North West business briefs: Princes; Black Bull; Coffee Carriage; Race Equality Hub; Innovation Navigator; Kendal BID; Be.EV

Picture - Multiverse

Liverpool-based international food and drink group, Princes, has established an Analytics & Data Academy with Multiverse, a tech company delivering digital apprenticeships.

The partnership will initially train 50 Princes employees across multiple business functions, with the ambition to empower colleagues, advance data skills, encourage revenue growth and boost efficiency. Colleagues from areas including Commercial, Finance, IT, HR, Supply Chain, Operations and Strategy & Innovation will embark on one of three Multiverse programmes, each offering a chance to develop data understanding and technical skills.

Participants will take part in either a 13-month Data Literacy course, an 18-month Data Fellowship, or a degree-level Advanced-Data Fellowship. Each pathway is designed to develop data and analysis skills. The ambition is that colleagues trained by Multiverse will be able to better harness the power of data to establish opportunities for revenue growth, and to help make the transition from manual to automated data processing practices within the business.

The first cohort of 25 Princes colleagues began their studies in December 2023, with more than 40 more planned to start in 2024. This investment comes as Princes outlined its refreshed people-focused company values, which aim to enhance business culture and future preparedness. These include encouraging ‘Trusted & Empowered’ coworkers and allowing employees to ‘Bravely Explore’.

Connie Emerson, Group Strategy & Transformation Director and Programme Sponsor at Princes, said: “Multiverse is a proven leader in specialist apprenticeship training, which we are proud to be partnering with to establish this Academy at Princes. Through this collaboration, we’re confident that our Princes apprentices will build expert knowledge and improve the business’s approach to data analysis and planning.”

Peppa Wise, Vice President of Go to Market at Multiverse, said: “Enhanced data skills will unlock new opportunities for Princes, both as a business and for the individuals within it.”


Stables outdoor kitchen. Pic: Rob Whitrow

The Black Bull, in Sedbergh, Cumbria, one of the UK’s top 50 gastropubs, is launching a new initiative for this spring and summer with ‘Stables Kitchen Residencies’, which aims to provide start-ups and small food service businesses with an opportunity to take over its outdoor kitchen.

It says this represents the ultimate pop-up kitchen space, providing a perfect opportunity for all manner of small food service businesses to try out their tasty foodie creations on a discerning audience and help take their business ideas to the next level. The service is also free of charge.

Spaces are available for every weekend, except August Bank Holiday, from April onwards. Participants can serve from 12pm until 9pm each day. During each mini-residency the Black Bull’s team will serve up a selection of craft beers, wines and spirits from The Stables Bar, providing dining guests with an authentic outdoor ‘bierkeller experience’.

The Black Bull’s co-owner, James Ratcliffe, said: “Nina and I cut our teeth serving street food at events and food markets across Manchester and the north of England before we progressed to owning our first restaurant. We know how hard it can be to test out your ideas and get honest feedback from the paying public, especially as you try to develop and grow your ideas, and ultimately your business.

“Because we’ve been there, and because it’s difficult at the moment for many fledgling businesses to even know where to begin, we felt that we wanted to be able to provide this opportunity to help. Despite the current circumstances it’s still a time of creativity, with start-ups wanting to evolve their brands and grow, which is why we want anyone interested in a ‘Stables Kitchen Residency’ to get in touch with us, so we can help them take that next step and become the area’s future food entrepreneurs.’’


Two young entrepreneurs have launched a new coffee shop at Maghull rail station, providing not only refreshments for commuters and travellers, but a hub that aims to be a focal point for the local community.

The Coffee Carriage recently opened in the station’s ticket office. Craig Reeves, who runs Coffee Carriage alongside Rory McLellan, said: “Our customers can expect a friendly and welcoming place, almost like a second home. We will be providing barista coffee from a traditional espresso bar, as this is what customers have come to expect now when visiting any good coffee lounge.”

Craig revealed ambitious plans for the Maghull coffee shop. He said: “We will be looking into having events in the mornings, together with afternoon teas, Sunday strolls and so on.

“We want to make this a little hub for the local community and become a part of it. We are thrilled and filled with optimism about the business’s prospects. We are genuinely excited about the positive journey ahead.”

Suzanne Grant, CCO & Deputy MD of Merseyrail, said: “Rory and Craig’s business is a great example of some of the opportunities available on the Merseyrail network, and we’d love to work with any local independent businesses who are interested. We’re open to any ideas.”


Alison Navarro

Plans to help unemployed Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people facing barriers to accessing opportunities in the workplace have been unveiled by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

Four new Trainee Race Equality Employment Advocate roles have been created to help tackle the inequalities preventing people from getting the help they need to move forward. The trainee advocates will be part of the Combined Authority’s Households into Work programme, working closely with its Race Equality Hub, the £2.3m initiatiave established by Mayor Steve Rotheram to support career opportunities and the development of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic businesses across the city region.

Households into Work goes further than supporting people into jobs. The programme helps identify and overcome barriers, such as debt, lack of skills, health issues and self-esteem to the point where employment is a realistic and attainable goal. Cllr Mike Wharton, Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Business said: “The funding of the Hub was the largest investment in race equality in the history of the city region. It is operating as a centre of excellence in tackling racial inequality by focusing on business, employment, and skills development across our area. The new advocates will be focusing on reaching Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people who are further away from the job market, providing support and opening opportunities.”

The HiW programme has supported more than 4,000 people since its launch in 2018, but people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities are still missing out on opportunities. Race Equality Hub Programme Director, Alison Navarro, said: “The Hub’s primary purpose is to tackle systemic injustice and inequality and drive forward positive change for Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic employees and residents.

“The creation of these new roles, working within an existing team that is making a difference to residents across the LCRCA is an amazing opportunity to reach more Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community members and to understand the challenges they face in accessing employment and supporting them on their journey.”


Innovation Navigator team

Greater Manchester’s high-growth businesses can now make the most of a dynamic new programme that will accelerate innovation projects towards successful market delivery and commercialisation.

From now until March 2025, Innovation Navigator will provide businesses working in AI, data and advanced computing, diagnostics and genomics, and sustainable advanced materials with bespoke support to accelerate the delivery of products and services to market. It will enhance Greater Manchester’s reputation as one of the best places in the UK to innovate and grow a business, unlocking and removing barriers to overcome challenges in the market, supporting businesses to scale and enable faster commercial returns and value.

Businesses will receive specialist advice to reduce time to launch and bringing new innovations to market, while embedding skills in the business for future growth and allowing for greater knowledge transfer opportunities. In addition to specialised and tailored support, participants could also benefit from £1.6m available in grant funding and access to the investment community.

Yvonne Grady, Head of Innovation at the GM Business Growth Hub, said: “There are more and more businesses in Greater Manchester that are future focused and are expanding into emerging and innovative markets that present high growth opportunities. We’re having conversations every day with businesses that are embracing sustainability and the opportunity of AI and advanced computing. Our role with Innovation Navigator is to be a guiding light and navigate relevant businesses through this ecosystem.”

Each business joining Innovation Navigator will benefit from the support of experienced and highly skilled Commercialisation Specialists and Local Innovation Connectors to guide them through their innovation journey, all the way to commercialisation. The team of 10 Local Innovation Connectors, each based within a Greater Manchester local authority and experienced in business, will be the first point of contact for businesses and will identify their immediate innovation needs. Former Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer at the University of Chester and chief executive of Clean Power, a clean energy start-up, Nick Avis, is joining Innovation Navigator as a Commercialisation Specialist.


Rob MacDonald

Kendal’s Business Improvement District (BID) is offering expert advice for business owners on how to grow their businesses.

A ‘Six steps to grow your business’ seminar is being organised and funded by the BID, hosted by business growth coach Rob MacDonald, of Action COACH Lancaster.

He said: “Those who attend will walk away with energy, vision and focus to grow their business and strategies to build profits right away. They will also have ideas to get more done in less time and will have learned ways to communicate and motive more effectively with their team.”

The session will be held at Stricklandgate House at Stricklandgate, Kendal, from 9.30am-12.30pm on Monday, March 11. The seminar is free to Kendal BID members and costs £40 for non-members.

BID manager, Peter Brendling, said: “A lot of businesses are finding times difficult at the moment and anything Kendal BID can do to help and improve business for owners has to be a good thing.”


Gateway Centre

Gateway Centre, Oldham, has received a new ultra-rapid charging hub, in a £1m deal with Manchester-based EV charging network Be.EV.

Switched on and ready for use, the site is home to 16 ultra-rapid charging bays, making it one of the largest ultra-rapid EV charging locations in Greater Manchester. The retail park sees an average of 27,000 cars pass by every day, and with only six other ultra-rapid EV chargers within two miles of the site, the charging hub will be a welcome addition for commuters travelling through Greater Manchester.

Currently the local community only has access to 25 EV chargers, meaning the 120,000 Oldham residents will also benefit from the charging site’s convenient location just off Chadderton Way and less than a mile from the city centre. The 70,000 sq ft site is equipped with cutting-edge Kempower chargers that feature unique load-balancing abilities, ensuring drivers get the power they need.

The technology, commissioned and maintained by Vital EV, is capable of delivering up to 150kW – fast enough to add 125 miles of range in a 15 minute stop. This rate of charge is more fitting to the dwell time of shoppers, who don’t stick around for the eight hours it takes for a 7kW fast charger to fill a typical EV.

Be.EV maintains the largest network of public EV chargers in Greater Manchester, and the chargers will be powered by renewable energy from Octopus Energy, ensuring the move to a totally green transport system is achieved. Be.EV CEO, Asif Ghafoor, said: “We are putting significant investment into Oldham. These Kempower chargers are really cutting edge, and unlike lamppost chargers we’ll still be using these in 20 years or more. It shows how, with the help of private partners, we can spur the transition to electric vehicles and clean our cities up.”