NW business briefs: SXSW; Sambro Intl; Pawlina’s Pet Shop; Baltic Bespoke; Moneypenny; We Invented the Weekend

2023 SXSW Manchester delegation

GM Business Growth Hub will be heading to South by Southwest (SXSW) in March 2024 – and four creative businesses based in Greater Manchester will get the exciting, fully-funded opportunity to attend the internationally renowned festival together with the organisation.

The annual March event takes place in Austin, Texas, and offers attendees the ultimate opportunity to fully engage in conferences and festivals that explore the convergence of tech, film, music, education, and culture from around the globe. SXSW is the de facto destination for all players in the digital, creative and technology sectors and businesses will get the chance to rub shoulders with industry leaders.

Becki Coen, Programme Manager for the Digital, Creative & Tech Sector at GM Business Growth Hub, said: “Attending SXSW is an incredible opportunity for creative businesses in our region. Thousands of the most innovative and inspiring minds come together in one place to reach new connections and markets from around the world.

“I’m excited that we get to expand on our delegation from last year and offer even more businesses in Greater Manchester the priceless networking opportunities SXSW has. The festival showcases a unique insight into the future of the sector, inspiring businesses with creative new ideas to bring back home and support their growth.”

Representatives of GMCA Culture team will also join the trip alongside artists supported and selected by the GMMC (Greater Manchester Music Commission). Last year, for the first time, GM Business Growth Hub invited three businesses from the Greater Manchester creative community to attend the conference to showcase to the world that the city region is the place to be when it comes to music, culture, creativity, and innovation. Applications for next year’s trip close at 23:59, December 5.

This opportunity was invaluable for Rachel Emson, MD of the creative agency VIVID Manchester. She said: “Being part of the US mission has been invaluable for our business. In just a few days, we have met agencies from across the world, from New York to Slovakia and Brazil – relationships that have been glued together by the delegation that shared Manchester’s message loud and proud. We’ve felt like part of the Greater Manchester scene, allowing us to celebrate this on the global stage.”


Global toy and gaming studio Toikido has joined forces with Bury-based toy manufacturer and distributor, Sambro International, to roll out its latest Piñata Smashlings collectables and toys collection.

Under the new three-year partnership, which was facilitated by Toikido’s licensing representative IMG, Sambro will deliver an extensive range of arts and crafts, stationery, bags, and novelty toys. The products, priced between £1.99 to £8.99, will be widely available across EMEA territories.

The new range will reflect the core brand DNA of the Smashlings universe and aim to excite children with hidden characters. Some of the key compound products include the Surprise Sand Eggs, Great Tree Crystal Growing Kit, Slurping Smashling, and Bash Sand Eggs, Squelchum.

Sambro is also developing a range of stationery backpacks shaped like popular Smashlings characters and filled with a variety of collectable stationery products. Additionally, the toy supplier will also deliver an exclusive range of Smashlings Piñata Puzzle Palz, its IP range of collectable puzzle erasers, giving children a chance to build, play and erase while collecting their favourite characters.

Clare Rix, brand and licensing director at Sambro, said: “The team at IMG and Toikido have been brilliant to work with in getting this deal across the line and I can’t wait to see our product launch alongside the master toys ranges. We are excited to start working on the franchise and see where team Toikido takes Smashlings, and programming and marketing support is huge.”


Paulina Melling

A Grange-over-Sands animal lover is excited as she prepares to open a new pet shop in the seaside town. Pawlina’s Pet Shop, at Albert Road, which opens on December 2, will cater for dogs, cats, pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and fish – and even snakes and geckos.

Pauline Melling, 36, said: “I love animals. I wanted to be a vet when I was a child. If I could, I would own a zoo. Lots of people in Grange have pets. These are mostly dogs and cats but there are also guinea pigs, rabbits, parrots, snakes and geckos. Some people even have pet rats and even if people don’t have a pet, they often like to feed the wild birds in the area.”

Initially, Pauline expects her main customers to be from the Grange, Lindale, Allithwaite, Cark, Cartmel, Kents Bank and Flookburgh area. Plans include setting up a delivery service covering that patch after New Year, which will likely mean taking on a member of staff.

She added: “I would also like to work with local pet rescue centres and do some events to raise money for them. And when I start delivering around the area hopefully it will encourage some of the older generation, who cannot get out to shop for pet food and litter, to adopt a cat for companionship from one of the centres.”

Paulina grew up in Poland and moved to Grange in 2006. She worked at The Grange Hotel, becoming a head housekeeper, and then at the Thornleigh Christian Hotel, where she was a duty manager. During the latter period she studied part-time at Furness College and gained an Advanced Level Apprenticeship in Hospitality Supervision and Leadership.


The Baltic Bespoke garden room

A collaboration between Liverpool charity Transforming Choice and local business Baltic Bespoke has seen the development of a new space to support people who are struggling with addictions.

Thanks to funding from the Steve Morgan Foundation, Sefton Park-based Transforming Choice was able to commission Baltic Bespoke, which specialises in custom-made garden rooms, to design and build the huge new facility, in keeping with the conservation area location. The charity, which mostly helps people overcoming alcohol dependency, says the garden room will change the way it offers much needed services.

Transforming Choice is a detox and rehabilitation centre, providing 12-week residential programmes. It also has iChoose, a community programme where anyone in recovery can access extra ongoing support after treatment. The two work side by side and iChoose programme coordinator Emma WIlkinson says they’ll both benefit from the new space.

She said: “The new garden room at the back of Transforming Choice is stunning and we’re going to be able to use the space in so many ways. iChoose can have arts and crafts workshops, drama group, holistic therapy, development meetings or just coffee and catch-ups in there. And for Transforming Choice, it gives us a place to bring the residents outside the house so they can have that different environment.”

For Francis Eades, who set up Baltic Bespoke at the start of lockdown, creating a large-scale garden room for the charity was a rewarding challenge. He said: “It was the biggest garden building we’ve ever done, it’s 10m wide x 6m deep, and we knew the project would have to go through planning and building control so there was a lot to consider.”


New research reveals that 84% of Brits feel pressure to work overtime in their job role, with the pressure to fulfill job expectations being the top reason for those going over and above working hours.

Call and live chat company, Moneypenny, conducted a survey of UK workers from across different industries to shed light on the professions where overtime is most prevalent. The research also discovered the impact of extended working hours on mental and physical health, as well as personal relationships.

The survey found that 52% of Brits work overtime for more than two days per week, with a quarter of these workers not receiving any additional pay for their efforts. However, certain industries stand out as having a higher propensity for employees to exceed their contracted hours. When considering the average number of overtime days in a month, the top three industries were law enforcement and security (12.6 days), recruitment & HR (12.2 days), and accountancy, banking, and finance (11.7 days). Social care, education and science and pharmaceuticals are the industries in which workers feel the most pressure to work overtime.

The study shows that working overtime, whether driven by job demands or economic factors, has a significant impact on lives outside of the workplace. More than a quarter (26%) of respondents reported that working overtime had a negative impact on their physical health, while 23% cited adverse effects on their mental health. Additionally, more than one in six workers stated that overtime had caused relationship issues, with one in 12 even admitting that it had led to a break up.

Fiona Armstrong, chief people officer for Moneypenny, said: “Caring for your employees and managing overtime is a critical practice for any business leader. In a world where performance and productivity often dominate the conversation, remember that a well-rested, engaged, and content workforce is the true driving force behind success.”


We Invented the Weekend 2023

We Invented the Weekend, the free festival for the UK held in Salford, is set to return to MediaCity and Salford Quays in June 2024 after a recent study revealed it delivered a total impact of more than £3.2m for the local economy in its inaugural year.

With 60,000 visitors in attendance across the two days of the festival – which was held in June 2023 – the festival is celebrating helping MediaCity to achieve its highest footfall in its 12 year history. A separate study commissioned by the festival also revealed a third of attendees to We Invented the Weekend were from Salford, with a significant 25% of visitors classed as visiting from outside of Greater Manchester, further highlighting the draw of the festival and its unique programme in exposing new audiences to MediaCity and the wider Salford Quays.

The impact on MediaCity’s existing tenants was also substantial, with 40% of festival attendees visiting a restaurant or café, 27% visiting a pub or bar, and 40% partaking in shopping. With more than 160 event and content partners – from household names, such as BBC, RHS and Sounds From The Other, to community-run organisations – We Invented the Weekend put on more than 200 free activities for visitors as the cost-of-living crisis was at its peak.

Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett said: “These amazing figures from last year’s event speak for themselves. They validate the approach we have taken as a partnership and highlight not only the huge appeal the event has, within the city and beyond, but also the real positive impact and benefit it brings to the city.

“It’s proven to be a festival that offers something for everyone, locals, visitors and business alike. There’s a real buzz about this festival and there’s anticipation for next year. We’ve set a high benchmark and that raises expectations, but I’m all for that and I’m confident we’ll deliver another successful and unmissable event in 2024.”