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Monthly Archives: May 2020

Cumbrian Family Business owner answers urgent call for PPE from front line workers

John Parkinson, a theatre designer from Penrith who runs the Upfront Arts Venue with wife, Elaine has drawn on his business experience, contacts and family to bring together the supply of protective face shields for front line workers in the fight against COVID-19.

Speaking about the cause he said, “I couldn’t stand back and do nothing. There is a desperate need to protect front line workers and we have to act fast. I do believe that this is what makes many family businesses different – we just get on and make a start if something needs doing.”

Dave Clarkson, Director of The Family Business Network said, “When we heard about John’s story, we wanted to help. As one of the worthy winners at our North West Family Business Awards last month, we admired the ingenuity and dedication that John and Elaine put into their business. They are clearly treating this cause in the same admirable way and we are here to offer our support”.

Since their not-for-profit mission began just two weeks ago, John Parkinson and Jon Stynes designs with a small voluntary team, have made, assembled, boxed and delivered over 8,000 of their protective face shields to hospitals, community ambulance services, care homes and care workers across the North West and North East.

The collaboration began when John spoke to friend and fellow business owner, Jon Stynes who was working on a new face visor design that could be produced at his fabrication facilities in Brampton. Together they investigated suitable materials and used their own funds to purchase the stock needed to begin production.

John said, “Our unique design makes these masks both recyclable and re-usable. They are made from two types of tough yet light, recyclable plastic which can be separated, and because we haven’t used elastic to keep them in place, the masks can be sterilised and re-used.

“We also came up with a child-friendly version featuring superhero designs that make them appear a little less frightening to children.

“This is very much a team effort. There are ten of us including myself and my wife, Elaine, Jon Stynes and his team at Jon Stynes Designs in Brampton. Penrith Mountain Rescue Cumbria are also helping to distribute for us.”

John added, “Our top priority was to get the masks out quickly to those in need. Having been involved with the new Cancer Care facility project at Cumberland Infirmary, I was able to reach out through my contacts to offer our support. The NHS have ordered thousands to supply all their hospitals in Cumbria. They are paying the cost price of £3 each for these, enabling us to keep helping others on the front line.

“Currently, we are supplying hospitals in Cumbria, four national children’s hospitals, NW and NE community ambulance services, BEEP doctors and many care homes and home care providers. Two hundred and fifty of our visors have been sent to the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital this week”.

After production began on 8th April, John set up a fundraising campaign to cover the cost of their original material purchase and postage. The campaign quickly exceeded that target of £2,000 and has now surpassed £10,000 which they will use to keep their production going.

John said, “We are humbled by the kind support of our friends, community and those that wish to help the cause. As our project has developed, we’ve become aware of how huge the demand is and we now need the public and the media to help us to get our message out there and provide vulnerable front line workers with the PPE they require.”

“We would like our project to help others where possible, which is why we shared our designs for free online through international design forums. They are now being used to start production of the shields in New York.”

“We are prepared for increased demand, having purchased an additional laser cutter machine. We also have a team of volunteers on stand-by to help us fulfil the orders”.

If you are a front line worker and have a requirement for protective face shields, please email your request to with your contact details and a short explanation of your cause, how many you require and where the shields will be going.

Although the shields are being provided for free, John and his team are asking for donations to enable them to keep production going.

Updates and photos of the face shields being delivered can be found on the Upfront Arts Venue Facebook page,

If you would like to support this cause, you can make a donation via their crowdfunding page,

Family Business secures first government backed loan through Cumbria’s accredited lender

On 21st April, The Toy Shop in Cockermouth became the first business to receive a funding boost through Cumbria’s only accredited delivery partner for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, Enterprise Answers.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is designed to support the continued provision of finance to UK smaller businesses (SME’s) during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The scheme enables lenders to provide facilities of up to £5m to smaller businesses across the UK who are experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions to their cashflow. It supports a wide range of business finance products, including term loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance facilities.

Grahame Latus, Chief Executive of Enterprise Answers

Grahame Latus, Chief Executive of Enterprise Answers

Independent lender and family-business supporter, Enterprise Answers are offering the government backed CBILS loan facility to family and non-family SME’s based in either Cumbria, North Lancashire or the Yorkshire Dales.
Chief Executive of Enterprise Answers, Grahame Latus said, “For us it’s about enabling businesses to realise & unleash their potential through the provision of appropriate finance.

“We are proud to be the only Cumbria based CBILS Delivery Partner, of some 48 nationwide and we will endeavour to assist as many SME’s as we can through these challenging times.”

The Toy Shop in Cockermouth run by husband and wife team, Jonty and Fiona Chippendale has been a feature of the towns bustling high street for over twenty years. When the government announced the first measures to control the virus, the couple discussed their response;

Jonty Chippendale from The Toy Shop in Cockermouth

“We made the decision that it would be too tricky to trade without risk of spreading the disease so we let all our customers and suppliers know that we would close” said Jonty. “We sat down and looked at our cash flow and it quickly became obvious that if we didn’t get a cash injection, we wouldn’t be able to buy stock and recommence trading on the other side”.

Sadly, enduring hard times is familiar territory for the family business, having been flooded twice during the last several years. Owner Jonty believes this has equipped them with the necessary skills to deal with such challenges, saying “Dealing with adversity has prepared us for coping with tricky situations. If you look around, help is always there.

“This time we knew we couldn’t predict how bad the situation might get, so we set out to apply for all the available help in order to plan for the worst-case scenario”.

The Toy Shop in Cockermouth

The Toy Shop in Cockermouth

“We spoke to our accountant about the situation, who recommended Enterprise Answers to us as a suitable lender. We had begun discussions with our own bank but found it was impossible to make any progress.”
For lender, Enterprise Answers, once the details of the scheme and the accredited partners and lenders were announced by the government, hundreds of enquiries from businesses across the region followed.
“We had to quickly set up a system to efficiently handle all the enquiries coming in, knowing what a worrying time it is for business owners. We enlisted the Family Business Network to assist us with managing those initial enquiries.” said Grahame.

Sue Howorth, Founder and Co-Director of The Family Business Network said, “Enterprise Answers have been closely involved with the work that our Network does within the family business community for several years and they are a fantastic advocate of family businesses. When they approached us to help with the administration of the first stage of the CBILS process, we were more than happy to lend a hand.”

Grahame explained, “These are unprecedented times for businesses, especially the independent retailers who perhaps are feeling the economic impact hardest if they are unable to trade during the current Government lock down. When we were approached by Jonty from The Toy Shop at Cockermouth, we knew it was a business we had to work with.”

“Jonty & his wife Fiona were fantastic to engage with, they fully appreciated our application process and ensured that we had all the information we needed to assess their application for a loan under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme”

Grahame added, “In fact, the information was spot on and it took just 4 working days from picking up the application, to assess it, approve it and deposit the funds in their business bank account. The Toy Shop became the first CBILS loan that we released.”

Speaking about the CBILS application process, Jonty said, “Embarking on an application like this is always a little daunting at first but it was very manageable. Our experience was that aside from the money being essential, the application itself was a useful exercise to go through, as we realised that we hadn’t sat down and done a business plan for a while.

“The process helped us to think through the what if’s and to crystallise what we’d do on the other side. With the help of Enterprise Answers, we were able to apply for the loan quickly. Our advice to other family businesses is not to bury your head in the sand, but be realistic about the situation, look at what help you need and then make a start”.
Grahame of Enterprise Answers added, “Working with businesses such as The Toy Shop will help to ensure that when we emerge from this lockdown, Cumbria retains many of the characteristics that help make it one of the most desirable places to visit.”

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is managed by the British Business Bank on behalf of, and with the financial backing of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy (BEIS).
To discover more about the loans available from Enterprise Answers, visit

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