I have seen a few economic downturns over the years, and if there is a silver lining, it is that we get some fantastic new businesses emerging from the aftermath.

Necessity being the mother of invention creates new entrepreneurs, with an idea to launch a new business that could be one of the employers and innovators of tomorrow.

I have been there myself and I know what an exciting and daunting time it is. You have got it all in your head, but you need someone to help you rationalise your ideas into a working plan with structure, a clear vision and a sound financial base.

Thanks to our fantastic new business start-up service we can now give even greater support to anyone thinking of starting or already engaged in starting, their own business.

The service is totally free, and working with our start-up advisers Peter Ball, Andy Riley, or Aly Davidson, you can take advantage of our 4-step business start-up programme to help with business planning, cashflow forecasting and marketing planning.

We are delighted to have Aly join the Chambers team of start-up advisers. She has a wealth of experience in commerce and education and has set up and run two successful businesses.

Aly says of her new role: “My observations so far are that many employees are starting to think more seriously about setting up on their own, some offering a mini version of whatever their employer does.

“The effects of the pandemic on employees has given them the time and courage to think about how they want to spend the rest of their working lives. Many are being driven by emotion rather than financial need. We have had a surgeon developing a new medical app, a trauma survivor becoming a life coach, and several people commercialising their hobbies and passions.

“There are, and will be, the inevitable redundancies but it is exciting to see that people seem to be taking control of their future and making their dreams a reality.”

So, if you are needing someone to share your ideas with or you are an employer making redundancies and wanting to signpost employees to new opportunities, you can contact Aly: aly.davidsion@staffordshirechambrs.co.uk or call 01782 202222

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002.

The Potters’ Club – re-opening on Friday 31 July

After over 100 days of lockdown, we are delighted to announce that the Potters’ Club will be re-opening for members and their guests, on Friday 31 July.

Renowned in the region for fine dining and a unique ambiance, the Potter’s Club, set on the third floor of Federation House in Station Road, Stoke, was forced to close its doors in March, when the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

Since then, the management team has worked hard to ensure that all possible steps were taken, and measures put in place, to enable us to open our doors once again, for members and their guests, in the safest possible environment.

The Club will open on just three days a week in this initial phase – for Friday and Saturday dinner, and for Sunday lunch – offering a set-priced menu (£40 for three courses plus filter coffee, £30 for traditional Sunday lunch) , and with prior bookings only. Check the website for seasonal, monthly menus and for other information.

We have set up a new, secure booking and payment system on our website – http://thepottersclub.co.uk, and bookings will be by timed slots, set at 15 minute intervals, to ensure that staff can properly welcome each party, and explain the new regime, before the next party arrives.

For any Chamber member who is not already a Potters’ Club member, we have an introductory offer of 18 months’ membership for just £120. You can join by visiting the website, or by emailing us at info@thepottersclub.co.uk for further details.

We look forward to welcoming you, soon, to our unique venue.

Free Cloud Readiness Assessment

As the world responds to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, in the IT world one thing has been made very clear – the rise in awareness and uptake of cloud services.

Upon commencement of ‘lockdown’ in the UK, we received 22x our daily average support desk calls in order to rapidly respond and get our clients up and running from home.

Fortunately, for some of our clients the transition to home working was simple; this was due to having a cloud infrastructure and remote desktop environment. What this means is that the whole company IT infrastructure can be accessed and managed via an online cloud portal.

Features and benefits of the Cloud:

– A portal into your whole infrastructure, that’s simple and easy to manage
– No hardware (off-premise servers that don’t need maintaining)
– Scalable meaning you can go up and down in resource as required
– Pay as you go payment plan
– Increased mobility, work from anywhere at any time
– No reliance on human interaction for Disaster Recovery and Backups
– Compliance under regulations such as GDPR
– Guaranteed uptime
– Extremely high levels of security

This pandemic has highlighted the importance of preparedness amongst businesses and how IT plays such an important role. Investment in your IT infrastructure is a necessity in this day in age and 65% of businesses believe that this pandemic has created a ‘new way of working’. Flexible / remote working was already becoming a huge part of modern life but is now expected to stick around for the long run.

For further advice and an assessment around whether this is in fact the right solution for you please get in touch. We’re currently offering FREE cloud readiness assessments for fellow Chamber members.

Tel: 01889 228439
Email: hello@infinityit-solutions.com
Website: http://www.infinityit-solutions.com

Managing the e-waste crisis

Electronic and electrical waste is fast becoming a global crisis. Worldwide, over 50 million tonnes of e-waste are produced each year. Here, Jonathan Wilkins, director at industrial parts supplier EU Automation, explores whether a proactive obsolescence strategy could be the key to reducing e-waste.

Shorter product lifecycles, technological innovation and regulatory updates are just some of the reasons that lead to component obsolescence — a term that refers to a situation where the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) no longer produces a given part. For many manufacturers, this means replacing or upgrading plant equipment.

Not only can this be environmentally damaging, it can be costly for businesses to source replacement parts.

If you’re a plant manager that does not have an obsolescence strategy, you risk your businesses becoming reactive rather than staying proactive. Instead of waiting for the end-of-life notice from an OEM — and then scrambling to source parts — it’s important to consider this at the outset.

Taking a proactive approach to obsolescence management has the added benefit of mitigating for downtime to source and replace parts when breakdowns inevitably occur. In many cases, it can also mean that manufacturers can replace components instead of the entire sub-system, saving money and reducing unnecessary e-waste.

To prepare for obsolescence, plant managers must undertake a thorough analysis of their production systems, audit the lifecycle of their components and identify the biggest risks. Once they know this, they can begin to identify suppliers ahead of time and stock up on parts where necessary.

A good obsolescence management strategy also goes hand-in-hand with your plant maintenance strategy. Replacing parts before they become obsolete will extend machinery life and reduce the impact of downtime. By working with a specialist parts supplier, like EU Automation, it is possible to source obsolete parts that may no longer be available from their original manufacturer.

EU Automation’s multi-lingual team searches the globe for replacement new and reconditioned parts at the best price and uses its expertise to minimise costly downtime.

To further reduce electronic waste, EU Automation offers another option; customers can “service exchange” their broken part. Essentially, when a part breaks down, the customer orders a new one, like-for-like, with a 12-month warranty. Once they have received the new unit, the customer sends us the old one within seven days. We will then recycle it, reducing the customer’s carbon footprint and the amount of e-waste. We may also be able to offer a potential discount on the replacement part too.

While there may be 50 million tonnes of e-waste produced each year, by preparing an effective obsolescence management plan, businesses can ensure they are doing their part to minimise e-waste.

To find out more about obsolescence management and to source automation parts, visit http://www.euautomation.com

Stone’s position as a trusted supplier to the FE sector recognised as it is awarded to ICT framework as supplier


Stone Group, a provider of digital transformation solutions and IT asset disposal partner based in Stafford, has announced that it has been awarded a place on the ICT Hardware and Peripherals Equipment framework, operated by the Crescent Purchasing Consortium (CPC).


Awarded a place on four Lots for the provision of desktop PCs, portable devices, peripherals, and multi-purpose solutions, Stone Group has a wealth of experience working with education sector. The framework has been valued at around £260m and will run to 30th June 2022.


CPC is a not-for-profit organisation, owned and run by the FE sector. It provides its members with access to specialist procurement frameworks which enable further and higher education establishments, as well as schools and academies, to purchase the ICT equipment they need at best value and in full compliance with public sector buying regulations.


Simon Harbridge, CEO at Stone Group, commented, “We’re delighted to have been awarded to this framework as we continue to serve the further education sector in the UK.


“Further education institutions face increasing pressure to provide financially viable, yet rewarding and comprehensive learning experiences with high quality technology. The CPC framework allows its members to accurately compare vendors and technologies to determine the best and most cost-effective solution for them, while offering assurance that they’ll be working with a trusted, quality, and compliant vendor.


“With over 25 years’ experience in the sector, and as a strategic hardware partner to over 35% of the UK’s further education colleges, Stone Group has a proven track record of partnering with universities and colleges to help them navigate these challenges and provide their students with the equipment and support they need for a fulfilling and memorable technology-enhanced education.”


Stone Group is a trusted partner of numerous leading global technology brands in the further education sector, including Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, Western Digital, Cisco, Meraki and HP.

Care training specialist Acacia Training has been playing a key role in the drive to increase staffing capacity in care homes as part of the response to COVID-19.


The Trentham-based company has delivered £100,000 of intensive training funded by Skills for Care, as part of the government’s response to the pandemic in care homes.


This included assisting 44 care companies with rapid induction training for new staff, delivering four days of intensive online induction training for new recruits, volunteers and those returning to care roles.


The team also provided important training for existing staff in a further 40 care settings, covering infection prevention and control, safeguarding, moving and handling, basic life support, health and safety awareness, food safety, medication, and fire safety.


So far almost 250 staff have been trained, with more than 84 employers in the health and social care sector throughout England.


Cheryl Wallace has delivered the training through a combination of Zoom lessons and online learning through Acacia Training’s e-learning platform. Cheryl explains: “The health and social care sector has experienced significant staffing challenges during the pandemic. Constantly evolving government guidelines, increased staffing ratios needed to achieve social distancing, and staff shortages due to illness, shielding or self-isolating are just some of the challenges.

“All of our training has been regularly updated – for example reflecting changing advice regarding PPE. During this very busy and challenging time, our clients have needed a fast, thorough and efficient response to make sure that staff can be inducted or upskilled quickly, particularly in areas such as safeguarding and infection control.”


She adds: “We have so far delivered more than 366 courses to learners ranging in age from 18 to their 60s. Feedback from care sector employers is that the quick access to funded training has been invaluable. We’re thankful to Skills for Care for enabling us to deliver this fully funded and important training to a wide range of health and social care employers during a period of intense challenge.”


Acacia Training is currently operating a waiting list for any companies interested in accessing the training if more funding becomes available – contact sales@acaciatraining.co.uk for more information.

Children in Stoke-on-Trent are on track to benefit from free food over the summer holidays, thanks to a donation by JCB.

The Hubb Foundation has received £15,000 from the Staffordshire manufacturer, to ensure it can continue to provide a lifeline for young people and their families across the city.

Founded last year by Staffordshire businesswoman and Port Vale Football Club owner Carol Shanahan, The Hubb Foundation’s original remit was to provide a lifeline for families and children, with free activities and free meals during the school holidays.

However, since the Covid-19 situation took hold, The Hubb Foundation, in collaboration Port Vale FC, the Port Vale FC Foundation, Synectics Solutions and Summit Hospitality, has stepped up its work to support those most in need throughout the crisis, delivering more than 100,000 meals, as well as educational activities and welfare packs to homes across the city.

JCB has already supported the charity’s work during the pandemic by donating thousands of meals for families and children in need through its ‘Food for Communities’ initiative.

Carol said: “The summer holidays this year will be like no other and we are extremely grateful to JCB for their continued support in these unprecedented times.

“Thanks to their donation, we are now able to carry on delivering free food and socially-distanced activities to children across the city at a time where there’s never been a greater need.”

A JCB spokesman added: “Our ‘Food for Our Communities’ initiative saw 35,000 meals delivered to vulnerable families across Staffordshire from April to June.

“We are delighted to extend our support to Hubb Foundation to ensure those most in need continue to receive help during the school holidays.”

The Chambers has only ever been as good as the sum of its Members, whose enthusiasm and drive give us the focus and the mandate to carry out our mission of being the complete business support and representative body for business in Staffordshire.

We are looking for active, influential Members who would like to take their involvement to the next level by joining Chambers’ Council, Board of Directors, or one of the Local Area Advisory Boards for Stafford or the Staffordshire Moorlands.

Serving on our Council, Board of Directors or a Local Area Advisory Board is a great way to keep abreast of what is going on in business and the wider economy. As a businessperson you can get directly involved and influence by representing the views of businesses in your community right up to the highest level.

In addition, you will make new contacts within your peer group and forge valuable business connections.

We welcome applications from all businesspeople who are Chambers Members, from all backgrounds from self-employed to large business in any sector.

Here are some quotes from existing board and council members:

“I would recommend council membership to any Chamber member who would like to get more involved in Chamber activity and in the local community.”

Margaret Michell

“Being a member of the Chambers council is an amazing opportunity to be a bridge between the Chambers team and the local businesses they support. It has enabled me to meet with some fascinating and inspirational people in the local business community.”

Lisa Cooper, Socially Grown

“I can honestly say that being a member of the Staffordshire Moorlands Board has totally transformed the way that I operate. It has introduced me to likeminded businesspeople who are willing to work together and collaborate on initiatives which make a real difference to all our businesses and the local economy.”

Jed Eatough, LSGK Accountants Ltd

“I joined the Chamber’s council because I believe that it is vital to be willing to serve in order to support local businesses and jobs – no more so than now when we face such major challenges.”

Jeremy Lefroy

If you are interested in becoming a council or board member, or would like to chat about what is involved please contact Vicki Hardie vicki.hardie@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002.

Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce has been matching mentors with businesses for several years through its Let’s do Mentoring scheme.

Mentoring has been even more vital to businesses since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic with many firms facing a battle to survive as the economy stalled and locked down in March.

One business who has seen an immediate benefit from their mentor matches is Roundpeg Outdoor Buildings, based in Fauld near Burton-on-Trent.

Business partners Sallyann Smith and Adam Timmis set up Roundpeg Outdoor Buildings in January 2020. Having worked together in the same industry for 15 years, they had finally realised their dream of setting up their own business to capitalise on their experience and take charge of their own destinies.

Move on two months, and Covid-19 has forced the country into lockdown and brought all but essential business to a standstill.

Add to this, the fact that as a new business with no history of paying tax, government financial support was looking highly unlikely.

Roundpeg were already involved with the Chamber as they had received help through their package for start-up businesses. In February they took possession of a new unit and were assigned Richard Carty as mentor. By the time they had got electricity into the building and their equipment set up it was mid-March. With timber due to arrive on the 24th March they were ready to make up their first orders. Lockdown was announced on the 23rd March, but fortunately the timber had been loaded and the delivery took place.

Sallyann said: “For the first two weeks of lockdown we didn’t work as we weren’t sure if we could travel and fit buildings.

“However, after this time we noticed that tradesmen were working so we decided to work locally, fitting customer buildings that could be accessed from outside. Orders grew and we were even able to pay our first month’s rent. Due to the fine weather in April, we noticed people were working on their gardens and wanted buildings.”

Sallyann and Adam had kept in touch with mentor Richard via Zoom through this period and now Richard advised them to speak to another mentor, journalist and digital communications specialist Justine Halifax, owner of Angel Media.

Justine said: “I spent some time researching Roundpeg’s presence on social media and put together an action plan to boost their online profile. The warm weather and the fact that people were confined to their homes and looking for an additional workspace at home, meant there was no time to lose.”

Sallyann added: “Justine went into a great deal of detail regarding our business. She checked the website thoroughly, checked our Facebook and Instagram pages. Her advice on what to communicate and when to do it, and through which of our channels, was extremely helpful and I went away feeling very positive and energised.”

“Home offices and working from home was an angle I hadn’t really considered. This was a totally different culture to my previous company where I did not get to make the big decisions. It made Adam and I realise that we were now in control of our destinies and we had the choice to make key decisions which could mean the difference between survival or failure.

“Almost immediately we have had interest in the home office and have taken orders which should see us through this difficult time. If we can get through our first year in such tough conditions, I am sure we can survive anything.

“I can’t thank Richard and Justine enough for their guidance, expertise and faith in us and our business.

“Hopefully, we will continue to work together. I thought I knew how to market but I clearly had a lot to learn and I now know the true value of working with experts. I certainly won’t be shy in asking for help in the future.”

Justine added: “I find mentoring extremely rewarding, especially so in lockdown when mentees such as Sallyann and Adam act on your advice immediately and it makes a real difference to their bottom line.”

If you would like to find out more about how to become a or how a mentor can help your business visit www.staffordshirechambers.co.uk/businesssupport or contact Ann Steele ann.steele@staffordshirechambers.co.uk 01782 202222

Third generation acoustic consultancy, KP Acoustics has delivered projects around the world, such as designing the acoustics of a shooting range and a Media School in Qatar, telemetrically monitoring vibration in Singapore, and providing acoustic consultancy for Sberbank in Moscow. To communicate its success, the organisation has appointed specialist STEM and technical PR agency, Stone Junction, to market the business to potential clients, including developers, architects and consulting engineers via LinkedIn.

One million health-life years are wasted annually in Europe thanks to the consequences of noise pollution. KP Acoustics and its industry leading technology has a significant role to play in limiting these side-effects by delivering noise, vibration and acoustic assessments, planning, noise mapping, investigation and control.

To do this, KP Acoustics plans to communicate its thought leadership in third generation acoustic consultancy, demonstrating its advanced thinking on development, disruption and tech.

“Acoustic technology will be a defining force in the buildings of the future, delivering ways of being in them that we are only just beginning to explore. And yet, despite it being the second biggest cause of pollution globally, not enough businesses or organisations are yet exploiting its full potential, often seeing it merely as a regulatory requirement,” explains, Kyriakos Papanagiotou, founder and director of KP Acoustics.

“To propel us into the forefront of industry, it was crucial we partnered with a PR agency that understood both our technology and the nuances of social media. Every character, every message, every image has to count and we’re confident Stone Junction understands both this concept and our business perfectly.”

Based in Staffordshire, Stone Junction has been growing by an average of 50 per cent year on year since 2015. Having recently become the first midlands agency to win a national CIPR consultancy award, managing director, Richard Stone attributes business success to hiring the right people with the right expertise.

“Our success has always been built on hiring STEM, language and PR experts who are — first and foremost — great people,” says Stone. “Creating this specialist team and investing in the professional development of each of its members, allows Stone Junction to consistently deliver award-winning PR campaigns.

“Working with KP Acoustics is a new challenge for us but it is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate our skills on the international stage that LinkedIn provides.”

This year, despite the pandemic, Stone Junction has hired three new account executives, won a national CIPR award and is in the running for five PRCA DARE awards, including ‘Large Consultancy of the Year’ — which it has won in each of the past two years.

If you would like to find out more about Stone Junction and its team of mega-awesome, super cool experts, than call +44 (0)1785 225416 or email sayhello@stonejunction.co.uk. Go on. You know you want to.