Category: News

Course creates marriage made in business heaven

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A pioneering leadership and management course played cupid to two Anglesey firms.

Peninsula Home Improvements and Gwynedd Garage Doors Ltd have now moved in together in a “marriage made in business heaven”.

They struck up their unique relationship at the European-funded ION Leadership Programme at Bangor University.

As a result, Gwynedd Garage doors are now based at Peninsula’s premises in Gaerwen, with a spectacular view overlooking the Menai Strait towards Snowdonia.

The union has provided a big boost for both companies because their businesses are complementary and they now generate new customers for each other.

It all came about after Peninsula chief executive Ken Grayson met Carys Owen whose brother, Paul, runs Gwynedd Garage Doors, during one of the ION Leadership courses.

As well as selling uPVC doors and windows, Peninsula concentrate on high-end glazing products similar to the ones used on the hit TV show Grand Designs fronted by Kevin McCloud.

In the past they also sold garage doors but it was never a core part of the business.

Ken said: “I was on my second ION course at the university where one of the benefits is the opportunity to network and talk to like-minded people.

“I met Carys and we realised that we weren’t focusing really strongly on garage doors which is something they obviously specialise in.

“As companies, we both had gaps in what we offered so it seemed to be a really good, cooperative way of partnering up.

“It’s a strategic arrangement and it works for both sides so there were no disadvantages for either of us. It just seemed like a marriage made in business heaven.

“The synergy between the two companies means we are now greater than the sum of our individual parts.”

As well as being based in Gaerwen where they pay rent for the office, showroom and warehouse space, Gwynedd Garage Doors also benefit from the Peninsula sales team who drum up sales leads when they are out and about.

Together, the two companies have a workforce of around 30 people, with 23 of them on the Peninsula side.

The agreement is working well for Gwynedd Garage Doors which was founded by Carys and Paul’s dad, Goronwy, in Aberffraw, in the early 1980s.

Paul said: “Our passion is garage doors and the benefit of this arrangement is that it frees up my time to do what I’m good at which is installing doors, and surveying and getting the customer the best door for their budget.

“Having the salesman going out and selling before I go in and finish off the installations, and just being incorporated with a bigger brand is good for our brand.

“This partnership works well for all involved, especially the customer because we’re now a one stop shop for everything they need.”

It was a sentiment echoed by sister Carys, managing director of a business consultancy company, Capacity2learn.

She said: “Moving in together seemed like a win-win situation for us and what  the ION course gave us was the confidence to think outside the box to come up with this imaginative solution to make the most of the strengths of both companies. Lots of positives have come out of it from both sides.”

Gwenllian Owen, the Programme Manager for the ION Leadership project, which is  backed with £2.7 million from the European Social Fund, is proud of both business partners in the new relationship.

She said:  “ION leadership helps develop and grow small to medium enterprises and works with large organisations as well.

“We work with business owners, managers and aspiring leaders to help them develop their leadership skills in order to become more effective at what they do but also to encourage and support their staff to become more effective.

“In this case we seem to have acted like a dating agency for Peninsula and Gwynedd Garage Doors and it’s worked out really well.

“It’s very satisfying because we work very closely with these businesses when they’re on the programmes and encourage them to discuss potential partnerships.

“We have seen a number of partnerships develop as a result of our courses but this is the first one where they are working so closely and based at the same premises.

“It’s mutually beneficial for both partners and long may that continue.”

World champion Welsh Cake maker is crowned

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The world’s Champion Welsh Cake maker has been crowned.

Bev Marsh from Tywyn, Gwynedd, was chosen after a bake-off by cooks from around Wales, all bidding to take the title at the first-ever Jones Crisps World Welsh Cake Championships.

She picked up a year’s supply of Jones crisps, plus £150 and a specially-made trophy.

Judges said Bev’s cakes were tasty and perfectly cooked, with a melt-in-the-mouth quality.

And retired GP Ieuan Jones from Talwrn, near Llangefni, whose bakes were flavoured with pink peppercorns and cranberries, won the title Alternative Flavour Welsh Cake Maker, bagging £50 and a case of Jones Crisps.

Farmer, broadcaster and social media champion Gareth Wyn Jones from Llanfairfechan presented Ieaun with his prize. The good news was broken by phone to Bev, while she was at work at Brighter Foods in Tywyn, where she is a shift supervisor.

The contest, part of the popular Llandudno Christmas Fayre, was held at the town’s  Trinity Church, in partnership with Bodnant Food Centre Wales, Go North Wales, Llandudno Chamber of Trade and Merched y Wawr.

Around 20 bakers entered the contest, with entries from as far afield as Tregaron in South Wales. Welsh Cakes are known by a variety of names in different areas of Wales, such as Picau ar y Maen, Pice Bach, and Theisen Radell.

It was just the second time that  mum-of-two Bev, 62, had made Welsh cakes, she admitted.

‘“I looked for the recipe online, because it’s not something that I’ve made before,” said Bev, who moved to Tywyn 40 years ago from the West Midlands. “I do love baking and my granddaughter Sarah, who is two, sampled my first trial batch. My other granddaughter, Carys, 13, was the time keeper to make sure they were cooked properly.

“I used to do a lot of baking before my husband Phil died, and now I enjoy doing it with my three grandchildren.

“I made the winning entries on Tuesday so they could be posted, and it’s good know they got there safely

“I entered the competition with some of my colleagues from Brighter Foods, as we all like taking part in contests like these. I am really pleased that one of us has won, as there was stiff competition from my colleagues.

“I will be sharing my year’s supply of Jones Crisps with my colleagues at work as that’s only fair.”

She revealed that the winning cakes were made from a combination of Welsh butter and lard, but she left out the spices that are often added.

She added: “I thought that back in the day people would use lard a lot, and that they probably won’t have access to spices, as they were expensive.”

Geraint Hughes of Jones Crisps, who organised the contest, said: “I love Welsh Cakes and I wanted to celebrate the very best that Wales has to offer.

“I am delighted that Bev has won. We’ve had a wide variety of entries and it’s been a real dream tasting them all – the judges have had a difficult task in choosing the winner.

“I was delighted to be able to announce that  she is our Champion Welsh Cake Maker. It’s a title never awarded before, and Bev should be proud to be the first person to hold this office. I am sure that her family will agree that their Welsh Cakes are truly champions.

“We were expecting some weird and wacky food combinations for the Alternative Flavour Welsh Cake category and the entries certainly lived up to our expectations.

“Ieuan‘s creation of pink peppercorns and cranberries was most unusual, but lovely to sample.”

The grandad of seven said he was inspired by his daughter Delyth, a professional cook for a Wirral hotel.

The 68-year-old, who is often called on to create cakes for village fund-raising events, said: “Myself, my wife Mary, and our four children all cook, and my daughter Delyth and I especially like trying out different flavours. I thought for this I would try something that might be suitable for Christmas and also for savoury toppings, such as cream cheese or salmon.

“Pink peppercorns give a lovely delicate flavour and the cranberries have a very seasonal flavour, I actually used cranberries that my sister in law brought over from America.

‘I did also enter the Traditional category, using Halon Mon vanilla salt, so it is interesting that the Alternative ones were more popular with the judges ”

Other entries to the Alternative Flavour category included walnut, butterscotch, blueberry, apricot and rhubarb.

The judging panel included Linda Jones from Rhiwlas and Majorie Jones from Glan Conwy, and lead by Delyth Jenkins of Ffos y Ffin, near Aberaeron, who won last year’s Jones Crisps Bara Brith World Championships - her winning bake  is now on sale to the public.

Delyth said: “There was very high standard of entries and it was a difficult choice. However, we thought Bev’s entry was nice and moist, well baked with a good colour. The cakes were all the same size, with an excellent taste. It was also good to see she’d used Welsh ingredients

“Ieuan’s Alternative Welsh Cake was lovely, delicately flavoured and a real winner. We thought it would make an excellent savoury cake, similar to a blini.”

Jones Crisps is the only crisp company based in Wales and owned by Welsh food entrepreneurs. The crisps are made with 100% Welsh grown potatoes. Each crisp is hand cooked in high oleic sunflower oil, to produce excellent old fashioned crisps with a proper thick crunch and punchy flavours.

Jones Crisps is proud to support outdoor events across Wales including the Cardiff Triathlon, Slateman, E-tape Eryri and Jones Crisps Anglesey Half Marathon.

500 firms created in “dynamic” Wrexham since 2010


More than 500 new companies have been set up in Wrexham in the past seven years, it’s been revealed.

The boom in start-up firms was evidence of the dynamism of the town’s economy, according to the Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns.

He was speaking at the annual pre-Christmas gathering of Wrexham Business Professionals (WBP) at the Ramada Plaza Hotel.

Swansea-born Mr Cairns, who represents the Vale of Glamorgan for the Conservative Party and is also a former Welsh Assembly Member, was addressing 170 business leaders.

The group is made up of successful businesses and highly skilled professional firms of solicitors, accountants and other business professionals working together to raise the profile of enterprise and expertise that exists in the region and beyond.

Mr Cairns paid tribute to the group as a “key influence” behind the decision to build the new HM Prison Berwyn in Wrexham ensuring that major contracts went to local firms.

Describing the North Wales economy as a “beacon for investment and job creation”, he said: “The growth rate in the region is faster than the UK average and the unemployment rate is just 3.6 per cent.

“In Wrexham there is a dynamism in the economy. Five hundred new businesses have started since 2010, proving that North East Wales is a fantastic attraction to investment.

“These are exciting times and there has been a huge amount of activity going on here in Wrexham recently.

“In just the last few weeks two life sciences companies have announced plans to invest in the area, with one investing £22 million in a new unit from which it will export to more than 80 countries around the world.

“In the recent Budget announcement, the Chancellor set out plans to increase the Welsh Government’s budget by £1.2 billion and build an economy that is fit for the future. He also confirmed that the UK Government will now turn its attention to delivering a growth deal for North Wales. This means we are now in a position to look at particular projects.”

Mr Cairns said he had set himself a number of key challenges for the next few years, which included encouraging local governments in Wales to respond to the dynamic developments in devolution n the English side of the border and ensuring that North Wales is in the best possible position to take advantage of Brexit.

Turning to Brexit, Mr Cairns said the UK Government was making “positive progress” in the negotiations with Europe.

“We are focusing on getting the best deal for every part of the UK and I firmly believe that with every challenge created by Brexit comes an opportunity,” he explained

“I want to create an outward looking and ambitious Wales which is at the heart of a global Britain and I want to make North Wales the gateway to Europe.”

Praising WBP, he said: “Your organisation is crucial to supporting local businesses and jobs and driving wealth creation.

“Your organisation was a key influence behind the decision to build the new HMP Berwyn in Wrexham and you similarly influenced the procurement process that meant major contracts went to local firms.

“You are pivotal to the future of North Wales and I thank you for all the work you have done.”

WBP chair Gill Kreft thanked Mr Cairns for recognising the valuable regional contribution made by the group and for sharing his “optimistic vision” for North Wales.

She said: “Our group keeps growing because we share the same values, putting responsible business at the heart of what we do and powering regional prosperity for the benefit of the whole community.

“Our ethos is grounded in sharing and partnership working, bringing together the worlds of entrepreneurs, politics, education, the professions and all types of business, large and small.

“The next couple of years including the Brexit negotiations are going to be difficult for the Welsh and UK Governments. But, as always, we will play our part.”

Members were entertained by comedian Gary Marshall before raising more than £3,000 of pounds for the NSPCC via a charity raffle and auction.

To find out more about Wrexham Business Professionals go to:

Roads of Castles in Wonderland lead to prosperity

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Plans have been unveiled for a brand new tourism route created especially for the increasing number of Japanese visitors fuelling the tourism boom in North Wales.

The Roads of Castles in Wonderland initiative was revealed by Jim Jones, the managing director of North Wales Tourism, who said the region was now a big hit with visitors from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Mr Jones told a meeting of Wrexham Business Professionals at the town’s Ramada Hotel there had been an 84 per cent increase in Japanese visitors in the past two years, with almost 2,400 of them between April and September of this year coming via travel agencies that have not previously had North Wales on their itineraries.

The group is made up of successful businesses and highly skilled professional firms of solicitors, accountants and other business professionals working together to raise the profile of enterprise and expertise that exists in the region and beyond.

According to Mr Jones, North Wales Tourism has been working closely with the high-powered Japanese Association of Travel Agents (JATA).

Earlier this year he took a seven-strong on group from JATA on a whistle-stop tour of World Heritage sites and other attractions in North Wales.

Mr Jones “Japanese tourists used to by-pass North Wales but not anymore.

“We have worked hard to promote the region and as a result we have seen a sharp rise in the number of Japanese tourists visiting North Wales.

“JATA have now selected 20 of the most beautiful roads in Europe and we were thrilled they picked North Wales as one of those routes.

“They will now be promoting North Wales as The Road of Castles in Wonderland.

“The route starts in Newtown and comes up through, Chirk, Wrexham and Ruthin, before heading to Conwy and Llandudno and down the Conwy Valley to the Llyn Peninsula and looping to Caernarfon and Anglesey.

“We’re now aiming to target other Asian markets like China, Thailand and the Philippines because there’s so much potential there.

“Manchester Airport has Hainan from China coming in directly seven days a week and Cathy Pacific will be from the New Year hopefully be coming in from Hong Kong seven days a week.

“There is still a lot we need to do and we can’t yet sit on our laurels but there really is a lot to be positive about.

“North Wales has voted as the 4th best place in the world to visit by readers of Lonely Planet brings huge kudos.

“The sector already contributes more than £2.8 billion annually to the regional economy and employs upwards of 47,000 people.

“One of the main reasons for the dramatic rise in our fortunes as a tourism destination is that North Wales is at the epicentre of the growing adventure holidays market and is earning recognition as a world leader thanks to developments like Zip World and Surf Snowdonia.

“There are two other areas that have got ahead of the curve especially on the promotion of food and drink Anglesey and Wrexham. We have witnessed a 70 per cent increase in tourism in Wrexham over the last 10 years which is amazing.

“That’s been helped by a forward thinking local authority and the launch of the innovative Wrexham Card.

“Add to that high profile events such as Olly Murs appearing at the Racecourse Ground and Wrexham is suddenly doing much better in terms of tourism.”

The other keynote speaker was Chris Nott OBE, the Prince of Wales’ Business Ambassador for Wales.

Mr Nott, a commercial lawyer and senior partner of Capital Law LLP, gave an inspiring talk on ethical entrepreneurship and responsible business.

He said: “My primary responsibility is to my 150 employees. In the end I’m responsible for the payment of 150 mortgages, it’s really that simple.

“If staff are happy and understand the ethos behind what you do then you have a far more productive and successful team.

“A successful business will build a sense of community and become a value-led organisation.

“What is really important is that as a business you measure output and not input.”

Gill Kreft, the chair of Wrexham Business Professionals, thanked both speakers, recognising their inspirational commitment to making North Wales a better place to live, work and do business.

She said: “Jim Jones is so passionate about our region and he’s put North Wales on the map, as never before. Chris Nott’s vision is also vitally important and his values are shared at the very heart of our ethos at Wrexham Business Professionals.

“Working responsibly is good for business and has got to be the way forward to generate sustainable wealth, health and wellbeing for North Wales.”