Growth Award


Category criteria

  • This category is designed to recognise growth within businesses of any size and sector.

  • This could include relatively new businesses that have gone from a standing start right through to long-standing organisations that have been thriving over many years.

  • The judges will be looking for growth in areas such as revenue, recruitment or indeed trading territories. Importantly this growth strategy should be sustainable and the business should have the momentum and resources for this to continue. 

  • The judges will also be interested to see the innovation that has helped to drive growth.


Hilton Garden Inn Stoke-on-Trent

Growth Award entrant

The Hilton Garden Inn Stoke-on-Trent opened during the pandemic at a time when travel was banned and people had to stay indoors.
Its first customers were key workers, with Sky News coming to the city to film an interview about the challenges of opening a new hotel during a global pandemic.
From that standing start the hotel has become a Staffordshire success story with its 140 bedrooms usually fully booked on midweek business travel nights and whenever there is a band performing at the Victoria Hall, a touring production at the Regent Theatre or a major sporting event anywhere in the county.
Revenue grew by 37.6% from 2021 to 2022 and 19% from 2022 to 2023 with further revenue growth projected for the current financial year.
Steve Alty, Director of Sales, said: “Building a local customer base and entering into commercial agreements with local and national businesses and organisations ahead of travel’s return has paid off.
“Year-on-year growth in turnover since 2020 clearly demonstrates this, especially in 2023 which was the hotel’s first full year of trading unaffected by the vagaries of lockdowns and travel bans.”
The hotel, which created 50 jobs, has a varied customer base including business travellers to the region, families visiting tourist attractions including Alton Towers and Trentham Monkey Forest and civil servants.
The Hilton Garden Inn Stoke-on-Trent has entered the Growth category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Acorn Training

Growth Award entrant

Acorn Training is a national training provider, founded and rooted in Staffordshire, delivering adult education, employability programmes, apprenticeships, justice services, skills and careers development for the past 16 years.
It has experienced rapid business and financial growth over the past three years including opening new Acorn Training Centres in Hanley, Manchester, Bolton, Leek, and Crewe.
The centres serve as hubs of support where the team delivers vital services. They go above and beyond by providing additional aids to support including free tea and coffee in all centres, support with paying for travel, walk-in wardrobes for job interviews, in-house learner support for those with neurodiverse needs and signposting to national and local health, money, food and wellbeing services.
It has Invested thousands of pounds into the Hanley Training Centre, which has become the Acorn Training Head Office, spanning three floors including study classrooms, new kitchens, offices, dedicated computer area, enhanced accessibility with a newly installed lift and a bright and professional facade to enhance the aesthetic of its surroundings in the Piccadilly Arcade in Stoke-on-Trent city centre.
Acorn Training has diversified the business into a new justice market and then grown this to a successful new division. This includes an information, advice and guidance service and also supporting returning citizens (ex-offenders) back into the community.
Over the past three years it has supported more than 2,000 individuals to positively enrich their lives through delivering courses to develop skills and knowledge, helping people to find sustainable work, signposting to other wellbeing services, breaking down stereotypes and barriers and providing sustenance.
Acorn Training has been recognised for championing equality, diversity and inclusivity within its work and continues to break down barriers for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, those battling mental and physical health conditions, returning citizens, the LGBTQ+ community, veterans and many more minority groups and underrepresented areas of society in Staffordshire and beyond.
Acorn Training has entered the Growth and Business in the Community categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Xpert Recruitment Solutions

Growth Award entrant

A family-run recruitment business has tripled its turnover in three years, taken on its first apprentice and moved to new premises.
Experienced recruitment consultant Lindsay Mitchell took joint ownership of Fenton-based Xpert Recruitment Solutions eight years ago with a determination to pass on her 27 years of experience in the sector. She became Managing Director in 2021
Lindsay has put together a six-member team which she leads alongside her husband, Alex Mitchell.
She said: “I wanted to set up an agency where specialist recruitment consultants could use their experience to provide the best possible advice both for companies looking to recruit and job seekers.
“I also wanted to create a business with a family ethos. As a sector, recruitment is often perceived as a business where people move on regularly. Conversely, our staff retention rate is high, we work together, sharing our skills to give the best customer experience possible.”
“With 50-plus years in recruitment, we have a wealth of pooled knowledge, and we love to share this.
“Xpert has recently recruited our first apprentice which is a commitment to our philosophy of growing talent from the bottom up.
“I see it as a major responsibility, but one I cherish, as it allows me to pass forward the knowledge I have gained over my 27 years in recruitment.
“Alongside learning new skills, I am committed to instilling values of customer service and other fundamentals, such as a work ethic, developing and passing on transferable skills and knowledge, and more specific skills around supporting companies and job seekers.”
Lindsay, from Longton, began her career in recruitment in 1997 and was previously an employment broker and team leader with Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
Xpert works across a wide range of job sectors with specialism in recruiting for manufacturing, industry, commercial and professional services.
Alex Mitchell is a manufacturing and industrial recruitment specialist and Operations Director at Xpert Recruitment Solutions. Alex brought with him 20 years’ experience in industry, including leading roles in transportation and logistic management.
Lindsay added: “We always aim to get to the heart of the matter – what does a company require and how we can provide the best available candidate.
“This is a hands-on process, always done face-to-face. We take time to get to know the companies we work with and their potential recruits – it is a three-way partnership.
“We will not simply put forward a potential employee based on their CV. Alongside providing the best candidates for any job, we always take time to mentor job seekers, ensuring they are taught the skills necessary to succeed at interview.”
Outside of the business Lindsay is Chairperson for the minis and juniors section at Longton Rugby Club. Alex coaches the sport in schools across North Staffordshire and was recently recognised as Longton RUFC’s Valued Volunteer of the season.
Xpert Recruitment Solutions has entered the Small Business of the Year and Growth categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards and Lindsay Mitchell has entered the Entrepreneur of the Year category.

Comp Door

Growth Award entrant

Comp Door had a start-up team of 12 when it launched in August 2021. Today it has 70 staff and has become the market-leading manufacturer of composite doors.
From a standing start, monthly revenue is growing exponentially for the Newcastle-under-Lyme-based business.
Manufacturing has already expanded into a second location nearly, with nearly all staff being recruited from within Staffordshire.
The company is committed to Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire and to giving back to the local community. This includes sponsoring Stone Dominoes under-12s football team and becoming a business champion and supporting partner to The Hubb Foundation,.
Comp Door says its success is built on innovation, including smart technology locking systems for doors which allow people to check, lock or unlock doors from any location.
Sustainability is another key thread. Staff are encouraged to car share or cycle to work, there are on-site recycling points for consumables and factory waste and as much production waste as possible is recycled.
Electric cars are encouraged with multiple charging points available for staff. Auto shut-off LED lighting is installed throughout the majority of the site and timber is ethically and sustainably sourced from Indonesia via FLEGT endorsed companies ensuring ethical and lawful working conditions and where tree replanting schemes are in place.
To reduce energy consumption Comp Door has purchased numerous new pieces of equipment, technologies and machinery replacing more power-hungry older versions where possible.
Comp Door has entered the Business of the Year, Growth and Innovation categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Evergreen Financial Planning

Growth Award entrant

In four months Evergreen Financial Planning has doubled its staff numbers and more than tripled its client base throughout the whole of the UK.
Nathan Waldron and Ryan Nobbs - who aim to change the way the finance world is perceived - merged their separate companies in December 2023 to launch the Evergreen brand.
Both highly experienced in the industry - the pair share the same values, believe that no-one should be alone in finance and by educating they can break down barriers which may stop others from accessing advice.
Since joining together they have welcomed two full-time advisors - Charlotte Burns and Peter Arundell - to the company, which now sees clients across Staffordshire, Cheshire, Essex, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, East London, Shropshire and Wales.
“Everyone at Evergreen Financial Planning is committed to making change and helping others to recognise that support and advice is available to all - it’s not just for those who have a lot of wealth - understanding finance is important for everyone,” said Stone-based Nathan.
“Our values and aims are a crucial part in all that we do - whether that is in Staffordshire or Essex - no matter where we are we are striving to unlock barriers for others.”
Nathan and Ryan provide a mentorship to all staff members as they move through the company, which is a partner of M&G Wealth Advice.
Nathan added: “Our fully-qualified advisors have all completed The Academy at M&G Wealth Advice and when we welcome any staff member we undergo our own training process for the company.
“The comprehensive training we also provide in-house ensures that every adviser embodies the company's values and has the skills to provide exceptional service and guidance.
“The reason we do this is because it helps to share company values and knowledge with each other on the best practices in going forward as well as innovating.”
Peter added: “When I came into the industry I didn’t want to just go through the motions, I wanted to be part of something huge and I knew from the start that this company really want to make a difference.
“In my early career I often used to question how businesses manage finances, and how things are done, and I had to learn - I know what it’s like to have all those questions - and I am pleased to say Evergreen Financial Planning is forging ahead and breaking down barriers.
“The team at Evergreen is passionate about reinventing the financial landscape and strive to make finance accessible, engaging, and empowering for everyone, from children to adults, regardless of their financial background.”
The company work with clients face to face, as well as via phone or online, and in the coming months plans include welcoming another three full-time advisors and further doubling clients by September.
Nathan added: “We are right on track to welcoming more full-time advisors over the coming months, which is going to be great as we expand even further reaching thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds the Evergreen way.”
Evergreen Financial Planning are committed to giving back to local communities and are currently looking ahead to provide free open days to the public along with charity fundraisers.
Evergreen Financial Planning has entered the Growth Award category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Trentham Foods

Growth Award entrant

A business founded by a former butcher who started his career working in an abattoir is on track for a £34 million turnover this year.
Trentham Foods, run by father and son Daren and Jacob Durkin, began in 2006 by supplying single pallets of poultry to catering butchers and wholesalers.
It now supplies more than 200 tons of products each week to customers across the UK and has partners around the globe.
The business increased its turnover to £14 million in 2021 and more than doubled that figure by 2023. Turnover is forecast to rise to £50 million by 2026.
The growth has been achieved by reinvesting company profits, with no external financial investment. In fact founder Daren Durkin remortgaged his own home to finance the initial launch of the business.
Trentham Foods Director, and Daren’s son, Jacob Durkin said: “This financial success is even more astounding considering the business has grown by continually reinvesting company profits rather than taking external support, which will become the bedrock for its future.
“From the outset, we laid the foundation of the business with a steadfast dedication to four core principles: ensuring excellent product quality, providing first-class customer service, optimising supply chain efficiency,and upholding ethical business practices.
“From relatively humble beginnings, Trentham Foods is now a proud supplier of high-quality products to blue-chip accounts in the national foodservice sector.
“The company is BRC AA Accredited, ensuring these core principles are met throughout the entire supply chain. We guarantee that our products are responsibly farmed and ethically sourced, and they are transported using the most economical and environmentally friendly logistics.”
The team takes its collective responsibility to the local community extremely seriously. Last year Trentham Foods supported a charity ball in memory of Jacob’s mother, raising more than £9,000 for The Dougie Mac. This year they supported the event again, raising close to £11,000 for the charity C-R-Y.
Trentham Foods has entered the Business of the Year and Growth categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.


Growth Award entrant

Within the space of three years, accountancy firm DJH has grown from 60 staff to a multidisciplinary team of 478 working across 10 offices.
The business, founded in Stoke-on-Trent, has quadrupled its turnover within the same timeframe.
DJH has entered the Business of the Year and Growth Award categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.
CEO Scott Heath said: “DJH are an award-winning chartered accountancy firm, proud to provide exceptional service to our clients. We don’t just work for businesses - we work with them to achieve great things together.
“We’ve seen strong organic growth through maximising client accounts through our specialist service lines, the conversion of new business and the completion of several corporate finance transactions.
“Our aim is to have a people-first approach and create a great place to work. In delivering this goal, we will create the perfect environment for our team to deliver for our clients.”
DJH is passionate about recruiting at grass roots and bringing in trainees from local schools, colleges and universities then developing them through its ranks with comprehensive apprenticeship programmes. It’s a top 15 Apprenticeship Employer and ranked 14th in the country.
So far, across nine offices, £226,077 has been invested in training courses and apprentices receive college days and paid study time within their package. This investment has seen more than 100 exam passes and 10 promotions in 12 months.
In 2023 the firm welcomed 26 trainees, its biggest ever single intake. It also announced two new academies for AAT and ACA studiers - Launch Academy and Accelerate Academy. These have been designed to help them develop crucial knowledge and skills they can use within the workplace and everyday life and to nurture development opportunities as they begin their accountancy journey.

Reliance Medical Ltd

Growth Award entrant

The UK’s leading trade supplier and manufacturer of first aid and medical supplies, Reliance Medical grew its turnover by more than £10m to £30million in 2023 and it’s on target for a £50million turnover by 2025.
The Talke-based company has expanded globally over the past 12 months including opening an office and warehouse in Sydney, Australia and a European distribution base in Hungary.
Pre-hospital trauma has been a key area of investment including the development of a new range featuring bleed control products and heavy duty, tactical first aid bags for emergency medical professionals, police and the military. It has created new jobs in this area, investing in a UK factory to solely focus on the development of a new life saving product range.
The company is proud to support international humanitarian efforts – last year it manufactured and supplied more than 50,000 specialist personal issue first aid kits to support those caught up in the conflict in Ukraine.
Reliance is committed to increasing the speed of access and effectiveness of Automatic External Defibrillators. Last year it broke world records by providing 20,000 AEDs to public places in the UK. This year it is launching a revolutionary AED cabinet that can automatically heat or cool the AED to ensure its optimum operating temperature whatever the weather or climate.
In 2022 the company launched Aura3, an industry first flagship range of 100% recycled and recyclable first aid kit boxes as part of a strategy to reduce and eventually remove virgin plastics from products. It has continued this environmentally friendly direction with the development of Titan, a rugged, fully-recycled/recyclable workplace first aid kit box. It is estimated that Titan and Aura3 will save a combined equivalent of more than six million plastic bottles each year.
Single use plastics are also being removed from its kit boxes and packaging and replaced with sustainable paper wrap. By 2025 none of its first aid consumables will be packaged in plastic.
Thomas Pear, Managing Director Reliance Medical Ltd, said: “Reliance Medical Ltd is a world-leading manufacturer and trade distributor of the highest quality surgical dressings, healthcare products, medical equipment and first aid supplies.
“Last year we were immensely proud to be shortlisted along with two other local companies in the Staffordshire University Business Awards in the Growth and Business of the Year categories.
“Since last year's awards, Reliance has expanded into new markets, product categories and territories. We are delighted to take part again in 2024.”
Reliance Medical has entered the Business of the Year, Growth and Innovation categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Aston Marina

Growth Award entrant

Since opening as a marina with a small bistro and farm shop in 2010 Aston Marina has become one of Staffordshire’s culinary and tourism success stories.
The family-owned business now includes a wedding and events venue seating up to 180 people, a smaller venue for up to 50 guests and plans have been revealed for an on-site hotel which will create 25 new jobs.
The hotel will be built using environmentally sustainable technologies including solar panels on the roof, ground source geothermal bore holes for mechanical heating and cooling as well as hot water and efficient air source heat pumps.
The marina itself remains active; offering 200 narrow boat moorings with picturesque views, premium washroom facilities, complementary WIFI, fuel, chandlery shop and a marina office open every day of the week.
Since the business began in 2010 it has been awarded a Trip Advisor certificate of excellence every year, putting it in the top 10% of restaurants worldwide. Google, Facebook and ResDiary all show ongoing and consistent excellent ratings for both food and service – all platforms have at least 4.5-5/5 stars over 15 years.
The restaurant was named Enjoy Staffordshire’s Independent Restaurant of the Year in 2019 and 2022 and won Good Food awards in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Aston Marina hosts events throughout the year to support local charities, schools and colleges. In 2023 more than £5,000 was donated to causes including Katharine House Hospice, A Child of Mine, Douglas Macmillan Hospice and Stone Food & Drink Festival as well as local schools. Events have included a charity Easter Egg Hunt, Halloween Trail, charity painting classes, gala dinners plus regular donations for raffle and auction prizes.
Aston Marina Director Helen Clayton, whose parents co-founded the business, said: “We look to the local community when it comes to recruiting the team. 95% of the workforce live within 10 miles of Aston Marina and all are encouraged with the ethos of being friendly and professional at all times when they’re at work - to our customers and each other.”
The marina has a strong commitment to the environment. In 2023 extensive renovation of the entire marina saw upgrading all of the wooden decking, walkways and pontoons to Dura Composite, an environmentally-friendly alternative to wooden decking.
2023 also saw planning permission granted for an electric vehicle car park with 20 new parking spaces and 10 car chargers.
Aston Marina has entered the Growth and Small Business of the Year categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Little Athletes

Growth Award entrant

A sports coaching business founded by Staffordshire University alumni Daniel Hatton now has 10 franchises around the world including in Dubai, Singapore and Northern Ireland.
The 30-year-old launched Little Athletes eight years ago after graduating in Physical Education and Youth Sports Coaching. He believes it’s the first business started in Stoke-on-Trent to have been franchised globally.
“When I was younger, I failed at school. I wasn’t academic.” said Daniel, from Maybank. “I was really good at sports but wasn’t given the opportunities to work with it.
“So I decided the only way to work in sport was to start my own business. It’s gone from strength to strength.
“Little Athletes was initially set up to give me an opportunity to work in sport and to reach as many children as possible. Now I’m giving other people an opportunity to start their own business with a franchise.”
Little Athletes is a specialised physical activity provider for early years, working with nurseries, schools, children’s centres and sports centres.
Programmes include toddler football, a soccer school, multi-sports holiday camps, dance mania, fit for a quid and more.
The aim is to become the UK’s leading early years physical education provider.
Daniel added: “There’s still a long way to go. I want to get Little Athletes into more locations, but for a business started in Stoke-on-Trent it’s already travelled a long way.
“As a company, we believe all children should have access to extra-curricular physical activity outside of school and nursery hours. We aim to make our sessions accessible to all children across the UK through our different programmes and initiatives. Exposure to physical activity at a young age is vital to a child's physical, social and emotional development and wellbeing.”
Daniel has entered the Alumni Business Person of the Year category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards and has entered Little Athletes into the Growth and Business in the Community categories of the awards.

Better Together

Growth Award entrant

Staffordshire University alumna Birgit (Bridge) Allport has transformed Better Together Community Support Group from a small social group into a registered charity with nine members of staff in the space of just over five years – despite being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour in 2019.
Bridge, now 54, moved to Stoke-on-Trent from her native Germany in 2010 after meeting her now husband Colin – and was surprised to find that he didn’t know his neighbours.
Inspired by her own experience of homelessness following a breakdown in family relationships as a young woman, she was driven to find ways to connect with the people around her. In 2018 she set up a social group for older people from her Trent Vale home while she was a mature student at Staffordshire University studying international history.
Bridge says: “I was lucky because there were people who supported me and let me use their shower and so on while I was living in my car in my early 20s. A friend helped me to find a room in a shared house and I have never forgotten what a difference his help meant to me.
“That experience made me the person I am. I’m not always the most diplomatic person but my heart is in the right place. I have been vulnerable; I have needed help. I know how important it is to have a friend there when you need it most.”
The group’s popularity soared, with people attending from across Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire, but in 2019 Bridge was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, which she has nicknamed Hugo, wrapped around her optic nerve. In the best-case scenario operating would leave her blind; or in the worst outcome, surgery could be fatal.
“When they told me, I responded in very strong language – too strong to repeat here – that I didn’t have time for this. My first thought was that if I’m not here anymore, who will help everyone? I put my affairs in order and then I just got on with things.”
When the Covid pandemic hit, Bridge and Colin started providing and delivering emergency food parcels for residents in need seven days a week, as well sourcing equipment such as fridge freezers and PPE and making hand sanitiser. In the beginning the couple funded everything themselves and even gave away their own clothes to people in need.
In 2021 Better Together became a registered charity to help more people and opened its headquarters in a row of shops in Trent Val, in October 2022, as a hub for activities and a warm space for the community. In March 2024 the charity expanded its HQ into the adjacent disused shop to offer more activities for the community and bring a long-vacant unit back to life.
The charity now runs a wide range of activities, including a warm space which is open six days a week, drop-in advice sessions, emergency food and hygiene parcels, four weekly playgroups in different locations across Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle, a weekly community café, a book club, men’s group, youth group and a community garden.
In 2023 Better Together provided 1,890 emergency food and hygiene parcels to people in need, with 3,952 people attending activities in the same year and 208 people signposted to other services for additional assistance. Year-on-year this represents a 30 per cent increase in emergency parcels, a 27 per cent increase in attendance at activities and a 14 per cent increase in signposting to other services.
In December 2023 Better Together was given £338,000 over four years by the National Lottery Community Fund’s Reaching Communities England programme to employ five additional staff members, taking the total number of employees to nine.
Bridge was invited to the Queen’s last Garden Party at Buckingham Palace and afternoon tea with the Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire in 2022, and to 10 Downing Street in 2023, in recognition of her charity work, while Better Together won the Breakthrough Award: Organisation at Voluntary Action Stoke-on-Trent’s Totally Stoked awards in January 2024, in recognition of its ‘significant growth’.
Bridge says: “Hugo [her brain tumour] is driving me on – helping others makes me forget my own health issues.
“I work stupid hours even when I’m dead on my feet. I look at the people who come to our warm space and our groups and they make it all worth it. What we do makes a big difference to their lives and that is my reward.
“What we do is life-saving – one of our community members told us that he had considered ending his life before he found us.
“Sometimes a cup of tea, a smile or a friendly word is all it takes to make someone’s life better. Doing good is wonderful – for the person doing it and for the person receiving it – and I just like to see people happy.”
Better Together now aims to continue to serve people across Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme, by offering new activities in the extended headquarters, such as sessions aimed at people with special educational needs and disabilities. The charity is also planning to launch a new group and café in Chell Heath, and is exploring new partnerships across Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme, while in the longer term there will be an increased focus on building the charity’s supporter base and expanding fundraising from individuals, trusts and foundations.
Bridge’s brain tumour has continued to grow slowly and she is set to have a scan in the summer to identify the next steps, which could include a course of radiotherapy.
She adds: “Our aim is not to become the biggest charity, but to work hard to make individual lives better and easier. If we can lift people’s spirits and create a sense of belonging where people feel comfortable to ask for help – and can receive that help – we will have achieved our aims.”
Birgit Allport has been nominated as Alumni Business Person of the Year and has entered Better Together into the Business in the Community and Growth categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Mitchell Arts Centre

Growth Award entrant

Nearly 70 years after it opened as a tribute to the designer of the Spitfire, The Mitchell Arts Centre continues to be a hub of the community and to support and entertain thousands of people.
The Stoke-on-Trent city centre venue is home to a theatre auditorium, dance studio and café plus various spaces it offers for corporate hire.
Education and community outreach play a key role. MAC Education was launched in September 2022 and in its first year supported 528 families with accessible arts and committed 1,270 hours to education.
In 2023 the centre partnered with the Hubb Foundation to provide 240 free workshops across the year for children receiving free school meals.
Other key programmes have included the cultural project You Are Here and the creation of a Youth Board.
In 2024 MAC Education is doubling its public workshops in half term and working hard behind the scenes applying for funding to provide more opportunities for the community.
Mitchell Arts Centre Education Officer Caroline Sherratt said: “Our strengths blossom from the legacy of the venue. The venue was paid for by public money in 1957 and the community spirit has continued to shine through ever since.
“The venue is used by local amateur dramatics groups, community groups and children’s theatre groups and within these connections we have made strong relationships which helps the venue stand tall in Stoke-on-Trent.”
The Mitchell Arts Centre has entered the Small Business of the Year, Team of the Year, Growth, Skills For the Future and Business in the Community categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Training and Business Solutions Ltd

Growth Award entrant

Steve Rushton only began trading as Training and Business Solutions Ltd in November 2022 but his vast experience in training and development across diverse industry sectors meant the business was able to hit the ground running.
In just 18 months Training and Business Solutions Ltd has supported 186 people into work and/or supported employees to learn skills and develop their roles within a business. It has worked with 87 companies, public sector and third sector organisations to either recruit or upskill their teams.
Bucknall-based Training and Business Solutions Ltd was founded with the employment needs of the people of Staffordshire at its heart.
Steve works tirelessly to ensure as many people as possible have knowledge of the employment options and opportunities available. He is a Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire apprenticeship ambassador and allocates time whenever possible to hosting talks and workshops.
He speaks regularly at school career events. During National Apprenticeship Week Steve gave a talk in a school assembly each day and engaged with parents and business owners.
In March 2024 Steve led a workshop in collaboration with Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce to empower the construction sector and build a plan to tackle skill shortages. This helped businesses working in construction to learn about the Local Skills Improvement Plan, Apprenticeship funding and CITB Grants.
Steve’s support for young people and determination to educate anyone who wants to listen about work opportunities and apprenticeships has even led to him giving Sunday lunchtime talks to parents and grandparents at local sports and social clubs.
Apprenticeships and training courses supported by Training and Business Solutions include accounts, administration, barbering, bricklaying, carpentry and joinery, chef apprenticeships, data technicians, events, gas engineering, vehicle technicians, financial services, mechanics, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing and more.
Prior to funding Training and Business Solutions Ltd Steve was Director of Partnerships at Achieve Training and the Aspire Group for 12 years and Training Manager for PM Training for three years.
Training and Business Solutions Ltd has entered the Growth category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

The Hearing Centres

Growth Award entrant

A business launched during the pandemic has grown to have 16 members of staff, a projected £1.6 million annual turnover and bases around the region.
The Hearing Centres was started by audiologist Clare Kewney in January 2021 with a premises in Bollington, Cheshire. By June the same year she had opened a centre in Leek and a year later expanded into Biddulph.
In April 2023 Clare merged the business with another local home visit hearing care provider and has gone on to open three more hearing care practices with another two planned for this year.
“We are passionate about ensuring people remain able to communicate with loved ones and involved in the community, helping to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia due to lack of social stimulation and activity,” said Clare.
“Our team are friendly and knowledgeable. They care about our patients and will go above and beyond to help and assist.
“We aim to deliver the very highest standards of service, care and expertise to our patients. Primarily we love to solve our patients’ hearing problems and to see their quality of life transformed.
“Above all we will listen to their concerns, explore treatment options and support them through every step of their hearing recovery.”
Services offered by The Hearing Centres include wax removal, hearing screening tests, full hearing assessments with speech audiometry, tympanometry, tinnitus assessments, hearing protection and hearing aid triage.
As the business is independent it has a full portfolio of hearing aids available to best suit the patient’s lifestyle, hearing and budget, all of which come with full after care service for the life of the hearing instruments.
Clare added: “Not only is there business growth but also within that we love to offer and support personal growth. An example of this is the first member of staff who was originally employed as a receptionist, then went on to train as a Hearing Care Assistant and then Wax Removal Specialist and is now Group Practice Manager.”
Clare has entered The Hearing Centres into the Small Business of the Year, Growth Award and Team of the Year categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

EMS Industries Ltd

Growth Award entrant

A North Staffordshire pump manufacturing company is on track to grow from a £3.5 million annual turnover to a projected £12 million by 2028.
EMS Industries Ltd was established in 1995 and has manufactured pumps and ancillary equipment to support the utilities for many years.
It designs, manufactures and installs pumps for the effective removal of grit and sludge so that waste can be used to generate bioenergy.
Every pump is customised for the individual job to ensure maximum efficiency.
Currently operating out of four separate units, the business is in the process of moving to a new facility in Newcastle-under-Lyme which is set to be fully operational by June 2024.
The relocation will bring all manufacturing and employees under one roof and save around £28,000 per year.
EMS has been led by Staffordshire University MBA alumni Joe Meakin since 2022.
He said: “The growth of the business is purely down to the foresight of the leadership team to diversify from its original industry to new growth sectors for energy production and carbon collection.
“EMS now has customers worldwide operating in biogas, bio methane and grit removal and through collaboration with businesses with similar synergies throughout the world has established the business as world class leaders in pump manufacture and grit removal equipment.
“Continued growth for EMS will bring growth and prosperity to local people and the community, creating jobs and opportunities for varying career paths.”
EMS recruits around three or four apprentices each year and has several employees on senior leadership programmes with Staffordshire University.
It has entered the Growth Award category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

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