NW business briefs: Valloop; Hilton; TalkTalk Business; Amici; Lowry Hotel; K2 Architects; Just Bee Honey; Hello Earth

From left: Deborah Walker, Stephen Greenwood, Paul Richards

Valloop, a strong advocate for employee ownership, has opened its newest office in Stockport, marking a significant milestone in the company’s expansion efforts.

It is the first business to set up in the newly-built shared office space at STOK, formerly the M&S building, following a welcome introduction from MIDAS, Greater Manchester’s Inward Investment Agency and Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council.

Valloop CEO, Stephen Greenwood, said: “The move to Stockport aligns with our core mission of empowering SME employees and creating sustainable business growth for SMEs. By embracing employee ownership, we are striving for a culture where employees aren’t just workers, but valued members with a voice and stake in the company’s success.”

Jim Lowrie, co-founder of the London-based business, said “By opening our offices in Stockport we hope to encourage Stockport SMEs to consider employee ownership instead of traditional selling methods. This approach not only helps enhance employee morale and engagement but can also drive innovation and productivity, ultimately helping them lead to long term growth not only for the business but the community and economy as a whole.”

Deborah Walker, Head of Inward Investment for Financial, Professional and Business Services at MIDAS, said: “Stockport’s thriving and strategic location make it an ideal choice for companies looking to expand their operations. By investing in Stockport, businesses like Valloop can help to stimulate economic growth, create job opportunities, and contribute to the overall prosperity of the region. Additionally, Valloop’s presence in Stockport will serve as a catalyst for further investment and innovation, attracting like-minded businesses that share a commitment to employee ownership and sustainable business practices.”

Paul Richards, Director of Development and Regeneration at Stockport Council, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Valloop to Stockport and are confident that their presence will have a positive impact on our local economy. Their dedication to employee ownership brings exciting possibilities for businesses in Stockport and Greater Manchester, and we look forward to seeing the contributions they will make to our community and celebrating the first company through the process.”


Lancashire Thunder

Hilton and Lancashire Cricket have confirmed that the Official Hotel Partner has further increased its support for the club. The long term commercial partnership has been extended for a further year with Hilton also increasing its investment to support Lancashire Thunder for the next three years.

A major part of the agreement will see Hilton provide investment to increase Lancashire Thunder’s squad of professional players to 16 – by funding four additional full-time contracts. This will see Thunder lead the way with the most full time professionals in England’s domestic women’s structure.

The No Boundaries campaign – a collaboration between Hilton and Lancashire Thunder launched in 2023 – will also continue under the renewed partnership. The campaign will continue to focus on breaking down barriers and offering the best possible support to the Thunder playing squad and pathway system, so they can stay at the top of their game.

Work was recently completed to extend the on-site Hilton Garden Inn Manchester at Emirates Old Trafford, which has been open since 2017 at Emirates Old Trafford, by a further 100 bedrooms – taking the occupancy to 250 bedrooms and concluding the venues redevelopment over the past decade. Stijn Bastiaens, Vice President Marketing and Loyalty Europe, Middle East and Africa, Hilton, said: “We are so proud to continue our partnership with Lancashire Cricket and to be able to increase our support to the Lancashire Thunder team. We are thrilled to see the progress the team has made over the last few years.”

Daniel Gidney, Chief Executive of Lancashire Cricket, said: “We are incredibly excited by the increased funding they are providing to support our ever-growing Lancashire Thunder programme, as we look to continue to lead the way in the women’s domestic game and grow women’s cricket across the North West.”


Ian Cairns

Salford-based TalkTalk Business has announced a five-year partnership with Outcomes First Group, the leading provider of specialist education.

The B2B telecoms provider will support Outcomes First Group’s operations nationwide, providing intelligent, flexible and reliable network connectivity to more than 100 sites across the UK. TalkTalk Business will deliver a managed Cisco Meraki SD-WAN network solution to Outcomes First Group, which will provide simplified, central control, allowing network performance and usage monitoring and management across devices, users and sites.

The integration of this technology will play a fundamental role in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of neurodivergent pupils as the organisation continues to embrace the benefits of digital transformation to enhance its services. The partnership aligns with TalkTalk Business’s mission to support ambitious organisations of all sizes, from start-ups to large-scale enterprises, by delivering future-proofed solutions which meet their unique connectivity needs and allow them to reach their full potential.

Ian Cairns, Sales Director at TalkTalk Business, said: “It’s a privilege to be working with an organisation like Outcomes First Group and supporting its work to help ensure the best possible outcomes for neurodivergent young people. I’m looking forward to the continuation of our relationship over the next five years and being a part of the brilliant work that the organisation does.”

Ian Roddy, IT Director at Outcomes First Group, said: “Ensuring the wellbeing of the young people who use our services is our number one priority, and secure network connections are vital. We’re in an era of digitalisation, and it’s important to recognise the benefits that technology can bring to education. Investing in this area is crucial to the future success of our services and continuing to deliver the best outcomes for our pupils.”


James Nolan

The team behind The Deysbrook pub in West Derby has taken over the former Justino’s site on Aigburth Road. James Nolan, the owner of the pub who took over in March 2015 at just 22 years old, has now expanded to open Amici, a new Italian restaurant.

Opening this summer, Amici will breathe new life into the venue that’s based in the heart of South Liverpool. James, 31, is renowned for his efforts in Liverpool’s hospitality scene. He invested £260,000 into The Deysbrook, giving it a major refurbishment and making the pub more modern and comfortable for guests.

Creating 25 jobs at Amici, James, from Stockbridge Village, will build a team of chefs, waiting staff, bartenders, kitchen porters and management. He said: “I’m very excited to be opening Amici this summer, reopening the closed site and offering a new venue in Aigburth.

“I’m passionate about hospitality, delivering the right service, excellent food and drinks and creating a fantastic atmosphere, and we’ll be working hard behind the scenes until we open to bring that all together.

He added: “We’re very much looking forward to meeting the local community including those who visited the previous restaurant, as well as new faces and getting to know them when we open the doors this summer. There isn’t a more perfect time to bring a taste of Italy, as well as a range of summer drinks, to South Liverpool.”


Adrian Ellis

Adrian Ellis, General Manager of Manchester’s iconic Lowry Hotel and Chair of the Manchester Hoteliers Association, has announced his imminent retirement from a 40-year career spanning roles both here in the UK and abroad. He retires in early summer to focus more on a pioneering Hotels and Schools project that has now been in place for the past three years.

Since completing his Hospitality degree in 1982, Ellis has garnered an impressive career in hospitality which reaches across the globe. Having worked in Singapore, Warsaw, Budapest, Baku and Bali, he returned home in 2015 and has been General Manager at The Lowry Hotel ever since.

His retirement comes off the back of the recent expansion of the ‘Hospitality Connect’ programme, an initiative that links Manchester’s hotel network with School leavers from more than 30 schools in the region. The idea is that hotels in the city create interesting and informative activities such as cookery classes, bed-making competitions and afternoon tea service, all aimed at inspiring school students to take up a career in hospitality.

This has worked so well that with funding from the Savoy Education Trust, Ellis has been able to expand this around the country and more than 12 regions/cities now taking up this project in their areas. As part of his retirement plan, Ellis plans to take a more permanent and substantial role in the programme, specifically focusing on its wider development and roll-out across the UK.

He said: “My departure from The Lowry Hotel, and subsequently Manchester Hoteliers Association, comes at a time in my career where I have achieved all I set out to do, travelling across the globe to deliver a high quality of service to all hotels I have worked at. Whilst this decision did not come lightly, I am ready to take a step back from my position to focus on my personal life, whilst still playing a significant role in the growth of our fantastic ‘Hospitality Connect’ programme.”


Bootle Strand

Liverpool-based K2 Architects has become a Certified B Corporation, meaning it is among a growing global community of forward thinking enterprises and have a strong commitment to purpose-driven business practices while meeting rigorous standards of social and environmental impact.

Within the architectural industry, K2 is among the businesses leading a global movement for an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy.

With a validated score of 104 points, it is one of two Certified Bcorp architectural firms in the Liverpool City Region.

Kevin Horton, co-founder and Architect Director, said: “Sustainability and responsible business practices remain at the core of our ethos. As a B Corp, we are committed to translating our ethos into action, striving to continually enhance our working practices, environmental governance, and collaborative efforts with partners that deliver lasting benefits to communities while reinforcing our commitment to positive social change.’’

Current projects include transforming Bootle Strand, a Wellness Centre in Cumbria, Crosby Village Library and revitalising Crewe’s Flag Lane Baths into a Community Hub.


Joe Harper, left, and Andy Sugden, on Dragons’ Den

A Manchester honey manufacturer says it will double growth and create five jobs after investing in automation, with the support of Made Smarter.

Just Bee Honey, based in Trafford Park, makes a variety of flavoured and vitamin infused honey products which are sold direct-to-consumer. With support of Made Smarter, the government-backed technology and skills adoption programme supporting SME manufacturers, Just Bee is investing £41,000 in an automated solution to replace manual processes for sealing and labelling.

This will increase production speed, capacity and quality, and support plans to double revenue over the next two years and create five jobs. Meanwhile, production operatives currently performing the manual processes will be moved to more high value, skilled roles.

Launched in 2014 by business partners Andy Sugden and Joe Harper, the son of a beekeeper, Just Bee Honey started life as a mission to make healthy soft drinks using honey, and to help conserve the UK’s bee population. After famously turning down potential investment from Peter Jones on BBC TV show Dragons’ Den, Just Bee began selling in Selfridges, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, WH Smith and Boots. Andy Sugden, co-founder, said: “We have been on quite a journey over the last 10 years from handmade products in a kitchen to a factory. We are now ready for the next stage of our growth. We want to be able to do things faster, more efficiently and to a higher standard, while enabling our team to contribute their skills in other areas of the business.”

Donna Edwards, Director of Made Smarter’s Adoption Programme in the North West, said: “It has been fantastic to have played a supportive role in Just Bee’s digital transformation. Andy, Joe and the team have been eager participants of the programme, willing to engage with our experts to create a digital roadmap and identify the technology and skills they need to succeed. We look forward to offering them our ongoing support as they drive forward their growth ambitions.”


From left: Stephanie Fisher, Phil Kiel, Steph Linton

Hello Earth, the Liverpool-based performance-driven digital agency that specialises in serving socially responsible brands, has been certified by Meta as one of its first Creative Certified Companies in the UK. This is the highest level of Meta Certification available, and Hello Earth is one of just two businesses in the country to have received it.

Meta Certified companies are organisations recognised as having proven expertise in Meta technologies and digital campaign management. The certification aims to differentiate companies by validating the expertise of their employees and helping them to acquire new business. According to Meta, recipient firms also benefit from added trust and greater credibility in the marketplace.

Phil Kiel, Managing Director of Hello Earth, said: “As a business, we always strive to deliver and add value to our clients. For us, making our creative output as impactful as possible is the very cornerstone of everything we do. Moving forward, that will continue to be our focus and we hope our relationship with Meta will continue to go from strength to strength. It’s fantastic for the whole business to receive this kind of recognition and is testament to – and a validation of – the talents within our team.”

Emma Mathews, Head of Industry, Global Business Group at Meta, said: “Hello Earth excels with Meta’s latest product developments, they quickly utilise new platform features such as CAPI, Advantage+ Shopping, ads for Reels placements and more to benefit their clients.

“Hello Earth successfully combines Creative Strategy and Meta Media Buying. All of their media buyers are Creative Strategy certified, and they deliver creatives in house with our team of creative strategists and designers.”