North West business briefs: Central Co-op; Broadway Insurance Brokers; Made Smarter; Beaverbrooks; AO; Fund Her North

Thirty jobs have been created at Eastham following the opening of a new store by retailer Central Co-op, its first on the Wirral and its seven new store opening this year.

The community store, which represents a £1.05m investment, will stock an expansive range of food and essentials and offer features such as self-service checkouts, an extensive food to go section with hot food options, a range of Fairtrade products and car parking on site.

The store also features an Insomnia Coffee Shop, where visitors from the community can relax with a Fairtrade coffee or tea.

In line with the retailer’s sustainability goals, the store has been fitted with eco-friendly fridges, LED lighting, and a free water refill station.

Store manager, Jemma Gordon, said: “We’re so excited to become embedded in the thriving local community in Eastham, and it’s great to finally have our doors open to welcome Wirral locals to our newly refreshed store.”

A food bank collection point has also been installed to help support the Goodwill To All campaign running this month, along with a toy collection point for the Christmas Toy Appeal.


Eleanor Moore

One of the key individuals behind the rapid rise of Broadway Insurance Brokers has been acclaimed for her “significant and valuable contribution” to the insurance industry.

Private client director, Eleanor Moore, has been given the President’s Award by the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII). The Institute’s current president, Peter Blanc, explained that the honour is “only awarded when there is a suitably deserving candidate”.

During the pandemic, Ms Moore became the first individual to serve consecutive terms as head of the Insurance Institute of Manchester and was responsible for introducing a series of initiatives to support the professional and personal development of industry colleagues. In just two years at Broadway, she has also overseen “dramatic growth” in the number of clients and assets under cover, generating more than £1m of Gross Written Premiums (GWPs) in the past 12 months.

Ms Moore said that her recognition by the CII had been “a wonderful surprise”. She said: “I have enjoyed a tremendous career in insurance over the last three decades and worked with some really talented and very committed individuals during that time to support both clients and industry peers. To be given this honour is totally unexpected and something which I regard as much as being a reward for my colleagues as for myself.”

She added: “The last couple of years have presented individuals in the profession with some very considerable challenges. To be able to play even a small part in helping is a source of immense pride and satisfaction for me.”


Tom Fletcher

A specialist food manufacturer has experienced a huge boost in productivity and profit after investing in automation technology, with the support of Made Smarter.

Firstplay Dietary Foods, based in Stockport, makes a range of low protein products for people with metabolic conditions like Phenylketonuria (PKU) which leave people unable to eat protein without risking brain damage. With a growing international demand from patients and dieticians, due to the increased number of countries delivering newborn screening, the business has invested £120,000 in new digital machinery, increasing its blending capacity, while replacing a manual weighing and packing process with automation.

The business was supported by grant funding from Made Smarter’s North West adoption programme, a government-funded industry-led initiative helping SME manufacturers invest in new technology and digital skills. As a result, Firstplay has increased production capacity 10-fold, reduced human error and waste, and is forecast to increase turnover by 30%.

Managing director, Tom Fletcher, said: “Our growth has been organic with only occasional investment to update our production processes. Our partnership with Made Smarter changes that. We have a long term strategy and a digital roadmap to follow to achieve those goals. My only wish is that we had done it sooner.”

Donna Edwards, Made Smarter’s North West adoption programme director, said: “Firstplay is among hundreds of manufacturers in the region grasping the opportunities offered by Made Smarter which include expert, impartial technology advice, digital transformation workshops to help take that first step to transform a business, and support with technology investment. I would encourage other SME manufacturers to do the same.”


Anna Blackburn

St Annes-based national jewellery retailer, Beaverbrooks, has confirmed that its Boxing Day closure tradition will continue for 103rd year.

Managing director of the family-owned firm, Anna Blackburn, said: “In Beaverbrooks’ 103-year history we have never opened on Boxing Day, to give our amazing colleagues more time to spend with their families and thank them for their hard work throughout the year.

“As a business run on strong family values this is something that has always been incredibly important to us, and this year our 70 stores will remain closed on the date once again, to allow our people to enjoy well earned time with their loved ones after the busy Christmas period.

“We know it is a challenging time for many people and to support our colleagues, as well as giving them more time to spend with family over the festive season, we will continue our tradition of an extra week’s salary in December for all colleagues to show our appreciation for their hard work. This comes in addition to an investment of £500,000 in cost-of-living payments made in October to all colleagues – £500 one off payment per colleague – providing further financial support in line with increasing costs.”

She added: “Rising costs have been a key consideration for all our business decisions this year and we have made sure to put our teams across the UK at the heart of them. Closing on Boxing Day is something we know our colleagues value greatly, and we feel passionate about continuing this tradition, and hopefully inspiring other businesses to follow in our footsteps.”


Debbie Hallas, Vicky Monk, Tracey Neville (Thunder), Lee Aspinall (AO)

Manchester Thunder, the reigning and four times Netball Super League (NSL) champions, has entered into a new five-year strategic partnership with AO, the Bolton-based electricals retailer, that will see it become the club’s principal sponsor for the 2023 season and beyond.

The partnership will see the AO brand embedded across Manchester Thunder’s broad range of assets from the front of NSL dresses and training kit to the match day court and associated courtside assets.

This long-term strategic partnership provides a firm foundation for the journey towards the full professionalism of the Manchester Thunder franchise and netball as a whole, as well as providing financial security to allow Manchester Thunder to invest in long term initiatives.

Debbie Hallas, managing director of Manchester Thunder, said: “This partnership cements our vision to ‘be the best elite netball club in the UK, on and off court’ and we’re excited to be associated with AO. I passionately believe that if we want to realise our potential as a sport, we need to bring the biggest brands into our support and this agreement represents a major step towards achieving this goal.”

Vicky Monk, director of brand and marketing at AO, said: “We’re continuing to invest heavily in our brand and our new partnership with Manchester Thunder marks an important part of that strategy. With our roots firmly in the North West, we’re thrilled to support a Manchester team to raise the profile of netball on their journey to professionalism and are excited at the prospect of inspiring and encouraging young people to take part in sport.


Jordan Dargue

Fund Her North has closed 14 deals, leveraging a total of £4.5m for female founded businesses, and reached 500 members, in the two years since its foundation.

Established in 2020, the organisation is made up of more than 32 Northern women from venture capital firms, funding organisations and angel groups. Together, they have a combined investment power of more than £650m. Fund Her North was founded by Helen Oldham, Jordan Dargue Jess Jackson, Charlotte Ashton, and Chi-chi Ekweozor.

The organisation was established in light of The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship. The report found that advancing female entrepreneurship represents a £250bn opportunity for the UK economy. Fund Her North’s goal is to ensure that female founders and investors across the region are aware of the support, network, and capital available to them.

Fund Her North launched the all-female angel investment syndicate, Women Angels of the North (WAOTN) in August 2021. Working to support female founders operating across the innovation and creative sectors in the North, WAOTN brings female investors together with a joint mission of supporting female entrepreneurs. A key part of this has been the Women Angels Education Hub, a learning platform for women looking to find out more about angel investing.

Since its launch, WAOTN has supported 12 investments worth a total of £3.1m. This has included investments into Sheffield’s Natterhub, Manchester’s Chu-Lo Drinks and Daresbury’s Agile Life Sciences. Jordan Dargue said: “When we first got together in 2020 to discuss our frustrations around the barriers facing female founders, we weren’t sure what the solution was, but knew that we could achieve more by working together. Fast forward two years and I’m so proud of the progress we have made, establishing a diverse community in Fund Her North and creating the North’s only all-female syndicate in Women Angels of the North.”

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