North West business briefs: Diversity Travel; Designerwear International; Atmos Intl; Ottoman Bar & Grill; Findel; Leep Utilities

Hamburg Town Hall

Manchester-based global non-profit travel organisation Diversity Travel has launched a website for its German clients at Europe’s largest business conference, as a response to major organic growth in Germany.

Diversity Travel has grown its German client base from zero to 20 in the past 18 months. And the company is now forecasting this figure will rise to more than 50 clients in Germany by the end of 2024, and for this to steadily increase in 2025.

The website launch has been in the works for the past two years and it has been accompanied by the recruitment of a first-ever German sales lead and account manager. They have been joined by four German-speaking travel consultants dedicated to the DACH market.

Diversity Travel says this investment means the company can develop a “tailored” and “authentic” service for current and prospective clients in the country, while also unlocking a new customer base through offering the service in German. The move is part of a long standing expansion strategy in Europe and the US.

In September 2023, Diversity Travel secured a “significant investment” from UK private equity firm Primary Capital. This announcement came in tandem with the news that the company increased the number of European clients by 200% in 2023 alone. Jamie De Freitas, SVP sales and account management Europe, said: “Today marks a culmination of several years investing in people and systems to best support our clients in Germany. We have learnt a great deal about the nuances of the local market through a period of organic growth. Now Diversity is in the strongest position in its history to bring our integrated service directly to every person in Germany.”

The Diversity Travel team was exhibiting a new and improved online booking tool, the launch of European Rail services on the tool, and the Diversity Travel mobile app at the GBTA + VDR Europe Conference 2023 in Hamburg, between 14-16 November.


Ben Wallington and Jim Moore

Designer clothing and footwear online retailer, Designerwear International is set to transform its fashion business having secured a game-changing six-figure investment from the North West Business Growth Loan, managed by River Capital.

This substantial funding will empower the pioneering Ormskirk-based company to facilitate its rapid expansion and forge further significant partnerships with leading designer brands Designerwear has proven itself as a force in the industry and since its establishment in 2015, has developed sound digital infrastructure, grown to a team of 10 and now operates from a 16,000 sq ft warehouse.

Since adapting a new marketing strategy in 2022 it has achieved a meteoric 90% growth period and now, with this significant new investment capital secured, the possibilities are endless, it says. Under the leadership of budding entrepreneur Ben Wallington, Designerwear has skyrocketed from humble eBay beginnings to become a force in the industry, underpinned by the COVID-19 lockdown where it attracted thousands of new customers, providing a solid platform for further growth.

This latest cash injection will enable Ben’s team to boost sales revenue, improve supplier terms, increase margins and create up to five jobs. Ben Wallington said: “The funding provided by Jim and the River Capital team will enable us to move to the next level with our expansion plans to grow our customer base, revenue and brand portfolio in the men’s and women’s premium online space.”

River Capital investment manager, Jim Moore, said: “The future looks phenomenally bright for Designerwear International. With the financial fuel to match their limitless ambition, there’s no telling what the business could achieve. When the fund was established, it was done so to create and safeguard jobs within the North West and Ben’s plans to create up to five indicates their commitment to doing just that.”


Atmos International team

In an application process that saw pitches from more than 130 suppliers, North West water and wastewater group, United Utilities, has named Manchester-based Atmos International as one of its six new partners for Innovation Lab 5.

Innovation Lab is an idea development programme headed up with L Marks to launch innovations that will transform the water industry. The 14-week programme will see Atmos develop a multi-method approach improving the performance and monitoring of water pipelines.

Martin Duff, business development director for water, said: “United Utilities’ Innovation Lab recognises only the ideas that have the most potential for delivering significant improvements to its operations, so I’m thrilled that we’ve secured a spot on this year’s programme.”

Jun Zhang, CEO and founder of Atmos, said: “Innovation is a significant part of daily life at Atmos so we are delighted to have been recognised by United Utilities’ Innovation Lab.”

Atmos has been addressing the challenges faced by the oil, gas and chemical industries since 1995, with its technology being successfully applied to more than 1,500 pipeline networks across in excess of 60 countries.


CGI of new Affinity Living restaurant

A Lancashire favourite in Turkish dining is set to open a destination restaurant and bar in Manchester early next year, after agreeing a lease at the Affinity Living Riverside residence near Salford Central station.

Ottoman Bar & Grill expects to open in February 2024, after completing a £500,000 fit-out of the unit, which will seat up to 120 diners for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests can expect the unique Ottoman specialty dishes from its Chorley restaurant, including chicken and lamb shish kebabs, using top quality meats, to Turkish delight.

Ottoman joins independent bakery and coffee shop Loaf MCR, situated at Affinity Living Riverview, within the premium build-to-rent residences that form part of Select Property. The restaurant’s opening is set to create 30 jobs. It will be the owner’s second site, building on the success of the inaugural Chorley destination, with plans to create more Ottoman restaurants in Birmingham and London in the near future.

Ugur Ansin, director at Ottoman Bar & Grill, said: “We’ve built a solid reputation in Chorley for providing the best quality, delicious meats that we cook to perfection alongside a second-to-none service. Food will be cooked fresh on site from cold mezzes to hot bread. And we’re so excited to bring this to Manchester at Affinity Living Riverside.”

Adam Price, CEO at Select Property, said: “People travel from across Lancashire to visit Ottoman’s Chorley restaurant, so we know it’s going to be a huge hit here in Manchester. A big part of Affinity Living’s success is our integrated hospitality model, with Ottoman set to enhance the living experience at Riverside, just like Loaf MCR has done at our Riverview site since 2022.”


Chris Mahady

Hyde-based educational resources supplier Findel has been awarded the framework for the supply of education aids, curriculum aids and associated products by Wrexham County Borough Council, the lead council, on behalf of 22 local authorities in Wales.

The multimillion-pound framework is to supply to primary and secondary schools in Wales. This is a national framework, available on request for any public sector organisations across England, Scotland and Wales to use. Findel is now the approved supplier of educational resources to more than 1,400 schools across 22 local authorities in Wales after being awarded the framework.

The company was the core supplier on the previous iteration of this framework with Wrexham County Borough Council running from 2019 to 2023. The new agreement to supply educational resources will run until 2027. Findel’s team, which will work with schools, also includes native Welsh speakers to support the growing priority of the language being taught on the Curriculum for Wales.

Findel’s chief executive, Chris Mahady, said: “Not only retaining, but growing our supplier relationship with all the Wales local authorities and their schools is testament to Findel’s commitment to provide customers with the highest quality of products and customer service. As a business, we are truly dedicated to our ESG activities to positively support the communities in which Findel and its customers operate. It’s fantastic to see that this was a differentiator for us when it came to being awarded the framework.”

Findel, backed by Leeds-based private equity firm Endless, which supported a management buy-out in April 2021, also has a distribution centre and offices in Nottingham and employs around 300 people. The company’s brands comprise Hope, GLS, Davies Sports, Philip Harris and Scandibørn.


Leep dragon boat team in Liverpool

Leep Utilities has helped raise more than £66,000 for four worthy causes, taking part in two charity dragon boat races amongst the nation’s most iconic riverfronts and dock renovations, to which it provides electricity, water, and wastewater services.

Both events were hosted by partners and backers of Salford-based Leep Utilities, includinf Peel L&P, the regeneration arm of Peel Group, which is also a backer of the company, and property developer and housebuilder the Berkey Group, with which Leep works closely on several projects across London, Birmingham, and the South of England.

Staff from Leep’s Salford office took the plunge at the Liverpool Waters Dragon Boat Race. They helped to raise more than £35,000 for Claire House Children’s Hospice, with all donations from this race going to the hospice’s second site in West Derby, Liverpool. It’s there that seriously and terminally ill children receive day care, complementary therapies, clinics, play and music sessions, and counselling.

Meanwhile, a nine-strong team from Leep Utilities’ Reading office joined 26 others and took to the water to compete in the Berkeley Foundation’s Annual Dragon Boat Race at London’s Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre. They competed in several hard-fought races while raising funds for worthy causes.

Louise Manfredi, CEO of Leep Utilities, said: “These races have become somewhat of an annual tradition for us, and we’re delighted, once again, to be able to help raise such a significant amount of money for these very important and deserving causes.”