Category Archives: Uncategorized

Free help for small business

A project to provide small businesses with graduates and undergraduate interns is under way in Cumbria.

Businesses can apply to have funded assistance for 20 days from under graduates and graduate students with a range of skills, from digital technology to forestry.

The project, organised by Cumbria Innovations Platform, is arranged so that the innovation needs of each small business are supported.

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And there’s flexibility in the project, with students able to work remotely or on campus if it suits the business owner’s needs.

“We have access to a wide range of skills among students who have either graduated or are in their third year in subjects including outdoor studies, science, business studies, creative media and health studies,” said project manager Sarah Allison.

She highlighted as an example Beth, a concept artist with a 2.1 BA (Hons) Games Design who was looking for part-time work before beginning her Masters in September.

“Cumbria has a host of small and micro businesses, with a big emphasis on digital technology and creativity,” said Sarah. “This is a great opportunity for them to access help from people who have the most up to date skills in their particular field”.

Cumbria Innovations Platform is a unique project provided by Lancaster University and University of Cumbria, funded by European Regional Development Funding. It aims to support and encourage innovation in Cumbria by providing micro, small and medium enterprises with a competitive edge, combining the capabilities of various departments from the universities and the provision of bespoke business support.


Anyone interested in taking on an intern should contact





Simply the best in Cumbria

An Ambleside guest house has been judged the best in Cumbria just two years after the new owners took over.

Haven Cottage won the title at the Cumbria Tourism awards, with the judges highlighting the excellent customer service of Chris and Allie Hodgson.

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The award was open to bed and breakfast and guest-house businesses providing “truly memorable guest experiences and demonstrating excellence across every aspect of the business”.


Chris and Allie swapped their corporate jobs in their 30s to set-up and run a catered ski chalet in the French Alps, first in Morzine and then in Samoens, before moving back to the UK four years ago, and now run Haven Cottage with the help of housekeeper Cristina Dumitrascu. Chris is a member of Ambleside AC and was one of the organisers of the recent British Fell Relay races at Grasmere, and he’s also an active member of the sustainability group Ambleside Action for a Future.

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They recently won the coveted ROSE award from Visit England in recognition of service excellence and Haven Cottage is the long-term Trip Advisor No 1 out of 101 establishments in Ambleside. The guest-house has three double bedrooms and two luxury suites, holds four-star gold accreditation from Visit England – and a reputation for excellent breakfasts. They also hold the Green Tourism silver award and are working toward gaining gold status.

Said Allie: “This is a wonderful accolade for us. While we believe that Haven Cottage provides a high level of comfort, it is more about how we run our guest house, and the exceptional customer service we provide, that we believe sets us apart.

“We have a genuine desire to make sure guests enjoy their stay in the Lakes to the maximum and spend time each day helping guests plan their day’s activities and provide detailed itineraries and walks if required.”

Chris said: “We spent over a decade running a very successful ski chalet in the French Alps. The time in France was invaluable in developing our hospitality skills and gave us confidence that our model of ‘excellence in customer service’ was the right one, both for ourselves and our guests.”

The personal touch is combined with an increasing focus on sustainability and community. Products are sourced locally in and around Ambleside to provide high quality breakfasts and toiletries, and the couple actively support the local community both in organised events and helping shape tomorrow’s world of sustainable tourism.

Allie said: “We do go out of our way to ensure guests are having a great stay. What’s the point in having all this knowledge and love for the Lakes if we don’t share it with our guests? It’s great to be recognised this way.”

What guests have said about Haven Cottage:

  • Absolute perfection.
  • The Haven is perfect.
  • Chris and Allie were friendly, informative, welcoming and great breakfast chefs.
  • Nothing I can fault at all.
  • We were there for four nights and were able to observe a variety of guests from hard-core walkers (like us) to people who were car touring. Each couple was given the warmest of welcomes, and if they were new to the Lake District, very personal advice on how to use their time or where to walk given the weather conditions and their skill level.



Paul to tackle the biggest fell challenge

Ambleside AC runner and inov-8 ambassador Paul Tierney is to make an attempt on the UK’s toughest individual mountain challenge, to run all of Alfred Wainwright’s 214 peaks in the Lake District in six days.

Paul (36) is hoping to beat the record time set by Steve Birkinshaw in 2014 who ran the circuit in six days and 13 hours.

Steve Birkinshaw broke the record set by Joss Naylor in 1987, who completed the challenge in seven days, one hour and 25 minutes.

Paul is running the route to raise money for the mental health charity MIND, in memory of his close friend and fellow athlete Chris Stirling who died suddenly last month.

An Irish international trail runner – who also played the sport of hurling at county level – Paul came to live in the Lake District in 2013. He’s a sports therapist who runs Missing Link Coaching with his partner, the Irish international runner Sarah McCormack. They live in Windermere.

Paul and Sarah are both inov-8 ambassadors, running for the Lake District brand which specialises in footwear, clothing and equipment for committed athletes. Forged on the same fells that Paul will be crossing in his Wainwrights attempt, he will rely on the brand’s iconic grip in the rugged off-trail terrain.

paul running

Photo: Steve Ashworth

Paul will eat on the move and sleep in a van at road crossings. He will be supported throughout by family and friends, with groups of runners taking it in turns to pace and navigate him over different sections of the route.

An endurance expert, Paul is a former winner of the Lakeland 100 mile race, and has twice competed in the four-day 330k continuous race in the Italian Alps, the Tor des Geants. He and partner George Foster recently won the 37-mile Old Counties Tops fell race. He completed the Bob Graham round (66 miles, 42 Lakeland summits) in 2012.

The latest challenge, which starts in Keswick on June 14, is 320 miles, with 118,000 feet of climbing. The attempt is sponsored by inov-8, and supported by a number of local companies including Cedar Manor Hotel, Sally’s Cottages, McClures of Windermere and Wilsons of Kendal, and staff at Elterwater independent hostel.

Paul said: “I’m under no illusions as to how tough this challenge will be. I fully expect it to test me to the absolute maximum and probably beyond what I can imagine. I will run what I can, but obviously there is going to be a lot of fast-hiking and, as time goes on, slower hiking involved.

“Once I started recceing the route the scale of the challenge in front of me really sank in. But it is great to know I have Steve’s support and he has been very good to me with his advice and encouragement.”

“I’m also lucky to be part of a great club in Ambleside AC and plenty of my clubmates have already offered their support, as have others among the local fell running community.”

Steve Birkinshaw said: “It’s nice to see someone giving it a go again. The nature of the fell running community means I have offered Paul any help I can with this attempt and will be out supporting him on his run to break my record.”

Paul said: “I want to honour the memory of Chris who overcame so much in his short life and epitomised all that is great about endurance sport. He was an inspiration to me, in how he went from knowing nothing about triathlon to winning the world’s toughest, the Celtman, in just a few years.”

The 214 peaks were described in Wainwright’s seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells.

with ben McClure

Paul with Ben McClure of the Windermere food wholesalers who are providing some of the energy requirements for the athlete and his support team, including Lucozade, chocolate bars – and huge quantities of Wilsons Kendal Mint cake!

You can donate to the charity here:

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Cedar Manor Final-01 (002)


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Business owners need time to think

Cumbria Innovations Platform is providing a brand new workshop for small Cumbrian businesses struggling to allow time for innovative thinking. The workshop, at the North Lakes Hotel, Penrith on May 2, is the first of its kind for event organiser, Sarah Allison.

The workshop, developed in partnership with Lucy Harrison of the Harrison Network, has been designed to help businesses create the space in which innovative thinking happens, using a number of different tools that business owners/managers can test out and take away to use in their own organisation.

Having worked with small businesses for several years Sarah understands the challenges of taking time away from operations to think about the next new product or service improvement. Yet it is crucial to success and growth.

“Larger companies can employ R&D teams to seek out and develop the next innovation, but in a small business there’s the risk that owners and managers don’t allow themselves that time. And they often don’t have the time to think about innovation in a structured way.”

The workshop will give the delegates a creative space to think about new ideas and how they want their business to develop. There will be practical coaching skills to help them engage, empower, influence and listen.

Sarah says: “I want to help business owners or managers realise the importance of innovative thinking both for themselves and for their teams. It’s an opportunity to give those smaller businesses and sole traders the tools and techniques to support innovative thinking.”

She adds: “If we don’t take the time to observe what’s happening within our sectors and don’t take time to think about our longer term customer needs, we are in danger of stagnation.”

The workshop is taking place at the North Lakes Hotel and Spa at Penrith on May 2, and includes lunch, refreshments and networking opportunities. Full details and booking:


Turning business ideas into reality

The Dragons’ Den generation sees business ideas sold or shredded on reality television.

But in the real world, a Cumbrian organisation is helping businesses with ideas to bring new services and products to market. And their help is free.

Cumbria Innovations Platform is running a workshop next week (April 11) designed specially for small and medium sized enterprises, but from the customer’s perspective.

Says organiser Sarah Allison: “This is not about showing you how to develop something that you think will sell, but is instead a process used to get your customers to tell you what it is that they want to buy.”

The event, at Energus in Workington, is designed for directors and managers from established SME’s seeking to bring new services or products to market as well as entrepreneurs seeking to start and grow a spinout or start-up company.



Experts will run sessions to take delegates through the processes needed before successful product or service development can get under way. They will explain how to set objectives, with an emphasis on the freedom and inspiration that a company needs to innovate.

And they will look at pricing strategies and how businesses can be competitive.

The workshop will be run by Alister Minty has more than 20 years’ experience in Business Development and International Sales, including 3 years in USA and 6 years in Japan. He’s joined by Frank Allison from FIS360 Ltd which has a focus and track record of working with and supporting entrepreneurs at all stages of the commercialisation process, and Gordon Short from Entrepreneur Business School Ltd, is a privately held company which delivers Guided Entrepreneurship training for innovation driven businesses.

Refreshments and lunch will be provided and there is free parking at Energus on the Lilyhall Industrial Estate.

Cumbria Innovations Platform is open to small and medium sized enterprises based in Cumbria, to facilitate business innovation and commercial success.

Book here:

The long Sunday lunch in Windermere..

A Windermere hotel has launched a new Sunday lunch menu – that will be served, Continental style – all afternoon.

The Cedar Manor, the Lake District’s award-winning boutique hotel and restaurant, will be offering the new “lunchtime” offering from 12 noon till 6pm every Sunday.

roast beef

The aim, says owner Jonathan Kaye, is to cater for both locals and visitors who have a range of Sunday schedules.

“We know that there are people who look forward to a Sunday lunch straight after church,” said Jonathan, whose hotel is next to St Mary’s Parish Church.

“That’s where the tradition came from originally. But now there are people who want a Sunday roast after they’ve had a full day out on the hills. And there are others who enjoy the very British meal but at a later time, like they’ve had when on holiday abroad.”

The lunch menu – traditional roast beef, potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, along with vegetarian and other options – will comprise entirely of locally-sourced produce in keeping with the hotel’s policy of supporting local farmers, growers and suppliers.

“Some of our guests who are checking out on a Sunday still want to have a good meal before their journey,” said Jonathan. “Others, who are just arriving on a Sunday, want to know they can still get lunch even if their journey is delayed.”

But places are limited and booking is essential. Check the menu here

Cedar Manor and gardens

Time for business to act on climate change

Cumbrian businesses are being urged to follow the example of the younger generation and take action on climate change…and save costs at the same time.

A workshop run by Eco-Innovation Cumbria will ask firms to consider: do you know the impact of your supply chain on climate change?

The process is called Life Cycle Thinking and aims to encourage businesses to reduce, re-use and recycle.

“We want to provide a tool for companies to identify and reduce the resources they use to manufacture products or provide services that are sold to customers,” said Glyn Griffiths, senior project officer for Eco-Innovation Cumbria.

“Life Cycle Thinking provides a step by step approach to identify key areas for improvement. The approach will encourage working with your supply chain to reduce waste, helping to reduce CO2, with positive impacts on profit along with climate change.”

The event, at the Stonecross Manor Hotel in Kendal on March 26, is free to small and medium size companies in Cumbria. Practical workshops, delivered by the University of Central Lancashire, will be matched with networking opportunities.

It’s something that businesses can no longer afford to ignore, says Glyn Griffiths. “Life Cycle Thinking is about assessing the impact that your business activities and products have on the environment throughout their life cycle, including climate change. Incorporating LCT can bring a wealth of opportunities for your business, not only helping you to identify where you could be saving money or increasing profits but reduce your business carbon footprint and help the environment.

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Devastating impact of climate change. Flood damage photo by Ashley Cooper/Global Warming Images

The event, Sustainable supply chains that reduce CO2 and cost, will include sessions on life cycle assessment for business, workshops and demonstrations, and business models.

“We are all aware how seriously younger people are taking the threat posed by climate change, when even school children are demonstration and protesting,” said Mr Griffiths. “It’s something that every business has to consider.”

Registration for the event is here:

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