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Darren Briggs of Ascona wins ‘Scale-up Entrepreneur of The Year’

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DARREN BRIGGS, Ascona Group’s CEO and founder, was awarded the Wales Scale-Up Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2023 this week (Nov 20).

The award recognises Darren’s leadership at Pembrokeshire-based Ascona as the Group embarked on a redevelopment programme across its portfolio of sites. In keeping with Ascona’s strategy to evolve unloved forecourts and transform them into vibrant, world-class roadside retail destinations, Darren’s team has made some significant investments in Wales over the last 12 months.

Since Ascona was founded in 2011, the team has focused its attention on the Group’s “Asconarisation” strategy which focuses on transforming forecourts into first-rate roadside assets that cater for their local community’s needs, with a view to sustainable and profitable growth. This year has seen annual run rate revenues in excess of £300m and operational EBITDA of £25m.

Recognised annually as one of the most prestigious accolades in the entrepreneurial world, The Allica Bank Great British Entrepreneur Awards received over 5,000 applications this year alone.

The judges were thoroughly impressed with Ascona Group and all the hard work Darren and the Ascona team have done over the years, noting Ascona’s “remarkable ability to transform neglected assets into thriving retail destinations”, which left a lasting impression on the panel. The judges also commended the Group’s growth trajectory and forward-looking vision for the future.

Darren Briggs, CEO and Founder of Ascona Group, told The Herald: “I am thrilled to be awarded the Scale-up Entrepreneur of the Year award for our work in transforming unloved forecourts in Wales into some of the best retail destinations in the country.

“As always, my thanks must go to everyone at Ascona. This is not an individual achievement but a reflection of the whole team’s unwavering commitment to delivering excellence in everything that we do.

“This is a proud moment for all of us at Ascona and the award reflects the success of our transformative redevelopment programme and we look forward to delivering on some exciting projects in 2024 and beyond.”

Francesca James, founder of The Allica Bank Great British Entrepreneur Awards, said: “I am thrilled to witness the extraordinary achievements of this year’s winners. Their success stories are a testament to the dynamic and innovative spirit that thrives within UK entrepreneurship. These inspiring entrepreneurs embody the creativity, determination, and passion that are at the heart of our nation’s business success. Their accomplishments not only celebrate their own journeys but also light the way for future generations of innovators and business leaders”.

Richard Davies, CEO of Allica Bank said: “It has been a real honour to sponsor this year’s GBEA awards. Hearing the inspiring stories from this year’s winners really brings to life the important contribution British entrepreneurs make to our economy. At Allica, we couldn’t be more excited to see such a talented group of individuals making their mark in the business world and we’ll be keeping a close eye on what they do next.”

Business

£1m boost for marine, fisheries and aquaculture industry in Wales

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£1 MILLION of Welsh Government funding is being made available to boost the marine, fisheries and aquaculture industry in Wales, Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths has announced.

The support comes from the Welsh Marine and Fisheries Scheme, with the application window for this funding opening today. The scheme aims to ensure environmentally and economically sustainable growth in the sector and help coastal communities prosper into the future.

Those in the industry can apply for funding for a wide range of activities from 11 separate categories.

These include, but are not limited to, funding to increase the potential of aquaculture sites and equipment on vessels aimed at reducing emissions and increasing energy efficiency, and professional advice for businesses ranging from marine environment sustainability to business and marketing strategies. Applicants could also apply for funding for projects to carry out research on health safety and wellbeing needs for the sector.

The maximum grant award is £100,000, with the minimum grant award being £500. The application window closes on 10 May and successful applicants will be notified during July.

Applicants must be registered with Rural Payments Wales (RPW) Online, where the application and claims processes can be found. Details of the scheme, including guidance, can be found on the Welsh Government’s website – www.gov.wales/marine-fisheries-grants

Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths said: “I am pleased to be able to make £1 million available to support our marine, fisheries and aquaculture industry.

“The Welsh Marine and Fisheries Scheme offers funding for a broad range of actions which can be vital in helping businesses to take advantage of opportunities and grow.

“I encourage everyone with an interest to visit the Welsh Government’s website to learn more about the scheme and apply by the closing date of 10 May.”

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Business

St David’s Day boost: Pembs creamery launches new Welsh milk price

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PEMBROKESHIRE CREAMERY, which is set to begin production this spring, has used St Davids’ Day to launch its new milk price for Welsh milk.

Using the industry-recognised Liquid Standard Litre the company has announced an April milk price of 38.5 pence per litre.

Pembrokeshire Creamery will be the only liquid milk bottling facility in Wales certified to supply Welsh supermarkets. Ultimately this will be local Welsh milk, produced, processed and distributed from this new development.

Eliminating the need for transporting milk to England for processing, Pembrokeshire Creamery significantly reduces food miles, streamlines the supply chain, creates new skilled jobs in Pembrokeshire, and bolsters local farming communities. This efficiency enables Pembrokeshire Creamery to offer producers who have already committed, and those following the project as it develops, a competitive milk price from April 2024.

Mark McQuade, managing director, Pembrokeshire Creamery said: “It seemed fitting, on St David’s Day, to launch an April milk price for Welsh milk which we hope will be sufficiently competitive to attract farmers from across the region to consider us as a potential customer.

“We will be the only BRC Certified facility to offer Welsh milk that is also bottled in Wales enabling us to offer an authentically Welsh milk supply for Welsh supermarket stores.

“This unique selling point gives Pembrokeshire Creamery, and the farmers who work with us, a strong point of difference in meeting the needs of both retailers and consumers who increasingly value locally-sourced produce,” he said.

The development of Pembrokeshire Creamery has been supported by the Welsh Government and the EU RDP-funded Food Business Investment Scheme. Additional funding has been supplied by HSBC.

(Cover Image: Mark Sinclair)

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Indian baker inspired to make Welsh cakes in Mumbai

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A BAKER based in India has been impressing locals after trying her hand at Welsh cakes, finding inspiration in an old family recipe.

Desiree Bradford, who runs the Goodie Bag Co based in Mumbai, has enjoyed baking the much-loved Welsh treats, despite having no idea what they were supposed to taste like beforehand.

Born and raised in Mumbai, she was given an old family recipe by Mitchell Theaker, a Welsh native who recently moved to the country as the Welsh Government’s head of India.

Desiree said: “It definitely made me nervous; trying to recreate something that Mitch has had since childhood, it was a big ask.

“Also, I had no idea what it actually tastes like. I did enjoy the process – learning about it – that it was meant to be a hardy food for the miners, who carried them in their pockets.

“Mitch was very encouraging with his feedback and after a few trials – I hope I can do some justice to the Welsh cakes.”

She’s also created a fusion to celebrate the coming together of the two nations, in addition to the original recipe – an Indian-inspired rose, cardamom and pistachio flavour.

St David’s Day is being celebrated in Mumbai as the Welsh Government announces that 2024 is the year of Wales in India.

Year-long celebrations will bring the two nations together through a series of events, stories and activities which celebrate the two nations of culture and innovation.  

Food is playing a key part in the celebrations – both throughout the year and at the St David’s Day events.

Alongside showcasing popular brands, such as Penderyn whisky and Calon Wen cheese to a global market, Desiree made more than 1,000 Welsh cakes ready for the St David’s Day celebrations in Mumbai.

Desiree, who also loves to ride motorcycles in her spare time, wasn’t actually sure what the cakes were supposed to taste like. She said: “The first time I made Welsh cakes, I could not gauge if it was supposed to taste like a cookie or a pancake or a scone.

“I had to watch lots of videos on dos and don’ts, it does take some time to understand just how much to cook it, so it doesn’t get dry.

“Since then I have been enjoying the Welsh cakes – especially when they are straight off the pan.”

The recipe came from Mitchell’s grandmother, who was from Ynyshir, and he believes she probably got the recipe from her mother.

Mitchell said: “My grandmother lived in Ynyshir, Rhondda all her life.

“Seeing her Welsh cake recipe, being baked in Mumbai with such love for our Saint David’s Day events, well, it’s really touching.

“To us it’s more than just a set of instructions; it’s a piece of our family’s heart and history that Desiree has honoured so beautifully.

“The timeless appeal of genuine, traditional, home-cooked goodness. It’s a beautiful bridge between our two countries.”

Baking Welsh cakes has even inspired her to learn more about our nation, and even attempt to try more Welsh classics.

“I honestly can’t say that I know much about Wales, but I am definitely inspired to visit and curious to try some other Welsh favourites like the Bara Brith.”

For the latest news and updates on Wales in India, follow @WalesInIndia on twitter and Wales in India on LinkedIn.

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