Supporting campaign will help cidery beat pandemic

Supporting campaign will help cidery beat pandemic

THE owners of an award-winning family-run cidery in Warwickshire have launched a new crowdfunding campaign to help mount a post-pandemic recovery of their business.

Jolyon and Charlotte Olivier are inviting supporters to apply for at least £40,000 in shares of Napton Cidery following the success of their first round of investment two years ago.

The eight-week campaign is central to the entrepreneurs’ plans to re-emerge from the pandemic once again robust enough to build on the early success of their business – which started life as a hobby nine years ago.

Napton Cidery, Charlotte Olivier, Jolyon Olivier, Napton-on-the-Hill

The couple were first introduced to the taste of craft cider on a family holiday to Devon. Returning home with an apple tree, they soon started experimenting in their back garden.

Jolyon said: “We made our first batch of cider, as most do, from the apple tree in our garden. Turns out we were born to be cider makers! We started Napton Cidery several years later with the sole mission to collect unwanted apples from our village and surrounding orchards to create amazing ciders and, before you know it, we’re producing 90,000 litres of cider!”

Today, an eight-strong team at Napton harvests, presses, bottles and distributes more than 90,000 litres of cider a year, using 17 types of apples from six orchards across the Herefordshire region.

They also produce limited-edition ciders and perry as well as juices, spirits and vinegars.

Napton Cidery, Charlotte Olivier, Jolyon Olivier, Napton-on-the-Hill

Exciting expansion plans were under way following the introduction of their tap room earlier this year, only to be halted by the pandemic.

Jolyon recalls: “The tap room was closed before it even opened. Our licence was issued on the Monday immediately after the Government shut the pubs in March. We had been planning a big launch to celebrate. We also had six pubs lined up ready to install our kegs, all of which had to close as well.”

The business has also been impacted by cancelled tours, tastings, cider making workshops and monthly live music events at the cidery in a year which Jolyon believes has cost them more than £100,000 in lost revenue. The focus was then forced to pivot to home deliveries.

Napton Cidery, Charlotte Olivier, Jolyon Olivier, Napton-on-the-Hill

“The business side has been hit really hard. Up to 30% of our products were sold through our events and festivals which had to stop. We had to do some crisis management and rewrote our business plans in March but we were determined to find a way through. I don’t know where we would be without the web shop’s home delivery service. We would have been in a lot of trouble,” said Jolyon.

“We were a business that was ready to grow but had its wings clipped. The funding round would not have been needed without COVID.”

But he admitted there had been one lasting positive effect on the business.

“We’re selling more directly to the consumer now so we’re actually getting to know our consumers a lot better. And it’s helped small businesses come together and help each other out.”

Napton Cidery, Charlotte Olivier, Jolyon Olivier, Napton-on-the-Hill

Central to Napton’s growing popularity among customers is its strong sustainability ethos, from harvesting through to packaging. All of its apples come from traditional unsprayed orchards, organic and biodiverse growers, so no unnatural chemicals are introduced into the ecosystem. The cider is also naturally fermented using only wild yeasts and packaged in recyclable materials and all ingredients sourced as locally as possible.

Jolyon said: “We prefer not to use bush orchards which are long rows of apple trees all bunched quite close together. With these, once a disease hits a tree it spreads around the whole orchard which is why they have to be sprayed with pesticides.

“We decided very early on that we wanted to make cider that is environmentally friendly through using apples that aren’t over farmed.

“Environmental sustainability is one of our top priorities and we’re always looking into how we can improve. We have a lot more ideas we’re also working on. Our goal has always been to build, manufacture and sell high quality cider made in the most natural way possible.”

Napton Cidery, Charlotte Olivier, Jolyon Olivier, Napton-on-the-Hill

The challenges of the pandemic have not grounded Jolyon and Charlotte’s ambitions who, armed with their newly acquired spirits licence, plan to produce a new line of apple brandies to their repertoire within the next 18 months.

In the short term though, as well as juggling the demands of home-schooling their two children, aged eight and five, the couple have set their sights on a gentle period of regrowth and recovery for their business. This starts with the new investment opportunity, without which they admit, some tough decisions would have to be made.

“Our first crowdfunding campaign two years ago raised £148,000 which allowed us to expand, rebrand our products and bring staff on board. This new campaign is about sustaining growth. If we didn’t do this we would be having to make some cutbacks which would stunt that growth,” said Jolyon.

“It is a very good time to be helping out local businesses if you can. We have some great rewards available to our investors. There is no better time to get involved with Napton Cidery, we have an exciting future ahead of us.”

Further investment information and registration of interest form are available by visiting: https://www.naptoncidery.co.uk/investment

Napton Cidery’s products can be found at: https://www.naptoncidery.co.uk/shop

Final countdown is on to enter Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards

Final countdown is on to enter Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards

THERE are just a few days left to enter the first Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards.

The new Foodie Awards 2021, in partnership with Warwickshire County Council and Visit Coventry, is a celebration of the best of the region’s food and drink scene as they re-emerge from the pandemic year.

Entrants will be showcasing their talents to a panel of judges made up of some of the top names in the industry, including chef Glynn Purnell, appearing alongside his former employer Andreas Antona, owner of The Cross in Kenilworth, and Russell Allen, managing director of Aubrey Allen.

Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards, Talk Business UK, Visit Coventry, Coventry BID, Glynn Purnell, Andreas Antona, Aubrey Allen, Heather Timms, Warwickshire County Council, The Fat Foodie

‘Yummy Brummie’ Glynn Purnell, pictured above, who regularly appears on TV’s Saturday Kitchen, said: “It’s been a tough year for all of us in hospitality but these awards will help boost local businesses and recognise some of the great talent in the area. I’m looking forward to being involved.”

Also on the judging panel will be Chris Hardy AKA ‘The Fat Foodie’ – a multi award-winning influencer and street food expert and fellow Stratford-based influencer Katie Matthews AKA ‘The Hangry Blonde’.

County Councillor Heather Timms, Portfolio Holder for Environment, Heritage and Culture at Warwickshire County Council, said: “We all know what a difficult year it has been for the Retail and Hospitality Industry so awards like this help to shine a spotlight on the fantastic, innovative and hard-working businesses we have across Warwickshire and beyond.

Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards, Talk Business UK, Visit Coventry, Coventry BID, Glynn Purnell, Andreas Antona, Aubrey Allen, Heather Timms, Warwickshire County Council, The Fat Foodie
County Councillor Heather Timms, Portfolio Holder for Environment, Heritage and Culture at Warwickshire County Council

“These awards complement the newly created ‘Visit Warwickshire‘ website as well as the Survive, Sustain & Grow businesses support programme created by the County Council this year to help businesses through the pandemic.

“I would encourage all foodie businesses out there to submit an entry and get involved to help increase visibility and promote their business. Good Luck everyone!”

There are only a few days remaining to enter the inaugural awards, which closes on December 31st. This will be followed by a finalists’ night on January 25th at Coventry’s new Telegraph Hotel and then a grand ceremony in the spring.

Categories for the awards include best artisan food and drink producers, best farm shop, best independent food and drink retailer, best newcomer, best street food trader and best chef or cook of the year, as well as best food/drink experience.

Three special awards will also recognise businesses and individuals who went above and beyond during the coronavirus pandemic – including a COVID-19 Resilience Award backed by Visit Coventry and The Godiva Award, sponsored by Coventry BID.

The Foodie Awards will be raising money for The Trussell Trust network of eight food banks in Coventry and Warwickshire.

Main organiser Jonathan Smith, of Talk Business UK, said: ”With just a few weeks to go we are delighted with the fantastic response to the Foodie Awards for Coventry and Warwickshire.

Foodie Awards 2021, Coventry BID, Visit Coventry, Trish Willetts, Eat With Ellen, Talk Business UK, Jonathan Smith, Councillor Jim O’Boyle

“Now with over 150 entries across all the award categories the entry level is fantastic. By far the most entries are in the Newcomer category which just shows that the COVID pandemic has inspired so many to follow their dreams and start their own businesses. We too have been inspired by their stories, achievements and commitment to their businesses and communities.

There is still time to enter so please encourage all those you know to be part of this exciting new awards program.”

For more information on how to enter or to support the awards, visit https://foodieawards.co.uk

First COVID Resilience award-winners announced

First COVID Resilience award-winners announced

THREE local businesses that rose to the challenges of the pandemic have been recognised with a new special award.

The first COVID-Resilience Leamington Business Awards, organised by Talk Business UK, were held as part of a virtual ceremony hosted by local DJ Kirsty Leahy from Noisegate Media Studio in Leamington on Friday night.

Talk Business UK, COVID-19, Resilience, C J's Events, Heartbreak Productions, Baabzi Indian Takeaway, Leamington Business Awards, Matt Western MP

As well as a special performance from dance circus theatre company Motionhouse, the event featured a motivational message to businesses from Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western, pictured right.

He said: “It is really unpredictable how the pandemic is playing out and I appreciate just how hard it is hitting our businesses. If businesses can’t be open then we must have the financial support for them to see them through this incredibly difficult time, particularly the hospitality sector.

“I really want to thank all the businesses which have taken this seriously and have spent so much money to get COVID-safe and adhere to Government guidelines at a time when the revenue hasn’t been coming in.

“Huge thanks on behalf of the whole community to all the local businesses whose response to the pandemic has been extraordinary and I was very proud to see just how quickly businesses galvanized. It is a real measure of our community what has taken place over these last few months.

“It is so important for all of us that these businesses are around next year and the year after. We depend on the prosperity of our businesses for the vitality and the jobs and so on but they are such a core part of what makes Leamington so unique.”

2020 Business Resilience Award: This award went to a business that has demonstrated determination and resilience throughout the pandemic and tackled challenges head-on.

WINNER: CJ’s Events, Warwick
Talk Business UK, COVID-19, Resilience, C J's Events, Heartbreak Productions, Baabzi Indian Takeaway, Leamington Business Awards

CJ Events directors Carol Young and Jamie WalkerWhen the national lockdown hit in March, family-run business CJ’s Events Warwickshire took the decision to close its markets but, over a period of two months, the company worked hard on plans to return safely in line with Government advice, investing heavily in COVID barriers, signage and hand sanitiser stations and implementing policies and procedures, with the support of Warwick District Council.

And in June, CJ’s Events Warwickshire and Warwick Market were adopted by Central Government as a case study for how to implement a market’s safe return.

Their markets also continued to operate in line with the Government advice during the second lockdown.

Director and COVID-19 Compliance Officer Jamie Walker said: “We are absolutely ecstatic to have won the Business Resilience Award, this year has been a very tough one, one which wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Warwick District Council, BID Leamington, our whole team, traders and customers.

“Our whole business turned upside down during the announcement of the first lockdown, with all our events being cancelled. We’re immensely proud of what we’ve achieved over the past nine months and our business has gone from strength to strength despite the times we’ve faced.

“Winning this award highlights the appreciation of our hard work and this has ended 2020 on a high for us, we can’t thank everyone enough.”

Judge Sarah Windrum, CEO Emerald Group and CWLEP Board member, said this of the winning entry: “For the judges, the company that shone through was one that acted quickly when faced with adversity and when their business as usual had been turned completely on its head. They helped us keep our town safe and open with new COVID measures and their proactive approach to training meant that we could have the first UK market to reopen after the initial lockdown.

“They worked with regional stakeholders, led by a young team and it’s really inspirational to see what they have done for us. They’re also keeping us in good Christmas cheer as we stay within the tier 3 restrictions.”

Business Pivot Award: This category was open to any business that could demonstrate how they have ‘pivoted’ their product or service during 2020..

WINNER: Heartbreak Productions, Leamington

CJ Events directors Carol Young and Jamie Walker
Peter Mimmack, Heartbreak Productions Artistic Director and Maddy Kerr, Executive Director pictured with Awards presenter Kirsty Leahy.

This outdoor theatre business of 30 years had to respond quickly to the realisation that their much-anticipated 2020 tour would not go ahead and so curated the following projects including sharing past performances for the small screen and launching a competition for young people to devise their own lockdown-themed story, some of which were adapted into short screenplays.

Emily Bennett, spokesperson for Heartbreak Productions, said: “Heartbreak is honoured to have received this award after one of our most challenging years to date. Every single finalist deserved to win and we are overwhelmed by the love and support we have received.

“We would be unable to continue to do what we love without the wonderful people behind us – thank you!”

Judge, Louise Richards of Motionhouse, said: “The theatre sector was truly decimated and everybody lost all of their work. Heartbreak Productions, which receives absolutely no regular funding, managed to turn on a pinhead.

“People underestimate the time and work that goes into the creations in the theatre world and to do all of that in such a short period of time and be so responsive and so opportunistic is the sign of a brilliant business.”

 Lockdown Hero Award: This award recognises the Leamington business that has gone ‘above and beyond’ during 2020. The business may have provided products to vulnerable groups free of charge, offered their services pro-bono to struggling local businesses or individuals, or spread positivity during challenging times.

WINNER: Baabzi Takeaway, Warwick

Talk Business UK, Heartbreak Productions, CJ's Events, Baabzi Takeaway, COVID-19 Resilience, Resilience, Leamington Business Awards
Baabzi owner Faruk Miah with his award

Baabzi have been actively involved in their local community throughout the year, including meal deliveries to Warwick and Birmingham Children’s Hospitals.

The team also supplied nutritious meals to Helping Hands charity as well as raising more than £10,000 for the NHS Charity through food nights, a charity bike ride and skydive.

At the same time the business found ways to fund and supply keyworkers with PPE.

Owner Faruk Miah said: “All the finalists have done amazing jobs and we are all winners in truth. Winning this tonight is much welcome recognition of the value of local businesses and their essential contributions to overall wellbeing.

“What we did, we did purely because it felt like the right thing to do and we are proud to be a part of the community spirit. Watch this space because we have only just begun.”

Judge, Roger Scott, Area Director South Midlands for Lloyds SME, said: “Baabzi did a fantastic job working with others in the community, supporting the NHS. And what we loved is that personal connection with the town of Leamington but also that they wanted to give something back and that really touched our hearts.”

The bespoke awards were specially designed by Warwickshire College students Spencer Bronckaerts and Kodie Wood.

Jonathan Smith, of Talk Business UK, said: ”What an amazing evening showing what 2020 has taught us that we can overcome the challenges of Tier 3 and lockdowns and host great events online to recognise and celebrate all the inspiring achievements of the individuals and businesses of the region.

“Seeing the responses from all the worthy winners in each of the categories was emotional as we could see what this recognition meant to them and that hosting these special ‘Resilience Awards’ was the right thing to do.”

Leamington Business COVID Resilience Awards, Jonathan Smith, Talk Business UK
Jonathan Smith of Talk Business UK

Nominations for the main Leamington Business Awards will open on January 21st 2021 when businesses have the opportunity to enter 12 categories: New Business of the Year; Business and Community Award; Customers Service Excellence Award; Young Person of the Year Award, Employer of the Year; South Warwickshire Achievement of the Year; Innovation of the Year; Outstanding Achievement of the Year; Independent Business of the Year; Property Business of the Year, Warwick District Charity of the Year and The People’s Choice Award.

A winner from all the categories will also be selected for the prestigious Judges’ Choice Award – Business of the Year.

Sponsors include HB&O, Lodders solicitors and The Box Factory but more are invited to get onboard by contacting Jonathan Smith at: leamingtonbusinessawards@gmail.com or jon@talkbusinessuk.co.uk

Further details about the awards categories and how to nominate are available at: www.leamingtonbusinessawards.co.uk

Blood bikers appeal for Christmas toys

Blood bikers appeal for Christmas toys

By Tanya Aspinwall

WARWICKSHIRE and Solihull Blood Bikers are appealing to the public to help raise money to buy gifts for hospitalised over Christmas.

Blood Bikes is a registered charity that transports urgent samples of blood, COVID, human tissue and urgent medical supplies via their volunteers across Warwickshire’s network of hospitals. Around 80 volunteers including riders and drivers offer this service free of charge to the NHS providing a weekday out of hours service and 24/7 weekend and bank holiday cover.

Warwickshire and Solihull Blood Bikes, toys appeal

Traditionally the team of volunteers have raised funds to buy toys and presents for children aged up to 18 years old.  This year, due to the pandemic, they have been restricted with fundraising and only this week been given permission to allow them to drop the presents at University Hospitals Coventry Warwickshire Walsgrave on Saturday, 19th December. With the efforts of Warwickshire Police, the hospital and committee members, the 50 volunteers are able to drop the presents at the main entrance of the hospital.

Blood Bikes is therefore asking for help in raising money to purchase the toys or for the public to donate toys which need to be brand new and unused due to COVID restrictions. The Toy Run, which has been running for the last 8 years, has seen the group raise thousands of pounds for children over the years.

Phil Evans, a Trustee and one of the volunteers said “Christmas is such a special time especially for children, but for some, their Christmases are spent on a hospital ward. By donating toys or money and enabling our volunteers to deliver presents, we hope to give these children a brighter Christmas and put a smile on their faces”.

Anyone wishing to donate toys can email Phil Evans at events@wsbb.org who will arrange collection. Alternatively, those that wish to donate money to be spent on presents can visit https://www.wsbb.org/ and click on donate.

Restaurateur cooks up a plan to help the homeless

Restaurateur cooks up a plan to help the homeless

A new Leamington restaurant is supporting its local community this Christmas by joining forces with a charity that helps the homeless.

We Love Pizza, in Regent Place, is supplying its leftover food at the end of the day to Helping Hands Community Project soup kitchen which provides hot food to hundreds of people a month.

It comes at a particularly welcome time for the volunteers, who are gearing themselves up for an increased demand over Christmas.

We Love Pizza, Jose Ribeiro, homeless, Helping Hands
Jose Ribeiro is greeted by some of the soup kitchen customers.

The soup kitchen was taken over by Helping Hands six years ago after originally being started by a Christian couple with a van outside Leamington Police station. But during COVID-19, they have instead had to adapt to providing takeaway meals from a van parked outside their Althorpe Street premises.

Sue Verne, who heads it up, said: “Before COVID-19 we used to serve food inside the premises, unfortunately we have to serve outside at the moment on a takeaway basis. Only four people are allowed to serve in the kitchen at any one time in order for us to keep a safe distance.

She added: “The pizza is a welcome treat and very much appreciated. We are so grateful for this vital support for the most vulnerable people in our area at this particularly challenging time.”

We Love Pizza, Jose Ribeiro, homeless, Helping Hands
Jose Ribeiro hands over some of the many pizzas during his latest delivery to Monique Khaira, a volunteer at the Helping Hands soup kitchen.

The soup kitchen van serves from Monday to Thursday 6:30-7:30pm as well as offering a takeaway breakfast on Tuesdays – and even the occasional birthday cake – but will not be able to hold its popular annual Christmas party this year.

The charity also provides sleeping bags, quilts, clothing, footwear and toiletries as well as additional seasonal support such as warm water for hot water bottles and waterproofs in winter and sun cream in summer.

Jose Ribeiro, owner of We Love Pizza, was determined to work with the community despite his business facing its own challenges against the backdrop of the pandemic. He was forced to close his restaurant throughout the second national lockdown and tier 3 restrictions, just weeks after first launching in September and is now operating a takeaway and click and collect service.

Jose Ribeiro hands over some of the many pizzas during his latest delivery to Monique Khaira, a volunteer at the Helping Hands soup kitchen.
We Love Pizza co-owner Jose Ribeiro.

But he said: “I always knew I wanted to create a social enterprise so there is a charitable element to what we do as well. We want to use our food to impact positively on society and people’s lives so decided to work with a charity which can benefit from our surplus food at the end of each day.

“Since we moved in just a few weeks ago, we have been warmly welcomed by our new community and it is a pleasure to be able to already start to give something back. We sincerely hope that by supporting the fantastic work of this local charity we’re actively able to do that.”

“My partner and I want to become positive members of the local community. We have that obligation to help people out that need us, especially right now.”

Jose and his team at the artisan pizza restaurant, pride themselves on delivering ‘affordable quality’ to customers by using only the best and most nutritious flour combinations and implementing exact temperature control and longer fermentation periods for the sourdough. Fresh ingredients, sourced directly from Italy as well as locally, are prepared by a team of five chefs from four corners of the globe.

Visit: https://welovepizza.uk/

Anyone interested in supporting, donating or volunteering at the soup kitchen, or wants to learn more about how to get involved with Helping Hands, is invited to visit: https://www.helpinghandscharity.org.uk/