People: Intelligent Conversation; Breathe Technologies; First Internet; Weightmans; DSW Ventures

Sarah Learoyd, left, and Leah Wong
X The Business Desk

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Manchester-based PR, content and comms agency, Intelligent Conversation, has strengthened its team with two new specialists to support growth in its key sectors of healthcare and global industry.

Experienced healthcare and crisis communications specialist, Sarah Learoyd, is the agency’s new head of healthcare, with a remit to lead and grow its portfolio of national and global healthcare accounts.

These include health tech market leaders EMIS Group and Ascom, and recent wins such as e-scheduling software innovator Malinko, quality and compliance software provider Radar Healthcare and mydentist, the UK’s largest provider of NHS and private dentistry.

Sarah was previously a director at Yorkshire-based GLR Public Relations and brings 15 years’ experience of working with blue chip companies and household brands, including in healthcare and pharma.

Joining with Sarah is senior consultant Leah Wong, a B2B comms specialist with a degree in Physics. Leah has eight years’ experience in communications including agency experience, overseas projects and working as a scientific editor.

Her strong technical and scientific background add to the agency’s unique proposition for its global clients in industry and tech, including Belgian 3D printing pioneer Materialise, surveillance tech business Synectics, and office technology brand Brother International Europe.

The new recruits join the agency as it consolidates its post-pandemic ‘work where you want’ working model. An extension of its long established flexible working model. This sees employees free to work from home or from the agency’s new base in Bruntwood’s flagship city centre office building, Bloc.

Managing director, Fritzi Wemheuer, said: “Our location-independent model and a stunning ‘destination’ office enabled us to attract Sarah and Leah, two specialists with the rare sets of skills and experience we need to help our clients lead the big conversations in their sectors.

“Manchester remains the centre of gravity for the team and is a fantastic base for our work, in the right time zone for clients in the US, Europe and Far East and right at the heart of an exciting UK health tech cluster.”


Following a record quarter for the business, Warrington-based smart warehouse technology provider, Breathe Technologies, has strengthened its team with the appointment of a new head of operations.

Adam Hughes joins with more than 20 years of experience in mechanical engineering. His impressive background includes a lengthy stint at turnkey engineering specialists DRB Group and brings with him a wealth of knowledge of managing end-to-end bespoke mechanical designs for an extensive range of systems and components.

With experience across a variety of sectors including food and beverage, automotive, rail and pharmaceutical, Adam will be responsible for overseeing all of Breathe’s operational processes, project delivery and customer relationships.

Adam said: “Breathe Technologies is operating in a very exciting space with the growth the eCommerce industry is experiencing at the moment. Technology is evolving at such pace and as a result becoming the backbone of every industry. Breathe is really leading the way for its customers in this area with its smart warehouse technology solutions, and I am very much looking forward to being part of the business’s future journey.”

Adam Hughes

Alongside Adam’s appointment, Breathe also welcomes two new additional team members, Jack Rowan as mKTP Associate to lead on the management knowledge transfer partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University. Breathe was awarded funding from Innovate UK last year to support the strategic development of its complementary software products portfolio.

In addition, Zach Isherwood will start as an apprentice software developer, embarking on a 15-month apprenticeship scheme with Baltic Apprenticeships.

Claire Umney, managing director at Breathe Technologies, said: “Breathe has just celebrated a record quarter and business is booming – we see no sign of this slowing, especially in the ecommerce sector.

“We strongly believe investing in our people is the key to achieving our mission of becoming the #1 smart warehouse technology provider and integrator in the UK. Adam’s operational experience and knowledge, in particular, will be invaluable to our service delivery, ensuring optimum performance for our customers at all times. I’m absolutely delighted to be welcoming Adam, Jack and Zach to our team to further grow our expertise.”


Altrincham digital marketing agency, First Internet, has made a raft of new hires as it expands.

Kieran Wilson has been recruited as a technical SEO specialist, Jon Cole-Dalton as a content marketeer and SEO specialist. Harriet Waters has come on board as a digital marketing executive, Jonathan Griffiths as a UX designer, and Ben William-Harrison has joined as account manager and social media executive.

The new recruits have been hired by the agency as it has secured new and repeat briefs, working with clients across the UK to provide website design and development, UX design, SEO, social media management and content marketing.

New recruits, from left: Kieran Wilson, Ben William Harrison, Harriet Waters, Jonathan Griffiths, Jon Cole-Dalton

Director, Scott Baxter, said: “It’s been an incredibly busy 12 months, with new client wins, extended contracts and a number of awards.

“Recruitment in the digital profession is challenging at the moment – there is huge demand for sector expertise, so we’re delighted that we are able to welcome such talented professionals to our team.”

First Internet recently celebrated 23 years in business.

Clients include PZ Cussons, Peak ai, Citation, Metro Rod and Sew Direct.


National law firm Weightmans has welcomed its first cohort of apprentice solicitors to its pioneering Apprenticeship Academy, which allows school leavers to qualify as a solicitor and gain a law degree while working, as applications open for its 2022 and 2023 schemes.

Liverpool apprentices Jack Murray, Charity Lockie, Matt Chorley

The 13 new starters – five of whom are based in the North West – will gain experience working across each of the firm’s legal departments, and will also benefit from placement opportunities in key service areas such as finance, HR and marketing, and Weightmans’ innovation department.

Overall, the programme will last for six years, and the apprentices will be fully qualified by 2027, obtaining an LLB in Law and Legal Practice, as well as completing their Solicitor Qualifying Exams (SQE). Developed in partnership with global education leader BPP University Law School, the Academy offers school leavers the opportunity to combine legal expertise with developing commercial, digital and innovation skills.

Weightmans became the first law firm in the country to offer level four higher legal apprenticeships when they became available in 2013, and graduates and school leavers can now pursue one of three different pathways towards becoming a solicitor.

As well as the full solicitor degree apprenticeship, new graduates who are yet to complete their LPC can progress straight to Weightmans’ graduate solicitor apprenticeship, or can continue along the traditional LPC and training contract route.

The firm already has a strong track record of supporting apprentices – England’s first higher legal apprentice, Jordan Coulton, completed his training with the firm and was recognised as the Higher Apprentice of the Year at the 2018 National Apprenticeship Awards.

Denise Wright, graduate development adviser at Weightmans, said: “The future of our profession requires lawyers that can bring a combination of commercial acumen, outstanding legal knowledge and innovative thinking to the table.

Manchester apprentices Melissa Dixon and Molly Fletcher

“For us, developing alternative pathways to qualification has always been about giving budding solicitors the choice to learn in the way that suits them best, so they qualify with the skills they need to provide the highest quality client experience, embrace emerging legal technologies, and deliver the best results.

“We’re excited to see how our first cohort progress, and look forward to supporting their journey to becoming solicitors over the next six years.”

Charity Lockie, an apprentice at Weightmans in Liverpool, said: “I have always wanted to kickstart my career early, but simultaneously had my heart set on obtaining a university degree. So, when I saw the Weightmans scheme offering both, and researched the company’s work and values, I knew instantly that there was no alternative for me.

“Each day comes with new opportunities to network, learn from successful solicitors and undertake extensive training. Despite being an apprentice with no legal background, the team have welcomed me with patience and open arms and are showing me the ropes at a steady yet challenging pace.”

Helen Taylor, HR director at Weightmans, said: “We know that people sit at the heart of the firm’s future success. Our Apprenticeship Academy is a leading example of Weightmans’ commitment to investing in the next generation of legal talent, and to helping them develop the skills they need to thrive in the law firm of the future.”

Applications for the September 2022 cohort are open from now until December 9.


DSW Ventures, the venture capital investment business of the Daresbury-based Dow Schofield Watts group, has promoted Eleanor Boardman to investment manager in a period of significant growth for the regional VC.

Eleanor joined DSW Ventures from KPMG in 2019 and has been pivotal in the expansion of the business which has gone from start-up to a prominent provider of venture capital across the UK. In that time, the firm has more than tripled funds under management, successfully implemented its £10m funding partnership with British Business Investments on the Regional Angels Programme, and increased the monthly number of applicant companies to consistently more than 100 start-ups per month.

The promotion of Eleanor is part of an aggressive growth strategy being executed by the DSW Ventures partners, Keith Benson and David Smith. The firm has recently recruited a new investment associate to join in early 2022 and is actively recruiting for a senior investment professional.

These appointments will underpin a national plan to invest in the best start-ups and scale-up companies outside of London. DSW Ventures has recently completed its first Midlands deal with the addition of Nottingham-based 4D Biomaterials to its portfolio, has a Welsh portfolio company in women-focused brand ACAI Outdoorwear, and has five portfolio companies across the North of England.

Eleanor Boardman

The firm expects its next investments in 2021 to further consolidate DSW Ventures’ position in the North and add its first Scottish business to the portfolio.

Keith Benson said: “Ellie has been a stand-out performer in the two years since joining us. This is a very well deserved promotion for an outstanding professional. Ellie’s contribution to our growth and the support of our investors, portfolio companies and wider stakeholders has been invaluable.

“We are incredibly excited about the next phase of growth for our firm and Ellie is a fundamental part of our strategy for building the DSW Ventures business.”

David Smith said: “It’s been an incredibly busy and rewarding two years since Ellie joined us.

“Our investment agenda continues to gather momentum with our portfolio now supporting over 250 jobs in the regions of the UK. Ellie’s scalability and professionalism has been a huge asset and we are very confident in her ability to become one of the leaders in the UK investment market.”