North West business briefs: DOMU Brands; The Growth Company; Peer Networks; Paymentshield; Speedy Freight

Mark Januszewski

Manchester Home, kitchen, and garden retailer DOMU Brands has become an Employee Shared Business through the creation of an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT).

The business, more commonly known for its brands VonHaus, VonShef and BTFY, said the transition is a natural evolution, having achieved record levels of team engagement and financial performance in 2020. Its ongoing success will now enable employees to benefit as the value of the business increases and their E commerce sites and continue to grow.

Domu Brands will see the Employee Ownership Trust hold a controlling stake in the company on behalf of its employees. This structure means founders Mark Januszewski and Craig Foster are to sell 51% of the business to the EOT.

The choice to retain the maximum number of shares possible, while still qualifying for EOT status, demonstrates the commitment the founders have to the future of the business and the importance of their employees, they say.

The move to an EOT, they add, builds on DOMU’s core values, helps galvanise the team, and is a part of their wider strategy to become one of the best companies to work for, both in the North West and the wider UK.

Overseeing the transition is Mark Januszewski. He said: “Following record financial performance in FY20, we’ve created extremely solid foundations for the next phase of our journey. With an amazing team, large investment in systems, and continued development of our brands, we feel that we’re at the starting line of something special.”


Mark Hughes

The Growth Company has progressed from supporters to members of the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter, demonstrating its continued employment excellence and how deeply embedded good employment is within the organisation, it said.

To become members of the Charter the Growth Company has gone through extensive assessment to ensure that each characteristic needed is evident within its practices and policies.

The Good Employment Charter is working to improve employment standards across Greater Manchester, which, in turn, contributes towards a thriving and productive economy. The characteristics of Good Employment are: Secure work; flexible work; real living wage; engagement and voice; recruitment; people management; and health and wellbeing.

The good employment movement does not end at the membership stage, and the Growth Company says it will continue to work to improve practice and meet new standards as the world of work evolves.

Growth Company chief executive, Mark Hughes, said: “As an organisation our purpose is to help people, business, and places to achieve their growth potential and the same applies to our diverse and skilled workforce, who really are the reason the business is so successful.”


More than 320 business owners and managers from across Lancashire have worked together to solve common challenges, share knowledge and grow as part of a Government-funded business support programme, Peer Networks.

The businesses have recruited staff, launched products and services, found new markets and improved their business resilience through the programme, which brought together owners and managers in a series of structured virtual sessions to help them learn from each other.

The fully-funded programme is now set to help hundreds more businesses over the coming year after receiving further funding due to its impact.

Peer Networks was funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and led locally by Boost; Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub. The programme ran between October 2020 and March this year.

Due to the success of the Peer Networks programme, BEIS has announced funding for a further 26 Peer Networks cohorts to run from July 2021 to March 2022.


Rob Evans

Teens from across Merseyside with bright ideas for their communities are being encouraged to apply for a new £20,000 Bright Future Prize to help them change the world around them for the better.

It is an initiative from Ardonagh Community Trust (ACT), the charity arm of the parent company that owns Southport insurance firm Paymentshield.

Rob Evans, Paymentshield chief executive, said: “As an active supporter of charitable causes and entrepreneurial efforts in Merseyside, the Paymentshield team and I are delighted to get behind this new endeavour from ACT. The charity is looking for 15-19-year olds who are the next generation of community leaders, charity fundraisers, blue-sky thinkers or social activists.

“The Bright Future Prize is open to young people across the UK and Ireland, but it would be great to see an opportunity given to a young person already making positive waves in Southport or the wider Merseyside area. Young people see the world differently, and their innovative ideas can help impact positive change for the future. It’s this ingenuity that ACT wants to support.”

Applications for the Bright Future Prize are now open until May 21. There are small grants alongside the £20,000 main prize available for the best ideas, and winners will get support to put them into motion.


Warrington-based Speedy Freight, the national sameday courier, has pledged a year of financial support to two local charities working jointly in a bid to help tackle food poverty.

According to the Trussel Trust, there was an 81% increase in emergency food parcels from foodbanks in its network during the last two weeks of March 2020, compared with the same period in 2019, including a 122% rise in parcels specifically for children. The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the challenges faced by those in poverty, making the year-long pledge even more crucial.

Both charities, The Welcome and Hope Central, are based near the Speedy Freight Support Centre in Knutsford and Hope Central will receive £250 per month for the next 12 months from the national courier brand.

A £1,000 donation towards The Welcome charity and monthly donation to Hope Central will support the creation of essential food parcels worth £35, which include fruit and veg, fresh food and store cupboard essentials. The monthly donation from Speedy Freight will be used to create additional food parcels, feeding around 25 extra families each month.

Mike Smith, Speedy Freight managing director, said: “We are humbled by the fantastic work both The Welcome and Hope Central do in the local community and hope our donation helps them continue this community action. We also hope that once it’s safe to do so, members of our team can offer their support by volunteering, too.”

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