Business in the Community Award
- This category will recognise businesses that demonstrate an impactful commitment to corporate social responsibility, including contributing to the community within which they’re based.
- Businesses can be of any size and working within any sector.
Dr M Sha
Business on the Community Award entrant
Dr M Sha is a first generation immigrant woman determined to create an empire from scratch.
The 35-year-old has launched an aesthetics and wellness clinic alongside her work as a GP.
She opened her first aesthetics clinic within M Club in Stoke-on-Trent in August 2023 and has ambitions to open a clinic in the city centre.
“When people talk about aesthetics they think about overly filled cheeks and lips. It’s so much more than that,” she said. “I want to specialise in menopause-related skin and scalp problems and to introduce aesthetics treatments for men.
“A very important part of the process is talking to people about why they want a procedure and whether to go ahead with it. We talk about whether their health and self-esteem is being affected because treating that is more important.”
Dr Sha, who works as an out of hours GP and also as an aesthetics trainer for The Harley Institute in London, says that Stoke-on-Trent doesn’t currently have many doctor-led aesthetics clinics.
She is currently the only practitioner at her clinic but says her husband, a research scientist, researches the treatments and products she offers before they are introduced.
Dr Sha added: “My small clinic is in the massive MClub Spa and Fitness Centre and its owner, Mo Chaudry is an absolute inspiration. I wish I could be the next Mo for Stoke-on-Trent and my family.”
She has entered five categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards – Small Business of the Year, Young Business Person of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, Business in the Community and High Street Impact.
Ten Count Boxing Gym
Business in the Community nominee
Ten Count aims to use exercise and boxing to improve the self-esteem, confidence and health of children and adults.
It organises free or subsidised family day trips and offers nutritional and wellbeing advice alongside fun fitness classes.
There is a youth group, rehab sessions for the elderly and the owners have plans for a soft play area, a music studio, a warm room for pensioners and a library area for people to study.
Ten Count Boxing Gym has been nominated in the Business in the Community category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards by Laura Bailey who runs a youth group from the gym. She has also nominated the seven members of staff in the Team of the Year category.
She said: “The success of the gym at serving its community rests on the fantastic team who work tirelessly both behind the scenes and within the gym to create an inclusive and vibrant environment where children, teens and adults come and thrive.
“Some of the young amateur boxers are now becoming increasingly involved in other gym projects as volunteers and sessional staff, building on the strength that lies within such as Bradley who young people from the youth group actively recruited to join their activities.
“Max has a busy schedule of coaching young people during the daytime who come from specialist education providers and youth offending team referrals and also within schools across the city as a diversionary extracurricular activity.
“Lee selflessly volunteers his time and specialises in teaching children and young people with a broad range of disabilitie, in his BoxSEN classes which see 16 children enjoy adapted boxing sessions weekly to meet their abilities and enhance their physical and emotional wellbeing.
“Ultimately Ten Count’s team comprises of individuals all with a shared goal of supporting people’s wellbeing and development and to be a part of that is so rewarding and motivational.”
Max Maxwell said: “When people think of gyms they think it’s for a particular type of person but it isn’t. I try to make people feel comfortable and to take away any barriers.
“We’re affordable for everyone and I want to bring in children’s soft play for just £1 or £2 so that it’s easier for parents to exercise.”
This Girl Consultancy Ltd
Business in the Community entrant
A recovering gambling addict, business strategist Bianca Colclough uses her own life experiences to inspire other women.
The 43-year-old mum-of-two is the founder of This Girl Consultancy Ltd which has helped establish 25 women-owned businesses and has directly impacted the lives of 1,500 women.
Bianca, from Stoke-on-Trent, launched This Girl in 2020 after working in recruitment for 20 years.
In July 2023 she opened headquarters in Newcastle-under-Lyme with the aim of creating a safe and purposeful space for professional women to work, network and socialise.
As of January 2024, 11 women have residency at This Girl and pay a fixed monthly fee to use the space. Bianca also offers a pay-as-you-go option to allow a hybrid working model for women seeking flexibility or for those who work from home but want to increase their social interactions.
Bianca said: “Amidst the lockdown and while pregnant with my first child I launched my business online. Fast forward to today the business is four years old, financially sound and boasts a recognisable brand with a social media following of 20,000, putting North Staffordshire on the map.
“Initially starting as an online networking event, This Girl Community has evolved into a thriving digital platform. With 86 active members and an average of 150 monthly guests, TGC now consists of various themed sessions, each hosted by experts in their respective fields, ranging from finance and marketing to neurodiversity, motherhood, nutrition and fitness, wellbeing and trauma.
“In the post-COVID landscape, I recognised the need for in-person interactions and launched This Girl Meets in January 2022. Initially starting with 12 attendees, the event rapidly gained traction, quickly welcoming 76 women. This proved that there was a clear gap in the market for women’s networking in Staffordshire and beyond.”
Bianca was among the first cohort of the Peter Coates MSc in Entrepreneurship and has used her story as a recovering gambling addict to inspire others. She’s now a board member of GambleAware, has become a Lived Experience Practitioner through Bet Know More and achieved Train the Trainer status.
She added: “There is a significant lack of support for women entrepreneurs who are looking to start up their own business. This Girl stands out by filling a crucial void, surpassing generic traditional business courses.”
Bianca has entered the Entrepreneur of the Year category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards and has entered This Girl into the Business in the Community category.
Business in the Community entrant
Mitch Hughes says his partner is delighted he’s opened a book shop – because now he hoards books at work rather than at home.
The 30-year-old, from Fenton, opened Vellichor Books in Piccadilly Arcade, Hanley on February 3.
He sells new and preloved books, has a café area and has opened up a first floor community room that groups can use free of charge.
“I’ve always loved the idea of having my own book shop,” said Mitch, who previously worked as a teaching assistant and support worker.
“Maybe it’s because I used to watch the comedy series Black Books. It’s something I’ve wanted for so long.
“Then some friends of mine opened Geek Retreat in the city centre and I thought if they could do it then I could too. Once I decided to do it everything moved quickly.”
Community impact is important to Mitch so he created a room on the first floor, complete with chairs and beanbags, that he hopes will be used for book club meetings, book launches, artists’ workshops and more.
“I think it’s especially important to have this sort of offer in Hanley,” said Mitch. “It could even be that a group of friends would like to use the space as somewhere quiet to study. I want to sell books and I’d like people to buy drinks but I also want Vellichor to be a community.”
The shop sells books of all genres although Mitch says he has a personal interest in horror writing and will also be stocking comics.
He added: “I love reading and I just love being around books and collecting books. My partner is happy because now I’m collecting them at the shop rather than at home.”
Vellichor Books has entered the High Street Impact and Business in the Community categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.
Martin 'Mr Bigz' Mwale
Business in the Community entrant
Community cohesion is every bit as important as flavour combinations for restaurant owner Martin ‘Mr Bigz’ Mwale.
Staffordshire University business management alumni, Martin is the owner of Mr Bigz Flavours restaurant and cocktail bar in Alsager.
“What I run here is much more than a business,” said Martin, who is also a DJ and cake baker.
“When people come in they want to know more about the food, the flavours and where it originates from. I give them food for thought and the history behind every dish.
“People always learn something when they eat here. They learn more about different cultures.”
Martin, originally from Etruria, has been running his Alsager business for a year and a half and is now hoping to open a second premises in Crewe.
“We get really good community support from people in Alsager. It’s about community cohesion – we’re bringing different types of backgrounds together,” he said.
“We did a Christmas event in Crewe and a huge crowd of people were saying we should open up there too. I’m hoping we can expand in a few months time.”
Martin completed a foundation degree in business management at Staffordshire University, a course which he says ‘changed his life’.
Martin’s other ventures include a cake business, he has worked in the care services sector and he mentors young people.
Martin Mwale has entered the Alumni Business Person of the Year and Business in the Community categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.
The Fitness Collab
Business in the Community entrant
A mum and daughter have opened a boutique gym-alternative studio with the aim of bringing fun back to fitness.
Josie McLean and her 26-year-old daughter, Frankie Hurst, ran fitness classes in church and community halls around North Staffordshire before finding their perfect premises in Station Road, Kidsgrove in 2023.
Their diverse classes include aerial yoga, pound (with drumsticks), boogie bounce and they are the only studio within a 25-mile radius to offer bungee fitness.
Facilities include a main studio, a Zen Den social space, a private therapy room, a private personal training room, a second spin studio and now a small crystal shop.
The Fitness Collab began with just Josie and Frankie but now has a team of seven instructors working with more than 60 members.
Frankie said: “We believe that you don’t need to just go to the gym to keep fit. In fact there’s a lack in the community for those who want to look after their health but don’t feel comfortable in a gym environment.
“We work with all different age groups ranging from three to 83 years to empower, give confidence and help people who may not be your regular gym-goers to manifest their health.
“We provide a senior fitness class at the studio and I also visit St Thomas’s Church every Monday to deliver a seated fitness class for more than 20 seniors. They enjoy 45 mins of exercise and then stay for a coffee and biscuit to encourage socialisation, which is especially important after covid. Many friendships have been formed in this class and it’s so lovely to see the community come together.”
The Fitness Collab works with other small businesses to host the likes of retreat days, business empowerment events and charity fundraisers.
Last year the team staged a fitathon and raised £600 for the charity Aura. In 2022, before opening the studio, Josie and Frankie held a fitathon in a park and raised more than £400 to support relief efforts in Ukraine.
Frankie added: “We believe that The Fitness Collab has given the community a safe space to exercise, improve their mental and physical health and make amazing new relationships.”
The Fitness Collab has entered the Small Business of the Year and Business in the Community categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards and Frankie Hurst has entered the Young Business Person of the Year category.
Affordable Food Stoke
Business in the Community entrant
As the name suggests, Affordable Food Stoke works to reduce food poverty and food waste. What many people don’t realise is that the registered charity supports the communities within which it is based in numerous other ways too.
Founders Duane and Nikki Barrett have a community lounge at their Blurton base which is open four days each week for anyone who needs a warm, safe space. There is free tea, coffee, toast, cereal and a friendly welcome.
The lounge is staffed by volunteers trained to look out for new people, people sitting on their own and anyone who seems particularly in need of a friendly face and a chat.
The community lounge has a knit and natter group, runs school holiday activities and has a ‘locality connector’ to help ensure the people who use the facility are supported in as many ways as possible.
Staffordshire University alumni Duane Barrett, who founded Affordable Food Stoke with his wife Nikki, said: “2023 was a breakthrough year for Affordable Food Stoke. After forming in 2017 and becoming a registered charity mid-way through 2021, 2023 was the year we were able take our next steps in developing the charity.
“2023 was also the year we were able to secure National Lottery Reaching Communities funding, securing us three years of funding.
“This enabled me to personally leave my job of 10 years and come over to Affordable Food Stoke full-time to support the work my wife and co-founder was already doing. Although a big risk both personally and professionally it was a risk worth taking to establish Affordable Food Stoke as a genuine Stoke-on-Trent institution.”
Nikki and Duane offer free food five days a week and put together emergency food parcels from their independent food bank which takes referrals from other food banks, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and professional bodies. They also have a social supermarket where members pay a small fee in return for food items worth considerably more.
Affordable Food Stoke has entered the Business in the Community category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.
Jo Gideon MP and Third Sector Connect Charity Roundtable
Business in the Community nomination
A bi-monthly roundtable set up by Jo Gideon MP brings together more than 70 social enterprises, charities and community groups in Stoke-on-Trent.
Third Sector Connect Charity Roundtable has been running for around two years and has emerged as a pivotal force in community collaboration in the city.
It is dedicated to fostering collaboration, addressing key sector issues and advocating for government support.
Now Jo Gideon MP and her Third Sector Connect Charity Roundtable, which held its first meeting in the Catalyst at Staffordshire University, have been nominated in the Business in the Community category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.
Matthew Bridger, Jo’s senior communications advisor and constituency office manager, said: “The impact of Third Sector Connect, under the guidance of Jo Gideon MP, extends beyond the individual organisations involved.
“It is evident in the strengthened relationships, the innovative solutions born out of collaborative efforts and the increased collective influence in advocating for the needs of the sector.
“Jo Gideon MP’s leadership brings a strategic vision to Third Sector Connect, elevating the organisation to a position where it actively contributes to shaping policies that support the growth and resilience of the third sector.
“The story of Third Sector Connect is a narrative of unity, resilience and a dedication to creating a thriving community sector.”
The roundtable is committed to addressing the support needed by organisations to thrive. It actively seeks ways to offer collective assistance, recognising that the challenges faced by one organisation can often be alleviated through the collaboration and support of others.
Matthew added: “Jo’s involvement in establishing Third Sector Connect brings a unique perspective to the organisation’s mission. As a Member of Parliament, Jo Gideon has played a crucial role in bridging the gap between grassroots efforts and government policies.
“This dual perspective allows Third Sector Connect to not only address immediate needs but also advocate for broader policy changes that can positively impact the entire sector.”
Business in the Community entrant
A Stoke-on-Trent community group has been nominated in the Business in the Community category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards for work including caring for a community garden.
Sutton Trust Community Group has been put forward for the accolade by Matthew Bridger, who chairs the board of trustees.
He said: “At the heart of their impactful work lies the Betty Rushton Community Gardens—a vibrant space that transcends the conventional notion of a community garden.
“More than just a collection of plants and greenery, it is a haven for fostering connections, personal growth and community development.
“The garden provides a serene environment where individuals can engage in light exercise, participate in gardening activities and develop new skills.
“It’s a space where the therapeutic power of nature combines with the joy of communal activities, creating a truly transformative experience.”
The Sutton Trust also stages community events and celebrations including an annual fireworks display and a Christmas lights switch-on event.
It also organises outreach and engagement sessions to help residents to overcome challenges, develop new skills and forge meaningful connections.
Matthew added: “The impact of The Sutton Trust Community Group’s work is immeasurable. Behind the statistics and numbers are real stories of individuals whose lives have been touched and transformed.”