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Rugby legends’ coffee company supports primary school skills programme

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Gower-based coffee company FabFour Coffee, which is run by four Welsh rugby legends, is supporting enterprise education in Wales by partnering with primary schools to deliver ‘The Bumbles of Honeywood’ skills programme.

Created by 2B Enterprising Ltd, it is a suite of bilingual resources mapped to the national curriculum to help primary schools embed enterprise skills into their day-to-day learning. 

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Shane Williams, James Hook, Mike Phillips and Lee Byrne have each selected a school to support and are looking forward to sharing their own experience of enterprise development with young people in Wales.

The schools they are supporting are: Bancyfelin Primary School, Carmarthen (Mike Phillips); Newton Primary School, Mumbles (James Hook); Brynamman Primary School (Shane Williams) and St Mary’s Catholic School, Llanelli (Lee Byrne).

2B Enterprising is a Swansea-headquartered organisation that has created the first bilingual enterprise skills programme for school. The Bumbles of Honeywood programme has been developed by entrepreneurial business leaders and experienced educators with extensive input from teachers. Designed to fit with the Welsh curriculum, the programme has a strong environmental message and aims to nurture enterprise skills in pupils from a young age, equipping them for success in the workplace and in business.

The programme is built around a series of beautifully illustrated books and interactive extension activities that explore the environmental plight of the honeybee and help children develop skills such as resilience, problem solving, leadership, communication and teamwork.

FabFour Coffee was founded by four friends: former Wales and British & Irish Lions players Mike Phillips, James Hook, Shane Williams and Lee Byrne. With a combined 308 Welsh caps and 10 British and Irish Lions appearances, they amassed 742 points for Wales, earning the nickname ‘Fab Four’ when they starred together for Ospreys, Wales and the Lions.

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All four have a passion for coffee, so they founded their business with the aim of creating great tasting coffee, keeping their long-standing friendship intact and making a contribution to worthy causes. Its official charity partner is Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, but the team were on the lookout for further good causes to support. By partnering with2B Enterprising they hope to have a positive impact on children’s education and equip them with essential skills for the future.

James Hook said: “When we learnt about 2B Enterprising’s The Bumbles of Honeywood programme we saw that it offered a unique way to nurture some of the skills that have been so important to us in sport and in business – the ability to lead, collaborate, be resilient and determined, and to solve problems. We decided to help support enterprise education by partnering with four schools, and we each look forward to visiting to talk to the children about the important skills they need for their future.”

2BEnterprising founder Sue Poole added: “We’re delighted that FabFour Coffee are supporting enterprise education in schools through The Bumbles of Honeywood programme. Shane, James, Mike and Lee are great role models who really embody the enterprise skills taught by 2B Enterprising. By partnering with these schools they are helping to equip children with important skills for the future that will benefit them in life and in work.”

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Covid grant scheme for Swansea businesses that don’t pay business rates

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photo of black cab on cobblestone road

An emergency grant scheme is now available for Swansea businesses in the leisure, tourism, hospitality and retail sectors that do not pay business rates.

Funded by the Welsh Government and run by Swansea Council, the Emergency Business Fund grant scheme is aimed at helping support businesses impacted by current Covid restrictions which are not eligible for the Economic Resilience Fund.

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Covering business impacted from Monday December 13 to Monday February 14, online applications are now open which cover two levels of grant award:

  • A £1,000 cash grant payment for hospitality, tourism, retail, leisure or related supply chain businesses which do not employ anyone apart from the owner, and do not have a property
  • A £2,000 cash grant payment for hospitality, tourism, retail, leisure or related supply chain businesses who employ staff through PAYE (in addition to the owner)

Also covering freelancers in the creative sector, both these grants are aimed at supporting businesses with an annual turnover of less than £85,000.

Businesses which may be eligible are asked to visit https://fundchecker.businesswales.gov.wales/businesssupport where the Business Wales eligibility checker must be completed before applicants are able to access the application form.

All applications must be submitted by 5pm on Monday February 14.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, said: “It’s important all businesses in Swansea impacted by the current Omicron restrictions have access to financial support, with this latest grant scheme aimed at supporting many businesses that may not be eligible for the other support schemes already in place.

“We’re doing all we can as a council to assist our business community during these extremely challenging times, with more than £150m having been allocated to provide support since the onset of Covid.

“I’d encourage any business that may be eligible for emergency financial support to fill out an application. Council officers will do all they can to process payments for successful applicants as soon as possible.”

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A grant scheme for hospitality, tourism, retail and related supply chain businesses which are liable to pay non-domestic rates is also now live. This means these businesses could be entitled to grants of £2,000, £4,000 or £6,000, depending on their rateable value.

More information, eligibility criteria and both registration and application details for that grant scheme are available at www.swansea.gov.uk/CovidNDRbusinessgrants 

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Swansea Building Society appoints new non-executive director

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Swansea Building Society, ranked the most profitable building society in the UK last year, has appointed a new non-executive director – Malcolm Hayes.

Hayes comes to the role with extensive executive and board level experience gained within several major UK clearing banks, a specialist lending group, an ethical bank, and a large mutual credit union.

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After starting his career with NatWest, Hayes went on to spend over 25 years in Lloyds Banking Group, where he held senior risk and credit positions in the bank’s business and commercial divisions.

His 40-year career has seen him hold executive positions as chief risk officer, operational risk & compliance director, control function director, head of credit audit and head of enterprise-wide risk management.

Having retired from executive roles in 2019, following five years as the chief risk officer of Paragon Banking Group, Hayes currently also holds non-executive director roles at Reliance Bank Ltd and as chair of the board of directors of Citysave Credit Union Ltd.

He also has previous board experience as a director of the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation PLC and AMC Bank Ltd – wholly owned subsidiaries of Lloyds Bank PLC – and served as a board director of a Lloyds Bank subsidiary established to undertake residential property development.

Hayes’ new non-executive director role with Swansea Building Society sees him sit on the Society’s audit committee, risk committee and asset & liabilities committee.

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Malcolm Hayes, non-executive director at Swansea Building Society, said: “I’m very excited to be taking on this new non-executive director role with Swansea Building Society. The Society’s vision and ethics are truly inspirational, and the success the Society has achieved in recent years is a tribute to its customer-focused, common-sense approach to lending. I hope that the experience I bring to the role can help the society continue its success and allow it to help even more people build a better future for themselves and their families.”

Alun Williams, chief executive officer at Swansea Building Society, added: “We are delighted to welcome Malcolm to his new role of non-executive director. Malcolm has extensive experience, over many years, which will be invaluable in helping Swansea Building Society build on our success and achieve our business aims.”

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Neath-based Vortex IoT acquired by national tech company

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The Development Bank of Wales have announced that they have successfully exited Vortex IoT Limited just three years after providing initial pre-seed capital funding to the technology start-up that now employs 35.

The Neath-based supplier of environmental sensors, networks and data solutions has been acquired by  Marston Holdings, the UK’s leading provider of integrated, technology-enabled transport solutions. Figures have not been disclosed.

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Marston supports government, utilities and private sector clients through the delivery of market leading integrated technology-enabled solutions from design through to implementation, management and recovery.  Marston’s clients include local authorities seeking to build environmental schemes that reduce congestion and pollution.  With the acquisition of Vortex, Marston will strengthen its offering by delivering complementary air quality solutions that maximise awareness, identify pollution hotspots and improve public health. 

Headquartered in Neath, Vortex IoT was founded by CEO Adrian Sutton and CTO Behzad Heravi. It is made up of a highly-skilled team of 35 that includes engineers with expertise in emerging technologies, Artificial Intelligence (AI), 5G, LiDAR laser technology and machine learning. 

As equity funders, the Development Bank of Wales invested £250,000 pre-Seed capital followed by a further £250,000 from the Wales Business Fund alongside London-based Start-up Funding Club (SFC Capital). Having enabled Vortex to scale-up in just three years, the Development Bank has now exited.

Adrian Sutton, CEO of Vortex IoT, commented: “Joining Marston Holdings accelerates Vortex IoT’s ability to deliver social value and environmental change for clients, and we’re delighted to collectively build on the existing relationships we have established as trusted partners to our clients in bringing cutting edge smart city and environmental monitoring solutions to market.

“The equity funding and support from the Development Bank made a difference to our business, enabling us to be at the forefront of the fight against climate change with the development of solutions that help reduce carbon emissions. It’s also what has given us the platform to build a business that is attractive to bigger players like Marston meaning that we can continue to grow with the benefit of the Welsh ecosystem all around us.”

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Alexander Leigh, Senior Investment Executive with the Development Bank of Wales said: “As early investors in Vortex with pre-seed capital and follow-on funding, we are delighted to have supported the growth of this exciting business over the last three years.

“It’s hugely rewarding to exit a start-up after such a short period of time, particularly having seen the team benefit from the support available here in Wales. They could have set-up anywhere in the world but chose Wales because of our can-do attitude, the help available for entrepreneurs in the tech sector and the lower cost base.   

“Marston’s acquisition of Vortex now further accelerates the opportunity for the team to deliver their innovative air quality solutions that are very much needed for a zero-carbon economy whilst also continuing to invest in highly skilled jobs from their base in Neath. It’s a brilliant success story that we are really proud to have played a part in.  

The acquisition of Vortex follows the 2019 acquisitions of Videalert, a supplier of intelligent traffic management solutions; ParkTrade, a Swedish-based European tolling payments and collections business; and LogicValley, an Indian-based AI focused developer.  Vortex’s products further bolster Marston’s transportation technology division, ensuring Marston is best placed to meet the evolving needs of its client base. 

Mark Hoskin, Chief Commercial Officer at Marston Holdings added: “We have a long track record of successfully working in partnership with the public sector, and this acquisition reflects client feedback seeking innovative, technology-enabled solutions. COP26 demonstrated public support for driving the transition to a zero-carbon economy, and we’re pleased to further enhance our ability to support our clients and their residents through cleaner, healthier and more people-friendly communities.”

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