NW business briefs; Nook; Dainā; Toucan Telemarketing; Salford free parking; Armstrong Watson; University of Chester

Nook furniture

Nook, a Chorley-based, bespoke furniture company, has secured a total of £50,000 through Start Up Loans, delivered by GC Business Finance (GCBF), to purchase new machinery that will allow it to bring its production processes in-house and grow the business.

Founded in 2021 after frustrations with the trade industry, three first-time entrepreneurs – husband and wife, Nick and Jen Brake, and Jen’s brother, Dave – decided to establish their own furniture business, offering bespoke, fitted furniture with a focus on improving its customer’s experience with tradesmen. Combining Jen’s passion for interior design, Nick’s background in business and customer service, and Dave’s carpentry expertise, the business offers a wide range of fitted furniture, including wardrobes, secret-door bookcases, window seats and home offices.

Within two years Nook has attracted masses of customers, which brought with it a need to speed up the production process. This would only be possible by purchasing new CNC machinery. Nook spoke to InnovateUK who referred them to the Start Up Loans programme, part of the British Business Bank. After considering other financing options, Nook determined that a Start Up Loan would best suit its needs.

The team has ambitious plans for the future and after growing from a 750 sq ft studio in October 2022, to a 3,500 sq ft unit today, Nook is working towards expanding the team, in turn creating more jobs in the Chorley area. With more control over Nook’s production process, the team plans to work towards becoming even more sustainable, with help from Chorley Council.

Nick Brake said: “Since starting Nook two years ago the reception we have received has been phenomenal. We have gone from running things in our garage to a 3,500 sq ft unit in Chorley. We are extremely grateful for how fast and easy GCBF made purchasing our new machinery and moving to our new unit. Now we are looking to expand our team to scale up the business even further.”

Alex Mearns, Head of Startup Lending at GC Business Finance, said: “Making financing easier and helping small businesses grow is incredibly important to us. Nook is a great success story of how the Start Up Loans programme is able to do this, promoting entrepreneurship, allowing great businesses to thrive.”


Side Street Studio

Dainā – pronounced day-nah – a new Asian dining concept has launched at Side Street Studio in St John’s, which will kickstart the venue’s kitchen collaboration initiative, and see upcoming chefs given an opportunity to develop their culinary and cultural ideas in a city centre space.

The first kitchen residency from Side Street Studio brings together chefs Jake Huxley and Samuel Jethro – formerly of Seesaw cafe – and their love for creative cooking, Asian techniques and British and local ingredients. The pair will meld together Samuel’s love of Asian cuisine and Jake’s passion for making dough, to create a carefully crafted menu of small plates, for a casual dining experience. Diners can expect bao buns – with all bao dough made in-house – alongside the likes of red braised pork belly with marinated egg, and smoked mackerel with daikon and lemon.

Samuel Jethro & Jake Huxley said: “Our concept is a collision of love and appreciation for Chinese cuisine combined with the science of making perfect dough. We want people to enjoy the food we enjoy creating. Our food is best enjoyed in good company in a relaxed environment, making Side Street Studio’s setting an ideal backdrop. Our aim is to elevate some familiar and unfamiliar ingredients into wholesome dishes so we can showcase the brilliant art of Asian cooking in a way that brings something new to the table.”

Side Street Studio is an experiential destination which aims to offer a platform for the Manchester’s arts, music and design talent to share their craft with the community. The new destination will become a creative hub for the St John’s district. The dynamic lounge and studio offers a space to work, socialise, create, perform and exhibit – at all times of the day and night. The venue hosts a revolving roster of DJs, brand pop-ups, industry workshops and events.

Callum Stretton, General Manager at Side Street Studio, said: “Side Street Studio’s concept is formed around the notion of collaboration. Our kitchen is no different from our creative studio – it’s an opportunity for emerging and established talent to come together and showcase their skills and art. We set out to put a spotlight on creatives, brands and artists from around Manchester and beyond, which will come to life in our diverse calendar of events and residencies across multiple disciplines.”


Toucan Telemarketing team

Telemarketing company Toucan Telemarketing has switched to an Employee Ownership Trust model to lock in ongoing competitiveness and sustainability.

Born out of founder and Managing Director Paula Bates’s determination to deliver bespoke results-driven and professional telemarketing campaigns, Toucan Telemarketing employs 15 staff who are now also shared owners of the business. Paula will remain in post, alongside fellow directors of the EOT Rachel Spencer and Nikita Shufflebottom.

She said: “I’d been giving some thought to the future of the company. While I’m aware exit options can be limited, it’s never crossed my mind to just shut up shop when I’m ready to bow out. And selling to another company doesn’t appeal to me either. It could compromise not only the longer term job security of the Toucan team, but also the values that have driven our success.”

“Our business has survived and thrived over time because our value proposition sets us apart from our competitors,” she added. “In fact, our motto is – ‘We work as you, for you, with you’. But we couldn’t continue to exceed client expectations if it was just me saying it, without the team living it.

“Becoming employee owned is the ideal way to seal in the company culture we’ve all contributed to, besides rewarding staff by giving them a say and a real input in their own future. I was given the same opportunity 22 years ago to take the reins of the company when the time was right, and the rest is history.”


In a bid to boost Christmas cheer and support local businesses, Salford City Council is once again providing free parking at selected locations across the city.

Residents and visitors can use selected pay and display car parks in the lead-up to Christmas, to explore Salford and its restaurants, cafés, shops, and landmarks. The dates are Saturday, December 9, Saturday, December 16, and Saturday, December 23.

Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett said: “As we approach the festive season, we must support our local businesses. We hope our decision to provide free parking at some of our council-run car parks encourages people to shop local and support our fantastic Salford businesses.”

The participating car parks are: Church Street P&D Car Park, Swinton; John William Street P&D Car Park, Eccles; St Mary`s Road P&D Car Park, Eccles; Irwell Place P&D Car Park, Eccles; Corporation Road P&D Car Park, Eccles; Partington Street P&D Car Park, Monton; Hankinson Way P&D Car Park, Salford.

Notices will be posted on site at these car parks. All other conditions for using the car park, such as parking properly within marked bays and displaying a Blue Badge still apply.


Armstrong Watson has shown its support to the county’s young footballers as it announces a new partnership with the Cumbria Football Academy.

As part of the partnership, the accountancy, business and financial advisory firm has sponsored the academy and presented the youth players with a tracksuit bearing the firm’s logo. The presentation took place at Armstrong Watson’s new state-of-the-art Carlisle headquarters, where the coaches and players were welcomed by the firm’s staff and CEO, Paul Dickson.

Cumbria Football Academy is a unique initiative that aims to develop the skills and potential of talented footballers from Cumbria’s grassroots teams. The academy offers weekly training sessions, regular matches against other academies, including those from professional clubs, and individual feedback and guidance from qualified coaches. The academy also has a specialised programme for goalkeepers, who receive dedicated sessions once a week.

Paul Dickson said: “We are impressed by the academy’s vision and approach, and we hope that our sponsorship will help them achieve their goals and aspirations. We look forward to following the progress and success of the academy’s teams and players, and we wish them all the best for the future.”

Andy Millburn, Director of Cumbria Football Academy, said: “We are proud to wear the tracksuits and represent the proud AW brand on and off the pitch. We appreciate their recognition and encouragement of our efforts to provide the best possible opportunities and environment for our players to develop and excel. We hope that this partnership will be beneficial and enjoyable for both parties, and we thank them for their support and generosity.”


Students on task in the business challenge

University of Chester students are helping to boost Cheshire businesses by finding solutions to tasks set by enterprise founders, on aspects from products to advertising.

In the same month as Global Entrepreneurship Week, students from the University’s Business School explored innovative ways to support a range of companies. The challenges were set by business leaders at an event at Queen’s Park, the home of Chester Business School, and the students will pitch their ideas to the businesses and lecturers this month.

Considering community and social value, the students will share solutions in areas such as advertising opportunities, introducing new products, expanding into new markets and sustainable growth. The task is part of the Managing Sustainable Business Ventures module for third year Business Management students.

The businesses taking part are: Archi-Scape, an urban architecture company; Aspedan, a health and lifestyle company; Great British Watch Company, a luxury watch and jewellery company; Mouse, a product design company.

Lisa Conway, Deputy Head of the Department of Management at Chester Business School, said: “In the Department of Management, we very much value the input of the business community to ensure that learning in the classroom reflects the real world of business and entrepreneurship.”