Altrincham - the town where small businesses thrive
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:24 12 December 2017
With its vibrant high street and award-winning market, explosion of new restaurants and bars, not to mention new building developments, we must raise a glass to Altrincham's recent successes.
But that’s not the only reason to break out the bubbly. Altrincham is as much about the people as it is about the infrastructure, and the town’s Chamber of Commerce recently paid tribute to them in the Altrincham and Sale Business Awards.
Winner of the Small Business of the Year was Dominic Kent, whose website Me and My Mates was set up five years ago to create a directory that links up trusted businesses in the area.
Dominic and his colleague Nigel Peacock who have launched in Sale, Altrincham and Hale, were more surprised than anyone to be named as winners.
But as Dominic explained that this isn’t a scheme to make money, it’s one that has the community at its heart.
‘I’ve been a builder for the past 23 years but it was a letter of recommendation from a client who had moved into the area from London which gave me the idea for Me and My Mates,’ explains Dominic.
‘I was doing a job for her and she said that because she didn’t know the area she didn’t know where to get certain things. I told her that if I could help I would, as I had a few mates who had different areas of expertise.
‘She then produced a list. It included a wooden gate fixer, a plasterer, an aerial man, tiler, carpet cleaner and oven cleaner. It went on and on and on. Even down to a guitar tutor.
‘But at the end of the job she gave me a bottle of wine a big hug and a letter. It said “Dear Dominic, you came into my life at a good point. I moved up here not knowing anyone and I just wanted to say a big thank you to you and your mates”.’
It was that letter which sparked Dominic’s idea of creating a directory of trusted traders.
‘I had had a couple of glasses of wine and I said to my younger brother who is a graphic designer, I’m going to get a website “meandmymates.com” and he said you just stick to what you do, being a builder but when I asked my mum what to do she said something along the lines of “You say it will work and he said it won’t. One of you is right”.’
Dominic was the one proved right. A ‘mate’ created the website in return for a building job and when it went live he just got to work.
‘I rang 30 mates the next day and every single one said because of your enthusiasm and determination, I’m in. Let’s do it.’
It costs £10 a month to belong to the directory but you won’t find long lists of traders on the site, as they are all hand-picked to ensure that they meet the standard required.
Now their branding is everywhere, at local football matches, stickers on vans and posters in shops. Some of the profits are ploughed back into a charity, the Alex Hulme Foundation and the company have also given 200 children new rugby shirts. The future looks bright for Me and My Mates and the community it serves.
Another beneficiary of an award this year is Retailer of the Year, Diadem Jewellery, which made headlines last year for being the first UK high street trader of its kind to accept payments in bitcoin online and in store.
Elizabeth Agius and Daniel Monks have fought through the recession and more to take their business on Stamford New Road to the next level.
Diadem has overcome problems caused by the redevelopment of Altrincham and the upheaval on the high street and are delighted to be part of a thriving area filled with flourishing independent businesses.
The duo worked together at various jewellers in the area until they were made redundant just before Christmas 2014. They each decided to do their own thing.
Says Daniel: ‘It was the last day of November 2014 we were made redundant but we opened the shop on 13th of December...and almost made ourselves ill doing it.’
Elizabeth says: ‘We were here from the first signs of daylight until 3 o’ clock in the morning. But you do it for yourselves so it’s worth it.’
The business found its USP quickly. They focus on UK handmade pieces that can be tailored to something more personal to the buyer.
‘We don’t do mass produced jewellery. Even our chains are made in Shropshire,’ says Daniel.
‘And what you see isn’t just what you get either. You can have it made in other metals and I combined two pieces and made it into one piece for a customer, for example.’
Adds Elizabeth: ‘It’s nearly bespoke but not quite. It hasn’t got the big bespoke price tag but you can tweak it to make it more personal, which is what our customers really like about it.’
The pair admit that their nomination for the award came as a pleasant surprise.
‘Somebody nominated us,’ says Daniel.
‘We didn’t know much about it but it was quite a surprise. We like to give good customer service and try to go the extra mile, otherwise it’s bye bye and everyone shops online. We never judge people. Just take people as we find them.
‘It’s a very personal thing buying jewellery. We try to make people feel comfortable.’
It isn’t just Altrincham’s business world that has produced winners recently.
Altrincham’s 17-year-old Natalie Perman, beat over 6,000 poets from around the world to become a top 15 winner in one of the world’s largest literary competitions, The Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award.
Withington Girl’s School pupil Natalie, beat more than11,000 entries and collected her award and reading her poem at the Royal Festival Hall. ‘It feels incredible to have been chosen for such a prestigious award and, as someone who has always wanted to be a writer, it is both awe-inspiring and encouraging to be recognised in a competition which has bred such fantastic poets,’ she said.
‘The opportunity to be mentored by renowned writers is amazing. I can’t wait to discuss something I enjoy so much with people who share that same passion. Being chosen as one of the winners has given me confidence and inspiration in pursuing my own writing and poetry.’
Roll of honour - 2017 Altrincham & Sale Business Awards Winners
Small Business of the Year: meandmymates.com
Start Up Business of the Year: Matt Fox Physio
Retailer of the Year: Diadem Jewellery
Property Team of the Year: Helpful Home
Young Apprentice of the Year: Olivia Parkes
Provider of Professional Services: HR Dept (Trafford & Warrington)
Leisure & Tourism: Cresta World Travel
Charity of the Year: Maggie’s Manchester
Customer Service of the Year: Minime Marketing & PR Consultancy
Business of the Year: Informed Solutions