North West business briefs:; LCRCA; Maison Sports Group; MHA; Russell WBHO; Duo

Dan Roche

A new Manchester-based online travel agent specialising in river cruises has been launched by experienced digital marketer, Dan Roche, to improve the online research and booking experience. is a customer service-centric site that aims to become the travel companion of choice for people booking their river cruise holidays online, acting as an advisor for customers booking bespoke trips all over the world. The website offers adventurers river cruise experiences across Europe, including the Danube, Douro, Moselle, and Rhine, as well as trips on the Mekong and Nile. It helps customers find, build and book bespoke river cruise itineraries, from choosing the right cruise company to arranging pre- and post-stay options, and travel insurance.

The business currently employs six people, including a cruise consultant, two web developers, and three content writers. The team has a combined experience of 30 years in the travel industry, including with the world-leading tourism business, TUI.

Founder, Dan Roche has 15 years’ experience in the digital marketing industry, including four years as head of performance marketing at Manchester holidays firm On the Beach, as well as head of digital at We Buy Any Car. He also has broad experience working with online and ecommerce businesses in agency roles. Dan is the founder of Aquire, a search engine marketing agency specialising in high performance SEO & PPC campaigns.

Dan Roche said: “We want to make booking a trip of a lifetime an enjoyable experience and share the excitement of researching and planning the holiday. There’s a customer service necessity in the river cruise booking journey which we want to dramatically improve with our customer-centric approach. matches customers with the best cruise line for their budget and interests.” is part of the Hays Independence Group which allows it to book via their systems, offering clients more choice and the best deals.


Relaunch of Gather

Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has announced the next phase of Gather, his support scheme for digital, creative and tech businesses in the region, with £895,000 of funding. It is the second phase of the job creating scheme which will support 120 digital, creative and tech (DCT) companies.

A £3.5m first phase created more than 300 jobs at 178 DCT SMEs, while also providing emergency business support to 220 non-DCT companies during the pandemic.

Mayor Rotheram said: “Through Gather, we’re helping the industry to strengthen the future of its workforce and create quality, secure, and well-paid jobs.

“We’ve launched our next round of support to ensure that even more businesses and local people can benefit and take advantage of all the opportunities that will come our way in an increasingly digital world.”

Alongside regular events, the four streams of support offered by Gather are: Outbound – a short course focused on sales, to help companies secure the clients they want to work with; Emerging leaders – a transformative programme for upcoming leaders to accelerate their personal and business growth; Beyond – six-months of bespoke scaling support crafted with and for ambitious businesses; One-to-one advice – confidential support from experts who can help leaders move the dial on their biggest challenge or opportunity.


Maison Sport Group, which owns and runs ski lesson booking platform Maison Sport, and international ski school Supreme, has opened its inaugural Northern office in the Lake District.

The London-based company has chosen the town of Staveley, Cumbria for its first office in the North of England. The expansion marks a significant milestone for Maison Sport as it continues to grow its footprint and provide winter sports experiences to enthusiasts in the northern regions following the completion of a successful £2.5m investment round earlier this year.

The company has already secured four local residents to head up the office and is currently implementing a recruitment drive to recruit for additional roles in marketing, customer services and sales. The independent winter sports booking platform has instructors in more than 364 resorts in Europe, offering tailored individual or group lessons from beginners to very experienced skiers.

CEO, Nick Robinson, said: “We have chosen the Lake District due to the large number of outdoor enthusiasts in the area, and the fact that our busy season is the opposite to most of the local tourist and outdoor industry, which should result in a larger pool of potential employees. The team will be a mix of full time and seasonal workers, with the focus on customer services and sales.”

“The intention is to start with an office of 10 staff, but see this growing to over 25 in the coming years. With four new local team members already confirmed, we will be expanding the presence in the office as we head into winter this year.”


Alina Plakhova, apprentice at Hyatt Hotels Manchester

Eight budding chefs have secured full-time positions on their dream career path thanks to a collaboration between Trafford College and the Manchester Hoteliers Association (MHA).

The Chef’s Academy was launched in direct response to challenges faced by the hospitality industry post-COVID. The initiative aims to inspire emerging talent and revitalise the hospitality industry by linking young people with career opportunities provided by the association’s members.

The Chef Apprenticeship is a paid full-time job which equips the student with the necessary culinary knowledge and skills. The qualification is designed to completely immerse the student into the industry, encompassing practical experience, college education and industry exposure and is financially supported by the hotel itself. The academy’s next intake will be December 2023 and, until then, various events will be held across the remainder of the year, including guest chef evenings, enrichment days and charity dinners at Greater Manchester colleges.

Lola Docherty, head of studies – hospitality, hair and beauty at Trafford College, said: “We are looking to motivate young learners to see the potential of working in the hospitality sector. We are here to work with them to get the best results and be the chefs of tomorrow.”

Adrian Ellis, general manager of The Lowry and chair of the Manchester Hoteliers Association, said: “We have seen excellent progress in the Chef’s Academy initiative and it’s been fantastic to receive such positive feedback from the apprentices involved. Our aim, with the help of the city’s key hotel operators, is to see the hospitality industry thrive. We want to integrate younger talent into this sector and inspire them to start their career in hospitality.”


Removal of Rylands generators

Two old generators removed from the Rylands building in Manchester are set for a new life with the West Coast Railway (WCR) in Carnforth. The engines were originally installed in the 1960s to provide back up power for the former Debenhams store which is being stripped out by main contractor Russell WBHO prior to its refurbishment into a Grade A office building.

The Russell WBHO team and specialist sub-contractor Reddish Vale undertook the complex removal using a mobile crane brought in especially for the job. The roof was opened to allow for removal and the machines were lifted straight onto an HGV for the 70-mile journey to Lancashire. Once they have been refurbished by experts from WCR, the generators will be put back into use at the rail museum.

Harry Basra, Russell WBHO contracts manager for the project, said: “Removal of two extremely heavy generators from the roof of the building in the middle of a busy Manchester day was a challenging operation. The Russell WBHO team made sure it was well-planned and ensured it was completed on time and without any issue. As part of the net zero targets for the project, it is really satisfying for everyone to see them going to a new home where they will be useful once again.”

Chris Beet, from WCR, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled with the donation of these engines. While they’re no longer suitable for a modern, low carbon building, they will be put to good use at the rail museum powering our remote workshops. The operation to remove them was incredible, we were so impressed with the project team. Our thanks to Russell WBHO, Reddish Vale and of course the building’s owners AM alpha.”

Reducing waste to landfill throughout the strip out and refurbishment is a key ambition of the project for AM alpha. The building is designed to achieve net zero carbon status with BREEAM Excellent or Nabers 5* planned. Stephan Schmid, senior vice president at AM alpha, said: “It is wonderful to see these old machines on their way to a second life at the rail museum. Having them reused in this way is an exciting and innovative solution from our project team who we have tasked with reducing waste as much as possible in line with our sustainability ambitions.”


Manchester-based packaging consultancy and manufacturer Duo, and Danish plastic recycler, Plastix, are partnering to bring a new product to the FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) market. Duo has developed a shrink film utilising Oceanix HDPE from Plastix – a recycled plastic made from waste fishing gear.

Expanding its circular approach to plastic across the sector, Duo will manufacture shrink film for food and beverage outer packaging using Oceanix recycled plastics, made from 98% maritime waste such as fishing nets and ropes.

Fishing gear is one of the deadliest forms of marine waste, threatening 66% of marine animals and 50% of seabirds. The Plastix technology enables the maritime industry to minimise waste fishing gear pollution, which could otherwise end up in the oceans. Oceanix has undergone a life-cycle assessment and is confirmed to provide up to 94% CO2e savings, when compared with virgin plastics.

Hans Axel Kristensen, CEO at Plastix, said: “Our independent LCA study on Oceanix not only shows world class CO2 reductions, but at the same time highlights that it is 11 times more climate efficient on freshwater use, five times more on ocean acidification and 43 times more on fossil resource use, compared to virgin plastics. It is our mission here at Plastix to reduce maritime plastic pollution and offer the most sustainable recycled plastics as an immediate solution to the world’s climate emergency.”

Duo has a 35-year history of manufacturing plastic packaging and lifecycle design has remained a core principle of the business since the very beginning. Zoe Brimelow, Duo brand director, said: “Duo remains unwavering in its mission to bring waste full circle, so this partnership with Plastix was an easy choice, their recycled plastic ticks so many boxes for us as a business. Not only is it an innovative solve to a big environmental problem, but the quality of the green recycled pellet makes for a standout end product, too.”