Dominating the business headlines in recent weeks have been stories of mass job losses, firms filing for administration and negative financial predictions as the country’s economy continues to suffer from the repercussions of the coronavirus crisis.
But even though there is a great deal of doom and gloom, many entrepreneurs have seen the lockdown as an opportunity – and the figures back that up.
It was reported earlier this month that almost 200,000 companies had been incorporated with Companies House since the country went into lockdown back in March to the end of June, with takeaways and hairdressers among the most popular type of businesses to have launched.
In Manchester, 4,014 new companies were registered – the UK’s highest figure per population, winning it the title of the “entrepreneur capital”.
Here, BusinessLive runs through a list of some of the businesses and initiatives that appear to be bucking the trend, and have launched in the North West since the lockdown:
This list is far from exhaustive – have you launched or do you plan to launch a business in the North West, and aren’t included here?
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A new axe-throwing venue has opened in Liverpool city centre.
Hatchet Harry’s opens this week on Gibraltar Row and hopes to bring a competitive league to the city in a bid to “stave off lockdown blues”.
Jack Beadle said: “It’s a strange time to be launching a business. Regardless we’re excited about it.. it is a funny time.
“We shouldn’t be doing what we’re doing… from the outside world it probably doesn’t look like it makes sense.”
However managing directors Jack, 32, and Richard Bridge, 32, are optimistic in the face of business worries and confident they can provide jobs for the city.
They also have faith people will enjoy the competitive social sport after being cooped up for three months.
Jack said: “I think the people we target are looking for stuff to do, they’re bored, coming out of lockdown, they’re sick of being locked up.
“They’re quite happy to go to bars, go to leisure and enjoy themselves again after being cooped up for three months, some with 80% pay and nothing to spend it on.
“No holidays this year, so they’re looking for stuff to do in the UK.”
Higher Ground was a new Manchester restaurant that had had its doors open for only a matter of weeks when it was ordered by the government to close them again.
Taking over an old security cabin on stilts just across the water from Canal Street, it was an exciting and promising concept championing British produce and natural wines.
The duo behind Higher Ground at Kampus – Joseph Otway and Richard Cossins – met four years ago and have had the vision for the restaurant ever since.
Richard moved from New York to work on it. He said: “Our timelines finally aligned, and then this happened. But you can’t plan for things like these, so we’re trying not to get too hung up on it.”
Jayne Kennedy Marketing
An award-winning Merseyside marketeer has launched her own business helping other firms align their strategies with their goals.
Wirral-based Jayne Kennedy will provide outsourced marketing support for businesses ranging from waste management to retail, with her freelance venture Jayne Kennedy Marketing.
Jayne said: “Creating a marketing strategy to communicate that a business is open, including any changes to the way in which a particular business is operating due to Covid Secure Government guidelines, is not only essential, it’s an opportunity to expand the reach of the potential customer base at this time.
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“I’ve worked with many businesses across the Liverpool City Region and am looking to welcome like-minded business leaders wanting some marketing communications and PR support.
“With over 18 years’ experience, I’m well connected and can maximise both digital and traditional marketing plans to maximise the return on their marketing investment.”
Low Season Traveller
Low Season Traveller has been launched by Mancunian Ged Brown with the aim of inspiring people to visit worldwide destinations during their ‘low seasons’ – claiming to be the first of its type.
Ged, who has 25 years’ experience in the global travel industry, said the launch has been timed to start the “rebirth” of the worldwide travel industry following the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said: “For the past two years, myself and the team have been working on this project with partners across the global leisure industry including tourism organisations, hotels, transport and visitor attractions.
“We are convinced that there is a real gap in the market for low season travel and the recent pandemic has only endorsed our view further.”
Another travel firm, this time called, Trending Travel was launched during the lockdown by Keith Herman alongside co-founder, Sophie Foster.
Trending Travel sells package holidays with a focus on sending celebrities and influencers along to endorse the destinations.
Keith, CEO of Trending Travel, said the firm has already sent celebrities to endorse locations, including Love Island’s Jessica Shears and Dom Lever, Strictly Come Dancing’s Saffron Barker, model Felicity Hayward and actor Emma Barton.
He said: “We use our knowledge of travel and some very special contacts within the celeb and influencer world to create what the public want. People can now follow their favourite stars and we can give them the opportunity to enjoy the same experiences. We’ve made our website an engaging and cool place to come, not simply a place to buy a flight or a hotel.”
A new website and app for beauty providers and clients looking to make and take appointments 24/7 in North West has been launched.
JustMe is the brainchild of Fabiana Bolster, who wanted to find a solution to “constantly” booking appointments for her four daughters and not getting an answer over the phone.
It comes as work is on hold to complete her new beauty location due to the pandemic, and she has teamed up with her daughters Luana and Lorena.
Wigan-based Fabiana said: “My girls love their treatments and I love that they are interested to keep their skin, hair and bodies in top notch condition and it certainly contributes to a healthy state of mind in our family.
“We are very aware that there is a market for this kind of ‘at home’ service as well as in salons and the JustMe website and app lets those in the world of beauty, hair and the aesthetics business, take control of their time with a free and simple upload to the JustMe website. It’s a great opportunity to showcase their skills widely with our additional marketing support, get reviews from clients and take bookings 24/7.”
Next Level Strength and Fitness
A personal trainer fulfilled his long-held ambition to open his own gym against the backdrop of Covid-19.
Damien Ghafoor, 34, has worked as a personal trainer in Rochdale for the last three years and says he has dreamed of running his own training facility since his teenage years.
But towards the end of 2019 he joined forces with friends and now business partners Leroy Robinson and Debbie Atkinson to launch a new venture.
The trio are now set to open their new fitness centre, Next Level Strength and Fitness, on Monday July 27, two days after government lockdown easings allow the reopening of gyms.
Damien said: “Ever since I was a teenager I’ve wanted to own and run my very own sporting facility. I wanted somewhere that people can come to and enjoy exercising and be around like-minded people.
“We want to make people feel part of a family. A place where people don’t only rely on me to motivate them but know that when they turn up, others within the group will also help to get them over the white line.”
Former Liverpool secondary school teacher Kirsty Maher this month launched a new private tuition centre in North Liverpool.
MagiKats is an educational franchise offering maths and English tuition to school children in small group workshops.
The workshops will include a mix of teaching and practical work with all the work adapted to suit each child.
Kirsty, from Netherton, said: “I had always wanted to work with children.
“I found MagiKats online and I was particularly impressed with the way the tuition is conducted using multi-sensory teaching methods, which I know from my own experience as a teacher, is one of the best ways pupils can learn.
“Starting a business is a daunting experience and yet I felt I would be really supported and helped to succeed which was important.
“I am committed to helping children achieve and meet their potential and my drive to provide this to my customers means that they can expect high standards of tuition from a reputable franchise.”
A luxury cruise firm has launched in Bolton creating 100 jobs for the sector and hoping to become top of the industry by 2025.
Panache Cruises, launched amid a global pandemic that hit the industry harder than most, has been established by local businessman James Cole, who has over 20 years in the sector – and is behind brands including Cruise118, Six Star Cruises and River Voyages.
The firm will initially employ a team of 15 in the North West, with the intention of creating over 100 jobs over the coming years.
James said: “The key question I am asked at the moment is why launch during this pandemic, when there are no cruise ships sailing?
“My response is that it’s not about what’s happening today, it’s about what will be happening in three, five or ten years from now, at which time the cruise industry will be bigger, more innovative and even better than it’s ever been.”
A brand new football app, created in Liverpool and billed as the “ultimate app for football fans” has been launched.
FANoty, created by Dijon Moore in partnership with city app design firm Apposing, is already proving a hit with fans of the beautiful game and is being embraced by clubs including Sheffield United and Norwich City.
The app, which was inspired by the “football banter” Dijon heard during the time he spent working as a Liverpool barman, combines a fantasy football element as well as news updates, quizzes and other interactive activity.
Unlike other fantasy football apps, users of FANoty, adopt their own teams and can compete against fans from other clubs.
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Dijon, from Allerton, said: “Liverpool is the football capital of the world. People in the city love it and it is always the subject of heated conversations or banter.
“Working in Liverpool bars I heard this all the time, people are incredibly passionate about the sport. This was my inspiration – I wanted to create an app that people who live and breathe football will enjoy.
“FANoty isn’t like other football apps. Yes there is the fantasy football element but users stick to their own team and can compete against fans of other clubs. So if you’re a Liverpool fan, you’ll manage your team and compete against friends who are Everton fans for example.
“I genuinely believe FANoty offers lovers of the game a more real and live action experience that other apps fail in. We’ve got big ambitions for it.”
Care For You
A retired Bolton bus driver who has designed a new medical gel cool pack to help alleviate pain for injured patients has turned his efforts to manufacturing an affordable and high-quality sanitiser for use in local hospitals.
Colin Lowe, 61, was in the final stages of establishing his new business ‘Ease for You’ when Covid-19 began to spread across the country. His original product – a non-solidifying freezable gel – has been in development for more than a decade after Colin experienced a back injury in 2009 and wanted to find a better alternative to frozen peas and ice packs.
Using only three ingredients, Colin’s product has been developed with academic support from Professor Mohsen Miraftab and a team of researchers and medics at the University of Bolton, thanks to an introduction via GC Business Growth Hub.
Colin said: “It broke my heart seeing footage of nurses and care home workers crying because of the lack of provisions and the pressures they faced earlier this year. After seeing the cost of sanitiser triple in some cases as a result of coronavirus, I decided I had to do my bit and help out. It’s been a pleasure to bring together a team of experts who have helped me to tweak my original product concept and create a lower cost but high grade sanitiser option for medical services.”
Jerk an Juice
A Liverpool chef who opened a business in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic said “it is actually the best time” and has high hopes for the future.
Jerk an Juice, a takeaway restaurant on Windsor Street in Toxteth which serves African Caribbean fusion food and fresh juices, opened its doors on Monday.
Chef John Sheen only got the keys to the former Cafe Loco a few days before he decided to open but wanted to move quickly to “do something positive” for his local area.
He said: “We literally just rushed it open because people aren’t feeling good and we wanted to do something positive in the area.
“My partner Kelly works a few doors up in the hairdressers Gem’s, but they’re shut at the moment and she’s been helping me out.”
A customer experience expert has launched a management consultancy business to help bosses looking to navigate through troubled times after the Covid-19 lockdown.
Sam Johnson-Cuthell has set up Coração Consulting to support business leaders looking to create “worthwhile customer and employee experiences” to transform their company performance.
Sam, who lives in Sandymoor, Cheshire, has more than 20 years’ experience in business management developing customer experience strategies, leading cultural transformation programmes, delivering training and coaching.
She said: “I love engaging with people both internally and externally, gathering feedback and insight, sharing ideas and coming up with innovative solutions that will really transform businesses and people’s lives.
“The world has changed beyond recognition due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Through Coração Consulting I will help business leaders shape a stronger future in the recovery process and beyond.
A company making 100% plastic-free, 100% biodegradable baby wipes, available in flushable and non-flushable versions was launched on Father’s Day.
Cheshire firm Pura said its ambition is to create products that help families “care for their baby now, while also caring for their future”.
The firm was founded by Guy and Abi Fennell who wanted to shake up the baby care market and “make eco affordable for all”.
Pura also announced Diversity star Ashley Banjo, a new father himself, as its first brand ambassador.
Pura co-founder Guy said: “We’re delighted to welcome Ashley to the Pura family. Like myself and Abi, he wants to motivate change and in doing so, leave the right legacy for our children.
“We would love to see everyone make the switch from plastic to plastic-free wipes. At Pura, we are working hard to make that happen.”
A new search agency has been launched hoping to reveal how audiences are really behaving online.
Led by search expert, Jack Smithson, Vine Insights says it will take a “fresh approach” to helping brands stay relevant and connected to customers.
Based in London and Manchester, the “next generation” search agency focuses on rooting out customer needs and human behaviours to give communications strategies the edge.
Jack is a former content director at London agency, Curated, where he worked with brands including Specsavers, Essilor and Travis Perkins.
He said: “Our vision is to create a straight-talking agency that cuts out the jargon and focusses on real-life insights and the non-filtered picture.
“Too often, brands are led by the insta-version of what audiences want to project, rather than the reality. Within search, people have the freedom to be vulnerable, the ability to be educated and the desire to buy, all without judgement.
“If brands can understand the emotive triggers behind searches relevant to their products and services, they can create content that audiences want to see and engage with. It’s as simple as that.”
Natalie Reeves Billing
Book signings and launch events may be on pause, but one Liverpool author is forging ahead with the launch of her debut children’s book.
Toxteth-born author and social entrepreneur, Natalie Reeves Billing, released her debut children’s book in the midst of lockdown, back in May.
‘My Mummy Is A Monster’ is the first in the ‘Monstrous Me’ collection, which have a back-to-back parent and child version format, which she hopes will help struggling families better communicate through the coronavirus crisis and beyond.
The series comes off the back of Natalie’s work as a social entrepreneur and owner of Split Perspectivz, a project which encourages school children from under-privileged areas of Liverpool to use storytelling as a way of therapy and to better understand family dynamics.
She said: “It’s been a very tough time for a lot of families trying to balance working from home, home schooling, exercise, entertainment and general day to day living.
“A lot of parents have probably felt like monsters at one time or another over the last six weeks and I’m sure they’ve thought the same about their kids.
“It’s hoped that this book is a way to bring families together and get them to see things from both perspectives and hopefully make the rest of lockdown that bit easier to understand. After all, people need creativity, books and quality time, now, more than ever.”
A new business has been set up by Liverpool fans celebrating ‘Scouse Power’ and LFC’s famous title win, selling various t-shirts.
The firm has been promoting itself on Twitter, and can be found at:
The ‘Shaping Your Future’ programme
A Liverpool entrepreneur has launched the ‘first of its kind’ workshop for special educational-needs high school students who want to find their path in life or set up their own business.
Francesca Manca, founder of marketing firm Underwing, has created the ‘Shaping Your Future’ programme.
The sessions are for students with autism or special educational needs who are about to leave high school but don’t know whether higher education is for them, or have a business idea and need help turning it into a money-making business or job.
Francesca came up with the idea because as a SEN mum she experiences first-hand the lack of services and help in picking a higher education path or a career for people with special needs.
She said: “My mission in life is to help people with special needs to go from a career/job where they are stressed, angered, overwhelmed, into a job/career they can do with passion, purpose and excitement.
“I can help special needs professionals change their job/career into one that doesn’t involve coping with stress and burnout and is, instead, fulfilling and passionate.
“I help my clients eliminate the stress and anger of working in the wrong environment, and achieve their dream business or job in eight weeks.
“So I figured that I could bring this work one step forward, and actually help who could be a future stressed out client pick the right path from the beginning.”
It may not be new to Merseyside or the UK but discount store One Below opened its first Liverpool city centre store on July 3.
Created by the original founders of Poundworld Retail, the new bargain store will be located at the former Poundland store in the St John’s Shopping Centre, creating 30 new local retail jobs, adding to its Bootle and Kirby stores.
Managing director of One Below Retail, Christopher Edwards, said: “We’re delighted to be opening a new store in Liverpool.
“Now more than ever, when times are financially tighter for so many families, we are proud to be offering incredible savings on hundreds of shopping essentials and big brand items.”
An online value shoe brand has opened six new UK stores this month after it reported a “surge” in sales during lockdown.
Shoeaholics will open the pop-up shops across the country with the first launch having already taken place.
It represents a £500,000 investment in the high street with demand for value, designer shoes and trainers at an “all-time high”.
The six new stores include one at Cheshire Oaks which opened to the public on July 9.