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Shropshire Providers Consortium Dragons’ Den Shrewsbury

The third Shropshire Providers Consortium Dragon’s Den event was held at the offices of Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors in Shrewsbury.  On the top table were the dragons – Carol Ewels of Always Consult, Sarah Offland of Barclays, Mandy Thorn, Managing Director of Marches Care, Councillor Nic Laurens from Shropshire Council and Holly Edwards from Lanyon Bowdler.


Lanyon Bowdler solicitors offices in Shrewsbury are based at Chapter House North, Abbey Lawn, Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury SY2 5DE

Business Judging Panel:


Mandy Thorn, Marches Care; Sarah Offland, Barclays; Councillor Nic Laurens, Shropshire Council; Carol Ewels, Always Consult; Holly Edwards, Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors

Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises (VCSE):


Debbie Wilcox and Jean Robinson from Headway; Richard Parkes, Shropshire Youth Association; Irene Ferguson, Axis; Ruby Hartshorn, Shropshire Disability Network; Dee Ploszay, Axis; and Pauline Mack, Yellow ribbon Community Chaplaincy.

The Dragons:
Holly Edwards, newly qualified solicitor with Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors, with a specialism in personal injury

Carol Ewels, a business consultant with Always Consult who manage training programmes.

Councillor Nic Laurens from Shropshire Council, responsibilities include economic growth and he is also a businessman in his own right.

Sarah Offland, Relationship director, Corporate Banking from Barclays Corporate team managing Shropshire and the Welsh and Staffordshire borders.

Mandy Thorn, Managing Director of Marches Care providing day care including dementia care.

Five voluntary sector organisations explained the services they provide:

Headway work with people with acquired brain injury: “Helping them achieve the best quality of life attainable post injury.”

They work with adults and clients includes ex-serviceman.  Issues include epilepsy, sensory and speech impairment, cognitive problems, short-term memory loss, emotional and behavioural difficulties, anger management, inappropriate behaviour.  Headway teach life skills helping people look after themselves.

In 2002 they moved into their present premises with 27 day places for self-caring clients, they now have 110 day placements per week.  In 1970 90% of people with severe head injuries died, now 90% survive so more support is needed.

They have grown out of their current building, the rehab centre is too small, there is not enough room for larger wheelchairs, they can’t extend outwards, and they want to include 4 two-bedroom flats for rehabilitation. They have reserved a plot of land on Shrewsbury Business Park but need £350,000 to purchase land and £1.9 million for the new building.

What Headway asked for:
Planning permission
Fundraising ideas
Links to high net worth individuals

Shropshire Disability Network
Shropshire Disability Network support people with disabilities in Shropshire providing an invaluable source of information on their website which is used by all sorts of people who work with the disabled – including carers and social workers. They also run the Safe Places community initiative in Shropshire. There are over 56,000 people with disabilities or long-term conditions in Shropshire.

Ruby Hartshorn explained that the organisation has no premises or paid staff – everyone works from home as volunteers.  Their main asset is their website with news, consultations, projects and an A-Z directory of useful organisations; there is also a members’ forum on the website (open to members only) which includes an ‘items for sale’ section. They have quarterly meetings with keynote speakers and they produce 8 newsletters a year, 120 are posted to people with no IT access.

Shropshire Disability Network started in 2008 so is 10 years old next year, they initially received lottery funding to pay for branding.

What Shropshire Disability Network asked for:
Shropshire Disability Network has just over 1000 members – there are over 56,000 people with disabilities or long term conditions in Shropshire.  Ruby said:  “How can we reach all these other people?”

Axis provides counselling for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  They have supported nearly 12,000 people over the last 25 years – helping adults and children survive and, in spite of the trauma they have suffered, thrive and reach their full potential.

Irene Ferguson, Operations Manager and Dee Ploszay, Chair of Trustees explained that  Axis was registered as a charity 25 years ago.  Since then, they have supported nearly 12,000 people.  Counselling takes 18 weeks – with 18 sessions of counselling.  They have 5 counsellors offering 50 sessions a week on both sites – Telford & Wrekin and Shropshire.  They currently have 200 people on the waiting list with a wait of 1 year for an appointment.

They receive support from the CCG, Ministry of Justice, PCC – ISVA’s (Independent Sexual Violence Advisers) as in Operation Chalice in Wellington.

Referrals come through ISVA’s, from GP’s (depression) and self referrals.

They would like to offer training in schools and colleges – preventative courses.

They work with Energise providing diversionary activities to help young women – such as dancing groups.

AXIS offer of help to dragons:
Help businesses with raising awareness – and holistic therapies for workplace stress.

What AXIS asked for:
Help with generating income from other sources.  The possibility of delivering training and education through a trading arm?  Could they offer holistic therapy through this?
They need a more effective business model.
Contracts are changing.  Telford & Wrekin CCG funding is changing.  What AXIS does is not preventative and not crisis management.
Help sourcing a new CEO

Yellow Ribbon Community Chaplaincy
Yellow Ribbon Community Chaplaincy help ex-offenders when they leave prison, sometimes with just the clothes they stand up in, nowhere to go, no-one to help and just £46 to last them for up to 4-6 weeks before any benefits are received.

Pauline Mack explained some of the history.  In 2012 the Shropshire Fire Chief asked for funding from the Crime commissioner to help people in Shrewsbury when they leave prison.  Pauline founded Yellow Ribbon in 2013 and started mentoring inmates before they left prison and then providing support on their actual day of release – which is often a Friday because anyone whose release date is Saturday or Sunday has to leave before the release date.

Then the prison in Shrewsbury shut and inmates were moved to Birmingham and they found it even more difficult to get back on their feet – and very often unable to get back to Shrewsbury at all because of lack of any suitable accommodation.

In 2016 they set up a furniture restoration CIC and a café to help people retrain, offering them work experience and a reference. They also provide temporary accommodation so receive some income in rents.

They helped 100 clients last year.  “Our aim is a positive cycle of improvement.”

What Yellow Ribbon asked for:
Business skills – running the café, workshop and furniture centre more profitably.

Shropshire Youth Association
Shropshire Youth Association engage with over 4,000 young people in Shropshire every week, supporting youth clubs and groups and providing programmes like the CRUCIAL CREW staying safe programme in primary schools.

Richard Parkes explained that SYA was initially an informal group, it became an unincorporated charity 30 years ago. Its aim is:  “To help young people up to 25 years of age in Shropshire”. Anyone can still start a youth club anywhere with no checks and no qualifications.

All Shropshire’s youth groups registered with SYA could use them for free administration help – offices, help with budgets, safeguarding, etc. – until 4 years ago when funding was cut.

They now support 120 youth clubs across Shropshire.  They run 11 youth clubs with Shropshire council and 5 in joint partnership with the club. They are the umbrella body for DBS checks and safeguarding training.  Guides, scouts, young farmers, CICs and charities – a lot of these groups no longer use SYA as there is a small charge for training.

They get funding to run projects such as CRUCIAL CREW raising awareness of safety issues in schools, Young Health Champions & Shifty’s Alcohol awareness project.

What Shropshire Youth Association asked for:
Help with stabilising the long-term future
How to broaden funding streams – current funding from PCC and council uncertain
Alternative core funding
Developing and improving the business plan
Broadening reputation
Breaking into new markets – eg Telford & Wrekin.

What Shropshire Youth Association offered:
Offer of consultation with the young people they work with – they have several big events each year when young people could be asked for their views.


Headway have an amazing opportunity.  Mandy Thorn and Councillor Nic Laurens will investigate alternative possibilities for the location of the new building and talk to the Planning Officers about opportunities.  Mandy said:  “The work you do is so incredible.”

The Marches Investment fund might be a possibility for funding.

Headway could charge more for their services.

The Lady Forester Trust might also help.

Councillor Nic Laurens said he would arrange a personal meeting with John Campion (Police and Crime Commissioner) and arrange for AXIS to present to the Young People’s Scrutiny Committee.

It might be worth applying to Comic Relief too.Sarah Offland of Barclays said they might be able to provide help with Governance adviceLanyon Bowdler may be able to provide some legal advice.

Mandy Thorn, Sarah Offland and Carol Ewels offered help with a business health check – and maybe advice on recruitment too.

Councillor Nic Laurens said he was happy to use his experience in sales and marketing to help raise awareness.  They could explore a possible link with ‘Men in Sheds’ to help ex-offenders learn new skills – also with Reviive furniture scheme.

Carol offered time to discuss future plans and more clarity about direction.

Barclays life skills programme works with people in prisons – there is help via their website.  Barclays also offer a basic bank account to everyone as part of their remit for financial inclusion for all.

Shropshire Council may be able to provide some extra computers for the café.

Lanyon Bowdler may be able to help with CV’s and interview skills.

Explore the possibility of asking for donations from commercial businesses for promotion of their site in the Safe Places scheme on the website.

Also the possibility of businesses having adverts in their newsletter.

Lady Forester Trust may provide some funding.

Talk to Daniel Kawczynski about possibility of raising awareness.

Holly will ask at Lanyon Bowdler if they can provide help.

Councillor Nic Laurens is on the Young People’s Scrutiny Committee so SYA will be an agenda item for discussion.

CRUCIAL CREW was a very successful programme.  Dragons will endeavour to use connections to find ways to help SYA.

Combine charitable purpose with commercial plan.

Mandy Thorn, Managing Director of Marches Care thanked everyone for attending, she said the range of voluntary organisations in Shropshire is amazing; thanking the voluntary sector organisations for their input, she said:  “The work you do is so incredible.”

Mandy asked if everyone could send a precis of what they do so it can be included in everything published online.














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