Tag Archives: Coronavirus

Risque greetings card company to open new HQ and printworks after pandemic sales surge

A POPULAR greeting cards company is celebrating expansion plans after a pandemic business boom.

Based in Colwyn Bay, Lima Lima was launched by Carly and James Brands in 2015 and got off to a flying start, producing and selling daring and risqué gifts and cards that quickly gained popularity and began selling the world over.

The impact of Brexit that same year took its toll on the company, notably in Europe, but the couple have diversified and bounced back.

They achieved a significant rise in turnover, sell more than 550,000 items annually, and now employ up to 10 full and part-time staff.

As they prepare to move to new, larger premises in the seaside town, they have big plans for the future and a fresh selection of product ideas.

Mum-of-three Carly, who has decades of experience in marketing, entertainment, and digital media, said their end-to-end approach has worked well since day one, though they are now also collaborating with established partners to scale-up and grow further.

“We work with local companies and sell a lot of our items and cards direct, but also via some of the major online platforms like Etsy and Amazon given demand internationally,” she said.

“When we launched it was a leap of faith as we had never done anything like this before, but because our range was very niche it immediately captured the imagination and things really took off.

“Brexit did have an effect, not only on European sales, but on the price of stock, supplies, and the effect of import taxes, but when Coronavirus took hold in the UK our sales went through the roof.

“People were in lockdown, and we tailored a lot of merchandise around that, creating light-hearted bespoke cards and gifts – including mugs, pens, and balloons – which brought some light relief at a time when people really needed it.

“I even wrote a little lockdown-related ditty for a greeting card, and we ended up selling more than 25,000 of them – the response was phenomenal.”

Carly added: “From there we started to grow and diversify – into content marketing and digital advertising – and we have big plans for when we move into the new building. It’s a case of watch this space!”

Novelty candles manufactured and distributed by Lima Lima – named after the firm’s LL postcode – are among the items they are looking to introduce in the coming months.

“What was a big step for us both, starting our own company after years of paid employment, ended up being the best thing we ever did,” said James.

“Carly and I have so many ideas and are always thinking big, we are excited to relocate and to see how we can take Lima Lima to even greater heights.”

For more information, visit the website www.limalima.co.uk or email hello@limalima.co.uk.

Diversity award nomination for leading North Wales college

COLEG CAMBRIA has again been recognised for inclusion by a prestigious diversity organisation.

The north east Wales college is in the running for the National Centre for Diversity Award for Inclusive Learning Leadership at the Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Awards, to be held next Spring.

The Awards celebrate the best and most innovative practice among UK colleges each year.

The National Centre for Diversity accolade recognises and celebrates examples of institutions that champion and practice inclusive leadership – making people feel valued and treated fairly and respectfully.

Cambria’s Chief Executive Yana Williams said: “Diversity and inclusivity are of paramount importance to staff and learners at Cambria, as we look to foster a warm, welcoming environment with health, wellbeing, and support at its core.

“We are so pleased to again be finalists for a Beacon Award and representing the college on such an important stage.

“The support we provide for neurodivergent staff is both innovative and inclusive so to be recognised for that is an honour.”

Mark White OBE DL, Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust added: “The AoC Beacon Awards showcase exactly why colleges are so important to every community and why people value them.

“This award recognises and celebrates examples of colleges who champion and practice inclusive leadership.

“This is emerging as a unique and critical capability and the work of the finalists showcases how colleges can adapt to diverse and changing markets and nurture ideas and talent.”

Earlier this year, Cambria unveiled a two-year action plan focused on further improving community links, engaging learners and staff, and campaigning for a more equal and inclusive college for all.

Yana said: “The priority is to continue collaborating with our staff and student body to ensure we are providing equal, inclusive and ‘culturally intelligent’ services.   “Alongside stakeholders and key organisations across the region we want to keep delivering those high standards for coming generations.”

For more information on the AoC Beacon Awards, follow @nfcdiversity and @aoc_info on social media and use the hashtags #AoCBeacons and #LoveOurColleges.

Visit www.cambria.ac.uk for the latest news and information from Coleg Cambria.

College unveils wide range of part-time courses for workers and flexible learning

COLEG CAMBRIA has unveiled a wide range of part-time courses to be delivered across north east Wales from September. Flexible professional and training qualifications are available at Cambria sites in Wrexham, Deeside, Northop and Llysfasi, in addition to community facilities in the region. Designed to improve and enhance work skills and career development, applicants can study anything from printmaking and first aid at work, to cocktail making, floristry and dog grooming. Among the accrediting organisations working in partnership with the college are IOSH, Welsh Government, City and Guids, Lantra, CIPD, Prince2, and Learn Welsh. Principal Sue Price encouraged people in work or seeking a new opportunity to get in touch to find out more. “The breadth of part-time courses we have on offer demonstrate our close links with industry and some of the country’s leading awards bodies,” she said. “Whether you are employed and wanting to upskill or looking for a change in career, or you want to meet new people and learn something new, there is a course for everyone. “The flexibility of studying online and in person makes them easily accessible, wherever you are.” Mrs Price added: “We also provide adult and community learning as well as Skills for Adults courses in a range of subjects across our sites in Wrexham, Flintshire and Denbighshire, as well as community venues in those areas. “And there is also funding support available via a Personal Learning Account if you’re over 19 years old and living in Wales, in employment earning under £29,534 a year, or your job is at risk. “There are lots of avenues you can pursue with Coleg Cambria, the future starts here.” For more information, email enquiries@cambria.ac.uk or call 0300 30 30 007. Visit the website here for more on the part-time courses available: www.cambria.ac.uk/adult-and-professional-part-time-courses.

College apprentice blossoms in Snowdonia conservation role

AN APPRENTICE who appeared on a popular TV show is blossoming in her role with a leading conservation partnership.

Eleri Turner is enjoying life with Coleg Cambria and the Carneddau Landscape Partnership, a five-year National Heritage Lottery-funded scheme conserving an area of northern Snowdonia.

The 23 year-old has been working alongside National Trust Cymru Ranger Abbie Edwards, and the two of them – who both hail from Bethesda – featured in a recent episode of the flagship BBC programme, Countryfile.

Their work in clearing gorse around an Iron Age hut settlement reported to be 2,000 years old on nearby Moel Faban was watched by more than six million viewers.

Having secured another year with the Snowdonia National Park Authority, Eleri is excited at what the future will bring and thanked Cambria for its part in helping her realise her ambitions.

“It has been so enjoyable, especially as this area of Snowdonia is right on my doorstep,” said Eleri, a former pupil at Ysgol Tryfan, Bangor.

“I am looking forward to staying on with the conservation section and continuing in a further apprenticeship role, having completed the Level 2 Diploma in Work-based Environmental Conservation with the college.

“Due to the pandemic the majority of academic learning has been online, but I have found it very interesting, and an opportunity to document my own personal journey and the progress we have made.”

As a toddler, Eleri took her first steps on Moel Faban, as her mum brought her there to learn to walk!

From that point on her love of the outdoors was here to stay, and now there is only one thing she wants to do with her career.

“Growing up in the village I always imagined I would be living elsewhere after leaving school, but there is nowhere more beautiful to carry out work like this and nowhere I would rather be,” she said.

“Conservation is important to me, and of course this part of the world is very special, but I am also planning on taking a forest school qualification so I can help to teach children more about their surroundings and the environment.”

Reflecting on her Countryfile experience, Eleri added: “It was fantastic to be a part of the programme and quite exciting as I had to speak and was required to do some action shots with the presenter, showing them how to clear the gorse.

“The most important thing is it shone a light on this amazing project, which I’m proud to have been a part of.”

Cambria’s Work-based Learning Manager Kate Muddiman congratulated Eleri on her success and encouraged others to consider the option to “earn while you learn” on an apprenticeship.

“Eleri is a fantastic example of someone who is doing a job they love while balancing education and experience,” said Kate.

“She has done brilliantly well over the past year, and we wish her the best of luck for the future.”

Those words were echoed by Beca Roberts, Community Engagement Officer for Carneddau Landscape Partnership Scheme, who said: “Since starting with us last year Eleri has become an invaluable part of the Carneddau scheme team.

“Her duties have ranged from construction of a brand-new micro-nursery, to leading volunteer events, all done with confidence and professionalism.

“She’s willing to get stuck into any project with enthusiasm, to such an extent that she has been offered a role within the Snowdonia National Park Authority’s conservation team after finishing the apprenticeship.

“We’re so proud to see how far she’s come, and excited to see her career within the conservation sector develop.”

For more on the Carneddau Landscape Partnership Scheme, visit the website: www.snowdonia.gov.wales/looking-after/carneddau-partnership

Visit www.cambria.ac.uk for more on the wide range of apprenticeships, courses, and qualifications available at Coleg Cambria.

Management buyout and new owners for pioneering pet retail chain

A PIONEERING pet retailer is under new ownership and on the rise following a period of recruitment and investment.

Sion Pritchard and Paul Penketh, directors of Snowdon Holdings, are now majority shareholders of PetPlace having completed a management buyout (MBO).

The company has stores in Abergele, Ruthin, Mold, Llangefni and Chirk, and a headquarters on Tir Llwyd Enterprise Park in Kinmel Bay.

Both Paul and Sion, from Colwyn Heights, were already leading the North Wales business – supported by founder Gwyn Lewis – and are thrilled to be at the helm as PetPlace begins a new era.

With turnover exceeding £10m for the first time, plans to expand their 100-strong team with more sales and administrative staff and the potential to open further stores in the coming years, Sion says they are perfectly placed to grow further post-pandemic.

“The last two years have raised challenges but also given us the opportunity to advance the business in-store and behind the scenes,” said Sion.

“Everything is moving in the right direction, but we are looking at the future, which will eventually include further stores and more staff.

“Whatever happens, we will continue with our long-term and controlled approach and as always the pets and their owners are the number one for priority for everyone here.”

Among the biggest developments during Covid was the opening of a new dispatch warehouse to manage the growing number of online orders, and a popular loyalty app.

All a long way from the launch of Farm and Pet Place in 1970, which started from the back of a van and grew under Gwyn’s initial stewardship to become the region’s leading independent pet product retailer.

He is thrilled the organisation he founded will be in “safe hands” for the next generation and said: “I am excited to take a step aside and embrace this new era. Paul and Sion have so many wonderful ideas and will lead PetPlace to even greater heights, I’m sure.

“I am proud of them both and of course delighted to see PetPlace go from strength to strength after all these years – best of luck to you both.”

Paul added: “Both Sion and I are proud to have been part of the PetPlace family for a long time, so to now be taking it forward and building for the future is a huge privilege for us.

“There are many exciting developments on the horizon as we continue to evolve and have a positive impact on the local economy and the specialist pet retail sector – watch this space.”

For more information on PetPlace, including the PetPlace Plus+ loyalty app, follow @petplaceUK on Facebook and Instagram or email sales@farmandpetplace.co.uk. The app is available on platforms including Google Play and The App Store. 

Will construction derail the growth outlook, or is it just February blip?

Written by Kunal Sawhney, CEO, Kalkine

UK’s economic growth posted a sharp drop in the month of February; as per the Office for National Statistics (ONS), data, the economy expanded by 0.1 per cent compared with 0.8 per cent in January. While the Services, with a growth of 0.2 per cent became the prime contributor to the growth, production witnessed a decline of 0.6 per cent and construction, a fall of 0.1 per cent was the major drag on the Gross domestic product (GDP).

Construction and economic growth

Construction growth declined by 0.1 per cent from an increase of 1.6 per cent in January 2022. The decline in monthly construction output was led by a sharp fall of 0.5 per cent in repair and maintenance activities, while the new work also could not keep up with the pace and increased by a modest 0.1 per cent.

Construction activities during the month were also impacted by storms witnessed by the country from 16 to 21 February. Out of the nine sectors, six saw a decline, with infrastructure new work emerging as the major drag, falling for the sixth month in the last seven.

However, the positive thing is that construction output in February is now 1.1 per cent above its pre-coronavirus level. And for the three months period to February 2022, construction output has risen by 2.4 per cent, when compared with the prior three months of September to November 2021. On a quarterly basis, new work and repair and maintenance were the main contributors, while seven of the nine sectors saw an increase at the sector level. Private new housing and non-housing repair and maintenance let to the output growth for the three months to February.

What has been ailing the construction sector?

While many of the firms have termed storms Dudley, Eunice, and Franklin as the reason for the construction output decline during the month of February, as the projects were delayed due to loss of working days, there are reasons beyond that; smaller firms are still facing difficulty in sourcing construction products.

The UK has witnessed a huge rise in material costs in the last two years, which has now aggravated due to the record-high inflation and supply chain disruption due to the Russia-Ukraine war. As per the Materials Cost Index of Building Cost Information Service (BCIS), raw material cost for construction has almost trebled in 2022.

The covid-19 induced supply chain disruptions, which led to unprecedented shortages of raw materials, resulted in a sharp rise in prices, and complicated the Brexit situation. Labor shortages also evolved and pushed the already high cost of construction.

There has been a sudden increase in demand for commodities such as iron, copper, cement etc., amid soaring energy prices that have pushed up construction input prices, while the major construction firms are finding it difficult to pass through costs to consumers amid the rising inflation and cost of living crisis. The recent reports from International Construction costs, have put London on the top spot as the costliest city to build in.

The road ahead for the sector

There has been a decline in construction output during February; however, demand continues to be strong for the sector. Data from the ONS has shown that new orders in the construction industry grew by 9.2 per cent in the final quarter of 2021 (October to December) compared with the third quarter of 2021 (July to September). There has been a continued rise in total orders, with commercial projects keeping the momentum up for the sector. Though there is some decline in confidence about the growth outlook and caution creeping into spending decisions, the near-term outlook remains strong for the construction sector with robust demand in place and all sub-sectors recovering to above their pre-coronavirus level.

Pilot project vision to unify optometry services for future of eyecare in Wales

A UNIFIED approach to optometry will be the future of eye-care in Wales.

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board has been selected to pilot a new cluster programme focused on further strengthening primary eye care services nationally.

With more than 30 years’ experience in the sector, former Southeast Wales Regional Optical Committee Chair Ian Jones has been selected to lead the project, supported by fellow optometrist Danielle Mealing.

Funded by the Strategic Programme for Primary Care (SPPC), they will help realise the Welsh Government’s vision for a wholly clinical approach to eye care, providing more support closer to home and reducing unnecessary referrals to GPs and hospital emergency departments.

“For years we have worked closely with GPs and hospitals but there have been challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic has played a big part in accelerating the need for a more joined-up approach,” said Ian, a partner optometrist in a small independent group in the Rhondda and Vale of Glamorgan.

“We are already in discussions with colleagues and looking to move forward together with more signposting, collaboration, and a cohesive plan that benefits everybody, especially patients.

“As a profession, we are perfectly placed to do this and believe this is going to be the future for eye-care because we know there is a need – and an appetite – for optometry to integrate with other health professions and a great deal of Welsh Government support for this in partnership with local health boards and community groups.”

Ian added: “The pandemic has allowed us to be more innovative, widen our horizons and led to a natural amount of cross referral.

“An example of this was in putting independent prescribers within specialist practices, which made a tremendous saving. That system has been preserved, which demonstrates optometry can work within a cluster model.”

Ian said they will now look to harness interest and build momentum and engagement, garnering best practice and feedback from the optometry arena on next steps.

“We have recently introduced new technology which has been particularly valuable in remote and emergency situations in hard-to-reach areas, but the bigger picture is centred on widening the service overall,” he added.

“The clusters we have in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board area are a good mix of independent and corporate practices, engagement has been positive and because we know a lot of them personally there is a foundation to build on, with the aim of eventually rolling this approach out across Wales.

“The nature of our profession, especially in this area, is to rise up to the challenge, which reflects well on our industry and is the best way forward for the people under our care.

“Crucially, for me it’s about giving back, striving to try and improve things and recognising patients are the priority. We will work closely together for everybody’s benefit – that will be at the forefront of our thinking during this pilot scheme.”

Sali Davis, Chief Executive of Optometry Wales, welcomed Ian and Danielle to their ‘proof of concept’ roles and said they could provide the template for the way in which practices operate in the advent of contract reform.

“We will likely see mandated formations of optometric practices to form their own professional collaboratives and then feed into the wider primary care cluster in their area which will allow all practices to be involved in local pathways that are properly funded,” she added.

The pilot will be monitored and evaluated to harness lessons learned and will be reported on in 12 months’ time.

As part of the Welsh Government’s Help Us Help You campaign, NHS Wales is encouraging people to get to know the services available to them.

The way you access NHS services has changed but we are still here for you. Help Us Help You by getting to know the different ways you can access the NHS so you can get the right help at the right time by checking online using NHS 111 Wales. Every change you make will help us help you.

Visit www.cwmtafmorgannwg.wales for more news and information from Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board.

For more information on Optometry Wales, visit the website: www.optometrywales.org.uk.

Please use the hashtags #HelpuNiHelpuChi and #HelpUsHelpYou to support the Welsh Government’s Help Us, Help You campaign.

Welsh student success at national agriculture awards

THE dedication and drive of Animal Management students was rewarded at a national agriculture awards ceremony.

Coleg Cambria Llysfasi learners Emma Roberts and Caitlin Mann were among the finalists at this year’s Lantra Cymru Awards.

Emma, 22, from Llangollen, received the College Lifelong Learner of the Year Award.

Nineteen year-old Caitlin, also from Llangollen, was Highly Commended in the College Young Learner of the Year category.

Both former pupils of Ysgol Dinas Bran, they were delighted to be part of the event – held at The Metropole Hotel in Llandrindod Wells – and thanked Level 3 Animal Management tutor Alex Morgan for nominating them.

Emma, who plans to study Agriculture with Animal Science at university from September, has her heart set on becoming a teacher.

She said: “My mum and grandmother both grew up on dairy farms but I was unsure what career I wanted to do until spending some time on a farm doing work experience.

“I loved it and from that point knew I wanted to work in agriculture, particularly education.

“I look forward to seeing what the future brings and was really happy and surprised to win this award, it’s given me a huge confidence boost as I come to the end of my time at Cambria, which has been fantastic.”

Caitlin, who works at Llangollen Wharf and on a dairy farm, will return to Llysfasi next year to begin a Level 3 course in Agriculture.

She added: “I’ve never been nominated for an award before so that was lovely, and it was a great night.

“It has been a challenging time as over the last two years a lot of lessons were held online and we weren’t working, but luckily things are getting back to normal now and the college have been very supportive.

“I’m looking forward to coming back next year and beginning a new qualification, with my long-term aim to work in the dairy sector. The guidance and help I’ve had from the college is a big reason I’ve decided to return, and the fantastic lecturers we have here.”

Alex paid tribute to Emma and Caitlin for their diligence and dedication, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Both learners were nominated for the same principal reasons, they are very hard-working, dedicated and show a genuine interest in the industry,” she said.

“It’s been a very difficult couple of years, so it was a great privilege to have had an opportunity to nominate them and celebrate their fantastic achievements. Congratulations again to you both, your success is so well deserved.”

Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for Rural Affairs, North Wales and Trefnydd, added: “Each one of this year’s very worthy Lantra Cymru Awards winners and runners-up is, through their commitment to lifelong learning, making a valuable contribution to the modernisation and professionalism of the agriculture industry in Wales.

“Your collective efforts are helping our industry safeguard the future of family farms and rural communities for future generations. I want to congratulate all this year’s nominees and in particular, our very worthy winners.

“I wish you all well as you make your mark on agriculture in Wales and beyond – the future of our industry is in very safe hands.”

For more on the Lantra Cymru Awards, visit www.lantra.co.uk

Visit www.cambria.ac.uk for more on the wide range of courses and qualifications available at Coleg Cambria.

Brewery launches new beer to mark the beginning of spring

Black Sheep Brewery has announced the launch of its latest seasonal cask beer, Refresher – a brand new addition to their range available exclusively in April.

Described as a ‘fresh’ take on the classic British Blonde Ale, Black Sheep’s newest beer combines a blend of British hops to provide a sessionable, lightly-floral pint with a clean finish.

At 3.9%, Refresher offers cask beer lovers a light, fruity pint with layers of pulsating hop character. Complimented by radiant notes of citrus that breaks through the smooth, silky head of the pint, Refresher is truly the perfect embodiment of spring.

Refresher is the third beer to be launched as part of Black Sheep’s 2022 Seasonal Cask Beer Range – its biggest range yet – to mark the brewery’s upcoming 30th anniversary in September.

Jack Scott Paul, Brand & Communications Manager at Black Sheep Brewery, says: “We’re really excited to launch Refresher, just in time for the spring season. Refresher is our own, fresh take on the classic British blonde ale, and we know this one will be popular with both cask beer lovers and those looking to try a new kind of pint.”

“As the name suggests, it’s sure to offer perfect refreshment and judging by the recent weather, there’s no better time of year to launch this new beer.”

Back in March, Black Sheep relaunched its popular Black Sheep IPA for the first time in cask format, a beer inspired by their founder Paul Theakston as well as the pioneering brewers of USA who have made a bold stance against bland beer with the invention of daring, exciting IPA flavour combinations.

Despite cask beer being the ‘original craft beer’, the category has experienced a steady decline for several years due to changing consumer habits, the growth of other drinks categories, and pub closures as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

In response to this, Black Sheep Brewery recently launched its Drink Cask Beer campaign to grow the category as a whole and to encourage young people to move past misconceptions surrounding cask beer.

Jack continued: “We recently embarked on a mission at Black Sheep Brewery with a clear message for young people: Drink Cask Beer.

“We hope with the launch of Refresher, people will be encouraged to try cask, and enjoy one of our lighter, fruiter pints without hesitation. Who knows, it may even change your life.”

The Yorkshire brewery has committed to launching a new cask beer each month, as well as bringing back old favourites, available to on-trade customers in pubs across the country.

Students create wellbeing ‘Wildlife Corridor’ on North Wales college site

STUDENTS transformed a college site into a ‘wildlife corridor’ and wellbeing garden.

Traineeship learners, staff and members of the Construction Trainee Academy at Coleg Cambria Deeside began work on the 40 sq metre site in the autumn.

With the support of Keep Wales Tidy and their Local Places for Nature project, and sponsorship from local business Monkey Lady Corporate Wear, they have planted more than 100 trees, wildflowers, and meadows, 2000 native bulbs, shrubs and more.

The Construction cohort built wooden planters and the revamped patch also includes a greenhouse, seating areas, gravel paths, disabled access, bird feeders, hedgehog boxes and green spaces which can be used for peace and relaxation, outdoor lessons and as a conservation and composting area.

Employability Mentor and Curriculum Lead Paula Blundell praised the learners for their commitment to the five-year initiative: “They have worked so hard over past months to bring this together, it looks brilliant.

“In the coming weeks as Spring approaches I’m sure the garden and areas around the building will be awash with colour and bring a smile to people’s faces.

“As well as being a place to relax the wildlife corridor will be perfect for outdoor learning and there are opportunities for sustainable food production among other projects.

“We are delighted with the progress made and thank Keep Wales Tidy and Monkey Lady Corporate Wear for their generosity and support.”

Classroom Assistant Brian Valentine added: “The garden is a haven for the students, staff and visitors to the college to enjoy, with so much nature on our doorstep.

“It will be hugely beneficial as a learning tool but also for the conservation of wildlife, including hedgehogs and many types of birds that have already paid us a visit!”

The wildlife corridor also includes new fencing and fruit and vegetable patches, transforming the area and providing the learners with new skills.

Keep Wales Tidy Flintshire Project Officer Wendy Jones said: “We are delighted Coleg Cambria Deeside has made a real difference through our Local Places for Nature project.

“Creating the new garden will not only provide a space for nature but will offer food growing opportunities, ways to engage with the wider community and provide a new place for students, staff and visitors to enjoy.”

Visit www.cambria.ac.uk for the latest news and information from Coleg Cambria.

For more on Keep Wales Tidy projects and to support the organisation, visit the website: www.keepwalestidy.cymru