How can Lancashire’s scaleup businesses reach the next level?

That was the subject of BusinessCloud’s latest roundtable with Lancashire County Council.

Creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem; increasing the stock of commercial property; greater collaboration; and encouraging Lancashire companies to do more business within the county were among the ideas put forward.

The event was held at Stanley House Hotel & Spa in Mellor and hosted by Chris Maguire, who is the Executive Editor of BusinessCloud and TechBlast.

Enhance business ecosystem

Frazer Durris recently exited Businesswise Solutions and has just launched Trigpoint Ventures to work with founder-owned businesses.

He said: “We need to create or enhance a really exceptional business community ecosystem that gives founders and entrepreneurs guidance and inspiration that can teach them how to grow successful businesses.

“That can be done with inspiring events, masterclasses, strong networks – but we need to find a way to deliver these.

“It’s one thing creating access to them but what do they look like for people looking in? Let’s look at London, Manchester and Silicon Valley, and see how other areas have done this really, really well and create it in a way that it attracts people to want to go. It’s got to feel valuable.”

Stop working in silos

Annette Weekes MBE has worked in the aerospace industry for 25 years and is director at North West Aerospace Alliance.

She said: “Coming back to devolution, what I’d like to see is a more simplified landscape in terms of getting the most bang for their buck for Lancashire as a whole – in terms of investment and funding opportunities for businesses.

“We’re great at working in silos and we’ll get far more, far quicker, if we can have an ecosystem that is thriving together.

“The National Cyber Force (NCF) and the Cyber Corridor represent huge opportunities for Lancashire, along with the Enterprise Zones. The opportunity for this county in the next five-to-10 years is massive.”

Make or break

Amin Vepari is the business finance and scale up lead at Lancashire County Council and said 2024 is a make-or-break year for the county.

“Affirmation is a big thing for me from today – but let’s not just talk, we’ve got to make it happen and we’ve got to make sure we create a simplified ecosystem,” he said. “This year is full of great opportunities that we need to collectively ensure come to realisation.”

Create an entrepreneurial community

John Daly is a partner at RSM UK and specialises in exit strategy, transaction readiness and selling companies.

He said building a sense of ‘entrepreneurial community’ within Lancashire was crucial.

“It will actually solve a lot of things,” he said. “Not just the business issues but things like social inclusion: you can use that entrepreneurial approach because I think that’s the missing piece.

Is Lancaster the centre of North West tech?

“A sense of entrepreneurial community will create a real buzz which will make young people want to come to Lancashire. Entrepreneurs naturally find a way and make it happen.”

Invest in apprentices

James Cole is the CEO of Chorley-based Panache Cruises, which doubled its turnover to £20m in 2023 after a record-breaking 12 months. The company grew its workforce last year from 31 to 55 with a big emphasis on apprentices.

He said: “Since the pandemic there has been a power shift between the employee and employer – and the employee has got more power than they’ve ever had.  I think it’s about working with businesses to try and embrace that rather than push against it. It’s about creating the right environment and culture for businesses to grow and thrive.

“When we were developing our new office our mantra was ‘let’s make it an office that people want to come into rather than feel they have to come into’.”

He said apprentices were key to the success of Panache Cruises.

“If you can find people who are young, want to work, learn a new skill and be educated then that’s a great opportunity to invest in – but it’s got to be for the long-term,” he explained. “We’ve invested in a number of apprentices so far and it’s been exceptionally productive.”

‘Shout about ourselves’

Nikki Whittle is head of corporate at Brabners in Lancashire and advises business owners on scaling up.

She said: “What I would like to see is for all of the stakeholders of Lancashire to come together and understand what these businesses need and want – not assuming what these businesses need and want.

“What are the pinch points and the areas that are preventing these early stage scaleups to move up and actually action it?

“Let’s stop talking about it and get a plan in place that can help Lancashire businesses thrive and flourish. We don’t shout about ourselves in Lancashire.”

More commercial property

Chris Reid is the founder and CEO of Connect Childcare Group, which provides technology for nurseries.

“I’d like to see an entrepreneurial community where everybody comes together to create that ecosystem,” he said.  “You don’t know what you don’t know.

“Talent acquisition and development is vitally important as are as apprentices. [The lack of] commercial property of a certain size is certainly hindering the growth of a lot of businesses.”

Lancashire roundtable March 6, 2024



Michelle Mellor is the co-founder of Cummins Mellor Recruitment and the chair of Recruitment and Employment Confederation.

She said: “A big theme is collaboration. We need to work between the private and public sectors much more closely and properly do that. We talk about it all the time but it’s very thin.

“I work in the private employment sector and it creates £40 billion worth of GDP every year to the UK  economy. We have the public employment sector and the two don’t mix. How much could we learn from each other?”

Buy Lancashire

Heath Groves is the CEO of technology consultancy Sundown Solutions and has a string of blue chip clients including the NHS, Ministry of Defence and National Audit Office.

He said: “Lancashire needs to start doing more business with Lancashire and that can only happen when it starts taking itself more seriously and understands its value proposition and what is available.

“The key word is ecosystem. What we seem to be good at is hosting a vast amount of startups and not taking them to scale. At that point true scale is now happening outside of Lancashire for those companies because they have to look outside of Lancashire for that next step. We need to get better at that next step being inside Lancashire.

“We need to understand that very high quality, large organisations and scaleups are here in Lancashire.”


Alison Schmid is the co-founder and director of Chorley-based  Redmoor Health, which was founded in 2017 and received significant investment from Palatine in 2022.

She said Lancashire needed a robust business network. “There are three elements to it: business advice, support and mentoring from other business owners to share the learning.

“Also, networks for partnership and collaboration so there are opportunities to go to market together. We’re working with a big law firm that has the same clients to us but we offer different services so that’s a network opportunity.”

Question time

Rollie Attard is the CEO of fabric manufacturer Panaz and employs around 130 people.

“I think Lancashire has questions to answer as a county,” he said. “The first one is ‘why would I live and work in Lancashire?’ The second one is ‘why would I start a business in Lancashire?’ Thirdly, ‘why would I invest in Lancashire?’ If we can answer those questions we’ll solve a lot of problems.”

Support entrepreneurs

Andy Poar is the co-founder of Chorley-based Eat My Logo, who makes logo branded cupcakes and merchandise for businesses.

He said: “Most people in this room have started a business completely from scratch. My experience from that is you don’t know what you don’t know. I’d like to see more resources for those entrepreneurs who are starting out because it’s a lonely road. You think your problems are unique to you but they’re everybody’s.”

Join the dots

Chris Mayne is the managing director of Heysham Forsberg Services, which was recently acquired by Norwegian software business Teleplan.

The company helped found the business-led ElecTech Innovation Cluster to build the region’s reputation as a centre of excellence for ElecTech.

Mayne said: “What I’d like to see is the joining of all the dots. What’s happening in these different clusters? What’s happening in these different areas?

“You’ve got Strawberry Fields, in Chorley, you’ve got Fraser House, in Lancaster, you’ve ElecTech clusters, cyber clusters, space clusters. We have all these different things happening but how do we best join the dots together and make sure that the benefits and achievements are being brought into a single place?”

Lancashire beefs up its innovation team