How getting fired, turned Melissa Ben-Ishay passion for baking cupcakes into a successful business



When Melissa Ben-Ishay got fired, she immediately called her brother. He encouraged her to go home, bake her famous cupcakes and reassured her they would figure out how to turn her hobby into a business. Within a week, Baked by Melissa was up and running. Fourteen stores and a cookbook later, Melissa’s bite-size treats are a huge success. She sat down with Jessica Abo to talk about her company’s growth, the friends who helped her get here and what she’s created to help you celebrate Valentine’s Day.




London Park Lane & Oxford Street completely ultra luxurious home


Completely unique and ultra luxurious home interior designed by 1.61 London showcasing Roberto Cavalli Home Interiors.

The home includes the very latest stunning finishes on offer from around the world to create the ultimate London home. The finishes installed are from Lalique, Roberto Cavalli, Grohe, Hacker, Sonos, Kef, Atelier and many other top luxury brands. The home is controlled through out by speaking to Amazons Alexa.


The company keeping alive the tradition of building wooden surfboards


Grain Surfboards are built through an additive process that has much in common with traditional wooden ship-building. Planks of wood are cut and glued onto an internal wood frame before being sanded down to their final shape.

Video by Brian Schildhorn, David Nicholson





UK shares fell on Friday morning amid market volatility

( via – – Fri, 9 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

UK shares fell on Friday morning, but the declines were not as big as those seen in Asia and the US.

The benchmark FTSE 100 index dropped 30.22 points, or 0.4%, to 7,140.47.

Asian markets saw hefty falls overnight, while in the US on Thursday the Dow Jones fell by more than 1,000 points for the second time this week.

The big sell-offs around the world this week have been pinned partly on concerns over the prospect of higher interest rates.

In Asia on Friday, Japan’s Nikkei 225 shares index closed down 2.3% while China’s Shanghai Composite slumped 4.1%.

In the US, the Dow Jones ended Thursday’s trading session 4.2% lower at 23,860, and the wider S&P 500 index closed down 3.8%.

Thursday’s declines mean the Dow and S&P 500 have now fallen by more than 10% from the record highs set in January, a threshold that analysts call a correction.

However, the falls seen in Europe on Friday were not as steep. Germany’s Dax share index and France’s Cac 40 index were both down 0.4%.

Bank of England deputy governor Ben Broadbent told the BBC that markets might have underestimated the prospect of a pick-up in inflation.

“If you look at what happened last year, particularly in the United States but also other equity markets, there was extremely strong growth – big rises in prices – as people gradually realised how strong the global economy was,” he said.

“If markets are responding understandably to that growth, it’s possible they weren’t pricing in the risk that that same growth would produce some inflation and some rises in interest rates, and I think what you’re seeing now is the effect of that realisation.”

Sue Noffke, UK equities fund manager at Schroders, told the BBC that given how well stock markets have been doing for the past few years, the sell-off this week was not that unusual.

“In the context of the rises we’ve seen, certainly this kind of pull-back of 5-10% is quite normal for markets – it just hasn’t been normal for the last couple of years where we’ve seen very low levels of volatility and very small levels of weekly or monthly moves.

“The [economic] fundamentals haven’t changed, they haven’t deteriorated. What’s happened is a bit of steam has come out from what was quite a heated situation at the beginning of the year.”

Why are markets falling?

The global sell-off began last week after a solid US jobs report fuelled expectations that the Federal Reserve would need to raise interest rates faster than expected, because of the strength of the economy.

That concern has prompted the pullback from stocks.

On Thursday, the Bank of England seemed to offer support for the view that rates in general are on an upward path.

The Bank left interest rates at 0.5% at its meeting, but said a strengthening economy meant interest rates were likely to rise sooner than the markets were expecting.

Also worrying investors was a government budget proposal announced by US lawmakers, which raises spending caps and could fan inflation.

Bond yields in the US have also risen in recent weeks, typically a signal of higher rates.

Higher interest rates push up borrowing costs for companies and individuals, which can hurt corporate profits and curb economic activity.

At the same time, higher interest rates can make investment alternatives to stocks, such as bonds, more attractive.



Metro Bank to create 900 jobs this year

( via – – Fri, 9 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

Metro Bank has said it will create 900 new jobs this year, including 100 apprentices, as it grows its staff to 4,000.

The challenger bank said that, in addition to hiring apprentices, it can now offer dedicated in-house apprenticeship training at its facility, dubbed Metro Bank University, after being certified last year.

The scheme has about 100 places available and will roll out sector-specific programmes over 12 to 36 months in IT, HR and cashiering. These will be accredited by either City and Guilds or the Chartered Banker Institute.

Metro Bank University has expanded to three campuses across London, offering trainees more than 75 classroom-based courses and 130 e-learning sessions.

Craig Donaldson, chief executive of Metro Bank, said: “Investing in and developing our colleagues is central to the success of our model.”

He added: “Whether it’s coming up with forward-thinking functionality on our app to save customers’ time, or transforming someone’s day when they visit us in store; our colleagues have made the banking revolution what it is today.”

Last year Metro Bank promoted 25pc of its staff that had been there for a year or more. The challenger bank recruited 596 staff on permanant, fixed-term and apprentice contracts in 2017.

plans to open a further 12 this year year, a spokeswoman said.


Elon Musk tech billionaire announces Tesla biggest quarterly loss ever

( via – – Thur, 8 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

Loss of $675.4m announced day after Musk’s car sent into space in test of SpaceX rocket

The tech billionaire Elon Musk sent one of his Tesla electric cars into space yesterday, a day before the company that built it announced its biggest ever quarterly loss.

Musk’s Tesla electric car and energy storage company lost $675.4m in the three months ending 31 December, the company announced on Thursday, compared with a loss of $121m for the same period last year.

The company has been spending heavily as it rolls out the next generation of electric cars, the Model 3 sedan, a semi truck and other products.

The company has struggled to keep up with is production targets for the Model 3 but said it would probably build about 2,500 Model 3s per week by the end of the first quarter and that it plans to reach its goal of 5,000 vehicles per week by the end of the second quarter.

On Wednesday Musk’s private aerospace company, SpaceX, blasted a cherry red Tesla Roadster sports car into space in a successful test of its Falcon Heavy rocket.

The car and its dummy driver are now heading towards the asteroid belt.

Tesla delivered 101,312 Model S sedans and Model X SUVs last year, up 33% over 2016 and ahead of its targets, according to preliminary figures released last month. But it fell woefully short on the Model 3, which went into production in July.

Tesla made just 2,425 Model 3s in the fourth quarter, and has pushed back production targets multiple times. At one point, Tesla had 500,000 people on a waiting list for the Model 3, but it’s not clear if all of them are continuing to wait.

On a call with analysts Musk said production was getting back on track. “If we can send a Roadster to the asteroid belt we can probably solve Model 3 production,” he said.

Musk is set to collect a $55.8bn (£40bn) bonus – probably be the largest ever – if he can build Tesla into a $650bn company over the next decade. In the meantime the 46-year-old has agreed to work unpaid for the next 10 years.

By Domonic Rush




Debenhams store management shake-up to cut 320 jobs

( via– Thur, 8 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

The group said it was reviewing its retail structure as it set out cost-cutting plans in the wake of a profits alert last month.

Department store chain Debenhams is planning to axe around 320 roles in a store management shake-up.

The retailer said it was part of a £10m cost-cutting plan announced last month – when it issued a profits warning after a weak performance over the Christmas period.

It aims to redeploy staff affected by the cuts and the changes will not mean any store closures.

Debenhams said last year that ten stores were under review for closure if they became unprofitable.

Two stores – in Eltham and Farnborough – closed at the end of January under that review, affecting a total of 87 workers.

Announcing the latest cuts on Thursday, a spokesperson said the company had “undertaken a review of our store structure”.

“The review has identified significant cost savings by reducing the complexity of management roles in stores as well as processes to optimise and standardise ways of working.

“The effect is that potentially 320 positions are at risk of redundancy – approximately 25% of store management roles.”

“We are currently consulting with individuals affected and will seek redeployment opportunities where possible. We envisage our new structure being fully in place by the end of March.”

The move follows a round of managerial roles going in the supermarket sector, with thousands of posts facing the axe at Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.

Meanwhile, M&S has been rolling out plans to close unprofitable stores, with its latest announcement last month putting 468 jobs at risk.

Debenhams said in its Christmas trading update last month that it had been forced to slash prices to boost flagging sales – describing business as “highly competitive and volatile”.

UK retailers have seen tough trading over recent months as consumers are squeezed by higher prices – partly because of the Brexit-induced weakness of the pound – at the same time as weak wage growth.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas



Tesco gender pay claim could cost supermarket up to £4bn


( via – – Wed, 7 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

Tesco is facing Britain’s largest ever equal pay claim and a possible bill running to £4bn.

Thousands of women who work in Tesco stores could receive back pay totalling £20,000 if the legal challenge demanding parity with men who work in the company’s warehouses is successful.

Lawyers say hourly-paid female store staff earn less than men even though the value of the work is comparable.

Tesco said it worked hard to ensure all staff were paid “fairly and equally”.

Paula Lee, of Leigh Day solicitors told the BBC it was time for Tesco to tackle the problem of equal pay for work of equal worth.

Her firm has been contacted by more than 1,000 Tesco staff and will this week take the initial legal steps for 100 of them.

The most common rate for women is £8 an hour whereas for men the hourly rate can be as high as £11 an hour, she added.

She said it was a problem that had been “hiding in plain sight” for years.

“We believe an inherent bias has allowed store workers to be underpaid over many years,” she said.

“In terms of equal worth to the company there really should be no argument that workers in stores, compared to those working in the depots, contribute at least equal value to the vast profits made by Tesco.

“The law has been there since 1984 – you can compare with a different job.

“That’s 34 years to put your house in order; that’s 34 years of having the advantage of paying unequally, 34 years of you making pay decisions and making financial decisions and 34 years hiding what is in open sight.”

Significant bill?

Leigh Day said that up to 200,000 supermarket workers could be affected, the majority of them women.

Initial claims have been lodged with the conciliation service, ACAS – the first stage in what is likely to be a lengthy legal process through the employment tribunal system which could last several years.

If even a small proportion of the women are successful, the bill for Tesco would be significant.

Birmingham City Council is now liable for over £1bn pounds in payments after settling an equal pay claim from women employed as cleaners, cooks and carers.

Their pay was below men in comparable jobs such as bin collectors and road workers.

Tesco said that all their staff could progress equally and were paid fairly, whatever their gender or background.

“We are unable to comment on a claim that we have not received,” a spokeswoman said.

“Tesco has always been a place for people to get on in their career, regardless of their gender, background or education, and we work hard to make sure all our colleagues are paid fairly and equally for the jobs they do.”


Two workers for Tesco told the BBC they wanted fair treatment, arguing that their jobs in the stores were as demanding as warehouse jobs.

Pam Jenkins has been working for Tesco for 26 years.

“I think that we should be brought up to their [the men’s] level,” she told me.

“Obviously the jobs are slightly different but to put it bluntly they are of equal value.

“We deal with customers, they [the men] don’t have to. We load, we take the stock and we load the stock, they take it off the lorry and we load it onto the shelves.

“Women have been fighting for equal rights and their voice to be heard for 100 years, we are not just doing it for us, there are many people out there.

“We are just trying to put things right and it’s a shame we are still having to fight in this day and age.”

Kim Element has been working for Tesco for 23 years.

“Although we think we have equal rights, there are times where there are discrepancies and you can’t explain them,” she said.

“And I think Tesco’s are one of many companies that aren’t addressing the fact that women seem to still be paid less.”

Ms Lee said that Tesco was a good employer, signing up to a number of gender equality projects over a number of years.

But she said the company – along with many others – was still failing to reward people equally.

By Kamal Ahmed




Five million households protected under new energy safeguard tariff to save £115 a year

( via – – Wed, 7 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

Energy watchdog Ofgem said it had extended its safeguard tariff to almost one million vulnerable customers, taking the total number of households protected on the tariff to more than five million.

The regulator said these households will initially save around £115 on average a year under the tariff, which stops suppliers from charging customers too much and ensures any price increase is justified by rises in underlying costs.

But it said the savings will fall to £66 a year from April when the level of the safeguard will drop due to rising gas and electricity costs.

Ofgem insisted that customers on the safeguard tariff would still be better off despite the price hike.

Dermot Nolan, chief executive of the watchdog, said: “Protecting vulnerable customers is a priority for Ofgem.

“That’s why we have extended the prepayment safeguard tariff to almost one million vulnerable households, which will help deliver a fairer, smarter and more competitive market for all consumers.

“Even when energy costs rise, people on the worst deals are better off under the safeguard tariff as they can be sure that they are not overpaying for their energy and any rise is justified.”


BP annual profits soar to £4.4bn on higher oil prices



( via – – Tue, 6 Feb 2018 London, Uk – –

BP has unveiled the clearest sign yet that the oil major is emerging from the gloom of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the global market downturn, with a $6.2bn (£4.4bn) profit boom for 2017.

The FTSE 100 energy giant’s better than expected full-year results revealed strong operating cash flows, which were driven higher by the recovery in global oil prices and a 12pc growth in BP’s oil and gas business.

BP made $6.2bn in replacement cost profits, its standard measure of profitability, for the full year compared to just $2.6bn in 2016 when oil prices were at their lowest ebb. In the final quarter of last year alone BP made $2.1bn, up from just $400m in the last quarter of 2016.

BP boss Bob Dudley said last year was “one of the strongest years in BP’s recent history”, which will accelerate the momentum of the the group’s five-year plan as it enters its second year.

Brian Gilvary, BP’s chief financial officer, added that the group’s cash flows were now “back in balance” as it undertakes the start of its programme to buy back the shares it paid out to shareholders in lieu of dividends during the oil market rout.

BP spent $343m on share buy backs in the final quarter, which Mr Gilvary said more than offset the scrip dividends offered in September.

The group’s rigorous discipline on spending has brought BP’s costs down from $60 a barrel to $53 a barrel and will remain in place for 2018 to allow further buybacks, Mr Gilvary added.

But the tight reign on spending has nonetheless driven “the most activity we’ve seen in recent years if not in the history of the company”, he said.

BP is working hard to grow its production portfolio after years of austerity. It will start up five new oil and gas projects this year and also undertake “measured” investments in new energies including biofuels and electricity.




Homebase DIY chain owners plan possible closure of up to 40 stores

( via– Tue, 6 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

Wesfarmers is writing off £584m against the value of the DIY chain – more than the value it paid for the business two years ago.

The Australian owner of Homebase plans to close up to 40 stores after writing off hundreds of millions of pounds over its botched takeover of the DIY chain two years ago.

Wesfarmers boss Rob Scott admitted to a series of “self-induced” blunders as he revealed a £584m impairment charge against the UK business – more than the £340m it paid for it in 2016.

The errors included dropping popular lines for kitchens and bathrooms and underestimating winter demand for a range of items from heaters to cleaning and storage products.

Wesfarmers is now reviewing the future of Homebase’s 234-store network, with a sale not ruled out, and 20 to 40 loss-making stores planned for closure.

It did not say how many job losses would be involved in the closures, which are expected to take place in the current financial year to the end of June.

The company had hoped its purchase of the chain would replicate the success of its Bunnings brand, and has started to rebrand some of the stores under the Australian chain’s name.

But it now expects the UK business to record an underlying loss of £97m for the six months to 30 December after a “poor trading performance” from Homebase.

Wesfarmers is also knocking off £454m of the company’s so-called “goodwill” and brand-name value, plus writing off £130m linked to store closure costs, excess or unsuitable stock, and tax.

It also announced the retirement of Bunnings UK managing director Peter Davis.

Michael Schneider, head of the Bunnings group, said: “A significant amount of change has been driven through Homebase since the acquisition, and the disruption caused by the rapid repositioning of the business has contributed to greater than expected losses across the Homebase network.

“Sales have been affected as non-core categories and concessions were exited ahead of the implementation of the Bunnings format, and investments in price and new ranges have not offset these lost sales.

“Trading was particularly weak during the latter part of the first half of the 2018 financial year.”

Mr Scott said: “A lot of the underlying causes of the losses we’ve reported today have been through our own doing.

“Similarly we see an opportunity to undo some of those issues and improve performance.”

Shares in Wesfarmers fell 4.5% while in the UK, Kingfisher – owner of Homebase’s rival B&Q – was up by 2.3%, one of just a handful of risers in a broad sell-off on London’s FTSE 100.

By John-Paul Ford Rojas



Lloyds Banking Group bans customers buying crypto-currencies on their credit cards

Money Bright/Flickr

( via – – Mon, 5 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

Lloyds Banking Group has banned its customers from buying Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies on their credit cards.

The ban, starting on Monday, applies to Lloyds Bank, Bank of Scotland, Halifax and MBNA customers.

It will not apply to debit cards, only to the banking group’s eight million credit card customers.

The move follows a sharp fall in the value of digital currencies, prompting fears about people running up debts.

Lloyds is concerned it could end up footing the bill for unpaid debts should the price continue to fall.

Explaining the ban, a Lloyds spokeswoman said: “We continually review our products and procedures and this is part of that.”

Bitcoin ended last week down 30% at $8,291.87 – its worst week since April 2013 and far below the $19,000 it reached last November.

However, the cryptocurrency is still ahead of the $1,000 it was trading at this time last year.

Police have warned that digital currencies remain popular among criminals as they can use them to evade traditional money laundering checks and other regulations.

Prime Minister Theresa May recently said that action against digital currencies may be required “precisely because of the way they are used, particularly by criminals”.

She told Bloomberg: “In areas like cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, we should be looking at these very seriously.”

The Treasury said that it intends to update regulation to bring virtual currency platforms into anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulation.

Facebook recently announcedit would block any advertising that promotes cryptocurrency products and services.



FTSE fell to its lowest in two months over inflation and rising bond worries

( via — Mon, 5 Feb 2018) London, UK —

MILAN (Reuters) – The UK’s top share index fell to its lowest level in around two months on Monday as worries over inflation and rising bond yields took their toll on global equity markets.

The FTSE .FTSE fell 1.1 percent by 0929 GMT, while the mid-cap index .FTMC declined 1.3 percent. The FTSE is down more than 4 percent year to date, partly weighed down by a continued recovery in the pound from its post-Brexit lows.

On Monday the FTSE was on track for its fifth consecutive day of losses, its longest losing streak since November, in a broad-based sell-off where only a handful of stocks were trading in positive territory.

“Equity nervousness seems to be about repricing for higher yields and tighter Fed policy and the fear that the bond market has broken out of its three-decade bull market,” said Neil Wilson, analyst at ETX Capital in London.

Asian shares fell the most in over a year on Monday as fears of resurgent inflation battered bonds toppled Wall Street from record highs and sparked speculation that central banks globally might be forced to tighten policy more aggressively.

Shares in miners Anglo American (AAL.L) and Glencore (GLEN.L) rose 1 and 0.3 percent respectively as the sector found support in a rebound in metal prices.

Randgold (RRS.L) rose in early trading after the African gold miner reported 2017 profit up 14 percent thanks to increased production and said it would double its annual dividend.

Its shares however succumbed to the broader weakness, turning 1 percent lower.

An outperformer was Kingfisher (KGF.L), which rose 1.9 percent to the top of the FTSE.

Traders said the stock was supported by hopes for an easing of competition after rival Wesfarmers (WES.AX) wrote off British hardware chain Homebase for more than its purchase price, saying it had made a series of mistakes

Tesco fell 0.6 percent, outperforming the broader market.

Britain’s biggest retailer forecast profit for the full 2017-18 year slightly ahead of analysts’ expectations and confirmed it would pay a final dividend.

Ryanair (RYA.L) fell more than 3 percent.

The airline posted a 12 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit but warned of possible further disruption by pilots and said it was not optimistic about average fares in European short-haul in the summer.

Financials and consumer staple stocks were the biggest weight to the FTSE, taking a combined of 26 points off the blue chip index.

By  Danilo Masoni


Will Smith shares his success philosophy


He’s the only actor to have eight consecutive films gross over $100 million in the domestic box office. He has been ranked as the most bankable star worldwide by Forbes. As of 2016, his films have grossed $7.5 billion at the global box office. For his performances in Ali, and in The Pursuit of Happyness, Smith received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor. He has won four Grammy Awards. He turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix in favor of Wild Wild West. In 2005, Smith was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for attending three premieres in a 24-hour time span.




The Range Rover Velar 2018 instantly recognisable descendant of the original luxury SUV family


In Norway, minimalist design reigns. Clean lines and unfussy surfacing abounds, from the weather-beaten farmhouses and modern commercial buildings that dot the landscape, to the Scandinavian furniture and clothing carefully curated inside them. It’s all form-follows-function, it’s all gorgeous, and it’s no accident that none of it distracts from the country’s omnipresent scenic vistas. The same is true inside the Velar’s beautifully appointed cabin, where a brand-new infotainment interface, Touch Pro Duo, takes up residence in the center stack. The Intel-quad-core based system features twin 10-inch touchscreen TFT displays, one in the traditional mid-dash location, and the other canted just ahead of the drive selector, with a pair of ringed knobs poking through. The setup looks impressively simple — almost worryingly so. Land Rover has greatly reduced the amount of switchgear in the cabin, a practice that has become something of a car-designer obsession these days. The result of such approaches always seems to look pleasing, but too often comes with a heavy toll on ergonomics and usability. Fortunately, I’d have a couple of days behind the wheel to suss out whether that’s the case with the Velar.



The Union Hand-Roasted Coffee co-founder Jeremy Torz talks combining ethics with profits


Here’s just some of the fun we had on our stand at this year’s London Coffee Festival.

( via – – Sat, 3 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

“An immunologist and optician walk into a coffee shop” sounds like the beginning of a naff joke, but for Steven Macatonia and Jeremy Torz,
it perfectly describes the origin of their journey to co-founding
Union Hand-Roasted Coffee.

“It all started in the late Eighties, when Steven went on what should have been a six-month sabbatical to the US,” remembers Torz, an optician who decided to join his partner on the American west coast in Palo Alto.

During their stay there, the duo noticed the emergence of a craft coffee scene, with a handful of new shops serving up a fresh take on a traditional cup of joe.

In one store, Peet’s Coffee, they found a dark roast that was sweet, heavy and rich. “We had never tasted anything like it,” says the founder. “It was a different time then; there were no chains or espresso bars like there are now, and takeaway coffee wasn’t a thing.”

The only place to order a cup back home was at a burger bar or greasy spoon, he says. But Stateside things were changing and the coffee-drinking duo were inspired.

“That six-month stay turned into four years,” jokes Torz, who
took a store job at Peet’s to learn as much as he could about the business of coffee. Macatonia continued his science work, but the pair were always on the edge of doing their own thing.

In 1994, the couple returned to the UK to create their own coffee bean company, selling all their possessions, moving in with Macatonia’s parents, and renting a small workshop that was kitted out with
a roasting machine.

They grew their wholesale idea into a successful venture, piggybacking off a flourishing food and drink scene to supply beans to respected restaurants. Not long after, they merged with the Seattle Coffee Company before being bought by Starbucks in 1998.

“We stayed on and learned a lot, but the corporate life wasn’t for us,” says Torz, who left with Macatonia in 2000.

The co-founders wanted another crack at the coffee market.
“We always wanted to buy coffee directly from farms, so we went to Guatemala to see what growing looked like,” explains the entrepreneur. “We found third and fourth-generation coffee-producing families tearing up trees because they couldn’t afford to keep growing.”

They witnessed poverty, hunger and hardship – and it felt wrong. “There we all were [back home], blithely drinking amazing coffee without considering the source,” says Torz, who figured that there had to be a better way.

Their new roast and supply business, Union, would be just that: a bridge between the two ends of the supply chain. “We wanted to help the producer, while educating consumers and getting them to appreciate this commodity.”

Since day one of its launch in 2001, the Union team has made an intentional and explicit effort to work with growers.

“For a lot of families and farmers, coffee-growing is based on the
simple need to harvest as quickly as possible to make money,” says Torz. “But if you take more time and care, you produce a higher-quality bean that’s worth more per kilo, so producers earn more.”

To embed that concept among growers, the team work from the grassroots up. “We get in there to understand communities at their level,” he explains. “We make a large time commitment to be overseas.”

And by understanding each community’s individual issues and idiosyncrasies, Union can help to change things. The support that
it offers ranges from the financial (multi-year commitments to buy at a guaranteed minimum price, for example) to promotional (PR and marketing campaigns that promote regions to other roasters around the world).

“In western Ethiopia, where I’m working now, we’re running workshops on community organisation and agricultural work, such as pruning coffee trees and managing soil,” says the co-founder.

“We’re not just there as a purchaser; we’re a stakeholder.”

It’s an approach that did (and still does)
set the company apart from its competitors, thinks Torz: “We’re not just coming to a country, finding the tastiest coffee, buying from the producer and not being there for them next year.”

But not everything went as well as it could early on; looking back,
Torz thinks that he didn’t get people in early enough:

“We tried to do too much ourselves – we spread ourselves too thinly.”

It’s common, he explains, for founders to believe that they’re
the only ones capable of understanding the complexities of their business and how it must be driven and represented. “But it’s vital that you bring in outside experts,” he says. “The real skill of the entrepreneur is to give a clear brief to those people; ask appropriate questions of them; and take a considered approach to their suggestions.

“You have to invest in quality people; if we had done that earlier,
we would have grown faster and without wasting money in the early years.”

The firm is in a healthy place today, with 75 staff and an annual turnover of £12.5m. It also recently acquired the Edinburgh-based Brew Lab, a specialty coffee bar that Torz says will enable Union to get closer to the end customer.

“The biggest challenge as a wholesaler is that you’re always the best supporting actor and never the lead role. It’s difficult to bond and build a long-term relationship with the consumer.”

The shop will also be a live testing ground, he adds: “Obviously it has to be profitable, but through it we can learn about how the barista team works, what the customers say and like, and experiment with new brews.”

Torz is confident that we haven’t reached peak coffee just yet:

“It’s such a social product – just look at the modern office; workplaces now create coffee bars instead of meeting rooms.”

And the future is particularly promising for indie companies:

“You used to have to spend a fortune on securing a prime high-street spot, but now you can be off-prime, because people will seek you
out if you give them a quality product and an inviting, friendly atmosphere.”



The London restaurant transformed into a cherry blossom landscape

A restaurant in London has been transformed with a cherry blossom installation to honour the annual Japanese tradition.

The Shochu bar also introduced bespoke cocktails for the occasion.

Watch the video above to see the intricate design which hangs from the ceiling and is only in place for a limited time only.

Filming for this shoot took place at the cherry blossom installation at Shochu, the basement bar below ROKA Charlotte Street.



Medopad UK healthcare startup plans $120m fund raise in China deal

( via – – Fri, 2 Feb 2018) London, Uk – –

UK healthcare startup is planning to raise $120m (£84m) in what would be one of the largest early-stage funding rounds for a British company.

Medopad creates a mobile app that lets doctors remotely monitor and connect to patients and give them health data. The company’s app can be modified to a number of medical conditions, from cancer to heart disease, sending real time data to smartphones or be set to work with wearables like the Apple Watch.

Founded in 2011, Medopad has secured the first part of its funding round, with $28m led by major participation from Chinese infrastructure group NWS Holdings. It expects to raise the rest in the coming months.

If it secures the full $120m, the deal would make Medopad one of the UK’s most valuable startups, although the company would not comment on a valuation. It would also be one of the biggest Series A investments, an early funding stage, of any British company.

Medopad has been prominently backed by Prime Minister Theresa May during her trade trip to China. During the trip, Medopad announced it had secured £100m worth of trade deals with 15 partners, including Chinese tech giant Tencent, which owns the messaging service WeChat, and hardware maker Lenovo.

The Tencent deal could see the companies developing artificial intelligence technologies to support doctors’ decision-making.

Medopad chief executive Dan Vahdat accompanied Mrs May on her visit to China, where the Prime Minister met with Chinese president Xi Jinping in Beijing.

Mr Vahdat said: “The trip has been an amazing success for us. There’s been a big push from Theresa May’s visit, which has given us an accelerated number of deals and partnerships.”

China’s ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming wrote in the Telegraph this week the visit “offers the opportunity to shift the China-UK ‘Golden Era’ into a higher gear and upgrade bilateral relations”.

Medopad is set to expand globally following its new Chinese backing. The company said it would create 500 new jobs in the UK by 2020 as a result of the funding round. UBS acted as financial adviser on the deal.

By Matthew Field



Morrisons to axe 1,500 managerial jobs to invest more in customer experience

The country’s fourth-largest supermarket chain joins rivals in seeking to cut costs in a restructuring of store staff.

Morrisons has announced plans to axe 1,500 managerial jobs to allow investment in bolstering its customer experience.

The supermarket chain followed rivals Tesco and Sainsbury’s in announcing a restructuring of store operational roles.

Morrisons said that while it was cutting managerial positions, it was planning to hire 1,700 customer assistants – lower paid jobs.

It said that the 1,500 staff affected by the decision would not all necessarily lose their work as the chain currently had 800 managerial vacancies they could apply for.

Gary Mills, Morrisons retail director, said: “Our aim is to serve customers better with more frontline colleagues in stores improving product availability and helping customers at the checkouts.

“Very regrettably, there will be a period of uncertainty for some managers affected by these proposals and we’ll be supporting them through this important process.

“Our commitment is to redeploy as many affected colleagues as possible.”

Morrisons – like its so-called ‘big four’ rivals – has not been immune from the challenge posed to their dominance by discounters such as Aldi and Lidl which have been growing their market shares rapidly since the financial crisis.

Supermarket margins have been placed under pressure by the competition – exacerbated since 2017 by the Brexit-linked fall in the value of the pound which forced up import costs – costs which have been partly passed on to shoppers.

Morrisons has been among the strongest performers, in terms of its recovery under chief executive David Potts who reported stronger Christmas sales after a previously poor festive season, in 2014, saw his predecessor lose his job.

Joanne McGuinness, from the USDAW shopworkers’ union, said: “This is a further big upheaval for the Morrisons store management team after the restructure in 2014/15.

“We will be entering into consultations with the company on behalf of our members affected by these changes, which the company proposes to implement in April.”

She added: “Our priorities are to avoid redundancies and help our members stay employed within the business.

“We have secured from Morrisons a commitment to offer redeployment opportunities for all affected managers.”

By James Sillars, Business Reporter