North West business briefs: Ruuby; Edge Hill University; Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub; TalkTalk; DAM Health

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Ruuby, which claims to be the first app-based at-home beauty, health and wellness concierge service, is recruiting 100 freelance, professionally vetted, experienced health and beauty providers in Manchester as part of the latest expansion of the London venture.

Known as the ‘Uber for beauty,’ Ruuby can call on a network of more than 1,000 health and beauty providers, offering in excess of 600 treatments, ranging from make-up looks to vitamin drips and COVID testing, throughout London and the Cotswolds, and now with plans to extend its services to Manchester and Brighton in October.

Off the back of 17% of UK salons closing, Ruuby has seen a substantial rise in demand for at-home services. They are currently tracking at 130% of pre-COVID levels and are expecting continued growth across the fourth quarter as people increasingly prefer to be treated from the comfort of their own home.

Of particular interest is the growth in the male demographic, which has increased by 350% since pre-COVID. Men are booking manicures, massages, haircuts and facials. This number might be understated as a lot of women book on behalf of their partners. Ruuby is also seeing an increase in older audiences of 50+ using the platform regularly. In terms of services, the greatest change Ruuby has seen is an increased interest in wellness services.

Ruuby founder, Venetia Archer, launched the business in 2015 after struggling to find a method of booking beauty services conveniently around her busy schedule. Venetia began her career in the field of East African geo-politics, before making the shift to beauty-tech entrepreneur.

Since then, Ruuby has grown from strength to strength, is a favourite of Vogue editors, Victoria’s Secret models and busy Londoners. Venetia is on the advisory board of the British Beauty Council’s Sustainable Beauty Coalition and has been listed in the prestigious Forbes “30 Under 30” list.

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Edge Hill University

Business experts at Edge Hill University, near Ormskirk, have been awarded more than £100,000 in government-backed funding to transform the business performance of one of the UK’s leading pet food specialists.

The Business School’s Productivity and Innovation Centre (PIC) has launched a new two-year partnership with national franchise Oscar Pet Foods to expand its management capability and effectiveness. The partnership has received a £105,642 grant via Innovate UK’s Management Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (mKTP) programme, which is designed to enable transformational improvement by identifying key strategic, management-based initiatives to increase business efficiency.

Edge Hill’s Business School will offer expert data analysis on customer profiles and purchasing behaviours to enable Preston-based Oscar to maximise existing and new business opportunities. The partnership is a three-way collaboration between the University, Oscar and a high calibre graduate who will gain valuable experience through full time employment as an associate to Oscar for the duration of the project. The associate will play an integral role in supporting the development of the framework and its successful implementation within the organisation.

Prof Simon Bolton, head of the PIC at Edge Hill, will take on the role as knowledge base lead for the duration of the partnership. He said: “We are looking forward to continuing our work with Oscar through the mKTP.  The grant will also provide a great opportunity for a skilled graduate to work on an exciting project that will have real impact on the growth strategy of Oscars.  Valuable insights from the project will also inform the research and teaching of our academic business experts.”

Managing Director of Oscar, Richard Martin, first engaged with the PIC in 2019 to embark on the university’s Innovation Sprint Programme, which offers core data-driven innovation to help small and medium-sized enterprises to develop their scale-up or growth strategy. He said: “The impact that the data-driven marketing tools and framework will have on our business processes will not only result in growth for Oscar but also for our network of franchisees, both existing and new. We will be able to make informed decisions when facing new business opportunities with confidence and look forward to continuing our successful partnership with the university.”

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Andy Devaney

Businesses have the chance to learn how they could get involved in bidding for a share of £650m of council contracts up for grabs each year in Cheshire and Warrington.

To help businesses, Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub is hosting a free online workshop on winning public sector contracts on Thursday, October 21. The training will show local businesses how to get started in the bid process, how to produce a tender response for the public sector and the best practice in writing a bid response. There will also be a chance to hear about opportunities for public sector tendering from Cheshire East Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Warrington Borough Council and HS2.

Andy Devaney, director of business innovation at Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub, part of Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “As business owners look for new growth opportunities after the impacts of coronavirus and the EU Exit, we are keen to help local businesses explore the many opportunities within the public sector.

“We know that bidding for public sector contracts can be daunting for a lot of SME businesses and we hope this workshop will help businesses develop their understanding and learn the basics of successful bidding. We are pleased to bring together our three local authorities to showcase some of their upcoming opportunities and, ultimately, we hope to encourage more bids from local businesses across Cheshire and Warrington.”

Places are strictly limited and businesses who want to book a place should visit: https://cwbiddingforpublicsectorcontracts.eventbrite.co.uk/

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TalkTalk’s Salford campus

Salford-based connectivity provider TalkTalk is rolling out a new voucher scheme that gives jobseekers across the UK free access to high quality broadband. The programme, offered in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), aims to tackle digital exclusion and remove barriers to employment across the UK.

Jobseekers are offered a no-contract voucher for six months of TalkTalk’s Fibre35 broadband. The product’s usage is uncapped, meaning there are no data usage limits, save for the usual consumer fair usage constraints. At the end of the six month period, customers can choose to roll onto a contract with TalkTalk, or can cancel the service and will incur no additional costs or sign-up fees once it comes to an end.

While DWP jobcentres remained open to support the most vulnerable in society throughout the pandemic, many of the training and job support was moved online, making an internet connection even more important. As a result, TalkTalk and the DWP trialled the voucher in Greater Manchester and Cheshire at the start of the second UK lockdown last year, to support jobseekers who were stuck at home.

Following a successful trial in the North West, which saw people secure new employment as well as undertake training opportunities, TalkTalk is now rolling out the scheme on a national scale to all Jobcentre Plus work coaches to offer jobseekers.

Daniel Kasmir, chief people and procurement officer at TalkTalk, said: “We believe that reliable broadband is a right not a privilege. However, many people across the UK are struggling to access to the internet, with the effects of the pandemic leading to the number of Universal Credit claimants doubling within a year. The successful trial of this scheme in the North West demonstrates the value of broadband to those seeking jobs. Working with the DWP to roll this scheme out nationally supports our mission to democratise the internet and bring affordable, high quality connectivity to everyone, helping to erase the UK’s digital divide.”

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Prof Frank Joseph

Liverpool-based COVID-testing group DAM Health has pledged a “significant seven-figure” partnership with Edinburgh Rugby for the naming rights of the club’s new stadium for the next five years. The partnership will see the club’s new ground named ‘The DAM Health Stadium’.

DAM Health will soon embark on a broad range of health care solutions, including medical supplies and a wider range of diagnostic services. The partnership will see one of the businesses’s test laboratories installed on the BT Murrayfield campus, with all testing for the club and Scottish Rugby teams conducted by DAM Health on their doorstep.

The laboratory will also aim offer a suite of private tests to the public – including Fit to Fly RT-PCR, Lateral Flow Antigen and Test to Release – from the central site in the capital, with discounted services forthcoming for season ticket members, business club members, and wider partners. The company continues to expand rapidly across the UK with more than 45 clinics, plus many more in Europe and further afield, employing hundreds of people, and will soon announce how the business will diversify as a healthcare leader.

Edinburgh Rugby managing director, Douglas Struth, said: “We’re delighted to announce this partnership with DAM Health and take another significant step forward towards ensuring the sustainability of this club, with another major commercial partner joining our growing sponsor and supporter base.”

DAM Health’s medical director, Prof Frank Joseph, said: “We at DAM Health are all thrilled to announce our partnership with Edinburgh Rugby as they begin their next chapter at this fantastic new stadium. We will be using our range of test methods for the teams and their staff and will also be offering our services to the club’s supporters. We cannot wait to see thousands of fans in the fabulous DAM Health Stadium full of noise, energy and colour.”

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