New hair brand is launched

A natural hair product inspired by a three-year-old girl and developed and manufactured in the North West of England has been officially launched onto the global market.

FYC (For Your Curls) is a natural hair product range specially designed for mixed race and curly hair and is looking to take a slice of a haircare market worth £1.72bn in the UK alone.

Rob Binns, co-founder of the Preston-based business, began working on the range with his business partners Bradley Lincoln and Mike Peters after failing to find the right kind of hair product for his three year-old-daughter Lydia.

Rob is also managing director of Cotton Court in Preston. WNJ advised him during the creation of the business centre and continues to provide ongoing support for the growing venture.

Speaking about his latest business, Rob said: “We’ve got a little girl aged three with frizzy, curly hair and we couldn’t find any products that worked for her that didn’t contain harsh chemicals. So, together with Brad and Mike, we set about creating them.

“Having seen first-hand what a ‘problem’ curly hair can be, there are so many textures, so many differences and so many options, we wanted to develop a product range to help ‘curlies’ live with and love their hair. Lydia certainly loves it!”

He added: “We are really excited about FYC’s potential. We feel we’ve found a genuine gap in the market, a hair care product that is natural and meets a real need.

“The sales potential for FYC is massive and not just in the UK. Our aim is to build and develop a strong British brand that can make a real impact.

“We’ve got ambitious marketing and sales development plans and a strong and enthused team around us. We’ve set ourselves ambitious but very realistic targets for growth.”

FYC is vegan and made from naturally derived ingredients including shea butter, organic aloe vera, olive oil and argan oil. It contains no silicones, sulphates or parabens. It is also gender neutral.

It has taken 24 months from the initial concept to the launch of the brand.

FYC has based its manufacturing and sales operations in Lancashire. An online sales platform has been created, working with Preston-based e-commerce specialists EKM.

The products are being made by a specialised, award-winning contract manufacturer in the region.

An appetite for innovation

A fast-growing family business that specialises in plant-based protein foods has tripled its turnover since its move into new purpose-built manufacturing premises.

Award-winning NutreeLife made the move from Preston to the Dakota Business Park in Burscough this summer – investing £1.5m in new equipment.

Its two, new, state of the art manufacturing facilities, totalling approximately 24,000 square feet, will enable major future growth. And the move is already paying off with annual turnover set to increase from £1.4m last year to £4m.

NutreeLife, which has a 45-strong workforce, makes high quality protein bars, snacks and burger mixes that are high in protein and low in sugars. Its clients include a number of major UK brands.

With support from WNJ, the business has also been able to invest heavily in the Research and Development work that is central to its success.

WNJ has advised NutreeLife on its successful applications for R&D tax relief, which supports businesses in all sectors working on innovative projects in science and technology.

It can be claimed by a range of companies that seek to research or develop an advance in their field. It can even be claimed on unsuccessful projects.

Chief executive Patrick Mroczak said: “We offer bespoke products for our clients and R&D and product development sit at the heart of everything we do.

“We have our own lab in house and the success of the company has been built on continual innovation. The tax relief we’ve received has helped us greatly in pushing forward that ambitious R&D programme.”

He added: “The investment in our new manufacturing facilities is also a major statement of intent. We needed the extra space to gear up our operation. We’re also investing in our people as we look to continue our growth journey.”

NutreeLife won the prestigious Be Inspired in Business Award (BIBA) for best new business last year.

The company was created to “make great nutrition accessible for all” and its founders Patrick and managing director Adam Hodgkinson have years of experience and dedication in the food, nutrition and beverage industry.

They set out to establish NutreeLife after recognising a gap in the market for a vegan and ‘free-from’ range of protein supplements.

Patrick said: “These are really exciting times both for the business and the industry. We are operating in a really growing sector which has massive potential.

“Our relationship with WNJ is very much a partnership. They are there to help and guide us, whatever issues arise, and have supported us right from day one.

“The professional advice we have received from them has played a big part in helping us to get where we are today and they continue to work with us on our future growth plans.

“WNJ’s work in the field of R&D and the support available to us has been invaluable as we’ve moved the business forward to where it is today.”

• To discuss how WNJ can help support your business please contact me on 01772 430000.

Hotel distillery plan will raise the bar

Gin is proving a real tonic for a popular Lancashire hotel as it looks to emerge strongly from the coronavirus pandemic and attract visitors from across the UK.

The family-run Whitehall Hotel in Darwen is currently converting its restaurant into a gin distillery and bar as part of its development plans.

Primarily a venue for weddings and events, the popular hotel has been run by Neil and Tracy Bullows since 2003, with WNJ providing support and advice to the couple.

During this latest lockdown, work is continuing to convert its former restaurant area into the distillery, with a bar and seating area, and a space for gin-making classes to take place.

Once completed, the Whitehall will also be able to offer dishes from its ‘ginstronomy’ menu, which will match botanicals with food from regional suppliers.

Paul Sheerin, who owns Defiance Spirits based in Oldham, and who is a friend of Neil’s, is assisting in the plan, which will help expand the drinks brand, which includes a range of gins and rums.

And a special premium London gin is being developed by Paul and Neil as part of the overall project.

The Whitehall has been an institution in the area for more than 50 years, but in common with many other businesses within the hospitality sector, it has been significantly impacted by the pandemic.

The gin project is an example of how businesses are creatively looking to emerge stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Neil says: “The one thing that the Whitehall has always been able to count on is the support of the local community, which was never any more evident during the recent Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

“I thought if we could further build on that business by attracting customers from outside of the area, the Whitehall will stand the test of time.”

“We’re hard at work creating something very special and we believe we’re the only hotel outside London to have its own gin distillery. These are really exciting times for the business.”

A majestic Victorian manor house lovingly transformed into a traditional country house hotel, The Whitehall dates back to 1898.

It enjoys many period features from the sandstone frontage to its panelled sweeping staircase and is perfectly situated for visitors wishing to explore the West Pennine Moors.

Defiance gin, was voted the best in the world at this year’s prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Up against more than 3,000 entries, Defiance Navy Strength won the ‘Best in Show, Unaged White Spirit’ category.

• To discuss how WNJ can help support your business please contact me on 01772 430000.

Brewery rises to the challenge

A family-run brewery came up with a successful home delivery service during lockdown – with demand for its beers coming from across the country.

Slater’s Ales is based in Stafford but has strong links to the North West. All of the family originally come from Preston and it still has many ties with the area.

Company director Vicki Slater says the business is now looking to invest in its own automated bottling plant as it looks towards the future.

She explains how the brewery had to come up with a new business model when lockdown struck and its hospitality outlets closed their doors.

Vicki says: “Pre-pandemic 95 per cent of our business was supplying pubs, restaurants and on trade customers covering the majority of the England and Wales.

“On March 19 we lost all of that. Overnight we had to come up with a new model for the company.

“We have always had a small online presence and over that weekend we could see the orders start to pick up. From that moment we knew where we had to go to ensure the business not only survived but thrived through the period.”

Every member of staff, including those working in its own bar, was put on furlough.

Vicki and head brewer and managing director Andrew Slater started to push the online options for home delivery on social media.

Vicki says: “The majority of home deliveries were sent out within 48 hours and we started to get orders for nationwide deliveries.”

The brewery used Preston-based InXpress to get its nationwide deliveries out the next day, an approach that ensured repeat customers.

Andrew started to slowly increase brewing capabilities and Slater’s started to brew different beers for bag in box and bottled beers. Its small hand-bottling plant at the brewery was in full flow most weeks.

Looking to the future, Slater’s says it is uncertain how long it will take the pub trade to recover.

In the meantime, it has taken the decision to look at funding options to create its own automated bottling plant to stop reliance on external companies.

It has also joined forces with Virgin Wines and its beers are now listed on the website with new brews are in the pipeline specifically for Virgin customers.

Vicki says: “We have learnt that, like many other businesses that faced a challenging time, change can be for the good and that it can bring its own rewards”.

If you wish to try Slater’s multi award winning ales for yourself the company has a special offer for all WNJ clients.

You can receive 10 per cent off all orders through October. Just use the code WNJ10 at checkout through the website

Joint venture engineers bright future

Two well-established metalwork, engineering and fabrication businesses have come together in a new joint venture that is set to open up new markets and opportunities.

WNJ played a key role in advising both Coppull-based Morgan Bros (Metalwork Solutions) and J L Engineering (Rixton) in agreeing a joint venture arrangement. Morgan Bros is a third-generation family business that has grown to become one of the UK’s market leaders in architectural metalwork. It specialised in all aspects of architectural metalwork, glass, powder coating and laser cutting.

JL Engineering (JLE) has been providing engineering solutions and project management services for almost 40 years. It has extensive expertise in the rail sector, with full manufacturing facilities at its Warrington operation. Together, the two businesses employ almost 50 people. The JV is looking to double the size of the operation and its turnover over the next two years.

Morgan Bros managing director’s Paul and Tom Morgan said: “These are exciting times for us. The JV opens up lots of opportunities.
“We’re a leading architectural metalwork specialist, known in the industry for our work with stainless steel and glass.
“JLE has extensive expertise in the rail sector and in heavier engineering and fabrication
“Together, working as a JV we can do more; it increases our capacity and ability to pitch for more work. We’re looking to grow and advance in the rail sector for instance. It is a great fit.”

As part of the new structure JLE has moved its headquarters to Coppull. Tom says: “The idea of the JV was first mooted by WNJ and the practice has worked closely with us along every stage of the deal, providing invaluable support and advice to us.

“We’re now looking forward to working with the WNJ team on our growth and expansion journey. We’re hitting the ground running.”
John Saxon, sales director at JLE, says: “This is a great move for the company and we also believe there are exciting times ahead.
“We have already set out our growth plans for the coming months. Bringing the expertise of the two businesses together makes us all much stronger and gives some great opportunities.”

New era for city nightspot

One of Preston’s best-known city centre nightspots is under new ownership.

Baluga Bar in the Miller Arcade was bought for an undisclosed sum by Ryan Peake, Nick Carter and Hiran Panchel.

The trio of DJs, who have all worked at the venue as entertainment managers in the past, were advised on the deal by WNJ.

They bought the bar from previous owner Gary Meehan, who ran the business for more than a decade. The trio are now hard at work pushing ahead with their plans for the nightspot. Improvements have already been made to the sound system and lighting at the venue. They are also teaming up with well-known chef Mr Lam to serve Chinese food in the bar.

There is also live music every Friday and Saturday from 7pm and a new menu with new beers, wines and cocktails. And a full refurbishment is planned for early next year, which will be carried out by Ryan’s building team, which has already refurbished a lot of the bars in the city centre.

The WNJ team that I led provided advice for the trio throughout the acquisition process.

Nick Carter said: “Paul and WNJ proved invaluable in helping and advising us throughout the deal. We’ve bought the best club in Preston and we want to put our stamp on it.

“We’re making this something Preston’s not had. We have a history of working with good names; we know a lot of artists personally. We will be catering for a mix of all ages.”
To discuss how we can help support your business deals please contact me on 01772 430000.

Jeweller sparkles at national awards

Whalley-based family jeweller Sarah Layton has received national recognition for its sparkling offering to its customers. The business was named “Multi-Brand/Fashion Jewellery Retailer of the Year” at the Retail Jeweller UK Jewellery Awards (UKJA).

Pictured here is Gethin Jones (left) who hosted the event handing out the award with Chloe Moss (far right), founder of ChloBo. Lauren Bottomley and Leanne Rogers (directors of Sarah Layton) are accepting the award (centre).

The jeweller underwent an in-depth judging process which included several visits from mystery shoppers. Their results were reviewed by a panel of 26 judges from across the industry. The awards are known as the “Oscars” of the jewellery trade and as Ruth Faulkner, editor of Retail Jeweller magazine, said: “Our rigorous judging process ensures that winning one of these awards means you are the very best at what you do.”

Leanne Rogers, co-founder of Sarah Layton, which is now in its ninth year of business, is delighted at the industry recognition and has praised the staff at the store.
She said: “As an independent retailer it means so much to us to know that the hard work we do is being recognised.
“From finding new brands to work with to making sure our customers receive the very best service possible, the team at Sarah Layton have really done us proud!”

The judges were also full of praise for the business, which they said, “showed heart, soul and likeable business personality, keeping its own identity front and centre, while still successfully retailing many big-name jewellery brands”.

Sarah Layton beat off competition from well-respected retailers including John Lewis, Argento Jewellery, Jewella and Rubirox, to lift the award at a glittering ceremony.

WNJ is delighted to be associated with any business that strives for excellence in quality merchandise and service. In times when the retail sector is often reported as struggling to survive on the High Street it is encouraging to see how by sticking to core values and looking after the customer can still bring rewards to the independent retailer.

Are you GDPR compliant?

It made big headlines at the time. Now, two months later we are starting to see the impact of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on business.
Many businesses have put the issue on the back burner following the deadline for compliance in late May.

But the fact is GDPR is an on-going issue and a subject that businesses need to continually work on and review.
For instance, a growing number of companies are now receiving subject access requests.
Under the new legislation your prospects, clients and staff have rights to access or erase their personal data, correct inaccuracies and object to processing.
The £10 fee to access personal data has now been abolished and that is being seen as a major reason for the rise that we are seeing. However, there are also reports of companies also receiving “nuisance” requests.

Against all this background it is important that businesses understand the processes to follow if a request is received.
You have only 30 days to respond, so it is vital that you have a process to enable you to find, pull out and send the data as required within that timescale.
There can also be wider implications. What is your data retention policy? Are you holding onto information for longer than you should? What is your email policy? If you receive a request how easy is it for you to pull out all the necessary emails? Does your data contain details about other people and organisations, or personal opinions?

Dealing with subject access requests highlights just some of the many issues we help our clients resolve.
And it really does show the importance of having a robust approach to GDPR implementation.
By demonstrating to potential and existing clients that you are doing everything you can to protect their rights you will continue to build and maintain the trust that underpins your client relationships.

AW Training and Compliance has joined with WNJ to ensure that its clients can approach GDPR in a compliant and stress-free manner.
To discuss any issue regarding GDPR and how AW Training and Compliance can help you please contact me on 01257 460081 or email

Penny Davis (pictured) is a management and leadership expert with a background in regulatory compliance. She is a certified EU GDPR Practitioner, ISO17024 certified and Institute of Information Security Professionals accredited.

Planning ahead

The summer of 2018 is shaping up to be one that will be remembered for years to come, mostly for the cracking weather and an unexpected glut of goals by the England football team in the World Cup.  It’s also proving to be a period of growth for Lancashire planning consultancy De Pol Associates, which is going from strength-to-strength.

The Farrington-based consultancy is set to welcome two new members of staff this summer. The recruitment comes on the back of a series of new project wins, both from new clients and existing clients increasing their activity.
Resurgence in residential property and commercial development within Lancashire is seeing in a hike in planning submissions, and De Pol is picking up significant instructions throughout the county and beyond as its reputation grows.

It’s all in line with the new business strategy implemented by managing director Alexis De Pol, following his completion of the highly-competitive Goldman Sachs Small Business Management Programme last year.

Investment in resources, focusing on growth sectors, and raising the firm’s profile within Lancashire are all now paying dividends.
“We are assisting numerous clients with their expansion and redevelopment strategies and advising landowners on maximising the value of their holdings,” says Alexis.
“As our clients build for the future, we too are investing in ours. The team is expanding as we deal with higher volume from existing clients, and we are seeing more new enquiries from word-of-mouth recommendation than ever before.
“We find many Lancashire businesses are keen to keep their business local, to avoid the faceless corporates and to deal with people they can get along with, but they want to ensure there’s no compromise on quality, experience or success.

“We have a track record and a client base which provides the reassurance they need, along with a hugely personable team with more than 82 years’ experience between us.

“We are securing the approvals and providing the advice that is really making a difference to our clients’ businesses, whatever their sector or wherever their scheme is based, and that’s what will continue to drive us.”

Established in 1986, De Pol counts among its client base Pure Leisure, Rowland Homes, Northern Trust, Create Developments, Iceland, and Recycling Lives.