North West business briefs: CuppaPug; FW Capital; Lancs County Council; Start Up Loans; Eat My Logo; Radius; Made Smarter

Aaron Carty and Matt Pieterse with the resident pugs at CuppaPug, Manchester

CuppaPug, which launched in London in 2022 and sees customers travel from all over the globe to visit, has opened its second site, in Manchester.

This bright pink, vibrant haven is a pug playground, where families, couples and individuals can come along to spend time with CuppaPugs’ resident pugs, while dining out on pug-themed smoothies, milkshakes, coffees, teas and cakes. CuppaPug has seen more than 10 million views across social media.

After seeing the original CuppaPug, on London’s Arbutus Street sky-rocket over the past two years, owners Aaron Carty and Matt Pieterse decided to launch their new site on Chapel Street, in Manchester. Like no other hospitality concept around, this special experience is for pug enthusiasts and dog lovers alike, but specifically for those who do not have a dog but want to experience being in a pooch’s presence.

The idea of CuppaPug came about from the aim to create a safe and nurturing community around pugs, working with charities and organisations that rescue and rehome them, while educating owners. Aaron is an ex-police officer, turned Digital Media Producer, Entrepreneur, and international Drag Queen performer for the ‘Beyonce Experience’, as seen on Britain’s Got Talent and UK Black Pride. Matthew is a professional actor known for Channel 4’s Bleach, Subway Casanova advert, and short film Mild Thing.

Aaron said: “Our inspiration was to create an environment, a pug playground where the pugs can play and people can safely engage with the pugs. We want our customers to have an instant smile on their faces as they enter CuppaPug, we want them to feel the warmth and joy that pugs can bring and feel that spike in pleasure from hugging a pug.”

With pug welfare at the centre of the concept, CuppaPug works closely with three charity partners, National Pug Protection Trust, Manchester Pug Thing and Pug Life Rescue, where £1 from each booking is donated towards the rescue and rehoming of pugs. The CuppaPug team in London have been proud to have raised more than £13,000 since opening.


L-R: Gary Guest, Joanne Whitfield, Mike Owen of FW Capital

Approaching 450 businesses across the North of England have benefited from investments of £173m from regional fund manager FW Capital, through NPIF-FW Capital Debt Finance, which is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

The investments have attracted £230m co-investment from the private sector, totalling an impact of more than £400m on the Northern economy. Since the fund was launched in 2017, the funding has led to the creation and safeguarding of almost 5,000 jobs. This has helped Northern firms to build skilled teams and create new products and services. 2020/21 proved to be the most active year, with 115 businesses securing £36m of funding through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Key sectors to secure investments from NPIF-FW Capital include manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, construction and firms in the scientific and technical advances industry.

Mike Owen, Chief Executive at FW Capital, said: “Access to finance is critical to stimulating business growth, innovation, and job creation, and it’s been rewarding to see how our investments have made a real difference to SMEs across the North. Demand for alternative finance was such that our initial allocation of £102m in 2017 increased to £173m over the course of the fund enabling us to support more businesses and reach higher levels of job creation and growth. We’ve supported a variety of firms across the North and enjoyed working with the team at the British Business Bank to deliver valuable finance to high growth companies.”

Keira Shepperson, Director, British Business Bank, said: “FW Capital reaching a milestone of delivering £400m impact to businesses across the North demonstrates our commitment to driving sustainable economic growth. With the upcoming launch of NPIF II, we’re looking forward to continuing this legacy, providing the springboard for businesses across the region to prosper.”


A582 Stanifield Lane/Watkin Lane roundabout

New plans to improve journeys on the A582 in South Ribble and provide better provisions for buses, walking and cycling were discussed at Lancashire County Council’s Cabinet last week (March 7).

The aim is to reduce congestion along the A582 Major Roads Network route between the M65 and Preston to support economic growth, provide better access to existing employment sites and support the delivery of new homes. These plans would support all road users and seek to reduce transport-related carbon emissions and improve air quality by helping with the provision of bus network improvements, and enhanced walking and cycling facilities along Leyland Road and Fishergate Hill to encourage more sustainable travel choices for local trips.

It’s also proposed to include the use of new and advanced technology to manage traffic, prioritise buses and use real time information. The opportunity to deliver the scheme would involve a funding bid to the Government’s Major Road Network (MRN) funding programme, which cabinet members agreed. The public will be invited to comment on plans showing more detail of the proposals later this year, as part of the design process.

County Cllr Aidy Riggott, cabinet member for economic development and growth, said: “The proposed improvements will help to increase road capacity along the existing network for car users, and provide people with the opportunity to use sustainable and active travel choices. Improvements to the A582 have been on the agenda since the 2013 Central Lancashire Highways and Transport Masterplan.

“The creation of a dual carriageway along the A582 is still an aspiration. These latest proposals will help by providing additional capacity along the road, while still working towards dualling in the future. Local people will have the opportunity to give their views on the plans later in the year once we have developed them in more detail.”


Lisa Storey, left

Start Up Loans, part of the British Business Bank, today (March 12) announced that it has delivered more than £140m of loans to UK entrepreneurs aged 50+ since its inception in 2012. The programme has supported 13,422 loans, at an average of £10,427.

Of these loans, more than £16.1m has gone to business owners over the age of 50 in the North West. 1,549 loans have been issued to businesses, with an average loan amount of £10,457. Start Up Loans has delivered more than £13m-worth of loans nationally to the over 50s in the financial year running 1 April 2023-31 March 2024. This represents a significant contribution to national efforts to encourage people aged 50+ back into work through a variety of initiatives designed to help stimulate economic growth.

Lisa Storey is one North West business who has benefited from Start Up Loans. After a career in social work and nursing, she founded EZ Hampers, a sustainable gift company, sourcing products from positive impact companies and received a Start Up Loan, via GC Business Finance, to move to a premises in Altrincham. She is now working with students from Manchester Met to improve her marketing strategy to support business growth.

She also plans to employ underrepresented people from the local community and hopes to host networking sessions for underrepresented groups, promoting diversity and encouraging businesses to hire a more representative workforce. She said: “Most of my adult life was spent working in caring roles, but I realised I wanted to do more for people and the planet. I had the idea to set up EZ Hampers, so I could support local, sustainable businesses, whilst encouraging others to shop more sustainably at the same time.

“We’ve been able to expand our offering as a result, with customers able to buy our hampers online, or come into the shop and purchase products individually. My dream is to grow the team, encouraging underrepresented groups to apply. I look forward to continuing growing the business and having a positive impact on my community.”


New products team

Chorley-based bakery, Eat My Logo, supplying companies with bespoke branded treats, has completed it biggest round of new product development in its recent history. The company, supplying some of the largest brands in the UK, has released a range of new products in anticipation of changing demands of its corporate clients.

Following strategic decisions made in December 2023, the food manufacturer has expanded its proposition, with the addition of 40 brand new lines. Their development has been supported by newly-appointed production manager, Martin Evans, with years of experience supplying Michelin Star restaurants.

Eat My Logo’s products are used by businesses across the UK to aid engagement with staff, customers, and other stakeholders. Its new ranges includes: Packaged Chocolate Truffles, in giftboxes and flow wrap packs. Each pack is bespoke branded with client logos or messages; Tubes filled with biscuits, chocolates, or confectionery. The tubes are branded with a full wrap, with more than 250cm of print area to customise; Confectionery Packs, in a range of sized tubs, jars and pouches. Each item is branded with a full colour label.

Through the 2023 period, the brand saw growing demand for confectionery and branded packaging, with more than 250,000 items sold in their labelled or confectionery product categories. This change in demand shows a strong area of growth for the business, which previously focused on its bakery items, including branded cupcakes and branded biscuits.

Business Development Manager, Daniel Clarke, said: “Our recent new product additions signify an additional direction for the business. They open our offering up to a whole new demand from corporate clients, which we have seen has a massive potential for growth. Having worked with some of the UK’s biggest brands, including Sky, O2 and the BBC, we are excited to develop new relationships with new clients.”


Kerry Fawcett

Radius, the Crewe-based global fleet and connectivity specialist, has been appointed by Arnold Clark Vehicle Management (ACVM) as its official telematics partner to allow companies to track vehicles and have visibility of the operational efficiency and safety of their fleets.

Radius’s innovative vehicle tracking solution will enable customers of Arnold Clark Vehicle Management to improve productivity, operate more efficiently and cut operating costs. In addition, by monitoring driver behaviour, ACVM customers will be able to ensure a high standard of performance across their fleets. Vehicle camera solutions from Radius will also be available, protecting drivers from false and fraudulent claims, aiding driver coaching and promoting safer driver behaviours.

The telematics solutions available will also help to counter the threat posed by vehicle misuse or theft, through real-time GPS tracking of vehicle locations, as well as historical journey histories. In addition, alerts to unexpected movements will help companies proactively manage their fleet vehicles.

As a key provider of fuel cards in the UK, which offer cost savings on fuel spend and allow for better fuel management, Arnold Clark Vehicle Management customers will be able to take advantage of an integrated solution. The combination of fuel cards with telematics data empowers fleet managers to stay on top of the fuel consumption, operational efficiency and distance travelled by their fleet vehicles. Kerry Fawcett, Group Director of Partnerships, at Radius, said: “Our products provided to ACVM offer enhanced visibility and tracking capabilities to its customers, in addition to protecting drivers through the use of vehicle cameras. Fleet operators will be empowered to manage their fleets effectively, achieving operational, safety and security benefits”

Jim Blair, Operations Manager at Arnold Clark Vehicle Management, said: “Thanks to the innovative telematics solutions provided by Radius, we are able to offer our clients valuable insights which can cut expenses and improve driver safety and vehicle security.”


Latest Made Smarter graduates

Made Smarter has empowered 125 digital leaders with the vision, skills and drive to pursue smarter manufacturing through its two innovative leadership programmes. The participants hail from across the spectrum of the manufacturing workforce, from managers to production operatives.

Made Smarter, a government-funded industry-led initiative to increase technology adoption among SME manufacturers, offers funded access to its Leading Digital Transformation (LDT) programme and Leading Change for Digital Champions (LCDC) programmes.

Among the latest companies to graduated from the LDT programme are: Altimex (Chester); The Mountain Trike Company (Nantwich); Colour Synthesis Solutions (Manchester); Firstplay Dietary Foods (Stockport); Ironsides Lubricants (Stockport); Massey & Harris (Stockport); Spanjer Chemicals (Wigan); Thomas Storey Fabrications Group (Manchester); N & J Aluminium Linings (Ribble Valley); Happy Drinks Group (Liverpool); Maap Studio Art & Design (Wirral); Majas Switchgear (St. Helens); and Nutexa Frictions (Wirral).

LDT, which is delivered over three months with Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester Met), blends face-to-face workshops, online webinars, case studies to see technology in action, and a site visit to PrintCity, Manchester Met’s 3D additive and digital manufacturing centre. Since last year, the programme has turned 34 delegates into digitally-informed, empowered leaders, armed with a bespoke digitalisation strategy.

Since launching in 2019 Made Smarter has supported 2,500 manufacturers in the North West to access expert, impartial technology advice, digital transformation workshops to help take that first step to transform a business, and support with technology adoption projects. It has also supported 284 businesses with skills and leadership advice and training.