Colors: Purple Color

Applications are now live on the Black Country Business Festival website for anyone who wishes to run an event in the nine-day programme. Anyone can apply – events can be about anything and be run in any format, as long as they contribute positively to the business community and champion innovation, creation and culture.


The Black Country Business Festival will take place on the 11 May – 21 May, it is run in partnership with the Black Country Chamber of Commerce and is managed by Associate Events. The 2020 Festival will celebrate it’s third consecutive year and is the region’s largest business showcase. Events must highlight the region’s diverse investment prospects.


It is also a unique opportunity for local businesses and companies to engage with potential customers, demonstrate skills and build a client database. It is free to host an event and the Festival works with a variety of venue partners, who offer up building space and rooms to businesses.


Corin Crane, chief executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce said, “One of the Chamber’s main functions is to introduce businesses and companies to new  business platforms and encourage partnerships and collaboration. The Business Festival is one of the ways we manage to do this, business is done better together.


“The Festival has seen tremendous appreciation and interest from people and companies within the Black Country and we are very excited to see what this year holds. I would encourage businesses to host events this year, as the Festival only seems to get bigger and better!”

A new awards programme has launched in the West Midlands and is on the lookout for the region’s most inspiring property professionals who have made a significant positive contribution to the built environment and communities, making them highly deserving of a new Lifetime Achiever accolade.

RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) – a leading professional standards body for those who work in land, property and construction – is seeking entries for the national Lifetime Achiever title as part of its new Social Impact Awards which celebrate the positive contribution the built environment has on people’s lives for the first time.

Nominees for the Lifetime Achiever award will be judged across strict criteria, including how their professional advice has helped to change lives, transform communities and positively impact the environment. RICS Judges will also be looking for evidence of how candidates – of all ages and backgrounds - have embraced innovation, creativity, new approaches and technology to help deliver smarter built projects and initiatives that are having a positive impact on society.

Matthew Howell, RICS Managing Director, UK & Ireland said: “We’re delighted to have launched a new Lifetime Achiever accolade as part of our newly refreshed annual awards programme. Chartered Surveyors play a vital role in creating and maintaining our built environment to ensure it has a positive impact on communities and people’s lives, so this award will recognise and celebrate the champions in our industry who are making a remarkable difference to society.”

The esteemed title will be presented to the winner at the RICS Social Impact Awards Grand Final held in November 2020, where the project category winners from the West Midlands’ regional heat will go head-to-head against other regional winners – from all 12 UK regions - to compete for the national accolade in their respective category.

Nominations for the Lifetime Achiever are free to enter via and can be submitted by co-workers, former colleagues or candidates themselves (providing they are RICS accredited).

The deadline to apply is 31 January 2020.

Project category entries for the 2020 RICS Social Impact Awards, West Midlands - which include; Commercial, Education, Healthcare, Heritage, Infrastructure, Land & Rural, Leisure, Residential and Student Accommodation – must also be submitted by 31 January.

The regional ceremony will be held in April 2020.

New job market data has revealed a downward spiral for the retail sector, with available vacancies in the retail sector plummeting by -25% in the last 12 months.

According to data from Adzuna, a leading job search engine, the retail industry has lost a quarter of all vacancies in the past 12 months (a loss of 7,298 jobs) with a -13% decrease of jobs month-on-month. August 2019 shows the largest month-on-month decrease since May 2017.

Splitting this loss out into different roles, the data reveals vacancies for management positions in retail have fallen by 30% compared to this time last year, with vacancies for retail apprentices dropping by 55% and retail operatives dropping by 23%.

The average salary across the industry (£26,284 pa), has only seen a 0.7% increase in the last three years, despite the average inflation rate being 2.62%¹. The current average sits 23% below the national average of £34,164.

The top five companies hiring for retail jobs in the UK are:

1. Tesco - 1,275 jobs 2. Dixons Carphone - 952 jobs 3. Halfords - 401 jobs 4. Greggs - 351 jobs 5. Sainsbury’s - 334 jobs

The data also looked at the job market at a whole, revealing that across all industries, the North East of England saw the biggest loss in job vacancies (-46.3% year on year) in the last 12 months.

The table below shows the cities with the biggest decrease in job vacancies since 2018:

Jul-18 Aug-19 % 12m vacancy change 1,121,754 1,005,603 -11.6%

Eastern England 108,748 93,123 -15.5% East Midlands 61,239 52,383 -14.2% London 251,977 240,049 -6.7% North East England 26,279 15,716 -46.3% North West England 98,059 87,516 -12.1% Northern Ireland 10,274 8,619 -13.2% Scotland 45,633 40,272 -10.7% South East England 183,524 162,507 -12.2% South West England 88,408 78,275 -11.2% Wales 22,288 20,904 -7.6% West Midlands 82,469 69,672 -16.3% Yorkshire and The Humber 56,656 58,615 6.6%

Doug Monro, co-founder of Adzuna, comments: “The possibility of a no deal Brexit continues to unsettle the job market. We have seen the biggest annual decline in vacancies in almost three years, with the retail sector taking one of the biggest hits.

“The recent Thomas Cook closure has definitely highlighted the struggle that bricks and mortar businesses are facing in the age of online shopping and our data shows that there is cause for concern. The retail industry in particular is showing little to no signs of recovery, following the closure of several high profile retailers. The threat of online shopping, automation and Brexit means it will be a difficult flight back for this industry and we anticipate we’ll see the high street continue to struggle in the coming years.

“Aside from retail, the number of available roles in construction is also plummeting. These two sectors combined are often an indicator of what direction our economy is heading in, so these figures aren’t promising.”

Chiswick Auctions is offering six of the most important Chinese paintings ever to come on to the market. From the Imperial collection, the paintings were believed to be lost until now, when they were identified by Lazarus Halstead, Head of Asian Art at Chiswick Auctions, as the original works.

The set of six ‘chicken’ paintings were in the private collection of the most powerful Chinese Emperor to ever have lived. The Kangxi Emperor (1654-1722) was the fourth Emperor of the Qing dynasty and the second Qing emperor to rule over China. His reign spanned 61 years, making him the longest-reigning emperor in Chinese history and one of the longest-reigning rulers in the world.

The Emperor commissioned the esteemed court artist Jiang Tingxi (1669–1732), to create the works, which were missing from the Imperial Collection, until now.

Speaking about the discovery, Asian art specialist Lazarus Halstead, said: “This is a really exciting discovery and a true treasure, which transports the viewer one step closer to the Kangxi emperor himself, who together with his grandson, the Qianlong emperor, held these works in the highest esteem.”

The Emperor’s interest spanned mathematics, sciences, astronomy, music, geometry, physics, botany and zoology, as well as art in China and the West. It is this, combined interest in science and art that led him to commission a Compendium of Birds from the leading court artist, depicting 360 different species, including the six chicken paintings in the upcoming sale.

The chicken is considered a symbol of fidelity and punctuality in Chinese culture and is one of the twelve Chinese zodiac animals. The chickens depicted in this set are therefore painted as part of an encyclopaedic natural history project, rather than for purely decorative purposes, making the paintings historically important and completely unique.

The project was considered so important at the time that Kangxi’s grandson, the Qianlong Emperor, commissioned a detailed copy of the album to be made, by the Imperial Court artists Zhang Weibang (張維邦, 1725 – 1775) and Yu Sheng (余省, 1692 – 1767). This later version is considered one of the great treasures of the Palace Museum in Beijing and the complete album was lavishly reproduced in hardback and published as ‘Classics of the Forbidden City: Catalog of Birds Collected in the Qing Palace’ in 2014.

The original Jiang Tingxi set had been missing from the Imperial Collection, with its whereabouts unknown, until now. A careful comparison of the present versions with those in the Palace collection reveals that the Palace copies are derivative and the current works are vastly superior in quality, brushwork and details.

Only a limited number of album leaves from the original set have ever come on to the market and a set of six works is exceptionally rare. Another album by the Imperial artist Jiang Tingxi (1669 – 1732) sold for 173 million RMB ($25 million USD) in 2016, to legendary collector Liu Yiqian and has since been exhibited at the Long Museum in Shanghai. The works were formerly in the collection of Charles Blair, a tea planter in Ceylon.

They are estimated to fetch £20,000 – £30,000 when they are offered in the Fine Chinese Paintings sale at Chiswick Auctions Asian Art sale on November 11, 2019.

Lot 20. Jiang Tingxi (1669 – 1732), Chickens, ink and colour on silk, six album leaves framed. 40 x 41cm. Provenance: from the collection of Charles Blair (1856-after 1943), tea planter in Ceylon. Estimate: £20,000 – 30,000

Business leaders across the West Midlands are urging employers to reduce their exposure to risk in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

A report, based on responses to the Business Brexit Health Check, has been designed to produce bespoke information for businesses, highlighting areas of their operations that are exposed to Brexit-related change, tips on preparing and information on support available.

This Saturday (31 August) marks two months until the Brexit deadline of 31 October. Unless an alternative is agreed, such as a further extension to negotiations, a no-deal Brexit is the default outcome.

The ‘Business Brexit Health Check’ is delivered by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC), Black Country Chamber of Commerce (BCCC) and Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce (C&WCC).

Analysis of responses to the Health Check between 28 May and 31 July 2019 revealed that businesses selected an average of eight areas where they could be impacted by Brexit. However, only 52 per cent reported discussing the potential implications of Brexit at board and senior management level and only 38 per cent report having undertaken a thorough Brexit risk assessment on their operations.

Key findings include:

• Manufacturers scored higher on the Brexit readiness Index, indicating that they believe they have undertaken slightly more in-depth preparations than services sector firms. • However, manufacturers scored between a 3.4 and 2.5 out of a possible 5 on the Brexit Readiness Index indicating that they do not feel “significantly” prepared for Brexit. • Manufacturing sector firms were exposed to Brexit-related change in more than twice as many areas as services sector firms. • Over a quarter of manufacturing sector firms export services to the EU and a quarter of services sector firms buy goods from the EU. • Over a third of all firms report exporting goods or services to one or more of the c.50 nations that the EU has existing trade agreements with. • Across each of the most frequently reported areas, manufacturers are significantly more likely to have taken steps to prepare for Brexit than services sector firms. • Over four fifths of manufacturers report buying goods from EU nations and over three quarters report selling goods to EU nations. While a high proportion of manufacturers say they have undertaken a thorough Brexit risk assessment or reviewed their major suppliers and/or customers, a lower proportion report having adapted import and/or export strategies. • While almost a third of services and over half of manufacturing sector firms report employing EU nationals, just over one in ten services and over a third of manufacturing firms say they have undertaken proactive communication and engagement with key groups – including employees.

Paul Faulkner, CEO, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce said: “It’s clear from these results that there are a lot of firms that could be impacted by a no-deal Brexit who aren’t yet taking practical steps to prepare.

“While we will continue to lobby against a chaotic Brexit, it makes good business sense for all employers to ‘take a look under the hood’ of their business, identify any potential risks arising from a no deal Brexit and take steps to reduce their exposure to those risks.

“Many businesses are put off starting to prepare by thinking it’s going to be overly time-consuming and complicated. That’s why we created the Business Brexit Health Check, to make it as quick and easy as possible for businesses to get the information they need on how they might be affected and what they can do about it.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and the former CEO of John Lewis, said “The West Midlands is the exporting and advanced manufacturing heartland of the UK and our economy is growing as fast as any other region.

“That means we rely heavily on importing materials and exporting products and that makes us more vulnerable to a no deal or disorderly Brexit than other parts of the country.

“With that in mind it is vital that, with the clock ticking towards October 31, businesses across the region are prepared in the event of a no deal.

“To help with this preparation, I would urge companies to take advantage of the practical help and support offered by the Business Brexit Health Check if they haven’t done so already.”

Corin Crane, CEO, Black Country Chamber of Commerce: “We know from conversations with our members that Brexit preparedness varies across sectors and businesses in the Black Country. What we can see from the latest data is that manufacturers have taken slightly more in-depth preparations than those in the service sector but are still not ‘significantly’ well prepared.

“This is clearly due to manufacturing respondents being twice as exposed to Brexit-related change. We know that the West Midlands has an EU-born manufacturing workforce of just under 15% and that our top 10 export destinations are filled with EU countries, so there is an urgent call for clarity for manufacturers in the West Midlands.

“Working with our partner Chambers in the West Midlands, we will continue to promote our Brexit Health Check and ensure that businesses across the region understand how we can support them.”

Louise Bennett, chief executive of Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Whilst it is encouraging that manufacturers are more advanced in their Brexit preparations, we know that there is still a long way to go, particularly given the exposure of such firms to Brexit-related changes.

“The latest results emphasise more than ever the importance of planning for Brexit, particularly for Coventry and Warwickshire and the wider West Midlands with our proud manufacturing heritage.

“The volume of trade with the EU and countries with which we have trade agreements through our EU membership shows how important it is that government heed our call to avoid a messy and disorderly Brexit.”

Keisha Knight Pulliam and Arian Simone have launched thFearless Fund, which invests in women of colour-led businesses seeking pre-seed, seed level, or Series A funding.

Their mission is to bridge the gap in venture capital funding for women of colour founders who are building scalable, growth aggressive companies.

Actress and entrepreneur Keshia, best known for her childhood role as Rudy Huxtable, the youngest child of Cliff and Clair Huxtabl, is the Founder of a spice line called Keshia's Kitchen, the ‘Kandidly Keshia’ podcast, and a non-profit called ‘The Kamp Kizzy Foundation’.

Serial entrepreneur, philanthropist, angel investor, and marketing expert Arian who built up a PR firm from nothing that has worked on Sony and Universal films like Ride Along, Limitless, Hancock, and Quantum of Solace, is also the best-selling author of several books including ‘Fearless Faith + Hustle: 21 Day Devotional Journey’ and ‘My Fabulous & Fearless Journey’.

Since its recent initiation, the Fearless Fund has hosted pitch competitions at Facebook Headquarters & Spanx Headquarters with brand partners such as Coca-Cola, UrbanSkinRX, Bumble and more. Early investors in the fund include actress and producer, Marsai Martin (Black-ish), Atlanta OBGYN, Dr. Jacqueline Waters (Married to Medicine), Chattanooga VC fund, The JumpFund, and other notable individual and institutional investors.

With a proven track record of moulding successful start-ups and building an expansive network of top entertainers and business leaders, the Fearless Fund team is more than a source of capital infusion for the companies they invest in. In addition to a robust mentor program, the team is leveraging their network to build out an optional Celebrity Equity-Based Endorsement program for their portfolio companies. This program aims to quickly scale companies by connecting them with celebrities for influencer marketing campaigns.

Fearless Fund is proof that women of colour are founding and growing businesses that drive strong returns for their investors while multiplying the number of women of colour who are investors.

On the eve of the recent ICC World Cup match between India v. England match at Edgbaston, a reception was hosted by the Consul General of India, Birmingham at the residence.

The event was hosted on behalf of Her Excellency Mrs. Ruchi Ghanashyam High Commissioner of India to UK.

Among the dignitaries who attended included: Mr. Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, Hon’ble Minister of Sports & Youth Services & NRI Affairs Minister, Government of Punjab, His Excellency Sir Dominic Asquith KCMG High Commissioner of UK to India, along with Member of European Parliament, Ms. Neena Gill, Member of House of Lords, Lord Mike Whitby, Deputy Director, Trade and Innovation, British High Commission, Mr. Amo Kalar, and representatives of the Department of International Trade (DIT).

More than 80 people representing different business communities, organizations and academics joined the evening. The event was aimed at strengthening the India -UK business relationship, as DIT had organised several business events on the sidelines of the World Cup matches.

Farokh Engineer, well known former Indian cricketer, moderated the evening and shared his unique experiences from the world of cricket. Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi gave his overview on how cricket connects communities, and sets a beautiful example of ‘Living Bridge’.

He also complimented the British Indian community for bringing the two countries closer. High Commissioner Mrs. Ruchi Ghanashyam and High Commissioner Sir Dominic Asquith spoke about the upcoming matches, and underlined how cricket strengthens connectivity creating new avenues for business and trade opportunities which in turn bring Nations together.

The evening continued with the ‘cricket-cake’ cutting ceremony by both the High Commissioners, which was well appreciated by the honored guests.

The reception concluded with mesmerizing performances by renowned melodious singer Malkit Singh accompanied by Dhol Blasters supremo, Gurcharan Mall, who was joined by Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh to uplift the grandeur of the event.

The reception provided an ideal platform to share and strengthen the business and cultural relationships between India and UK.

One of the leaders of Westside Business Improvement District (BID) plans to throw himself out of a plane to help raise £25,000 for charity.

Saqib Bhatti, a director and company secretary of the BID, will be jumping from a plane at 15,000-feet on 28 June to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK.

Saqib, who’s also president of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, planned the skydive after Chamber chairman David Waller and past president Greg Lowson were both diagnosed with – and successfully overcame – prostate cancer.

He has convinced six other brave souls to join him: entrepreneur Joel Blake; marketing executive Sophie Drake, recruitment specialist Leanne Perry, Professor Martin Levermore, and bank managers Rebekkah Tait and Felix Peter-Thomas.

Mr Bhatti, whose day job is a director at Younis Bhatti & Co. Chartered Accountants, said: “I had this crazy idea and now that idea is becoming a reality.

“I am putting my life on the line to raise awareness so all those men who have suffered or who will suffer know that they aren’t alone.

“Two of our board members at Chamber were diagnosed with prostate cancer and were able to get treated. We’re a bit like a family here at the Chamber, and I felt I had to do something.

“Also, when you speak to people, more and more start speaking of loved ones who have suffered from prostate cancer. It’s one of the biggest killers of men in the UK, yet it’s not spoken enough and there is a taboo around getting yourself checked out.

“It’s really easy to do and is a simple blood test. Catching it early means you can treat it and the chances of survival are higher. This is one of those cancers that is beatable in the next 10-15 years. We just need to raise awareness and do the relevant research.”

Ahead of the big jump in Oxfordshire, which coincides with the Lord Mayor of Birmingham’s ‘Giving Day’ on 28 June, Saqib visited the state-of-the-art Bear Grylls Adventure at the NEC for a trial run in their iFly simulator.

He and his intrepid team have already raised more than half their £25,000.

With climate change high on the news agenda, and reports showing that there has been a 53% reduction in single use plastic in the last year*, we are more mindful of our energy consumption and contribution to the carbon footprint than ever before. But what steps are UK businesses taking to become more eco-friendly?

Whether you are already making steps to become a zero waste office, or are a startup that wants to play its part in reducing emissions, the UK’s biggest independent tech retailer Ebuyer has five top tips on simple changes every office can introduce to create a greener office.

Be mindful of paper use

Excessive paper use is something that most offices will be guilty of, but is one of the quickest changes to implement. It is becoming more common for offices to implement a zero printing policy to keep the paper waste down, but asking employees to be mindful of what they are printing and reserving it for important documents only should see a drastic reduction in the amount of paper used each week.

Another easy way to reduce paper consumption is by ensuring employees are not printing personal documents in the workplace - recent research conducted by Ebuyer found that over three-quarters (77%) of office workers regularly print personal documents while at work, with an average of thirteen pages being printed per person, per month - a substantial amount of paper use that can easily be avoided.

Update the recycling options

Recycling isn’t just for the home, and offices should be set up to let workers easily recycle - whether that be plastic bottles from a lunchtime meal deal, to completed documents that are ready to be shredded. Setting up seperate bins in communal places such as kitchens and near printers will encourage employees to think about what they are throwing away. For workplaces where workers can make their own lunch, providing employees with cutlery, plates and mugs will help reduce the amount of single use plastic that needs to be thrown away each week.    

Update your technology

Technology is a necessity for many businesses, but simple changes to technology and habits can reduce your carbon footprint. New computers and monitors are more energy efficient than machines that are a few years old, so ensure you are monitoring this and replacing where necessary. If your technology is being updated, many businesses now offer the option to safely recycle your old appliances in line with the WEEE regulations.  

Standby mode is one of the most wasteful uses of energy, so make sure that when they are not in use, machines are shut down completely and multi-plug adapters are switched off by the mains. Not only will this ensure power use around the office is minimal, but it will save you money on your energy costs in the long run.

Make the most of the environment

If your office or work space allows it, making the most of the environment can not only help reduce energy emissions, but can create a better working environment. Ensure artificial lighting is turned off in meeting rooms and spaces with plenty of natural light, and encourage employees to open windows to manage the room temperature, rather than relying on the air conditioning.

Go green with office supplies

From 100% recycled paper to eco-friendly cleaning products, making smart choices when it comes to your office supplies can make a huge difference to the environmental impact of your office. The majority of common stationery, from Post-it Notes to mouse mats, now have a sustainable option, so spending some time choosing the best option for you will pay off in the long run - both environmentally and financially.

To find out more about Ebuyer’s business offering, visit:

Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, is proud to report that its Chief Executive Officer, Christine Ourmières-Widener, has received the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) first-ever Inspirational Role Model Award. It is the most prominent of three categories featured in the organisation’s inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Awards which, sponsored by Qatar Airways, attracted 68 nominations.

Christine was presented with the prestigious Award and US$25k in prize money jointly by Alexandre de Juniac, IATA Director-General and Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker, during the influential aviation trade association’s Annual General Meeting being held in the South Korean capital, Seoul.

In thanking IATA and the sponsors for their insight in proactively progressing the agenda relating to diversity and inclusion, Ms Ourmières-Widener said: “I am very honoured to be the first woman to receive this Inspirational Role Model Award. I am passionate about diversity and inclusion. Although significant strides have been made towards addressing the issue of gender imbalance across the general workforce, the aviation sector remains very male- dominated.

“I’d like to see more women at all levels - as pilots, in operations and engineering, and in management roles. There needs to be a clear push to get women to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics from an early age. Young women cannot be what they cannot see.”

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, H.E. Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “Congratulations to Christine Ourmières-Widener, a key aviation figure and colleague for receiving IATA’s inaugural Inspirational Role Model Award. This award reflects Ms. Ourmières-Widener’s charismatic and outgoing character, which has positively impacted the aviation industry as a whole.

Last year, Christine spearheaded the launch of Flybe’s widely-acclaimed FlyShe programme. With its own dedicated website,, it is a series of initiatives designed to change aspirations and create opportunities for women, providing educational materials, visiting schools, offering training and organising events to raise the sights of young girls everywhere. It has received extensive coverage for its potential to help address the future skills’ shortages facing aviation.

A Birmingham freelancer, Oliver Jamin, has been shortlisted for the Freelance Project of the Year at the UK’s biggest freelancer awards, the IPSE Freelancer of the Year Awards. Oliver impressed the judges with his achievements and social impact.

Commenting on the shortlisting, Chief Executive at at IPSE, Chris Bryce said: “Freelancing allows people to be innovative, following their dreams to start businesses that could grow into a great success that benefits us all. Oliver hugely impressed us against a very strong field with his brilliant artistic work and advocacy for disabled artists.”

Freelancer of the Year award nominee, Oliver Jamin, said: ‘’I am really pleased to have been shortlisted for the final of the Freelance Project of the Year Award, 2019. This really is a dream come true and not only supports me to show other deaf and hard of hearing and Disabled freelancers out there that they can aspire also to achieving successes in their chosen business; but also highlights my own profile, potentially opening doors to a new and wider audience who have yet to see my work.”

The Awards, now in their sixth year, recognise and celebrate the innovation and excellence of freelancers across the UK. Applicants are judged on a range of criteria including the strength of their portfolio, their passion and commitment to freelancing, business acumen, creativity and the distinctiveness of their work.

The number of freelancers in the UK has risen rapidly over the last ten years with the self-employed now adding £275bn to the economy.

Olivier is an award-winning artist who has been involved in successful projects including public arts events. Working with Posca pens on card and fabric, he specialises in hand drawn multi-coloured art and create stencil graffiti art, mixed media arts, time-lapse videos and photography. He produces work which combines colours & patterns, raising imagination & awareness. Olivier also sells products via his website and direct to customers.

His art reflects what it means to be a Deaf artist; non-Deaf related art; patterns and colours. Many of my influences are inspired from the world of art, digital media, travel and every day issues. He aims to share his love of art with mainstream communities. Olivier’s artwork is expressive and reflective of his life journey which he feels communities/clients will appreciate and even relate to.

Olivier said: ‘’I am really pleased to have been shortlisted for the final of the Freelance Project of the Year Award, 2019. This really is a dream come true and not only supports me to show other deaf/hard-of-hearing and disabled freelancers out there that they can aspire also to achieving successes in their chosen business; but also highlights my own profile, potentially opening doors to a new and wider audience who have yet to see my work.

"Freelance work is not easy and is very different to employed work. Hats off to all the other freelancers out there.’’

He was also recently invited by Deaffest (Deaf film and arts festival) to be one of three judges for an art competition for young people to create a character to feature on the posters for Young Deaffest 2019.

The IPSE Freelancer of the Year Awards takes place on June 13 at Kings Place in London.

Nationwide Building Society have announced that it has invested in Ordo, an innovative payment request service launching later this year that connects billers to payers using apps and secure messaging, putting billers and their customers back in control of their payments.

Ordo protects businesses and their customers from invoice and payments fraud by allowing businesses to simply and securely send payment requests (known as ‘smart requests’) directly to their customers via the Ordo app. The customer is immediately notified they’ve received a smart request which they can view, and when they are ready, quickly and easily make payment through the app. Ordo uses Open Banking and Faster Payments to make the payment, bank account to bank account, meaning businesses get their money instantly and customers know where they are with their finances in real time.

Ordo’s design means that there is no need to share any bank account details between billers and customers, and the biller always gets back the reference they provided with their received payment. Ordo will also allow businesses to include an invoice attachment as part of the end-to-end encrypted message.

While many people happily pay their regular bills by Direct Debit or card, these don’t always suit everyone. There are also those one-off payments, such as paying a builder or the window cleaner. Ordo is perfect for these situations. Ordo is simple, swift and secure; it ensures that businesses, especially small and medium businesses for whom cash flow is key, can receive their hard-earned income into their account directly, instantly and cost effectively, but also keeps the payer in control of their bills and payments.

Ordo have applied for funding from Pool D of the Alternative Remedies Package Capability and Innovation Fund, which aims to improve the financial products and services available to UK SMEs. A successful bid will mean that Ordo can accelerate the development and roll-out of it’s financial technology to SMEs, delivering Ordo’s benefits more quickly to UK small business and their customers.

The team behind Ordo have a huge amount of payments, telecoms and networks experience. Most recently, they were part of the leadership team at the Faster Payments Scheme delivering the new access model that doubled the number of institutions able to directly connect to the system, pioneering access for challenger banks and other payment institutions.

The investment is the latest deal from Britain’s biggest building society’s as part of a £50 million Venturing Fund designed to create partnerships in which the Society and the start-ups share knowledge and expertise. As part of the fund, Nationwide is making strategic investments in and partnering with early stage start-ups exploring innovative products and services that could provide real benefits for the Society’s members in the future.

Tony Prestedge, Deputy Chief Executive at Nationwide Building Society, said: “Ordo helps businesses gets invoices paid while at the same time allowing consumers to maintain control of how and when they pay their bill. This seemed a natural fit for Nationwide as a brand who helps its members manage their money and who itself later this year is entering the business banking market to offer an alternative for small and medium size businesses to the big banks.”

CEO and co-founder of Ordo, Craig Tillotson, said: “We are delighted to have an investment from an organisation that shares our vision of making a positive difference to the financial lives and wellbeing of people, businesses, particularly SMEs, and communities. Nationwide’s investment is not just about the money, although that will really help us to make Ordo a reality, but demonstrates the appeal of our innovative proposition. This is a great opportunity for SMEs and their customers, and will deliver significant benefits to the economy as whole.”

The Venturing Fund supports the Society’s recently announced multi-billion pound tech investment, which is designed to put the Society at the forefront of digital innovation. Technology is redefining how members want to be served and the Society is investing to stay ahead of expectations. The Society is investing a total of £4.1 billion in technology over the next five years.

Created by rapper Jay-Z and his mother Gloria, the Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund (SCSF) was founded on the belief that any motivated individual in need should have the opportunity to further his or her education. By removing some of the financial burdens associated with going to, surviving in, and graduating from college, the SCSF plays a vital role in increasing college access and success for many motivated yet underserved youth and young adults.

The SCSF provides individual grants, paid directly to the educational institution, to every student who qualifies and reapplies yearly, from admission to graduation. The grant can be used to cover tuition expenses and related supplemental educational expenses such as books, lab fees, travel and select costs of living.

All Shawn Carter Scholars are required to “give back” by conducting community service and by serving as mentors to younger, aspiring Shawn Carter Scholars.

Eligibility requirements:

* High school seniors, students with GED diplomas, undergraduate (2 year or 4 year) college students, and students at vocational or trade schools

* US citizen or Permanent Resident

* 25 years old or younger

* Minimum 2.0 GPA

The deadline for this scholarship is usually in APRIL, and the award amount is usually up to $7,500.

Amplify, the NEC Group’s premier hospitality business and hospitality provider for Resorts World Arena and Arena Birmingham, were crowned the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) Business of the Year.

The ambitious, six-strong team, led by Sally Walder, say they have adopted a “mindset of continuous improvement” and the award judges were impressed with their growing performance from modest beginnings.

They were selected for the GBCC’s premier title, sponsored by SCC, Europe's largest IT solutions company after clinching the award for Excellence in Sales and Marketing, supported by O2.

They have helped the NEC Group become the UK’s leading live events business operating in exhibitions, conferences, music, sports, family entertainment and hospitality.

Amplify’s reputation, both in the West Midlands and beyond, has led to incredibly high demand.

There is a waiting list for their premium membership offer, Air, and there is a new debenture-style membership to meet demand.

Newly-introduced call-back technology means the team don’t lose potential sales leads and website enhancements have made it easier for customers to book.

The website now offers sample menus for each hospitality level and virtual Google Earth tours of the restaurants, showing off the premium food choices and dining spaces on offer. Highlights of the past year have included:

  • Take That – hospitality tickets sold out in hours, with more people than before choosing hospitality over standard seating.
  • The Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour 2018 generated a record year of hospitality revenue.

Russell Jeans, the GBCC’s chief operating officer, who chaired the judging panel, said: “Amplify exude a continual improvement ethos - capitalising on innovative new digital commerce, exceptional client knowledge, customer service and outstanding brand marketing to drive sales in this incredibly dynamic and exciting business.”


Excellence in Contribution to the Community (Sponsors: Big John’s)

St Mary’s Hospice

Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice are celebrating 40 years of providing care across Birmingham and Sandwell. Their mission is to “enable anyone with a life-limiting illness to live their life to the full” - a statement created by founder Monica Pearce.

Excellence in Customer Service (Sponsors: Virgin Trains)

Handle Kingdom Ltd

Handle Kingdom, who specialise in the retail of architectural hardware, have a strong commitment to “Customer is King” and go the extra mile to create an enjoyable and memorable experience. They have developed processes and simplified policies to make them customer friendly and  have  invested in training staff.

Excellence in Hospitality (Sponsors: Quality Business)

Conference Aston

A subsidiary of Aston University, Conference Aston is now one of the city’s foremost meeting destinations. With more than 40 years’ experience in the hospitality industry it has carefully crafted its offering to deliver high-quality service across its operations. The catering team have launched a campaign focusing on health-conscious menus.

Excellence in International Business (Sponsors: Aston University)

AFL Architects

AFL Architects, delivering high-profile sports projects globally, have grown their international business by 143 per cent over three years. They have established themselves worldwide with projects like the 80,000-seat Lusail Stadium, the largest venue at the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar which will host the final and opening matches.

Excellence in Manufacturing (Sponsors: Birmingham Airport)

KEP Print Group

KEP Print Group, in an industry where countless print manufacturers have closed since the rise of digital marketing, have not only survived but made major changes to enter into a new chapter of sustainable growth. The Group has been a staple of the Greater Birmingham business community for 40 years.

Excellence in People Development (Sponsors: Wesleyan)

National Express

The public transport company is driven by the belief that they are a people business, employing many thousands and moving millions of customers. As well as being the biggest proportion of their workforce, they regard their bus and coach drivers are their most important and most valuable asset.

Excellence in Retail (Sponsors: Bullring and Grand Central)

Loki Wines

In seven years Loki Wine have been cited many times for being at the forefront of the independent drive in Birmingham that came out of the financial crisis in 2008.

Loki have won every national industry award in the UK and they were the first West Midlands merchant to win a national wine retail award.

Excellence in Technology & Innovation (Sponsors: Millennium Point)

Managed Enterprise Technologies Ltd


The cyber security firm are driving forward with innovations and are currently collaborating with Birmingham City University (BCU) as part of the Big Data Corridor initiative to develop their own Artificial Intelligence (AI).  The result will give METCloud a global advantage in cyber defence and surveillance.

Excellence in Training and Education (Sponsors: Scholars School System)

Services for Education

The charity, dedicated to providing music tuition for a wide range of organisations, including schools and local authorities, engages with 37,991 children in Birmingham each week. It tackles unconventional issues rarely discussed with other training providers and practices activities like healthy eating and mental health awareness.


In 2018, The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) launched the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme to help deliver gigabit capable connectivity to businesses. The scheme is backed by a budget of £67 million for eligible businesses to claim up to £2,500 off the cost of installation of full fibre connectivity to their premises.

Since the initiative launch, fibre broadband specialists Glide has analysed its successful applications to reveal the business hot spots which have benefited from the scheme. Glide have received close to 1,000 voucher requests, with currently over 900 vouchers issued - saving the local businesses an estimated £2,500,000 and increasing their access speeds 9 fold.

Of those applications, 13% of the vouchers were issued to businesses in Coventry alone - meaning 120 businesses in the area are now supported with full fibre connectivity that might otherwise have struggled to make this commercially viable.

The top regions that have benefited from the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, based on the number of vouchers issued are:

  1. Coventry and Warwickshire (215)
  2. Northamptonshire (175)
  3. Greater Birmingham (80)
  4. Leicestershire (75)
  5. Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire (66)
  6. Berkshire (60)
  7. Bath and North East Somerset (55)
  8. Derbyshire and Nottingham (50)
  9. Southampton and Hampshire (45)
  10. Essex (35)
  11. London (30)

James Warner, Managing Director at Glide said: “With the Voucher Scheme set to run until 2021, or when the budget of £67 million runs out, it's great to see that so many local businesses are getting on board and investing in an ultra-fast and reliable network. We know how integral a good internet connection is to a business, and we have a good track record of delivering it (claiming 67% of the vouchers in the initial Coventry and Warwickshire trial scheme. We set up the gigabit knowledge hub, to answer any questions any potential businesses may have before they begin the claiming process.

“With an unprecedented interest in the scheme, the vouchers are being claimed at a greater rate than expected, so if you are in need of faster broadband, don’t delay in checking if your business is eligible.”

WV Living has appointed a contractor to develop new homes at one of its largest sites in the City of Wolverhampton.

Wilmott Dixon has been selected as a partner to build 266 homes, including 67 affordable homes, on the site of the former Wednesfield High School on Lakefield Road, Wednesfield.

The new development, named ‘The Marches’, will see a collection of one, two, three and four-bedroom homes for sale, with a sales office set to open in June 2019.

Works are expected to start on site next month (May), with the first homes completed in early 2020.

The development forms part of WV Living’s plans to deliver more than 1,000 new homes across the city over four years, as the council’s own housing company.

Kate Martin, Director for Housing, City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “This is fantastic news for WV Living and for the city, The Marches will provide much-needed quality homes to rent and high-quality homes to buy.

“WV Living is continuing to support the overall house building programme in the City of Wolverhampton and in appointing Willmott Dixon we will also see real, long-lasting benefits for the local community.

“Willmott Dixon’s business commitment to social value and sustainable futures is a real strength and we are confident this development will also boost local business and skills, and add further pace to housing growth across the city.”

Simon Liversage, Director for Willmott Dixon in the Midlands, said: “We are delighted to be working with WV Living to develop and build over 260 new houses and apartments, creating new housing stock for the people of Wolverhampton.

“At Willmott Dixon, we also believe we have a purpose beyond profit and that includes leaving a lasting positive legacy in the areas where we work.”

Work on WV Living’s three other phase-one developments in the city are also well underway. The site of the former Danesmore Park Primary School in Ashmore Park is due to be completed in the summer and will have 52 homes, including 13 affordable homes for rent.

The former Ettingshall Primary School site, named Sweet Briary, will see 25 houses and nine apartments developed on it, with ten affordable homes to rent.

The former Prouds Lane Leisure Centre site, named Peascroft, will enable 40 new homes, including ten affordable homes. Both Sweet Briary and Peascroft will offer the option of shared ownership for potential purchasers.