiring individuals doing great things across South Yorkshire and its surrounding areas.

However, in this month’s opening letter, we have some personal news to share, if you’ll indulge us for a moment.

The big news? We’re thrilled to unveil the launch of our inaugural business expo, set to take place at Magna this October. The response from local business leaders has already been hugely encouraging, and it’s poised to become one of the biggest events on the region’s business community calendar. Dive into the details and learn how you can be part of it on the very next page.

Elsewhere in this month’s issue, we’ve got some uplifting features about why South Yorkshire is becoming a hotspot for tech startups (p.8), how Sheffield could well become a big player on the national podcasting scene (p.38) and the story of a family-run business that’s brought the joy of music to thousands of local people in its 35-year tenure (p.58).

As you’ve probably sussed by now, supporting local SMEs is a core passion of ours here at unLTD Magazine – and this month’s cover star perfectly embodies those values. For this month’s in-depth interview (p.32), business consultant Russell Thompson discusses why he shifted his focus from corporate ventures to assisting smaller local businesses in building their dreams.

I’ll let you discover the rest for yourselves. Enjoy the read, and I’ll catch you next month! Joseph Food, Editor.



Joe Food



Ash Birch



Olivia Warburton



Lizzy Capps



Marc Barker


Phil Turner


07979 498 034

Nick Hallam

nick@exposedmagazine.co.uk 07843 483536


Lis Ellis accounts@ exposedmagazine.co.uk


Charlotte Cassells

Ryan Connolly

Jo Davison

Rachael Flintoft

Ross Jarman

Becca Morris

Tim Renshaw

Laura Stead

Wendy Ward

Jill White

unLTD is published monthly by Blind Mice Media Ltd Unit 1B Rialto, 2 Kelham Island Sq., Kelham Riverside, Sheffield S3 8SD

The views contained herein are not necessarily those of Blind Mice Media Ltd and while every effort is made to ensure information throughout unLTD is correct, changes prior to distribution may take place which can affect the accuracy of copy, therefore Blind Mice Media Ltd cannot take responsibility for contributors’ views or specific listings.


unLTD Business Expo Announced!

We are launching our first ever Business Expo for the whole region, to be held at Magna Centre on October 2nd. Full details below…


The unLTD Business Expo is a brand new event for companies in the South Yorkshire region to promote their business, raise brand awareness, increase sales and network. Based in the Magna Centre in Rotherham, it’s just ten minutes from Sheffield city centre and will showcase the vibrant, forward-thinking business community in the region. As an exhibitor, you will have a full day to showcase your business, make new contacts and network. The expo is a fantastic opportunity for you to interact with potential clients, customers, suppliers, industry professionals and the public. As an attendee you can book your FREE place to visit the expo at any time from 10am until 3.30pm. Make the most of your day and meet many excellent local exhibitors. You will have a great opportunity to engage in networking, learn about new products and services and make informed purchasing decisions.


October 2, 2024 10am-3.30pm


Magna Centre, Magna Way, Templeborough, Rotherham S60 1FD


Visit expo.unltdbusiness.com or email phil@unltdbusiness.com



• £350 for a 2m x 2m stand

• £625 for a 4m x 2m stand

• Stands include a table and table cloth and breakfast for two people.

• Extra breakfasts can be ordered for £3.50 per person.

• Lunch bags can be ordered for £7.50 per person.

• Access to power £25 per stand



The unLTD Business Expo is organised by the team behind unLTD Business Magazine and the unLTD Business Awards as well as the organisers of the Chesterfield Business Expo.


Simon Coy is a full-time, experienced event organiser. He has been hosting networking events for over eight years and is currently host of one of the largest monthly business networking lunches in Birmingham as well as organising the bi-annual Chesterfield Business Expo.


Phil heads up Blind Mice Media Ltd, publishers of unLTD Business Magazine and Exposed Magazine. He has run his own publishing company for 21 years and organises a range of networking events in the region as well as the annual unLTD Business Awards.



The secret’s out… Sheffield is the startup capital of the UK.

Sheffield and the wider South Yorkshire region emerged as the star of startups last month during a Yorkshire Tech Climbers event. Breaking tradition by hosting its regional launch event outside Leeds for the first time, the move by TechClimbers revealed that Sheffield’s tech startup scene isn’t just thriving, it’s on fire.

Tech Climbers is an annual list that showcases scalable, innovative, product-led technology businesses in growth regions across the UK. This year’s Yorkshire launch welcomed a diverse range of founders and other players within the region’s tech ecosystem, as well as those from outside of South Yorkshire.

Sheffield Technology Parks (STP) CEO, Tom Wolfenden took to the stage for a Q&A, explaining that residents at STP vary greatly in their nature, from SaaS (Software as a Service) and hardware provision, to quantum computing and biotech, but they all share one thing: the potential to create high value jobs.

“The core purpose of

our role is to see economic benefit from the companies that we support,” he explained. “And to see that feed through into other areas of the economy such as hospitality and culture, creating prosperity to the city overall.”

Asked why Sheffield is experiencing such an uplift in demand from ambitious entrepreneurs, he remarked:

“We tend to be quite retrospective when we talk about Sheffield and what makes it unique, but the Steel City thing is becoming a bit old hat.

“There’s a different narrative coming out of Sheffield now. Young entrepreneurs are coming to Sheffield and taking it at face value, they are seeing a new city centre being developed out of the ground. This is raising perceptions of the city as it is now, not as it was.”

April also welcomed the

debut of UK Tech Week, providing a bigger stage to showcase and celebrate regional tech ecosystems nationwide. South Yorkshire naturally threw its hat into the ring, becoming an event partner.

Collaborating with Ampere.Events, Sheffield Digital coordinated and promoted a week of events for startups to meet, learn, collaborate, and amplify their stories. Marking the festival, SYMCA published a new report on the region’s tech ecosystem, underscoring its upwards trajectory with some eye opening statistics. With over 600 new tech firms emerging in 2023 alone, South Yorkshire registered record levels of startup activity and is now home to at least 4,588 tech firms, more than ever before.

A notable trend identified by SYMCA’s research was the influx of tech companies from

outside of South Yorkshire. In 2023, the region witnessed its highest ever rate of relocations, with nearly 30% of registered tech businesses migrating from other tech hubs across the UK.

This is definitely true of Sheffield Technology Parks, where we have witnessed a surge of startups from London and other UK cities. We’re hearing the same thing loud and clear: Sheffield has it all. Energy, talent, innovation, investment, access, collaboration and a quality of life that can only come from the UK’s greenest city.

Contrary to the city’s modest reputation, Sheffield’s tech startup scene now stands as a big, loud success. The narrative of “not shouting enough about ourselves” has been altered; Sheffield has earned its stripes as the undisputed startup capital of the UK and it’s no secret, our doors are open.


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The University of Sheffield has been voted the University of the Year at the Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2024.

The awards, which are the largest annual university awards in the UK voted for exclusively by students, saw the university also win Best Students’ Union for the seventh year running, and the award for Best Student Life.

The University of Sheffield was also shortlisted in the Facilities, Student Support and International categories.

Professor Mary Vincent, Vice-President for Education at the University of Sheffield, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be named University of the Year by the Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2024.

“This recognition is a

reflection of the tireless efforts of our entire University community – our dedicated and supportive staff, and of course, our incredible students.

“Winning the Best Students’ Union for the seventh year in a row is also a truly remarkable achievement which recognises the vibrant environment, outstanding

support services, and plethora of opportunities our Students’ Union provides, allowing our students to thrive both academically and personally.

“Both of these accolades, coupled with the award for Best Student Life, underscores our commitment to providing a world-class learning and teaching environment that

fosters academic excellence, personal growth, and a vibrant student life. We are incredibly proud to offer an experience that our students value so highly.”

Lily Byrne, President of the University of Sheffield’s Students’ Union, added: “Thank you so much to all of our students who chose to get involved and review us. As a Students’ Union, we strive to ensure that our students feel represented, empowered, and have the best possible time at University.

“Every year we provide thousands of opportunities for students to positively shape their future and have fun. It’s wonderful to read the reviews in this year’s awards and understand just how important these opportunities are to our student community.”




Evolutor, a startup pioneering a new approach to biomanufacturing, has relocated to a bespoke lab space at Sheffield Technology Parks (STP).

This move marks a significant milestone in the company’s growth, shifting from shared facilities at the University of Sheffield to a dedicated space it at STP.

Founded by Joe Price, CEO, Professor Tuck Seng Wong, CTO, and Dr Kang Lan Tee, CSO, Evolutor is a spin-out company from The University of Sheffield’s world-class scientific research and innovation facilities that is driven to accelerate a ‘global bioindustrial revolution’.

Evolutor’s work principally focuses on advanced biomaterials for industries such as textiles and plastic manufacturing, developing new highly functionalised flexible materials produced from waste.

The startup is also exploring how their groundbreaking technology could reduce CO2 emissions of construction and other industrial materials by up to 80%.

Speaking about Evolutor joining the impressive roster of innovative companies at STP, Tom

Wolfenden, CEO at STP, said: “Science-based companies like Evolutor are primarily working on processes and products that are tackling the global climate emergency.

“Whether it’s cutting carbon emissions in chemical manufacturing, or transforming industrial waste into useful products, this work is groundbreaking and we are extremely pleased that so much of it is now happening at STP.”

“Joe and his team are a fantastic addition to our community. We pride ourselves on being agile and responsive, which meant that we could provide the right space for Evolutor in a time-sensitive situation that otherwise could have hindered their growth. I look forward to seeing what 2024 brings for the team.”

CEO of Evolutor, Joe Price said: “We needed more room and a dedicated lab for ourselves fairly quickly. We looked at taking on more space at the University, however, things weren’t moving fast enough in that process, so I looked elsewhere.

“Tom and his team have made it easy for us to come to STP and transform the space into a bespoke lab.”


SHEFFIELD HALLAM UNIVERSITY NAMED BEST APPRENTICESHIP PROVIDER OF THE NORTH Sheffield Hallam has won the Apprenticeship Award at the Educate North Awards 2024, in recognition of its work to develop apprenticeships and provide more and better opportunities to learners of all ages across the region. The University is the home of the National Centre of Excellence for Degree Apprenticeships (NCEDA) and currently supports almost 3,000 degree apprentices, more than any other provider in the UK.


Weston Park Cancer Charity is celebrating three years of providing free transport service for cancer patients across the region. The volunteer-ran service ensures people across the region can get to any of the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals sites to receive vital treatment, without the stress and costs of commuting. Since its launch in April 2021, they have helped more than 450 patients and made over 2,300 journeys.


Plans have been submitted to Sheffield Council for a new Build-to-Rent apartment scheme in the city’s Nursery Street area. Developed by the Parklane Group, the project designed by the team at Sheffield’s award-winning CODA Architecture features a mix of 102 studios, one-bed, and twobed apartments, with numerous amenities including a fully equipped gym and garden terrace.



South Yorkshire-based business energy consultancy, Professional Energy Purchasing has announced plans to rebrand itself as Professional Energy People to showcase the company’s dedication to sustainability and client-centric services. Over recent years, the energy market has seen significant shifts including unprecedented price hikes and government legislation that is driving the country to become Net Zero by 2050.





A new scheme that provides apprenticeship support to businesses across South Yorkshire has reached a key milestone, having advised 100 small to medium-sized businesses since launching.

The South Yorkshire Apprenticeship Hub provides free and impartial advice to businesses across Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield, connecting them with the best training providers for their needs.

Launched by Keith Richardson and Claire Eley in 2023, the hub’s remit is to help businesses discover the benefits of apprenticeships and support them with the steps involved.

Keith Richardson, Manager of South Yorkshire Apprenticeship Hub, said: “It is very encouraging to see businesses getting in touch to find out how we can help them to sign up to and benefit from recruiting apprentices.

“Training new talent and upskilling staff is vital to developing the workforce of the future as well as improving productivity and solving hard-to-fill vacancies. Apprenticeships are a great way of achieving those goals.”

Claire Eley, Coordinator at South Yorkshire Apprenticeship Hub, added: “We are particularly keen to support businesses that have not taken on apprentices before. We are offering consultations in person as well as online.

“We support employers to identify skills gaps and navigate the apprenticeship system.”

The hub is funded by the South Yorkshire Mayoral Authority (SYMCA) and the South Yorkshire Colleges Partnership, meaning they can offer their services at no cost to the businesses they assist.


Local business owner, Zoe Wadsworth, has been announced as a national finalist in the Business Success Recognition Awards 2024 for her company, Ask Zoe.

Ask Zoe, a multi-faceted business consultancy service that offers one-toone consultancy to business owners, as well as dedicated strategy days, a blog and a dedicated podcast, has been recognised in the Business Growth Of the Year 2024 category.

Excited of her nomination, Zoe said: “It was a welcome surprise to receive this kind of nomination from the judges at this year’s awards, following a year of sustainability following our growth in 2022/23.

“It is a great honour to be shortlisted alongside our peers in the BSN community and we look forward to celebrating our joint successes on the night”

Established by Stacey Calder, the Business Success Recognition Awards, sponsored by McQueen Partnership and 76 Services Ltd, celebrate the fantastic work being done by businesses and individuals within the UK business community, irrespective of size.


Speaking of the importance of awards ceremonies like her own, Stacey said: “These awards come at a time where recognition for small businesses is critical.

“It makes me incredibly proud to be able to give a platform for small businesses, to not only recognise their achievements but to give them a way to raise their profile and showcase what they do.”

The Business Success team independently judged over 300 entries and shortlisted the finalists, and a team of expert judges will be selecting the winners for each award.

The winners will be announced at the Recognition Awards ceremony on 29th June at the Eastside Rooms, Birmingham.

Doncaster industrial estate will be the ‘Total’ package

Work is underway on a major new industrial and logistics development in Doncaster that will offer five state-of-the-art units, covering over 370,000 sq ft.

Known as Total Park, and developed by Total Developments, the selfcontained units will range from 43,525 sq ft to 128,945 sq ft in size and are being marketed jointly by Leeds property consultancy, GV&Co, and M1 Agency.

Ed Chantler, chief executive of Total Developments, said: “Total Park Doncaster represents a continuation of our clear strategy since inception.

“Our focus on targeting undersupplied towns and cities where there has been a lack of high specification accommodation being brought forward has ensured our success in achieving pre-commitments

and hence gives us the confidence to push on at Doncaster and ensure the development is expedited to meet demand.”

Each unit will have a minimum BREEAM rating of ‘very good’ and an EPC rating of A, as well as high quality, fully fitted upstairs office space, yard depths of at least 45 metres and extensive parking areas complete with EV charging points.

Daniel Walker, from GV&Co, said: “Total Park is in a central location for many businesses, close to the M18 and A1(M) which link to Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester in the North and Nottingham, Birmingham and London in the South."

Further information on the development can be found online, with a marketing brochure available from www.m1agency.co.uk.

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The Sheffield College is developing a new project to provide global opportunities for students completing T Levels, with the launch of international industry placements.

Starting next year, the international and work-related team has organised the college’s first-ever international placements based in Bali, Indonesia and in Fiji, which will last two-and-a-half-week trips and aim to develop students’ technical and life skills.

T Level construction students will have the opportunity to build a dispensary in a remote village in Fiji, where residents currently walk for hours to get medication such as paracetamol.

Meanwhile, T Level business students will work with local businesses in Bali on new ideas, strategies and marketing for sustainability projects.

Rachel Topliss, Director of Student Employability Services, The Sheffield College, said: “We are really excited to develop this project with the aim of providing more international work placements for our students in future.

“The placements will provide an amazing cultural experience to T Level students and enable them to apply their knowledge and skills to have a positive social impact.

“Students will develop team working, communication, problem-solving as well as professional and technical skills that will help them go further in their careers.”

Developed with employers and businesses, T Levels are two-year technical qualifications that are equivalent to three A-Levels and designed to meet the needs of industry so that they prepare students for work, further training, or study.

The college’s international industry placements will be funded by the Turing Scheme, which provides students with opportunities to study, work and train abroad and will be led by the college in partnership with Think Pacific in Leeds, which organises volunteering, internships and study abroad.


Pride, Passion and Fundraising

April has been a bit of a funny month, with Easter taking over the first half, followed by a very busy second half of ‘catching up’. We had a super Maundy Thursday working with the Advance Group from Opportunity Sheffield and were wonderfully hosted by the team at Glide House. Such a fabulous venue and exceptional service.

Speaking of wonderful venues and service, we need look no further than The Mowbray. This was the venue chosen by four fabulous events management students from Sheffield Hallam University to host their end of year fundraiser.

Hats off to Jasmin Camp, Will Jones, Makenna Ball and Hollie Egan for their charity networking feast. Sadly, I was ill and unable to make it but, I hear it was a roaring success. They raised over £2200 for four local charities. Bravo to all involved.

An early start followed this late night when the monthly 3D Connect session was held at Henry Boot’s fabulous new head office. What a venue and what a panel. Tim Nye from Marmaduke’s, Jessica Flinn from Jessica Flinn Jewellery, Tim Lomas from CMS Law and Chloe Janes from Henry Boot PLC shared with us their reasoning behind moving into the city centre. There really was a sense of pride in the city.

Later the same day, it was the opening of Endeavour’s new premises. Again, I was unable to go due to illness, but Danielle assures me it’s another great event space and I know she has her eye on it for future training sessions.

Blades Business Forum came next and wow, what an inspiring morning that was. Club sponsors Biffa shared what they’re getting up to locally and Michelle Wildman from Double Tree by Hilton gave us an update on the new hotel –defiantly one to look out for!

The morning drew to a close with the inspirational Johnny Nelson MBE. Now, I have listened to lots of knowledgeable and fascinating people, but truly this insight blew me away. Check out the Johnny Nelson Foundation and if you do get a chance to hear him speak, make sure you go.

Last but not least, it was a trip to Panenka to support The Children’s Hospital Charity and what a night. So many people and such a buzz in the room. Big thanks to Rick Bailey, Gavin Page and all the Panenka team – you did the charity proud.

Until next time!

Follow Jill at uk.linkedin.com/in/jilltywhite or find Andy Hanselman Consulting at andyhanselman.com.


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In the dynamic world of business, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into daily operations has become a game-changer. At the forefront of this revolution is Microsoft 365’s Copilot, offering an AIdriven assistant that enhances productivity and decisionmaking. We have touched on the many uses of Copilot within the Microsoft 365 suite, from Outlook to Excell, but how do we measure the return on investment (ROI) of such a transformative tool?

Quantitative Metrics: The most straightforward way to measure ROI is through quantitative metrics. Copilot’s impact can be seen in the reduction of time spent on routine tasks.

For instance, drafting emails, scheduling meetings, and generating reports are now accomplished in a fraction of the time. By calculating the hours saved and multiplying by the average hourly wage, businesses can quantify the direct financial benefits.

Qualitative Benefits: Beyond the numbers, Copilot offers qualitative benefits that contribute to ROI. It improves the accuracy of tasks, reduces human error, and provides insights through data analysis that might otherwise be overlooked.

These factors lead to better decision-making and a more agile response to market changes.

Employee Satisfaction: Employee satisfaction is another critical component of ROI.

Copilot alleviates the burden of monotonous tasks, allowing employees to focus on creative and strategic work.

This shift not only boosts morale but also attracts and retains top talent who value innovative and efficient workplaces.

Customer Experience: Enhanced customer experience is a significant ROI contributor. Copilot enables faster response times and personalized communication, leading to

increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Happy customers often translate into repeat business and referrals, driving revenue growth.

Competitive Advantage: Finally, Copilot provides a competitive advantage. In a market where speed and efficiency are paramount, the ability to quickly adapt and leverage AI-driven insights can set a company apart.

As businesses continue to

harness the power of AI, tools like Copilot will become integral in defining success in the digital age. To ensure you maximise your ROI from Copilot for Microsoft 365, get in touch with the FluidOne team to plan your adoption.

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ISO certification can be a big lever to winning new business, and you often need it if you are tendering for contracts, especially for government organisations, utilities companies and major industrial supply chains. The journey to certification might seem daunting but Glade Consulting can help you complete it smoothly.

Rather than simply achieving ISO, we aim to help you implement a system that benefits your whole business; this might include ISO9001 (Quality), ISO14001 (Environment), ISO27001 (Information Security) or ISO45001 (Health and Safety). If you require additional standards just ask.

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There are many reasons that businesses seek to become ISO certified, but the one that emerges the most is that it’s a customer requirement. When this happens, there can be a temptation to merely tick boxes and do the bare minimum, just to get the certificate.

But, shouldn’t it bring more benefit than that? ISO certification is essentially a mark of excellence that every business should strive to achieve. Yes, it costs money to get certified, but having an ISO management system can be priceless. It brings peace of mind that your business is running to an efficient high standard and is always improving by doing the following:

• Enhancing efficiency: ISO is all about standardising processes. By systematically reviewing your processes, it has the power to identify inefficiencies and waste. This translates into increasing saleable capacity by reducing the amount of time reworking and reducing material waste.

• Increasing Customer Satisfaction: Understanding how you satisfy your customers and asking for feedback from them helps you improve. Your customers’ views are a great window into your business and the information they provide is invaluable in

helping you retain their loyalty and grow a good reputation.

• Reducing Risk: All of the standards prompt to you evaluate risks and opportunities so that you can maximise the opportunities and mitigate the risks. For environmental and health & safety management systems, a significant element is legal compliance and evaluating our performance against it.

We often find that this highlights legislation that the business had not previously been aware of and, through understanding these

gaps and taking steps to rectify them, the risk to the business reduces.

An effective ISO compliant management system brings the whole team into the process and helps foster a culture of continual improvement across the whole business. Continual improvement also comes about through certification audits, where an independent set of eyes can critique how well things are working. The certification auditors often have experience from within your own sector and this experience can be drawn out to assist in improving your business.

A certification audit also gives credence to the way

you do business because of the independence of the auditors. This gives you the confidence, if you’re a business owner, that your business processes are performing as they should and your market trust you as a provider.

We have received many comments from our customers saying how implementing ISO systems has brought them more benefit than they initially anticipated and provided much needed focus on aligning processes within their organisations. If you want to know more, get in touch the team at Glade Consulting Services on 0114 398 4123 or email us at info@gladecs.co.uk

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There is a long-standing rumour about the behaviour of ‘diva sopranos’ in opera. Certainly, in the older age of opera singers that might have been true, but today I find we’re mostly a bunch of normal people just trying to get on with our work.

Our work just happens to be singing very loudly on a big stage!


Ever heard a rumour of singers being hyper sensitive to illness?

Unfortunately there’s a reason for it: one short cold can completely ruin your prospect of earning any money for the month if it falls at the wrong time. If we can’t do a concert, we don’t earn money: there’s no sick pay as a freelancer.


As a singer, some of us can spend anywhere from three to nine months on the road travelling between different productions of operas, and concerts.

It might sound glamorous, and it is fun to see so many places, but mostly it’s just being alone in your digs and waiting for your rehearsal schedule to come through.

1 4

lot of older versions of languages are very florid and the translations make little sense).

I can definitely confirm this! There are a lot of resources that have word for word translations of a lot of opera and songs, as well as using a trusty dictionary. We hire language coaches to assist with pronunciation and interpretation (a 2 3 5



Classical music is my job, and takes up the majority of my brain when I’m at work, so when I’m relaxing I try not to listen to it at all.

I personally listen to podcasts about TV shows and films, and about Dungeons and Dragons and video games. Others may vary…

Soprano Ella Taylor joined Sheffield Cathedral Choir aged ten and studied at The University of Sheffield. They are now an emerging star, part of the one percent of opera singers who are trans and dedicated to performing work by people underrepresented in classical music.

Ella is back in town for Music in the Round’s 40th Sheffield Chamber Music Festival, from 17-25 May.

They will perform at St Mark’s Church, Broomhill, in an afternoon of choral music with Abbeydale Singers, Ensemble 360 and Anny Huntley on Sunday 19 May, and in the Crucible Playhouse with Ensemble 360 and Robin Ireland on Monday 20 May.

Tickets cost from £5 for under-35s and can be purchased from musicintheround.co.uk.




Tony Lodge - Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies

Tony Lodge is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies think tank in London and the author of Rail’s Second Chance – Putting Competition Back on Track. For over ten years, he has been campaigning for more passenger choice, better connections and lower fares when it comes to the UK’s rail industry. Here, Tony dives into a new application that was submitted earlier this year which, if approved, would provide Sheffield with a choice in their provider when travelling to London by direct train.

What do train passengers from Doncaster, Wakefield, Bradford, York and Hull enjoy but commuters in Sheffield do not? Why are equivalent intercity train fares between Sheffield and London higher than from these other Yorkshire cities? Why is rail passenger satisfaction higher on trains from these cities when compared with trains from Sheffield? The answer is choice and competition.

Since the mid-2000s, two intercity train operators, Grand Central and Hull Trains, have run services in competition with the mainline train franchise holder which has resulted in lower fares, more routes, happier passengers and better services. In contrast, Sheffield has just one monopoly service to London run by East Midlands Trains. But, this is hopefully about to change and would represent a big win for passengers, business and inward investment.

A new application to launch a rival high-speed train service between London King’s Cross and Sheffield, via Retford, Worksop and Woodhouse, has been submitted by FirstGroup which runs Britain’s most popular train company, Hull Trains. It also runs the popular LUMO service between London, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Initially, the plan is for two return services per day using modern five-carriage, high-speed trains with an average London to Sheffield journey time of just over two hours. If it secures official approval, the service could start in June next year.

At the moment, Sheffield travellers, particularly in the east of the city, have faster end-to-end journey times and cheaper rail fares if they drive to Doncaster to catch a London-bound train, rather than travelling direct from Sheffield to London St Pancras. Sheffield has lower rail journey rates than might be expected for such an important city relative to its 162 mile distance to London.

It has high-frequency, but comparatively long train journey times, which leads to some passengers instead driving to Doncaster where three high-speed train companies compete on the journey to London. It takes just one hour and 20 minutes and off-peak fares can be up to 30% cheaper than East Midlands Trains services to St Pancras.

Another sign of Sheffield’s comparatively poor rail choices and lack of train competition is the high volume of car and coach journeys between the city and

London. While journey times are longer, coach fares are cheaper, which obviously shows passengers want to see better-priced trains. Rail’s share of the Sheffield to London passenger market is just 20%, which shows the huge potential for better and cheaper train travel. This can deliver significant modal shift from road to rail which benefits the environment and eases road congestion.

The new proposal would also give Woodhouse and Worksop direct fast links with London and much better connections with Sheffield.

A key benefit of faster, cheaper, better and increased rail links is the key boost it gives to a region’s economic attractiveness and inward investment. Sheffield and South Yorkshire has already taken a lead with the University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), alongside being chosen last year as the UK’s first Advanced Manufacturing Investment Zone. Similarly, the Advanced Manufacturing Park at Waverley is close to Woodhouse Station and the proposed service will hugely improve this key site’s connectivity with London.

Regional growth, inward investment, social mobility, better life chances and high-skilled job creation will always be intrinsically linked with good transport connections and good quality infrastructure. For example, where towns and cities enjoy fast and competitively priced rail connections, their task of attracting inward investment, better jobs and higher education hubs is immediately made easier.

Importantly, new economic analysis from ARUP shows what can be achieved. Hull Trains services which connect Beverley, Hull, Selby and Doncaster with London has delivered between £185-£380m in extra local benefits since the service was approved by Tony Blair’s Labour Government in 2000. These figures are expected to grow to between £325 and £700m by 2032.

Prior to Hull Trains starting operations, there was just one direct daily train in each direction between London and Hull. Similarly, the Blair government also oversaw the approval of new fast Grand Central services to Doncaster, Bradford, Wakefield, Pontefract, Halifax and York in the mid and late 2000s. All of these services compete with the state-backed LNER service.

These direct rail links have boosted inward investment and done more for ‘levelling up’ and regeneration than a host of Whitehall schemes.

Sheffield last enjoyed a fast connection with London King’s Cross in 1968 when British Rail axed the then ‘Sheffield Pullman’ service. Hopefully, the city’s rail users, civil leaders and business community can now work to support this ambitious plan and deliver a new fast rail service on the 200th anniversary of the world’s first-ever passenger train. The Steel City deserves nothing less.


Hi there, I'm Dan. I’ve recently joined Andy File Associates to head up the IT/ Tech side of the team and to cover other sectors of recruitment when needed to help and support the team.

About Me, I’m a 36-year-old husband and father to two amazing kids. With 17 years of experience in sales/ recruitment, I’ve recently been working for one of the top specialist Video Game Recruitment companies and prior to this, for one of the leading Education Recruitment providers.

I've honed my skills in connecting people with opportunities and in becoming a trusted recruitment partner for companies who are searching for the best people for their teams while taking the pain of recruitment away from them.

Prior to being in recruitment, I worked in estate agency for 12 years where I progressed my career up to Sales Office Manager for one of the largest franchise groups in the UK supporting people to buy, sell and rent their homes in a friendly way.

Beyond the office, you'll often find me embracing the great outdoors. Cycling through scenic routes in the Peak District or pounding the pavement on a run around Sheffield with my dog Rex. As a born and raised Sheffield lad I also have a penchant for climbing too.

Balancing the demands of work with the joys of family and my passion the outdoors keeps life exhilarating and full of surprises. I'd be happy to share stories and swap tips in finding the best staff for your company.

With my extensive experience in recruitment, I specialise in finding the perfect fit for your team's unique needs and culture. Whether you're scaling up, diversifying your workforce, or simply seeking specialized expertise, let's collaborate to bring the best candidates to your doorstep. Get in touch today to propel your business forward.

Email: dan@andyfileassociates.com

Mobile: 07947 609419

LinkedIn: Dan Butcher | LinkedIn

Please scan the QR code to read our reviews and see for yourself how we have helped companies and candidates fill the right position.


I am a very passionate and successful sales manager/ business development manager. I specialize in growing business relationships both in the field and officebased. I have nearly 20 years of sales experience in multiple sectors in which I have probably seen and done most things.

Having sold and presented to all levels, including CEO and director levels. I have developed and grown account bases into 100k-plus portfolios and sold added value services into such accounts. My specialist area within sales is building trustworthy and honest relationships with customers so they feel I am more than just a sales guy. I am a person who has the company's genuine interests at heart. I like to think, I am an extension of their business in order to help achieve their business goals.

With Andy File Associates my role is new business executive, I am the initial contact responsible for onboarding new clients that I source, working together with the team to deliver.

Recruitment can be tough and I'm here to take that pain away from you. I am big into networking and building a solid friendship with our client’s so you know our interest is to make sure we find the right person for you.

Away from work, I have two children who are more or less teenager’s and I have been married to my wife Laura for 10 years, have a brilliant house, love holidays and being with them as much as possible, A close second to my family is my second love, Sport, especially golf which if I could, I would play every day.

Steve Wilkinson

New Business Executive

Email: steve@andyfileassociates.com

Mobile: 07300 234588

LinkedIn: Steve Wilkinson I LinkedIn

100 5 star google reviews and an overall rating
of 4.9
ANDY FILE ASSOCIATES TEL: 01709 717842 // 0114 282 1281 Email: info@andyfileassociates.com WEB: www.andyfileassociates.com



Ben Locke, Founder and Director of sustainable renovation company, Re-Faced Ltd, was able to put down the tools whilst busy grafting on-site and catch up with unLTD’s Olivia Warburton, sharing the story behind his company.

Hi Ben. Can you start by telling us about that ‘lightbulb moment’ that led you to start your business?

I’ve always been entrepreneurial. In 2011, before Re-Faced, I started a t-shirt printing business, but my life wasn’t in the right place to put my full effort into it.

In 2014, I had a short stint in prison - something I never want to experience again. After coming out, I knew I wanted to use my entrepreneurial skills and the cross-translational skills that I learnt from my previous business, like using a plotter cutter and creating designs for people.

Back when I had the first business, I was in my first flat and the kitchen was dreadful to say the least. I used some leftover sign-writing vinyl to wrap the cupboards. I did the uppers bright orange, the lowers in black and then on one of the doors, because I’m a fan of Jack Daniels, I cut out this Jack Daniels logo. Everyone who saw it said, ‘This is amazing!’

I’m working-class and come from a council estate, so know that working-class people like to have nice things, but can’t always afford them. After realising I could transform people’s houses for a fraction of the cost of a traditional refit, I thought why not make a go of it?

It’s also about adding a new lease of life to pre-existing items and stopping something from going to landfill. I’m no Greta Thunberg, but I’m one of those people where if it can be saved, then why not?

I started doing a few kitchens on the side while working for another refurbishment company in 2018, before incorporating Re-Faced in January 2020, just before Lockdown.

I can imagine the pandemic was not the best time to launch a refurb company!

No, but it was for me. I got made redundant, which was a blessing in disguise. It was the kick up the backside that I needed to fulfil my dream and take a step towards building my business.

Aside from Lockdown, have there been any other challenges you’ve encountered that you’ve overcome?

Juggling home life and business life has been a major one. I’ve got three kids and consider Re-faced my fourth. But, I’m slowly starting to release the reins.

I recently went on Andy Hanselman’s Leadership Programme, and that’s helped me share control of certain things. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to work smarter, not harder.

How has the growth of Re-Faced been?

It’s been slow, but organic. I’ve had next to no marking. I worked for about six months with Harvey Morton, who I met through See It Be It’s The Big Challenge, which I’m an ambassador for. Other than that, all of our work has come through word of mouth.

Re-Faced started just wrapping kitchens. We’ve since developed into spraying UPVC windows and doors, and spraying shopfronts, as well as laying metallic epoxy resin flooring and countertops.

Now, our main bread and butter comes from commercial contracts, rather than domestic jobs. That’s been since signing a contract last October with Parfetts, who own convenience stores up and down the country. When they reacquisition a shop, we go and rebrand it to Parfett’s colours.

I now have two staff members - my brother, who’s on his way to becoming co-director, and another guy I recently hired, so we’re going from strength to strength.

What has been your favourite project you have worked on?

There’s been a few. The biggest one to date has been with DoubleTree By Hilton, in Coventry. We refurbished 89 tables over four days for their new restaurant, bar and lounge area.

But, the job I got the most fulfilment from was a kitchen we did for a lady, where we did a whole surprise reveal for her. She was amazed by what we did. For me, it was just spraying a kitchen, but for her, it was life-changing.

What has it been like working with See It Be It, for their ‘Big Challenge’?

I’m a Sheffield lad, born and bred. I love Sheffield and want to be able to give back to the community in any way. Being black, when I was younger, there wasn’t many people that I saw growing up that I thought when I’m older, I want to be like them.

I think one guy that I did see was Tim Campbell, when he won The Apprentice. If I could inspire one child like how I was inspired by him, I’d love that, so coming across The Big Challenge, I had to jump on it.

Inspiring the next generation is clearly a very important cornerstone of your business. With that in mind, what does the future look like for Re-Faced?

If I can grow my team to have a commercial and domestic side, then I’m winning. I’d like to take on people from backgrounds that aren’t normally given the chance, because I want to give back as well as grow.

I just want to be inspirational to even one child. I recently attended my kid’s primary school for a ‘Think Big, Dream Big, Aspire’ day. I gave demonstrations in both of their classes and saw immense pride in both of them.

But, my son actually went to school dressed up as me. He had a uniform and all the tools he needed to be a vinyl wrapper. The joy that gave me was incredible. I got feedback from the teachers saying other kids had also felt inspired by my presentation, which is all I could want.



Lightbulb Moment

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Market Analyst Bryan Hall, who has been at MEPS for over 16 years.

Bryan has had a lifelong career in the steel industry, previously working for the likes of British Steel Stainless and Outokumpu. However, the working environment at MEPS is unlike one he experienced anywhere else.

MEPS International is renowned as a leading global steel market analysis company at the pinnacle of the industry. Their impressive rate of staff retention is less well known. Once joining the MEPS family, very few people move on - a testament to their commitment of putting their workforce at the heart of everything they do.

MEPS’s ethos of prioritising employees stems from its founder, Peter Fish (who established the business in 1979) and is something his daughter, and company director, Jayne Craven, has maintained since taking the reins.

“I came into the business because he came to retirement age,” Jayne explains. “He’d been pestering to get me or my sister into the business for

quite a long time, because he didn’t want to sell the company.

“He knew that if he sold MEPS, the staff in Sheffield would likely not be kept on and he didn’t want that to happen.”

Had Peter and Jayne not valued that sentiment, MEPS’ workforce would probably look somewhat different to how it does today, and there would be few stories like that of

“Before, I was unofficially on call 24/7,” he says. “I’d get phone calls at three o’clock in the morning and then with travel and everything else, I was regularly working highly pressurised, 50-odd hour weeks.

“But here, it’s literally just 9-5, then, go home. But I didn’t know or expect that until I got here.”

Stuart Gray, who has been a Steel Market Analyst at MEPS for just over four years, shares Bryan’s appreciation of the company’s respect for the lives of its staff outside the office.

“In the steel industry, it’s not just an expectation to put on you from the company, but your customer base as well,” says Stuart. “If you deal with customers with an operation that’s 24/7, you are expected to be on call every second and, when I say every


second, I mean that.

“But at MEPS, if you work outside of hours, because there are different time zones that different researchers will have to speak to you from, you can get that time off, should you wish, at some future stage, which is a real benefit.”

Stuart began his career as a metallurgist in South Africa, having worked at the coalface of the industry for over 30 years. “Coming over to MEPS, I didn’t know what to expect,” he explains. “I think another big difference here is that you’re left alone to meet deadlines.

“There’s no one looking over your shoulder - you can work in autonomy and plan your own day.”

This expectation of being constantly programmed to ‘work mode’ was something that Michelle Kirton, who joined the company in 2017 after having worked in the steel industry ever since graduating from University, was also frustrated with.

“I was looking for a better work-life balance,” she says when discussing why she joined MEPS. “Working in steel, particularly in sales, there’s a lot of early mornings and late nights.

You’re always answering emails and always being on your phone.”

“But, we’re a family-run business and that makes a big difference. What a lot of people like about working here is, because it’s familyrun, it doesn’t have the restrictions that corporate companies do.

“I think it’s an old-fashioned industry, in the sense of that mentality that people should work over and above the ‘normal’ 9-5.”

But MEPS is breaking that mould,


in more ways than one. “Even in the seven years I’ve been here, there’s been lots of changes,” adds Michelle. “There’s a lot of new people, new offices, there’s been a lot of changes process wise – changes everywhere, really.”

One such change was the introduction of Tom Sharpe as Managing Editor. Unlike the majority of the MEPS team, Tom’s background is not in steel, but in journalism, having worked for a local South Yorkshire newspaper before moving to a B2B magazine with Bauer Media..

“I think it’s very unusual, to have introduced someone with no steel knowledge,” says Tom. “But, my remit is to take some of the writing and editing burden off people whose time is better used elsewhere.

“It’s evolved the product, but mainly freed people to better share their steel knowledge.”

“When I came here, Peter was the head of every department in effect,” adds Bryan. “Now, we’ve got more people with different skills, like Tom, who are coming in and taking on those roles from a more specialised point of view.”

Despite implementing new roles to ease the pressure on staff, everyone at MEPS still has a key part to play in every aspect of the business. “The people at MEPS tend to have quite diverse job roles,” explains Michelle. “We all have our more key job role, but then we have lots of other little things that we’re involved in.”

“If you need assistance, you can speak to someone and they won’t ever say no,” adds Stuart. “They are always willing to help. Everything’s a team effort.”

“I think the contacts that people form while they’re here might be part of what keeps them here, as well,” says Tom. “All of the relationships here are really galvanised and are the bread and butter of what we do.”

“The whole team gets on,” Bryan explains. “And I suspect the recruitment process looks at whether people will fit in, as much as their skills.

“It’s always been, yes, you’re the right kind of person, come and work for us.”

The rewards of MEPS’ carefully curated workforce are clear to see in not only their commercial success, but also in the culture of the business.

“People know who you are,” Michelle reiterates. “You’re not just a payroll number.”

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In 2013, after working for nearly 25 years in the energy industry, Russell Thompson decided to go it alone as a consultant. Since then, he has continued to work predominantly with corporate businesses - until recently, when he took the bold step of rebuilding his business, offering the opportunity for SMEs to also benefit from his help and guidance. We sat down with Russ to discuss his plans.

Hi Russ. You’ve recently embarked on a slightly new direction for your consultancy business. Can you start by telling us about that?

I decided a while ago that I wanted to do something more with my business. It’s great working the corporate contracts, and I really enjoy them, but I wanted to do something that supported smaller businesses too.

I wanted to give something back. I’ve done a small amount of work with SMEs over the years, which I’ve loved. You’re not in the big machine there. You come up with the ideas week on week, and you see the rubber hit the road. You get to see the impact on people’s lives and not just the business. That’s such a great feeling. Helping somebody in their business and their life is a buzz that’s hard to beat.

With that in mind, there are now two strands to the Russell Thompson Consulting: there’s the corporate consulting, which is something I’ve done for 10 years across different industries, and there’s now more of a focus on work I’m doing to support SMEs. I’m launching this as a new side of the business, targeted at helping smaller and medium-sized enterprises improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how their operations run.

What prompted you to make the changes in the business?

In 2017, I joined a few networking groups. I’ve been lucky enough to get plenty of referrals and recommendations from existing contacts, but I’m not daft enough to think that will always be the case, so I looked at other ways to work with more businesses.

Networking opened the door to helping many more businesses, but I didn’t have a clearly defined proposition. Actually, the itch I wanted to scratch was to knock my business down and rebuild it, incorporating packages for SMEs. That was my plan, and then COVID hit. Obviously, at that point in time, people’s focus was really about keeping the lights on rather than making wholesale improvements – which was completely understandable. I was lucky enough to get offered another corporate contract which saw me through COVID. This was a huge boost, and so I decided to put the rebuild on hold. The contract was also Sheffield-based, which made a huge

difference, because the life of a contractor is often quite nomadic, so it was a perfect gig at that time of instability.

At what point did you feel ready to revisit your plans for SMEs?

I turned 50 in 2022. I knew what I wanted to do, but the longer I kicked the can down the road, the harder it was going to be for me to establish myself to help and support the businesses in our city and across the North. I took the decision that when the contract came to an end, which was July last year, I was going to rebuild in the way that I always promised myself that I would.

How did it feel to make that decision?

It felt great. I’m a big believer in being in control of your own destiny. 50 is a bit of a milestone, and I felt that this was the right time for me to capitalise on the knowledge that I’ve got and to be able to build something of my own; something that will help me because I want to grow the business and will in turn help the people that I work with become more effective and efficient in the way that they operate their businesses, with the happy end product being that it helps their customers too.

It’s quite a bold step to come out of your comfort zone like that. How has the change been for you?

Fantastic. It’s been liberating because it was kind of like starting again. I wanted to use the same process I use to help my clients to build a new proposition that I can take to market, so that’s what I’ve done. The rebuild is virtually complete and I’ll relaunch the with a new brand and a new website in the next month or so.

What will the new proposal incorporate?

The new proposition is called Russell Thompson, Director on Demand, and within that there will be a suite of products that will all be aimed at helping business owners, entrepreneurs and business leaders run their businesses more effectively and efficiently.

It’s not only for SMEs, but what I wanted to do was build a proposition that was supportive of SMEs. Part of that is because the opportunity to have that kind of support is almost precluded from SMEs because they


often don’t have the budget. What I wanted to do was offer a high calibre of product that doesn’t come with a massive price tag.

A big thing for me is about 'leaving something behind': I believe that if you work with me, or any consultant, you should have clear success criteria in mind. I should be a resource you work with to help you accelerate growth or progress, but actually, it’s incumbent on me to transfer some knowledge to you so you don’t have a dependency on me or anybody else for the long-term. This is one of my key principles.

Can you tell us about the products and services you’re now offering?

The proposition is a complementary set of products and services and in essence, it’s about helping businesses run more efficiently. Where people tend to struggle is with systems and processes and the back office stuff around governance and control.

There will be three key products at relaunch: A Business Process

Triage Session, which is a two-hour session where a business owner sits down with me, and we fix a process they’re having a problem with. They’ll take away a suite of documents we build together to improve that process.

Fractional Operations Director is the second product. It’s about designing the operational strategy for a business from the ground up. I work in the business to design, build and implement a sustainable operational plan to improve your business, on a basis that works for you.

The flagship product is my 3D Business Blueprint. This starts as an audit of a business, from which I’ll produce a report of my findings. I use the findings to build a roadmap to show a business how they can get from where they are, to where they want to be. I will also provide 12-months accountability partner support, so the business has a continuing independent viewpoint. I’ll also bring my network of contacts, which means I can recommend people I know and trust to help move the business forwards in areas that aren’t my expertise.

Each of these products are flexible in their design, so that businesses can take what they need and leave what they don’t. Making

these services available to smaller businesses is important to me, because they can really can help SMEs progress, without costing the earth.

For me, there are incremental benefits these products can bring to people’s lives, in terms of their reclaimed time, improvements in mental health and reduced stress, which are each so important in their own right.

Prior to setting up your consultancy you worked in the energy sector. What were your experiences of that time?

I started in the energy industry in the late 80s and worked there man and boy, starting out as the post boy! I worked there for 24 years and had some good jobs, progressing

through to the management ranks. They also funded my education, so as a first step into employment, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

True, it’s the energy industry, so it isn’t the sexiest industry to work in. But, luckily for me, I worked in the industry at a time where there were a lot of interesting projects going on.

I was lucky enough to work on sponsorship programmes for Test Cricket and the Football League. Those were ‘money can’t buy’ type jobs, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

I probably don’t need to explain too much about the problems the energy industry has faced over the past 20 years because it’s all out there, but it struggled with a lot


of issues around mis-selling and billing, and a lot of outsourcing activity on and offshore took place, so customer service was a big challenge.

What prompted you to make the switch from working for the energy companies to consulting for them?

I think the thing for me was that the companies that I worked with seemed to be underpinned by some of the biggest consultancies in the world. Each of these consulting giants would probably have had a seat at the table in the energy industry at some point in time.

These guys are very knowledgeable, and obviously they come in with great reputations, but also very high price tags. They’re great at putting on a show and delivering complex presentations, but really, what’s behind the sharp suits and the flash PowerPoints, are simple solutions.

You’re looking across the table at these guys and thinking - I could do that. That was a bit of a trigger for me to go out on my own. It’s

about letting common sense be your North Star and unpicking convoluted and complex processes to leave something behind that’s quite simple to manage.

The great thing about working in the energy industry is that you build up a lot of transferable skills. And working in the industry at that time gave me a ringside seat to see how things can go wrong – and build my own ideas about how to put them right.

When you set up your own consultancy, did you always intend to go back into the energy companies?

I took redundancy in 2013 and that’s when I set up my company. I thought long and hard about what I was going to do next. I looked around for different jobs and just saw a lot of things that I’d done over and over again, and thought, if I’m going to use my experience to its best effect, I’ll try and help as many businesses as I can, rather than just 1.

With my background being in the energy market, the first place I went back consulting was with energy

companies, which just made sense. That’s where my network was, and where a large part of it still is.

wider, taking on other contracts from contacts and companies outside the energy sector, who retained me for multiple projects. Working across multiple sectors has stood me in good stead to help clients across corporate and SME markets.

Do you feel like all this experience as helped shape your business today?

Absolutely. The Purpose of my company is to lift people up, and I want that to be how people feel when they work with me, whether it’s a big corporate client or an SME. Lifting People Up is also my personal Purpose so what I’m trying to do is put the real Russ into my business - the Russ who just wants to help people. I love what I do and getting to see the difference it makes in people’s lives and businesses is huge for me. rtconsulting.org

Change of Ownership Transactions Business Valuations Forecasting and Financial Modelling Fundraising *This is Martin martin@gravitate.digital p an email on: Planning ahead: It's not fortune-telling... it's just smart business Scan the QR code to book your FREE consultation with Martin* Our team at Gravitate Corporate Finance specialise in:

Could Sheffield become the capital of British podcasting? There’s absolutely no reason why not, claims Dino Sofos, founder of award-winning podcast production company Persephonica and co-founder of Crossed Wires, the city’s inaugural podcast festival.


“I’ve always felt passionately about the lack of diversity in our media,” says Dino Sofos. “Particularly when it comes to socio-economic factors, the newsrooms are too full of people who went to public schools, whose parents could pay for them to stay in London while they did work experience or people who already live in London or nearby. There’s a distinct lack of representation of people from places like Sheffield, so it was always in my mind that when we set up a physical base for Persephonica, it should be here.”

Having grown up and completed his undergraduate studies in Sheffield, Sofos ventured to London to pursue a post-graduate degree in journalism. He returned to his hometown for a work placement at BBC Radio Sheffield, which eventually led to a job offer and a grounding experience in the multi-faceted demands of local radio. With that all-important foot in the door, Dino advanced within the BBC, transitioning to 5 Live and eventually assuming the role of political producer. His tenure there involved navigating the turbulent landscapes of coalition politics and Brexit, honing his reporting skills amidst the chaos of the times.

After leaving radio to work in a social media role for BBC Politics, he began missing the audio side

of news reporting. This inspired the first official venture into political podcasting, creating a show, Electioncast, covering the 2017 election with Chris Mason, Adam Fleming and Laura Kuenssberg. “That was pretty successful, and we then moved on to Brexitcast, which ended up getting commissioned as a TV show on BBC One. Around that point, podcasting really started to take off in the UK and I felt as though I’d found my niche.”

After 14 years with the BBC, Sofos decided to leave and set up his own production company, Persephonica. Since then, he has spearheaded a range of immensely popular podcasts, encompassing everything from political debate through The News Agents with Emily Maitlis,






Lewis Goodman and Jon Sopel, and Political Currency with Ed Balls and George Osborne, to celebrity-fronted shows such as Dua Lipa’s At Your Service and Lily Allen’s recently launched Miss Me?.

With Persephonica now firmly established as a leading name in the industry, the next step is to complete the vision and move headquarters to Sheffield. “Just from speaking to people in the industry, you get the sense that everyone’s tired of everything being based in London,” he explains. “In a post-pandemic world, people are working from all over and some of our productions are produced remotely, so why are we sitting in our co-working spaces and offices in London when we could be creating important jobs in other places, working with A-list talent on globally recognised content? There are amazing journalism and media courses on offer at Sheffield’s universities and colleges, so you shouldn’t have to commute to Manchester or live in London to get those jobs. Even it’s just a small amount of jobs we offer at first, hopefully we can grow and create more.”

Some Persephonica roles have already been filled by Sheffield-based candidates and the search for premises is very much underway. Sofos has been in dialogue with the owners of Park Hill-based Warp Films, crediting them as a key inspiration by setting up an internationally acclaimed production company that is “unashamedly Sheffield”.

In fact, he claims that South Yorkshire might be more suited to becoming a national hub for podcasting than people might assume. “This industry is all about storytelling, creativity and sound design – these are all things that this city is historically very good at.”

If the appetite for podcast culture outside of London was ever in doubt, the reaction since Sofos, along with co-founders James O’Hara and Alice Levine, unveiled plans for Crossed Wires, the city’s first ever live podcast festival, has cemented the thesis that Sheffield can serve as a vibrant hub for creators and enthusiasts alike.

From Friday 31 May to Sunday 2 June, the city’s most iconic venues will be bustling with blockbuster live shows, exclusive performances, free events and special guests – all hosted by top names in podcasting spanning comedy, current affairs, culture, sports, family and wellbeing.

The idea was concocted between Dino, good friend Alice (of My Dad Wrote a Porno fame) and Tramlines founder James over a walk and a



curry in the Peak District. “The conversation was basically, ‘Why isn’t there a Tramlines for podcasts – or what would an Edinburgh Fringe for podcasts look like?’”

Before the bill arrived, the concept of Crossed Wires was born. Names on the lineup currently include the likes of Adam Buxton, Self Esteem, Katherine Ryan, Jon Ronson, Russell Tovey, Romesh Ranganathan and many others heading to key stages at Sheffield City Hall, The Crucible and The Lyceum over the weekend.

“We’ll also be hosting a number of interesting fringe events and live shows, putting on a really eclectic mix of podcast content that people can come and experience for free,” says Sofos.

“Sheffield is basically just going to be flooded with top podcasting talent for the weekend, meaning town will be become the epicentre of podcasts for a few days.”


As our interview comes to a close, Sofos reflects on the diverse range of projects on his increasingly busy plate – from launching new shows and festivals to expanding into the US market with Persephonica. Yet, despite the hectic nature of his day-to-day, one thing remains clear: for him, the journey to make Sheffield the capital of British podcasting is just getting started.

Crossed Wires Festival takes place 31 May – 2 June in Sheffield. Tickets can be purchased at crossedwires.live and you can stay up to the dates with the latest event announcements by following @crossedwiresfest.


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Following 14 years of working for a design agency, Sheaf Design Works founder Leanne Keetley made the decision to go solo and set up her own independent studio in 2018.

Situated in the heart of Kelham Island’s creative hub, you’ll find their office on the top floor of Hope Works on Mowbray Steet. Forming a dream team with her husband, Martin, the company specialises in branding and print design for a wide range of small to medium-sized businesses.

“We took lockdown as an opportunity to reassess what we were doing,” Leanne tells unLTD. “After initially setting up as a sole trader, we took on a lot of new customers and new responsibilities, so we decided to become a limited company. Moving to this new studio has been a gamechanger for us; we’re surrounded by small businesses who pass the office and get in touch to see if we can work together.”

A welcoming office space is also useful for entertaining clients on a separate side of their business –award-winning wedding stationery design. You can find out more about that and browse their recently launched off-the-shelf collection at sheafstationery.co.uk.

However, the bulk of Sheaf

Design’s workload revolves around collaborating with local businesses in both digital and print formats, working on branding, website design, social media presence, press assets, brochures, stationery – you name it! Together, they make the ideal partnership: Leanne oversees the design aspect, while Martin ensures the smooth operation of administrative tasks.

When discussing the type of client they aim to attract, Leanne points to a particular passion for working with smaller independent companies like their own. “We’ve seen how smaller businesses without the budget for a full-service design agency can turn to doing things themselves, sometimes stunting their own growth as result. Earlier this year, we launched a series of packages, ranging from a lowercost ‘Branding Essentials’ aimed at start-ups and sole traders, right through to what we call ‘The Works’ –a complete brand identity and website package.”

The studio has built up relationships with a wide range of businesses, ➢


Grow your business with design that works

Complete brand design packages from £597 Sheaf Design Works is an independent graphic design studio based in Kelham Island, Sheffield. We’re here to help you develop your brand, attract new customers, and direct attention where you need it. Book a free discovery call online at www.SheafDesignWorks.co.uk Email studio@sheafdesignworks.co.uk Tel 0114 4000171 Find us Studio Four Hope Works, 25 Mowbray Street, Sheffield S3 8EL Social Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn @sheafdesignworks Scan the QR code to view all our packages and prices Including logo design, print, website and social media

➢ working with photographers and personal trainers alongside charities and consultancy firms to help their brands effectively cut through the noise. “Helping businesses grow with design that works is what we’re all about. I think people can often think that working with a design agency is going to be a really complex process, but we’re keen to ensure that it’s a fun, friendly experience and people feel comfortable asking us anything.”

Honesty and openness are another key tenet of the Sheaf Design Works philosophy, explains Leanne. “The pricing is there for everyone to see from the beginning and we’re open with the client throughout every part of the process. It’s not a case of doing a load of work and then some surprises turning up on an invoice sent later down the line; we’ll deliver a quote that works for your business’s budget and stick to it.”

“A lot of what we do is about educating businesses about the importance of good design for a business to grow,” adds Martin. “Demonstrating the value that design has is a big thing, especially in the social media age where representing your business in the best way possible is so important.”

With multiple studies showing that the ‘scrollability’ of social media has reduced consumer’s attention spans (8 seconds is often the golden figure quoted), design studios such as theirs play an increasingly pivotal role in ensuring a company’s ethos and values are clearly and effectively communicated.

“For me, the best bit of the job is when a client provides feedback saying that working with us has been a gamechanger for their business,” says Leanne. “I still get excited when I see our design work out and about. I love the creative side of it, but seeing businesses grow and benefit from our work is the most rewarding part of the job.”

To find out more about Sheaf Design Work’s range of creative print and digital design services, head to www.sheafdesignworks. co.uk, call 0114 4000171 or email studio@ sheafdesignworks.co.uk.

Socials: @sheafdesignworks



Briefly summarise what your business is about and what you do?

Sheaf Design Works are an independent design and print studio in Sheffield. We assist small to medium-sized businesses in South Yorkshire and beyond to develop their brand, perfect their design and find a powerful, professional style of their own.

What are the main challenges in your industry today?

Last year in particular, with all the bad news coming out about the economy, I think more businesses turned away from print promotion and went solely to social media. I think we’re beginning to see that change back a bit and that’ll continue as the economy settles. But I would always encourage businesses to do print and digital when possible; covering both bases is always best.

How does the process tend to work when a client gets in touch?

We’re quite flexible, but a lot of the times clients can book in on the website and we’ll have a discovery call through Zoom. They can also pop in depending on what’s most convenient for them. We’ll have a good chat about what they’re looking to do before recommending which package might work best, or we’ll provide a bespoke quote based on their requirements.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in business? Not to undervalue or undersell yourself.

What’s on the horizon for the company?

We’re currently focusing on pushing our package offers to potential customers, but we will be launching shops on both of our websites – sheafdesignworks.co.uk and sheafstationery. co.uk – to streamline and continue improving the user experience. That should be finished soon!


Each month, we hear the stories from the people behind the law degrees at the 145-year-old, South Yorkshire-based law firm Banner Jones. Most recently, we spoke to director, shareholder and Head of Employment Law, Katie Ash…

Hi Katie. Can you start by telling us how you got into law?

Bizarrely, I’d always wanted to be a lawyer. I think it must have come from watching a bit of Perry Mason and LA Law growing up because I didn’t know anyone in the law – I had no idea.

I grew up on the Wybourn in Sheffield. I went to Wybourn Primary School and then Waltheof on the Manor. My dad was a steelworker and my mum worked for the Sheffield Co-Op, in the accounts department, so it wasn’t necessarily a traditional route into law.

I had a lovely childhood, very ordinary, but no one went to university, and we certainly didn’t aspire to be in a profession. We were a working class family, and I was lucky enough that my mum was around for most of my childhood. It was only when I was maybe nine or ten that she got a job, and even then it was 9.30am until 2.30pm, so she was still around. Dad was out for 12 to 14 hour days, bringing home the money, working in a dirty job.

Even with this background, I still remember a picture of me that I’d drawn as a child, where I was holding a briefcase. I didn’t want to be an Olympic swimmer, I wanted to be a lawyer, so I went off to do A Levels and did Law as one of them. I really enjoyed it, so I went and did a law degree, and thankfully, I still really enjoyed it, which is lucky because I didn’t have a backup plan.

Where did you study?

I went to Sheffield Hallam and became the first of my family to go

to university. I stayed local because by that point I’d already met my nowhusband, so I had a reason to stay. It was probably financially motivated as well because I didn’t have to move out of home.

When I finished university, I fell onto the bandwagon of 'if I want to be a solicitor I’ve got to go and do the LPC', so I went off and did that in York for a year and luckily got a job in law.

Did your background impact your experience of studying law at university?

Maybe I’ve just got a thick skin because I don’t ever remember feeling like that on the LPC. Two of my best friends now, one came from a boarding school background, and my other best friend, her dad was a policeman, so maybe I never felt the class divide because I’d already made those connections.

I think the only difference I noticed was that for some people, there’s perhaps no fear of failure, whereas I think I still fear failure. There’s no safety net for me and I still get a bit of imposter syndrome even in my work now.

It was probably more evident when I was applying for training contracts with the bigger law firms. The way it worked, and probably still does, was you apply two years in advance to try and get some funding towards doing a post-grad and I was not successful at all in getting anything from that. They were generally large international law firms. To be fair, that wasn’t where I was going to end up. I was never going to end up


in a corporate law firm because that’s not who I am. And I’m not their person because I don’t have the right university on my CV. My personality won’t come through on a piece of paper that says I’m from Sheffield Hallam, so there was a lot of that, and there probably still are a lot of employers looking for the red bricks.

So where did you end up in your first job?

I went to a personal injury firm. I didn’t like personal injury, but they did a lot of work for the National Union of Miners, so a lot of employment work. I loved employment law, and I was really lucky to get a training contract with them.

What did you enjoy about the work?

I loved the nature of the work and I get quite passionate about doing a good job for individuals as well as businesses. Because I was working for a big client in the NUM and fighting cases for wronged individuals or trade unions, it was big stuff.

It was really exciting. Going down to London on big cases and meeting barristers, I loved all of that and never looked back really.

Law is traditionally seen as a maledominated industry. Do you feel that has ever held you back?

It is at the top. What you'll find with law firms, and you'll see this if you just walk around this floor, is that women are everywhere. They are probably more than 50 percent of the workforce.

Often it's male-dominated in senior leadership roles, but not here. In Banner Jones’ senior leadership there are lots of women, including myself, and we’re also doing much better at shareholder level. I was the first woman to come in to the shareholding in a long time, but in a shareholding of eight, three are now women, so we are bucking the trend a little bit.

The discrepancy is something that I know is there, but during my career I’ve always been fortunate enough to work with some pretty strong women. Maybe they enabled me to think this is normal and that I can achieve what I want to.

While they may not always have been overtly advocating women, what I did see was that they were women in senior roles. I hope I

choose to advocate for women. Just because you had it hard, doesn’t mean you have to make it hard for the next crop.

Thankfully, I work in an environment where we support our colleagues to reach their full potential through training and mentoring.

Are there any big career-defining moments that you look back on fondly?

It’s hard to talk about lots of things because of client confidentiality but there was a period where I was dealing with two quite high-profile things locally, and for two different clients. It was incredibly stressful because I would find out more from the local radio about what was going on than what the clients could tell me, or than they knew.

I’d be driving in to work and the trade union would be chatting to Toby Foster on BBC Radio Sheffield about what was going on. I’d be like, this is going to be my day now. I suppose that was exciting as well.

During periods like that, the work sometimes be overwhelming?

It can be stressful because it’s often people’s lives we’re dealing with, and I really feel that. With the best will in the world, people don’t want to have to pay me to do a job,

especially if they’re an individual or a small business, because it comes at a financial cost and that’s something that I appreciate. To get great feedback from individual clients is rewarding. The big careerdefining cases are great, but I get a real kick from the general dayto-day of helping individual and employer clients. I’ve got a great relationship with some of the HR managers for my business clients. I lost my sister recently, and have had messages from some of them asking if I’m ok, because they value me and our relationship.

I’m really sorry to hear about your sister. Does a loss like that make you reevaluate things when it comes to work life balance?

My sister and I were estranged for a few years, but we were able to reconcile before she died, which made her passing even harder. I have a really lovely work family who have been super supportive over the last few weeks. I’ve lost a few people over the years, and while I’m focused and driven to succeed, at the back of my mind I’m always aware that life is short and it is for enjoying. My husband, daughter and I squeeze every ounce of fun out of every single day.

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Airmaster have been passionate about creating comfortable, energyefficient workspaces for over 30 years, providing bespoke systems for heating, plumbing and air-conditioning. Their inhouse specialists design, install and maintain tailored systems, helping any business, from the largest multi-storey building to single unit offices, thrive in the perfect working environment.

Their work speaks to their dedication, with Airmaster’s latest clients, Highfield Coffee Social, being left delighted after turning to them to supply and install a new cold room.

The Doncaster-based coffee shop was in need of a new walk-in chiller

cold room, refrigeration equipment, cold room shelving and personnel entrapment alarm, for their new coffee shop, all of which Airmaster supplied and installed.

On top of these, Airmaster also supplied them with a stainless-steel kitchen canopy with integrated supply and extract, as well as adding stainless steel wall cladding. The coffee shops’

existing air conditioning fan coil units were relocated, and additional heat recovery units were installed.

A testament to Airmaster’s eye for detail and care for their impact on a business, they also upgraded all of the ceiling grilles, making them matte black to fit with the interior decor and vibe of the new space.

“We have worked with Airmaster for around 20 years for all our air conditioning requirements throughout our business sites in Doncaster,” explains Mike Stark, facilities manager at Highfield Coffee Social. “Including PPM, servicing, server room design and install when relocating offices.

“When we have had

problems arise in the past, all it has taken is a phone call to Airmaster, and on many occasions they have gone the extra mile to help us resolve the issue quickly and efficiently.

“So, when we began to develop plans for Highfield Coffee Social, we knew we were in capable hands with the team to fulfil our specific requirements. The whole process, from initial plans through to fit and commission, was faultless, and we are delighted with the outcome.”

If you are looking to upgrade your workspace, look no further than the team of experts at Airmaster. To enquire about their services, feel free to contact team@airmaster.uk.com or visit www.airmaster.uk.com .


Appointing a new Master of Travel

TravelMaster, the company that provides people across South Yorkshire with competitivelypriced and integrated public transport tickets, has appointed Mark Fowles OBE as its new Independent Chairperson, following the resignation of Tim Bilby from Stagecoach Supertram.

Mark formerly held the position of Managing Director at Nottingham City Transport (NCT) for 20 years until April 2021, helping it to transform from a loss-making company into a thriving beacon of public transport, winning UK Bus Operator of the Year five times.

Speaking on Mark’s appointment, John Henshall, General Manager of TravelMaster, said: “TravelMaster would like to thank Tim for his five year tenure as Chairperson.

“His leadership and guidance have been a real asset and we wish him all the best for the future.

“We are extremely excited that Mark agreed to join TravelMaster as our newly appointed Independent Chairperson.

“When the position became vacant, the board decided that to further continue TravelMaster’s work, the best course of action was to appoint an external Independent Chairperson, and we were thrilled with the level of interest in and calibre of applicants for the post.

“Having Mark as Chairperson brings a new range of benefits to TravelMaster and his customer first approach closely aligns with the transformations we have been making at TravelMaster since my own appointment.

“I’m looking forward to working with Mark alongside the rest of the board to continue provide good value, easy to understand and use tickets for passengers across South Yorkshire.”

SMH Group strengthen leadership team

Leading Yorkshire and Derbyshire based chartered accountants, SMH Group, have bolstered their leadership team with the appointment of ACCAqualified Senior Manager, James Salim, as Director at the firm’s Sheffield office.

James, who joined the company as a Client Manager in 2017 before being promoted to Senior Manager in 2023, and also gained his practising certificate and audit qualification in 2023, will also take on the role of RI of Sutton McGrath Hartley as part of this appointment.

James’ appointment comes as part of an extensive growth period for SMH Group, having merged with numerous firms across the Yorkshire and Derbyshire regions in recent years.

Speaking of this addition to the senior team, Jonathon Dickens, Group Partner at SMH said: “As we’ve experienced substantial growth in recent years, and anticipate this trend to persist, it’s crucial to have the right team and infrastructure in place to take us to the next level.


“We have offered James a Director role because of his dedication to providing clients with a first-class service, and his impressive work in growing the audit department. James has also done some highly commendable work with charities and the not-for-profit sector.”

James added: “I’m delighted to become a Director in our Sheffield Office. Since stepping up to become a Senior Manager in 2023, I have really enjoyed the responsibilities this brings, both on the client side and helping out with staff development.

“The continued growth of the group has allowed me to develop as an individual, as well as playing a key role in the growth of our audit department in South Yorkshire.”


Leading apprenticeship training provider, Whyy? Change, have made two significant appointments, announcing Daniel Winterbottom as their Business Growth Executive and Greg Grabski as their new Head of Lean & Six Sigma.

As Business Growth Executive, Danny will be responsible for building meaningful relationships with businesses across South Yorkshire.

Having previously worked for the South Yorkshire Provider Network (SYPN), Danny joins Whyy? Change, following a successful stint as a project manager where he supported businesses with gaining access to the Local Skills Improvement Fund, upskilling their workforce and helping both business growth and staff retention.

Upon joining the company, Danny said: “It’s refreshing to work with a team of people that actually practice the business values on a daily basis. It’s made coming to work enjoyable again.”

Greg’s new role will see him

become responsible for leading on all Lean & Six Sigma Training and Continuous Improvement Apprenticeships, drawing on over 17 years of experience in quality, continuous improvement, operations and project management.

Speaking on his new role, Greg said: “I am delighted to join the Whyy? Change team, I see this as a fantastic step forward in my career and an opportunity to learn and develop.

“It’s an exciting role to which I’m looking forward to supporting businesses across South Yorkshire and developing Lean & Six Sigma practitioners of the future through the 5-star apprenticeship training.”


Reaching new Altitudes with two new hires

High-flying Yorkshire PR agency Altitude PR has hired Amy Lloyd and Ellie Fish to its growing team as it strengthens its service offering and expands across the UK.

B2B specialist Amy joins the Sheffieldbased consultancy as a Senior Account Manager and motorsport specialist Ellie joins as Marketing Manager, focusing solely on Altitude’s F4 racing driver client, Rowan Campbell-Pilling.

In just over two years, Altitude has grown from a team of two to now six permanent team members, offering services in PR, media relations, strategic communications, marketing services, crisis management, training, and social media support.

The agency, which was named Best New UK PR Consultancy last year by the Chartered Institute for Public Relations, is also busy adding new clients across a range of sectors, including not-for-profit membership organisation The Whitehall & Industry Group, renewables company Shawton Energy and national charities Teenage Helpline and Breast Cancer UK, amongst others.

Following the announcement of her new role, Amy said: “I’m over the moon to be joining the Altitude team.

“Having spent five years delivering B2B PR and communications for clients in niche, often complex, sectors, from waste and recycling to technology and charity, I’m really looking forward to getting under the skin of the amazing brands Altitude works with and sharing their stories.”

University of Sheffield journalism graduate, Ellie, has been creating content for top motorsport sites since she was 16 and added: “This is a really exciting time for Altitude and me as this season will see Rowan gain so many new opportunities in motorsport.

“I’m really excited to get stuck in ahead of the F4 season.”

Hi Anne, congratulations on the recent promotion. How did it come about?

Thank you! So, after 10 years with Andy File Associates, I have already enjoyed two promotions within that time, having achieved milestones on our Career Ladder and been rewarded for that. As our team began to grow, and continues to do so, Andy recognised the need for a Head of Recruitment to manage and develop the team moving forward. It was a great opportunity to be considered for this new role, which I was then offered and more than happy to accept; it was the next natural step in my career with Andy – and I’m not stopping yet!

What strengths or experiences do you bring to the Head of Recruitment position?

I have 30-plus years of recruitment experience, having previously worked for large high street recruitment companies as well as smaller ownermanaged businesses in both branch and regional managerial roles. During this time, I have managed teams of up to 40-plus consultants and their respective managers, so I am able to bring a varied skillset, considerable knowledge and experience in order to help develop and grow the team and ultimately the business moving forward for Andy.

Do you have any specific goals or objectives for your new role?

My goal is to continue to embody our company values and to share best practice within the team, working with them to encourage, coach, motivate and help them to realise their own goals and objectives within the business. I have already exceeded my personal annual target for this financial year, so it’s now on to the next year. This is exactly where I would like everyone to be, and I will do my very best to help the team achieve that.

Are there any particular challenges you anticipate facing in your new position, and how do you plan to address them?

I enjoy challenges; life is full of them, and my recruitment career has equipped me well with the knowledge and experience to overcome them. You never know what each day will bring in recruitment. It’s a true rollercoaster ride and as the team continues to grow, I am sure there will be more challenges to come. My overall objective is to build a successful team, for us to be a trusted recruitment partner to many businesses and be part of the ongoing journey with Andy File Associates and to enjoy everything along the way.

Finally, you’ve been at Andy File for 10 years now – that’s an impressive stint! What do you like about working for the company?

Thank you! I have worked for Andy 10 years now but have known him much longer and I understand his aspirations for the business and its future. We respect and trust each other and have a great team who pull together to achieve our overall goals and we have the freedom to do so. I very much enjoy the autonomy I have and the fact that Andy trusts me to do my job in building a team who can bring much success to Andy File Associates in the future.


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Simon Gillot, founder of industrial recruiters Steel Cactus, talks us through his top tips for looking after your overall wellbeing and how to stay motivated…

Hi Simon. Can you talk us through what you’ve learned when it comes to motivation and well-being? Firstly, you can’t always rely on motivation alone. It’s something that comes and goes. Secondly, I’ve found that habits are really powerful, both for your day-to-day work but also for your own wellbeing.

For anybody working in a professional job, it’s easy to get into bad habits. Maybe work takes over, maybe you drink to excess or maybe you just don’t look after yourself as well as you could. It can lead you down a bit of a dark road if you allow it to.

What prompted you to consider your own habits?

I don’t know if I had an epiphany as such, but as I was getting older, I realised that I needed to look after my body and mind, which tie in together. You can improve that quite simply if you focus on it and develop healthy routines.

How did you go about developing those routines?

I read a lot of philosophy; I’m naturally quite open minded and keen to learn and absorb new things, and from that I started Habit Stacking,

where you do one thing and then follow that immediately with another thing, so that you don’t forget or leave anything behind.

Can you give us an example?


In the morning, I get up early and the first things that I do is yoga and stretching. As soon as I’ve done that, I do Duolingo, and I’ve done that for 1034 days consecutively! Then I’ll go for a run for maybe 20 mins. After that, I’ll have some breakfast. These are the core things I try to do every day, and then I’ll try and weave in either

some more learning, so I might put on a TED Talk, or I’ll listen to some music.

Why do you think these habits are important?

Hopefully, all these habits spark learning and create fresh ideas. Also, maintaining good habits mean that if you’re having a bad day, you create potential for another good day down the line. It gives me confidence and keeps me in control.

Are there other things that have been important to you? For me, stopping drinking. I tried to cut down, but it

would always creep back in. I needed to make a change because I felt it was taking away opportunities. I’ve found my life is better without it.

Then it’s just simple things like getting outdoors, walking, appreciating the sunshine, reflections off windows or view of rivers –the little things that make a difference.

I’m not striving for perfection in any of these things, but if it makes me feel good and builds a good habit, that’s all that matters.



B&B Vehicle contracts

This month, unLTD grabs five with the team behind one of the UK’s leading independent vehicle leasing specialists.

Tell us a bit more about your company?

B&B Vehicle Contracts is a specialist broker, sourcing vehicles from all major manufacturers for contract hire, leasing, short term rentals and outright purchase.

Established in 1997, the company has grown into one of the UK’s leading independent vehicle leasing specialists for both business and private individuals when it comes to cars, vans and electric vehicles. They also offer a part exchange option, as well as short and long-term vehicle hire for companies and individuals.

Headed up by directors Steve Barker and Tony Dent, the B&B team has grown in all areas over the past decade, expanding the team, growing its reputation and increasing its diverse customer base.

Where do you do most of your business?

With a customer base predominately across the Sheffield City Region – but also spanning the UK from Scotland to Cornwall – B&B is proud to call itself a “ocal company. Having been established for over 25 years, we pride ourselves on putting the customer first and this is the overriding philosophy of every member of the team.

We have a great repeat

customer base and enjoy spreading the word about what the team are up to. We hope if you speak to our customers, they will tell you we always put them first. B&B also support many local charities, including Support Dogs and Weston Cancer Charity, as well as local community groups including the sponsorship of the Handsworth Girls U-15s football team.

We are a firm believer in local partnerships and, to name a few, are official vehicle suppliers to Sheffield United, Sheffield Theatres and Rotherham Titans, who have just achieved promotion in their Centenary year.

What helps you stand out from your competitors?

As an independent company, B&B Vehicle Contracts can negotiate preferential terms, on any make or model and offer a complete service from order to delivery. We pride ourselves on offering a “complete end to end” service, meaning they take care of you for the entire contract of your vehicle, from point of delivery to end of contract collection.

The depth of knowledge everyone has is incredible, with over 130 years motor trade experience across the team. We pride ourselves on being approachable, friendly and easy for customers to work with.

Fundamentally, we understand that customers want the process of organising contract hire or lease to be as hassle-free as possible, looking at the entire spectrum of the client requirements and taking care of everything for them. Whether you require a car or a light commercial vehicle, new or used, we recognise that no two businesses are the same and each will have different vehicle funding and management requirements.

How have the last few years been from a business perspective?

It’s been a fantastic few years at B&B Vehicles, and the growth has been amazing. It was always important to us to the grow our team, bringing in the best of the best in each sector to ensure our customer’s requirements can be met promptly, efficiently and with great service so they will always come back to us. We have also started a fleet management company that allows us to look after our business customers more effectively than ever before.

For the latest deals, please visit the website or contact the team on www. bandbleasing.co.uk. You can also follow on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and X for updates, offers and team and industry news.



unLTD pays a visit to AS Music School in S8, a proud family business and leader in Sheffield music tuition for over 35 years. Words: Joseph Food

I think sometimes when people think of music schools, they might imagine a strict atmosphere with tutors like J.K. Simmons in Whiplash!” laughs Karl Sheehan, Partner at AS Music School. “But this is a very happy, fun place to be.”

We’re sitting in the office space at the school’s premises in Woodseats, formerly a GP surgery and now a bustling music hub where 400 students regularly attend to learn a wide range of instruments and skills. It’s early afternoon on a weekday, so all is quiet and calm as it stands. However, I’m assured that if I was to return around 5pm, I’d be treated to a symphony of booms, twangs and vibrations emanating from the 13 teaching rooms scattered throughout the building.

“We’ve got an extremely talented, diverse group of tutors here,” says Karl. “That’s also reflected in our students, and we teach an age range spanning from 3 to 5 years through to people in their 80s and 90s. We’ve been going a long time, so we are well established in the area and have seen generations of families come to the school.”

AS Music School was originally set up by Karl’s mum, Anne, 35 years ago, and has since seen an estimated 2,000 students pass through its doors. Initially starting out in the back room of their family home, the school grew significantly over the years and moved to its current premises five years ago.

A legacy which has seen thousands of Sheffielders taking their first steps in music at AS is something they are keen to celebrate after reaching their 35th anniversary – and rightly so. “It’s a really positive thing to be part of, whether they’re going on to make careers in music in various ways or learning lifelong creative skills. It’s something to shout about.”

Away from the practice rooms, students have plenty of


extracurricular opportunities to get stuck into. Regular shows are booked for bands from the school at venues across Sheffield – there’s one coming up soon at Toolmakers Live – providing an opportunity for students to gain experience playing in front of a gig-going audience.

It’s all about making sure the experience is a well-rounded one, where students can explore a variety of routes while staying true to the school’s tagline: Enjoy Making Music. “Nurturing creativity is a big part of what we do, and we try to be as consultative as possible,” says Karl. “We don’t have a set syllabus and try to cater for individuals as well as we can.”

“For example, if you’re doing piano lessons, you might be doing something entirely different to what the person in the room next to you is doing. We have people working towards exams and sitting them here, but we also have students who never plan on taking exams. In one room, we’ll have someone learning opera, and in another, we might have someone learning an Ed Sheeran song.”

We briefly explore the various

practice rooms and spaces, each decorated with tributes to the musical influences of the resident tutor and students. In one room, a communal ukulele class is in full swing, while just across the hallway, a private session in musical theatre is taking place. Karl nods towards a small production studio, which has provided its services for a student looking to release music on Spotify.

Tour complete, I take my leave as another cohort of students arrive for their afternoon slots. It was only fleeting visit, but that’s all you really need to realise the significance of these types of institutions – not only as a pillar of creativity and education but as a vibrant hub where the community comes together to explore their musical passions, irrespective of age or background.

Here’s to another 35 years of Sheffielders celebrating the joy of music at AS Music School.

Find out more at www. musiclessonssheffield.co.uk @asmusicschool

2-4 Cobnar Rd, Woodseats 0114 2748939



Sheffield star Dan Walker to host Roundabout’s Night at the Musicals Renowned broadcaster and presenter Dan Walker is set to host Roundabout’s A ‘Night at the Musicals’ 2024 fundraiser.

This year marks the third instalment of ‘A Night at the Musicals’, which will be taking to the stage at The Crucible Theatre on 11th June.

All the money raised will fund the vital work of the South Yorkshire-based homelessness charity, helping them continue supporting some of the region’s most vulnerable young people.

Dan said: “Roundabout is a great South Yorkshire charity that provides badly needed support for young people in


“As a parent myself, I know how important it is that all young people can have a place of safety in times of crisis.

“I am delighted to be hosting A Night at the Musicals and look forward to sharing the stage with some great South Yorkshire talent.”

As well as the lineup of incredible home-grown talent, West End actor Jonathan David Dudley, whose musical theatre credits include Scrooge at the London Palladium and The Book Of Mormon, amongst other shows, will also be taking part.

Fellow West End performer, Bryony Louise Duncan, who starred as Jane Seymour in Six: The Musical,

and Doncaster-born Rebecca Lisewski, whose major credits include her current role in Moulin Rouge, Fame,

Carousel and Mamma Mia, will also be taking to the stage, alongside Strictly Come Dancing favourites Flavia Cacace, Vincent Simone and Ian Waite.

Emily Bush, Roundabout’s Fundraising Manager, said:

“We were already excited to have such a great lineup of talent joining us for the evening, but to be able to confirm that Dan Walker will be our host adds an extra special element to this year’s show,”

“Last year was a complete sell-out and we do advise you to book early to avoid disappointment, because the 2024 Night at the Musicals is going to be bigger and better than ever and you won’t want to miss it!”


In honour of their 50th anniversary this year, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue (SYFR) have kicked off a year of fundraising for The Children’s Hospital Charity with a unique challenge.

Kitted out in over 15kg of firefighting uniform and breathing apparatus, five firefighters will walk in a 22-mile loop around all fire stations in the Sheffield district, aiming to raise £2,500 for Sheffield Children’s this year.

Watch Manager, Kirsty Wright, who is leading the event, said: “If you live in Sheffield and you’ve got children, at some point, through no fault of your own, you’re going to be visiting Sheffield Children’s. We’re all very lucky to have it.

“Working as a Firefighter

opens you up to seeing a lot of things that other people don’t. We are often first on the scene and see a lot of children that then transfer to Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

“Lots of our Firefighters are parents, and we try to focus our charitable events on things that resonate with us and our work. We want to raise funds for charities that

mean something to us.

“We got a bit of a shock once we realised how long it would take us, and just how far it was - but it doesn’t matter if it’s two miles or 22. We’re going do it.”

The money raised will support specialist treatment Sheffield Children’s Hospital offers, by funding life-saving equipment, new facilities, a

comfortable environment and vital research, which changes paediatric lives.

SYFR also have a second fundraiser planned at Meadowhall on 11th May, where they will be attempting to climb the height of the Yorkshire Three Peaks on a turntable ladder.

Community Fundraising Officer, Emma Maskrey, said: “We’re so grateful for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue’s support. We’re honoured to have such a large public organisation fundraising for us.

“The different challenges they’re taking on this year show an amazing commitment and their support will make a huge difference to the children and families that visit Sheffield Children’s.”



Local women’s charity, YWCA Yorkshire, has announced the appointment of Cassandra Brown to its Board of Trustees.

With nearly 40 years of experience in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Cassandra is a dedicated advocate for women and girls achieving in science and engineering professions and actively participates in STEM and WISE outreach programmes.

Other charitable projects of hers include using technology to address hearing loss in vulnerable groups, particularly in Malawi where she works with the Yorkshire led initiative, ‘ENT Malawi’.

For the past 25 years, Cassandra has been at MED-EL, a global hearing implant company dedicated to supporting people in overcoming hearing loss through innovative hearing implants and other med-tech solutions.

Commenting on her appointment as a YWCA Yorkshire Charity Trustee, Cassandra said: “I’ve spent my career channelling the resilience I developed as a child and my STEM background to grow successful businesses that make a meaningful impact with life-changing technology.

“I am passionate about empowering and inspiring other women and girls to access education, build confidence, and develop skills so that they can live life to their full potential.

“When I got the opportunity to join the Charity Trustee Board with YWCA Yorkshire, I jumped at the chance. YWCA Yorkshire supports upwards of 250 people seeking safety and services because of domestic violence, abuse, homelessness and poverty.

“Their compassion and expertise is awe-inspiring and it’s a privilege for me to work with them in their mission to create a better future for women, children and families here in South Yorkshire.”

Of the new appointment, David Forrester Chair of Trustees said: “We are delighted to welcome Cassandra Brown to the Board.

“We are a local charity with a huge remit to support women, children and families across South Yorkshire, and our communities will benefit greatly from Cassandra’s professional experience and networks, as well as her determination to empower and advocate for women and girls.”


It’s Bank Holiday Maytime again!!! It’s lovely to take advantage of extra time with friends and families, growing relationships, creating memories and de-stressing from work life though – so do it. Tomorrow is not promised.

UnLtd Magazine are doing an editorial article on one of my retained clients Skills Street CIC – the incredible interactive and amazing place which help young people decide on careers options, apprenticeships, job opportunities and learning availability. They are building a creative and out of this world site within the boundaries of Gulliver’s Valley Theme Park just outside Aston, Wales and Swallownest in Rotherham. It is going to be an amazing facility for schools, colleges, employers and young people to share ideas on the world of employability and work.

Be sure to look out for the story in next month’s issue!

We were just in time to get the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit funding application submitted, but we did it! We have some amazing funding opportunities to apply for to get this not for profit off the ground and looking great for our young people of South Yorkshire come September 2024 when it will open in phases.

James Beighton is the Business Development Manager with all the plate spinning involved in launching a new business, even a not for profit one!! We have all been there, but it is tough and it is so much better when you have that first set of accounts and some money in the bank.

If you are considering setting up a not for profit, CIC or charity, give me a call, we can discuss it over a coffee and if I can’t help you, I will know someone who can!

If you need more help with this or any aspect of Business Planning/Funding Strategy, call meWendy Ward, Let’s Save Consultancy Services, 0772 9481010. wendy@letssave.biz




Kitlocker.com’s relationship with Street League began the best part of a decade ago. Initially, it was a simple case of kit supply. But between then and now, it’s become something much more than that...

Street League’s mission is to use sport and education to help young people into work. And that’s exactly what they’ve been doing since their foundation in the early 2000s. Equipping 14-30 year olds with the confidence, motivation, essential skills and qualifications needed to secure employment and most

importantly, enable them to flourish.

The charity operates in 16 different towns and cities throughout the UK. And in recent years, Kitlocker.com has developed a very close tie with the Sheffield branch.

The Attercliffe-based sportswear company began by

providing groups of their young people with visits to Kitlocker HQ. They were given a tour of the premises, an insight into each department and even a bit of practical work on printing presses and in the photography studio. The aim of all this was to provide an idea of daily life at a busy workplace.

Because Kitlocker.com have all of their departments in one location, they could sample every step of the process from order to dispatch and also, crucially, give Street League’s young people an understanding of a wide range of roles and positions. The objective of all of this was to inspire some of them to envisage the kind of job that they might be interested in when entering employment.

Kitlocker.com’s relationship with Street League was then taken a step further when they provided a number of their young people with work experience placements in a range of departments.

So impressed with the work ethic and willingness to learn from some of the young people involved, they even offered fulltime permanent employment to


three of them.

Graeme Severn, Operations Manager for Street League South Yorkshire said: “Due to Kitlocker. com's support, we've been able to provide our young people with meaningful high quality work experience opportunities, interview skills sessions, insights into how a business operates and employment opportunities.”

“Without that support these young people will never have been able to access these kinds of opportunities which allow them to develop as people and, in some cases, secure employment. We're extremely grateful for their continued support in helping young people in the South Yorkshire region.”

Tori Thomas, HR Lead at Kitlocker.com added: “The

relationship we have with Street League is extremely beneficial for us as a Company. We provide world of work days and support with mock interviews which helps our own employees to develop their leadership and communication skills.”

“Street League then refers numerous successful students from their academies to us for roles as vacancies appear, and this ensures we have a steady flow of eager and enthusiastic candidates to welcome into the business. Overall, our relationship with Street League is extremely beneficial for both parties.”

The relationship is something both parties are keen to build on and develop further, with more visits and mock interview sessions planned for later this year.

Declan & Brynley, also twin brothers, are now full time employees at Kitlocker.com following successful work placements from Street League. We checked in to see how they're getting on...

How did your employment at Kitlocker. com come about?

Declan: After two or three months at Street League, they told me I had to do some work experience at Kitlocker. I spent a couple of days in the warehouse and a couple of days in customer service. I really enjoyed it and decided to send in my CV. I was really happy to be taken on by them.

What skills have you learnt while working at Kitlocker.com?

Brynley: I’d say communication, working in a team and working under pressure.

How did you find settling in at the company?

The work culture here is good because everyone gets along with one another, no matter what department you’re in - even if you support different football teams! I didn’t know what to expect when I started but on my first day every single person talked to me. It was really positive from the start.

What were your first impressions?

That everyone seemed so relaxed, chilled out and polite. I’ve always said it was probably the best first place I could have worked at because everyone is so nice and speaks to you. And then there’s also a really good work ethic too. Altogether, it’s just been amazing.




In today’s digital age, businesses are increasingly turning to public cloud services. However, a shocking 94% of businesses are overspending by an average of 43% on these services. Global spending on public cloud services is projected to reach $1.35 trillion by 2027, so it’s imperative that businesses optimise cloud environments.

Simoda, a technology and IT service business in Sheffield, is leading the charge, helping businesses, locally and nationally, navigate the cost surge, offering specialist tools to optimise and reduce cloud costs.

Lee Wragg, Simoda’s Technology Solutions Director, is at the forefront of finding solutions to the cloud challenge for customers and provides key considerations for businesses looking to optimise public cloud usage.

When it comes to developing a Cloud cost management strategy, be sure to:

• Make cloud consumers accountable: Provide cloud users with resources to create forecasts, monitor costs, and pursue optimisation opportunities.

• Use hierarchies and tags: Organise resources based on applications, departments, or cost centres using native hierarchies and tags provided by cloud providers.

• Monitor utilisation and capacity metrics: Regularly track resource usage and right size allocation-based services to avoid over-provisioning.

• Leverage programmatic discounts: Take advantage of reserved instances, savings plans, and other cost-saving options.

• Modernise applications:

Opt for provider-managed services when they are more cost-effective.

• Combine native and thirdparty tools: Use native cloud provider tools and augment them with thirdparty solutions for a more integrated approach.

After developing a strategy, it’s important to also consider what you need to do to optimise your Cloud Cost. Some examples of best practices include:

• Regular monitoring and reporting: Implement robust monitoring and reporting tools to track

resource usage and expenditures.

• Optimize resource utilisation: Right size your resources to avoid overprovisioning and pay only for what you need.

• Leverage reserved instances and savings plans: Take advantage of cost-saving options provided by cloud providers.

• Implement tagging and cost allocation: Use tags for better organisation and cost tracking.

• Improve cloud storage management: Optimise storage costs by managing

data efficiently.

• Enhance security to prevent costly breaches: Secure your cloud environment to avoid unexpected expenses.

Whether you’re a startup looking to scale rapidly or an established enterprise seeking to optimise operations, Simoda is here to help you harness the full potential of cloud computing.

For personalised guidance and consultation, feel free to reach out to our team of cloud experts at Simoda. info@simoda.co.uk








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Growing numbers in young professionals and a city’s student-age population often have a positive impact on a city’s economy, but as a recent report by socio-economic experts Marrons has highlighted, the city’s housing market needs investment to keep up with the ever-increasing demand.

The report explained that Sheffield is bracing for a monumental challenge in meeting the housing needs of its burgeoning population by 2040. With projections indicating a surge in residents, the city must prepare to accommodate over 54,600 new homes within the next two decades.

The research underscores the urgency of the situation, highlighting that Sheffield’s population aged 16 and above is expected to reach 531,931 by 2040. Among these figures are significant demographic segments, including 115,625 individuals aged 66 and over, 174,672 first-time buyers aged between 25 and 44, and 64,934 individuals of student age (18-22).

Despite these pressing demands, Sheffield is anticipated to face a decline in its social housing stock by an additional 8,658 properties by 2040. This places the city third in terms of the greatest loss of social housing in England, trailing only behind Birmingham and Leeds.

The analysis also sheds light on the prevalence of under-occupancy, with a substantial number of homes housing residents aged 66 and over in properties larger than necessary (two or more bedrooms unoccupied). In 2021 alone, 31,897 individuals fell into this category. If current trends persist, it is estimated that by 2040, 43,273 households aged 65 and over will continue to occupy larger-than-needed


Dan Usher, economics director at Marrons, emphasised the need for diversified housing options to address the city’s evolving demographic landscape. He pointed out that Sheffield is poised to witness significant growth in its student-age population, trailing only behind Southampton, Coventry, and Portsmouth. Additionally, a 14% increase in the first-time buyer population is anticipated, making it imperative to cater to diverse housing needs.

He explained: “With a growing first-time buyer demographic, market housing will be in high demand. However, with such significant levels of underoccupation, there is also a real opportunity to develop right-sized properties for the city’s ageing population. “Building a range of homes to suit many different needs is not only a priority but a

necessity. It creates more choice, aids first-time buyers onto the property ladder, gives expanding families additional space, helps the ageing population downsize and live in homes more suitable for their needs, and adds to the supply of affordable housing.”

Contrary to other local authorities in Yorkshire & the Humber, Sheffield is expected to experience the most significant surge in its first-time buyer demographic and student-age population.

Drawing from the latest census data and population projections, Marrons has outlined a clear roadmap for addressing England’s housing needs by 2040. Simon Macklen, partner and head of economics at Marrons, made clear the importance of acknowledging the evolving housing landscape and prioritising the needs of future residents.

“In examining the data,

it becomes evident there is a significant need for general market homes to accommodate the growing population. As well as meeting this basic need, more could be done to provide greater choice and acknowledge the positive impact of specialist and affordable homes as part of a functioning housing market, much of which can be facilitated through market-led development at scale.”

As the city grows and undergoes demographic shifts, the call to action is clear: proactive measures must be taken to address the housing crisis, ensuring that the needs of all segments of society are met. Failure to do so risks exacerbating an already challenging situation in cities like Sheffield, making it increasingly difficult for residents to find suitable housing options.


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