Socially Grown are super proud to announce our satellite office has now opened at Keele Smart Innovation Centre.

After an incredibly successful year during hugely challenging times we have supported local, national and international companies to grow their digital presence.

We are keen to support local businesses to succeed through our digital growth packages. Each package can be tailored to suit individual business needs, however a typical package includes SEO strategy and implementation, paid ads, growth consultation support, copywriting and web review and content management.

Packages can be tailored to suit the needs and budgets of any SME, funding support may be available subject to eligibility and availability.

We offer free, no obligation consultations to discuss business needs and review current marketing activities.

Based at UG 33 at Keele Smart Innovation Centre we are hoping to welcome guests to our premises as soon as we can.

The coronavirus is placing new challenges on our duty of care to minimise the risks from Legionella in our water systems on-site. Further restrictions on movement of people with this second lockdown, has led to further reductions in building occupancy increasing the risk of colonisation by Legionella.

Steve Morris Managing Director of Staffordshire based Legionella and Fire Safe Services Says “Workers are again working from home and many commercial and office buildings have closed their doors for a second time this year. Risk from this potential silent killer is foreseeable in nearly all hot and cold water systems and a scheme of control should be in place to address that risk which will typically include checking water temperatures, programmed maintenance/checks and flushing parts of the system that may contain stagnant water due to low use. Where the risks within the water system change, the risk assessment must be reviewed and revised as necessary”

The rate of detection for positive legionella samples has also risen by around 20 per cent year on year since April, in conjunction with the period of low occupancy.

“Legionella is a ticking time-bomb in underused buildings if water systems are allowed to stagnate. Where maintenance has been neglected over lockdown, build-up of biofilm in the system provides essential nutrients to support the growth of harmful pathogens, exacerbating the problem – this could explain why we are 20 per cent more likely to find positive legionella samples this year compared with 2019.

“As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there is the potential for an increased number of people to be susceptible to Legionnaires’ disease due to a compromised respiratory system during or after infection with COVID-19. The other major concern is that the symptoms of Legionnaires disease are almost identical to that of Covid.”

Steve Morris says “Most people catch Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling the bacteria from water droplets dispersed through taps and showers – and to complicate matters, the symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are similar to the symptoms associated with Covid-19, APHC added: high temperature, feverishness and chills, coughing, muscle pains, headache and diarrhoea with the potential to lead to pneumonia”

The difference being, is that if Legionnaires is present and symptoms start, most people will just self-isolate as they suspect its Covid, the reality is, Legionnaires disease can kill if untreated”

Legionella and Fire Safe Services who’s Head Office is in Rugeley are classed as essential workers and are advising landlords, property owners and employers to take action now by contacting them in order to carry out a risk assessment; advise on precautionary measures; and, if required, implementing remedial work.

What is Legionnaires’ disease?

  • Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal pneumonia caused by inhalation of legionella bacteria in a water aerosol
  • The disease kills around 7-12 per cent of those infected in the normal population, according to Public Health England statistics
  • Mortality rates in hospital-acquired Legionnaires’ disease infections are far higher
  • Legionnaires’ disease from building water systems is preventable.

Innovative Chartered Accountancy firm, Mitten Clarke, welcome accomplished technology leader, Dave Roberts, to the Board as a Non-Executive Director.

With over 20 years IT experience leading large technology teams, and previously a Group CIO at a £3billion turnover
payment and fleet services company, Dave is widely acknowledged as a top technology talent. In 2019 alone, he was listed as number 3 in the CIO 100, awarded Top Technology Executive to Watch by HMG Strategy and included in the Hall of Fame by Cybersecurity Observatory, recognising him as one of the most transformative CIOs in the UK and a senior global Cybersecurity leader. The appointment demonstrates Mitten Clarke’s commitment to boosting future growth and further strengthens the dynamic of the Board.

“Never before has technology proven so fundamental to business. Effectively and securely communicating with our business partners and clients is at the very core of what we do,” remarked Operations Director, James Beardmore.

“Dave’s high-level strategic innovations will be a fantastic asset as we make fast-paced technology advances, delivering an exceptionally slick and efficient customer experience. This will put us at the forefront of our industry.”

James adds, “Mitten Clarke is so much more than an accountancy firm. The backgrounds of our senior team extend widely beyond finance, to law, operations, marketing, culture and now high level, strategic information technology. We work in partnership with clients, immerse ourselves in their business and advise from a commercial viewpoint. We are ambitious for them, and together, we can achieve great things.”

Joining in November, Dave already has plans to transform the technological approach at Mitten Clarke, positively impacting the client experience from the off.

“It’s an exciting time to be joining the Mitten Clarke Board, as we accelerate the business’ growth trajectory. I’m looking forward to steering initiatives as we invest in robust and dependable technology, with a sharp focus on the requirements of our clients. It’s fantastic to be part of such a dynamic team,” added Dave.

Mitten Clarke operates across the Midlands and North West, with offices in Stoke-on-Trent and Manchester City Centre.

If you’re looking for fresh and innovative business advice, discover more about Mitten Clarke at http://www.mittenclarke.co.uk.

To add another tier of educational content to its website, automation parts supplier EU Automation has launched EUAudio, a free podcast on industrial automation and smart manufacturing, available on the company’s website and on all major audio streaming platforms. EUAudio enriches the company’s already vast offering of free learning content. This includes an online content zone, which is updated weekly, several videos and two downloadable e-books.

Each season of EUAudio contains three episodes that explore a specific manufacturing trend, challenge, or technological innovation. Several seasons are already online and more are scheduled to appear soon.

EUAudio addresses professionals in all sectors of manufacturing and covers a wide variety of industry topics, ranging from tips to quickly fix common issues on the factory floor, to broader overviews of industry trends. Manufacturing professionals can, for example, listen to expert advice on proactive obsolescence management, strategies to improve predictive maintenance, suggestions on the best industrial robot for their application, and much more. The podcast is currently available on EU Automation’s website, as well as on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, Google Podcasts, and Podbean.

EU Automation is known to produce a variety of educational resources that professionals can consult for free. Since 2016, the company has published a trade magazine, AUTOMATED, which explores how industrial automation can benefit manufacturing. It also publishes weekly articles on manufacturing trends and top tips for industry professionals, available in five different languages. Recently, these articles have been collected into EU Automation’s Knowledge Hub, a platform where readers can explore these resources in a quick and easy way, browsing them by topic.

“Information overwhelm is a real problem in our industry,” explained Jonathan Wilkins, director at EU Automation. “Manufacturing professionals want to learn about cutting-edge technologies that might help them stay ahead of the competition, but they might not have the time to browse through an infinite number of resources to find what they need.

“That’s why EU Automation is providing them with a practical platform where they can find content that really meets their demands and that they can access anytime, anywhere, for free. We hope that this will help professionals in their decision-making processes and inspire them to strive for continuous innovation,” added Wilkins.

EU Automation has also made available for free download two books, BoOM – The Book of Obsolesce Management and 4.0 Sight. While the first explains how to proactively tackle components obsolescence, the second offers a global outlook of the fourth industrial revolution.

EUAudio is the latest addition to EU Automation’s efforts to provide high-quality resources for online learning. The podcast is ideal for busy manufacturing professionals, who can listen to carefully curated educational content while commuting to the factory or even on their way to a meeting.

To access EUAudio, visit https://www.euautomation.com/en/automated/euaudio.

Deep into the second lockdown and with local businesses wondering how to compete with both retail and online giants in the ever shortening run up to Christmas, Staffordshire’s independent traders are needing all the support that they can get.

The brainchild of local businesses Holdcroft Heating and Gas and Strategi Solutions Group ‘Gifted Local’ invites small, independent businesses in Staffordshire and the surrounding area to advertise their products and services free of charge to the masses on their newly created Facebook page.

Reaching over 1,000 individuals in the first 12 hours since its launch on Friday [4th November], the page promises to be a roaring success with boundless independent businesses contacting them already asking to be featured on the page. Encouragingly there have also been a huge number of would be customers flocking to follow ‘Gifted Local’ in the hopes of purchasing products and services, in support of their local community.

The idea of creating a central hub to raise awareness of the businesses in the area with a way for followers to make purchases came to Tina Holdcroft, Director at Burslem based Holdcroft Heating, as the country was plunged into a second lockdown last week. She said,

“The second lockdown will undoubtedly have a major impact on those businesses that rely on a busy Christmas period and, in particular those whose sales transactions depend upon face-to-face contact. Of course, it is sensible for us to do the bulk of our Christmas shopping online this year – maintaining social distancing is of paramount importance, but if we don’t do something quickly to support local businesses that have been a part of our communities, some for many generations, they might not make it through to the new year.

“As someone who has lived in this area for all my life, I was determined to do something that could help to divert some of the Christmas trade back to those who so desperately need it. If we don’t act now, the consequences could be catastrophic”.

Sharing her idea with Wendy Dean, CEO of Strategi Solutions, Wendy felt it was her duty to use the skills of her team to help create the vision a reality. Wendy added,

“Tina and I have worked together for many years and felt that we had to do something to help. With such a short time available between, what we hope will be, the end of the second lockdown and Christmas we realised that we had to act quickly.

“We mobilised Strategi’s digital team and helped to bring Tina’s vision to life in just a few short hours. The reaction so far has been unbelievable, and we’ve not even begun to promote those who we’re looking to support”.

Both avid supporters of local businesses and charities already, it seemed logical to come together to create a tunnel of light in the community in which they have both relied on to build their own businesses over the past years, acknowledging that, with Christmas looming and non-essential industries closed for the foreseeable, our community is leaning on each other more than ever.

On the 9th of November, the page will begin advertising the businesses who contact them asking to be shared on the page, listing their products, services and contact information to prospective customers looking to make a direct purchase.

If you are a local business or know a local business who would benefit from being featured on the ‘Gifted Local’ page, message the team directly on their Facebook page and they will eagerly get back to you.

Shop the small and mighty. Support local businesses

It’s lockdown time again! – A time of takeaways, facemasks and ordering stuff online that we can’t buy from the shops. We are constantly reminded of the economic and psychological impacts of these restrictions, and one of the environmental side effects of COVID-19, which is much, much more plastic packaging and waste. The earlier lockdown in March resulted in a 300% increase in fly tipping in the UK, and globally with over 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves being produced every month waste figures are set to increase dramatically.

As consumers we are probably already aware of the impact of plastic on climate change (>8% of global oil supply is used to make plastic and consumption increases year on year) and it is estimated that plastic manufacture and use is the equivalent of 15% of global carbon dioxide emissions. The impact on nature is also considerable as the deaths of 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals is attributed to plastic waste and this problem is reported to be getting worse as masks and gloves now add to the existing ocean litter problem.

On 10th November the PLuSSH tool (Plastic users Shops, Services and Hospitality) was launched at the SBEN meeting. The purpose of this tool is to improve our management of plastic at a time when COVID-19, extended producer responsibility, SUPs (Single Use Plastic) bans and recycling infrastructure are all placing heavy burdens on business.

This tool which was developed with the assistance of Keele University is a free, quick and easy assessment quiz that enables users to reduce the impact of plastic use. The quiz takes about 15 minutes to complete and covers issues of packaging, sales, gifting, branding and cleaning. It provides an overall score of performance and tips on ways to reduce the negative impact of plastic within a business.

The focus of the tool is on shops, services and hospitality sector as this is the largest single contributor of plastic waste (53%) and many of these businesses are too small to afford the services of an environmental or waste consultant. Larger organisations and companies involved in manufacture and design of products using plastic are advised to use the PL-Audit assessment tool as PLuSSH is not suitable for such activities.

In collaboration with the Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Stafford leader we will be encouraging quiz users to use their improvements to apply for Plastic Free Business Champion status and will facilitate this process by providing a bridging application form which will make this application easier.

If sufficient businesses get involved, we will be able to achieve the Plastic Free Town status. In addition to the recognition of being a Plastic Free town we will also see benefits in plastic waste management and this may help us to mitigate the impact of the increased plastic use associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are inspired to improve your plastic thinking why not try the quiz on the link below: SEL Plastic users Services Shops & Hospitality Quiz

Contact: Dawn Pope SEL Group dawn@selgroup.co.uk

Congratulations to the Staffordshire Chambers Business Awards Winners and Highly Commended:

Digital Transformation

WINNER: Infinity IT Solutions

Leek Town Football Club Ltd

Risual

 

Employee/ Charity Employee of the Year Award

WINNER: Charlotte May, Risual Limited

Daniel Nikolla, Hardy Signs Ltd

Aida Haughton, YMCA North Staffordshire

 

Employer of the Year

WINNER: The Hanley Economic Building Society

WINNER: Strategi Solutions Group Limited

WINNER: Mitten Clarke

UbiQ Group

 

Entrepreneur of the Year

WINNER: Victoria Sylvester, Acacia Training Ltd

Jason Harker, Planterra Ltd

 

International Trade Award

WINNER: Radwell International Ltd

Pymatek Automation Ltd.

Eden Holistic Pet Foods

Doulton Water Filters

 

Manufacturer of the Year

WINNER: Hardy Signs Ltd

Klarius Group of Companies

 

Medium/Large Business of the Year

WINNER: Klarius Group of Companies

Acacia Training Ltd

848 Group

 

Most Promising New Start-up

WINNER: Visionary Individual Pathways

National Plant Solutions Ltd

The Slamwich Club

Roundpeg Outdoor Buildings Limited

 

Partnership and Collaboration Award

WINNER: The Staffordshire Gin Company LTD

Port Vale Football Club

Burton and South Derbyshire College

 

Professional Services of the Year Award

WINNER: Prosurv Consult

Strategi Solutions Group Limited

Howards Chartered Certified Accountants

Mitten Clarke

 

Retail, Leisure, Culture and Tourism

WINNER: The Slamwich Club

Canalside Farm

Nelson’s Distillery & School

Aston Marina Ltd

 

Science, Technology and Innovation Award

WINNER: AEON Engineering Ltd.

SecureCloud+

HX Lab

Haughton Design Ltd

 

Small Business of the Year

WINNER: The Staffordshire Gin Company LTD

National Plant Solutions Ltd

Prosurv Consult

EPX Technical Services

 

Sustainability & Environment Award

WINNER: Laundry Efficiency

Taylors Classics

Welligogs

 

Young Employee/Apprentice of the Year

WINNER: Luke Cassidy Synectics Solutions Ltd

Rosie Crowther, Radwell International Ltd

Jack Farmer, Mitten Clarke Wealth Limited

A Stoke-on-Trent animation company has joined forces with international film studio to create a new headquarters and a digital and creative hub for Stoke-on-Trent.

The new complex on Campbell Place, Stoke, features Framescape, a digital and creative hub to be run as a not for profit community asset to benefit young people in the city.

“Stoke-on-Trent was a powerhouse of the first industrial revolution and we’re determined to raise aspirations and make the city part of the new digital revolution,” said Daniel Waterman, of animation specialists Carse and Waterman, the company behind the ambitious development.

Daniel said that work is well underway to transform a disused former NatWest bank into a film and digital skills hub. Carse & Waterman has already begun to move into its new offices on the first floor.

The ambitious vision for the development means that it will be much more than just a home for the animation specialists.

Carse & Waterman has formed a partnership which involves London-based Dreamscape Studios and local company Popcorn Learning Media to develop the building as a creative and digital hub for North Staffordshire.

Framescape, on the ground floor of the development,  is being run as a separate entity on a not for profit basis.  Eric Gresswell, of Popcorn Learning Media, has been appointed a co-director of Framescape, alongside Daniel Waterman.

The Framescape team is working with local MPs and councillors to ensure the project benefits young people in the city.

Framescape is part of a redevelopment of the bank building over three floors. The creative and digital skills hub, situated on the ground floor together with a classroom and a 17-seat film viewing room, will be accessible to anyone with ambitions of a creative industries career.

The first floor has offices for Carse & Waterman and there are facilities for both Dreamscape Studios and Carse & Waterman on the upper floor.

The not for profit aspects of the ambitious project have won backing from the Stoke-on-Trent Community Investment Fund, while Carse and Waterman and Dreamscape Studios are also investing in the project.

“We see the new development as having multiple level benefits for the city,” said Daniel. “There’s a regeneration element, in that we want to breathe new life into Stoke High Street and renovate a large, disused building. It is also a headquarters for our company, provides production space for Dreamscape and the digital skills hub will focus on raising aspirations and signposting our city’s young people towards potential careers.

“During lockdown, we launched a collaboration with the city’s YMCA to talk about digital skills and we hope that’s just the start. All young people have digital skills nowadays and we want them to think how they can harness them to build a good career.

“Lockdown also highlighted the digital divide with too many families struggling with home schooling due to a lack of access to basic technology. It is an area where we believe we can help.”

Daniel and business partner, Gary Carse, came to Stoke-on-Trent to study at the Staffordshire University Film School and have put down roots in the city.

Daniel explained: “Stoke-on-Trent has always been a hotbed of creativity, from Josiah Wedgwood onwards. There’s no reason why our new creative future shouldn’t involve the digital industries. Young people can use the digital skills they all learn in schools to build a career in film, animation, visual effects, software development and much more.

“We want Framescape to inspire and open a gateway for young people.”

Carse & Waterman has an international reputation as an animation house, working with both film and TV studios and in the commercial field. Daniel added: “We have produced a diverse body of work, not only on TV productions such as Alan Carr’s There’s Something About Movies and acclaimed dark comedy, Inside Number 9, but for commercial clients such as Michelin, the NHS and tourist attractions, including Trentham Gardens.

“2020 has been an odd year and coronavirus has hit many industries hard, but it also gave us time to work on out plans for our new building.”

Dreamscape Studios is currently working with Carse & Waterman on exciting new projects including a children’s TV pilot and an animation series for a more adult market, such as viewers of Family Guy. The London-based company shares Carse & Waterman’s vision to develop the Framework hub, while also gaining a production base in the heart of England.

Work is currently on-going, with Carse & Waterman’s seven-strong team gradually moving in over the next few months. The team worked from home during lockdown, taking with them computers from the company’s former offices at Federation House, Stoke.

As we welcome the fantastic news that a vaccine rollout by the end of the year is imminent, it is also heartening to see hard evidence of new local employment opportunities emerging.

Job opportunities in Staffordshire increased by 15 percent between September and October, equivalent to 2,500 vacancies, way above the national rate of 11 percent, and similar in number to vacancy levels pre-Covid.

There is immediate demand for roles health, social care, and distribution alongside clear emerging opportunities in digital, advanced manufacturing (AI and automation), construction and the green economy.

The government’s extended support for jobs through the furlough scheme and support for the self-employed has had also had a positive effect on jobs as has the Kickstart Scheme.

Any organisation, especially if applying for less than 30 Kickstart placements, needs to apply via a ‘Representative’ organisation such as the Chambers and businesses will be paid £1,500 towards the costs of taking on a 16- 24-year-old, on Universal Credit and deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment. The government pays 25 hours at National Minimum Wage level for 6 months to the employer plus associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions. The £1,500 per job placement is available for setup costs, employability support and training and must be spent on supporting the young person with training to help them stand a better chance of further employment in the future.

Local Job Centres will receive job descriptions and work coaches will then encourage young people, who they feel would be best suited to those roles, to apply directly to business.

If you are thinking of taking someone on through the scheme, or having issues with employing staff, don’t forget we have a funded HR advisor and, in your Chambers. Membership, there is a brilliant HR service included. We also now have a great team of advisors in place offering fully funded advice on marketing, digital technology, and international trade as well as our busy team of start-up advisors and mentors. Therefore, whatever stage your business is at we can help you to get to the next level and to capitalise on the projected upturn in economic fortunes.

Finally, we are less than a week away from our special gala celebration evening celebration for the Staffordshire Chambers Business Awards. This year more than ever we want to highlight our local business heroes – businesses who have not only come through the pandemic but have innovated, adapted, diversified, helped their community and looked after the welfare of staff and customers.

We will be livestreaming the event from the New Vic Theatre from 6.30pm on Thursday 19th November. I do hope you can join in the celebrations by booking your place here: https://bit.ly/32hy15P

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 or email info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk.

Businesses instructed to close through the coronavirus lockdown will be able to apply for £4.2m of funding from today (Tuesday).

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has been allocated a total of £4,192,488 through the government’s Local Restrictions Support Grant. The money will be available to businesses such as those in the hospitality, leisure, non-essential retail and personal care sectors. Businesses must apply through the council’s website: www.stoke.gov.uk/businessgrants.

Council leader Abi Brown said: “The grants are a vital boost for businesses at this extremely difficult time. We know that there are around 2,600 businesses that could potentially be eligible for this funding. Payments will be made on a 28-day cycle for as long as the restrictions are in place.

“We have moved as quickly as possible to make the funding available, and we urge businesses to visit our website to apply.”

Under the scheme, eligible businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or less will receive £1,334 for the 28 days; businesses with a rateable value of £15,001 to £50,999 will receive £2,000; and businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 and over will receive £3,000.

Businesses that have chosen to close but were not required to will not be eligible for this grant. In addition, where a business is in administration, is insolvent or where a striking-off notice has been made, are not eligible under the scheme.

Meanwhile, a 24-hour mental health service has been established to provide support to residents who need someone to talk to and are struggling with their mental health during the lockdown. The listening service will also offer signposting to residents for further help and support. The phone line is now open and available via 01782 234233.

Councillor Brown said: “The lockdown restrictions are challenging for all of us and we know that people can feel particularly isolated at this time. We have put extra resources in place to provide further support. If you are struggling at this time, please don’t suffer in silence, there is help available.”

For the latest information on council services and support during the coronavirus, and frequently asked questions, please visit www.stoke.gov.uk/coronavirus. For latest health advice on the coronavirus, please visit www.nhs.uk/coronavirus, and for further information on the virus visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

All residents are reminded about the critical importance of regular handwashing with soap and hot water for 20 seconds. The significance of this action cannot be underestimated. If residents have symptoms, please get tested. All residents must continue to follow the guidance of wash hands, cover face and make space.

For more information on digital services, visit www.stoke.gov.uk, download the MyStoke App, or follow the city council’s social media channels.