Author: Alice Midgley

Happy New Year from Publicity Seekers

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The new year is upon us, the festive period is over and for many returning to normality on these dark, cold January days can be just a bit miserable.

 

Returning to work on Wednesday for me was a smidge of a struggle, as despite the fact it had only been a 10 day break, the cobwebs had really started to set in and my brain seemed to be in the first stages of hibernation.

 

To get the creative juices flowing again and to get geared up to smash 2018, myself and my colleague Jonny were set a creative challenge.

 

With £100 in our pockets, we were challenged to spend our budget in the most creative way possible. The world was our oyster, and no idea was too silly. It just needed to be achievable in the 8 hours we had to work with.

 

With all that money burning a hole, I must admit I was a little stumped on what I could do at first. So, I stopped to think about what spending creatively really was. To me, creative spending was seeing just how far I could make the money go, and how many people it could have a positive impact on.

 

Imagine what an array of wonderful things that money could buy if I gave it away to others, and let them spend it on things that would make a positive difference to them? So, I decided to do just that, give the money away as a gift to wish a few lucky strangers a Happy New Year, and maybe even brighten up their afternoon a little.

 

I set out to work spreading my new year cheer, leaving envelopes containing a new year message and a £5 note at a number of different locations within Hartlepool.

 

Starting at the Fens, I worked my way across the town, making stops at Seaton Carew, The Town Centre, The Marina, The Headland, and ending up at Hartlepool Hospital.

 

There’s something lovely about the thought that that £5 may have made someone smile today, helping them to pay for their bus or their car parking, or paying for a coffee in town with a friend or for an ice cream by the beach with their kids.

 

I was intrigued to find out who those lucky strangers would be, so alongside the New Year message I asked readers to let Publicity Seekers know through social media, who they were and how they had decided to spend the £5.

 

On returning to the office it was really great to see a few posts had already appeared on Facebook from those who had spotted the envelopes. My fingers are crossed that more of the lucky finders will come forward through social media over the weekend and that we will be able to identify all 20 envelopes by Monday.

 

Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and healthy 2018, from all the team here at Publicity Seekers.

 

 

The thoughts of a new graduate – “Businesses need to give students that all important first push”

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It’s been an eventful year full of stress, panic, and more than a few mini breakdowns, but last week I donned my gown and mortar board and strutted across the stage at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light to graduate with a distinction from my MA in Public Relations.

Sitting here now in the Publicity Seekers office, living the career that I’ve worked so hard to achieve, reminds me just how far I’ve come in a relatively short amount of time, and just how crucial it was that somebody, somewhere, gave me a shot.

I first contacted Publicity Seekers in January 2017, kicking off my new year’s resolution to make this Master’s degree happen by gaining some relevant work experience.

The course at Sunderland University was brilliant, and the modules and lecturers were great, but it didn’t give me the industry experience that I needed to stand out from other graduates.

On paper I didn’t have a great deal to offer. I had no relevant experience in a communications role, where as many of my co-students had journalism or PR backgrounds. Yet the team at Publicity Seekers gave me a chance and invited me to come in to the office one day a week.

I cannot lie, I was nervous. I felt like a lot was resting on it and I was terrified that I was going to mess it up. Yet the team were more than understanding and patient, and in time I was given the opportunity to show what I could do, something that I would never have been able to do in a half an hour interview situation.

I think that’s the thing, many graduates don’t have the experience to secure their first role in their chosen field and it soon turns in to a nasty cycle. You can’t get a job because you don’t have any experience in the field and you can’t get any experience because you don’t have a job in the field.

Especially in a result based industry like PR, how could I ever expect an employer to hire me when I couldn’t show that I could achieve the results they needed?

It’s tough, and that’s where companies need to step in and offer their support. Lots of businesses do have the time and the resources to give a graduate that first step on to the ladder, it’s just a case of giving them a chance and letting them prove what they’re capable of.

During my time on work experience I was put out of my comfort zone, but thanks to that I developed skills that my fellow students might not have had, and my confidence went through the roof.

My advice to a business owner or managing director would be to make connections with local colleges and universities and to be proactive in working with students before they graduate.

By investing in a student, inviting them to come work with you on a part time basis, you’re moulding them to be a great fit for a role in your industry. You’re creating a candidate who will fit perfectly in to your business.

I’m talking a lot here about businesses investing in students at a higher level, but in reality I think it needs to start much earlier on. I went to university straight from finishing my A Levels, to study Sociology for no other reason than it was a subject that I was quite good at.

If somebody had exposed me to a career in the creative industry while I was at College, or even when I was at secondary school, I’m sure my decisions for university would have been very different and I would most likely be a lot further on in this industry than I am.

If businesses in the North East want to thrive and grow, I strongly believe that they need to be setting aside more time to engage with the next generation, their future workforce. Demonstrate to them what a career in that sector looks like, show them what life could look like for them once they’ve finished studying, inspire them to work hard, and make them want to work for you.

On a final note, I want to say a huge thank you to Publicity Seekers and all their clients, for giving me a chance, being patient, and giving me a job that I love getting up for in the morning. What more could anyone ask for?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is the media doing enough to tell the stories of the #unreported and unheard?

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Trust in the mainstream media is at an all-time low. According to recent research, the number of people who said they trusted news outlets has fallen, from 33% in 2015 to just 24% this year.

I’m sure there are multiple reasons why this is the case but a stand out point made by those surveyed was that they just don’t feel that their outlooks and experiences are reflected in what they read in the newspaper, hear in the radio bulletins, see on the television broadcasts, or click on the news websites.

And why is this? Quite simply because many of them still think of journalists in a very traditional way. White, middle aged, middle class men. Sadly, this stereotype is actually quite accurate, and I think it’s more than fair to say from the survey findings, that all news outlets would benefit from a more diversity editorial team, authentically telling the stories of those who aren’t white, middle aged, middle class or male.

Wednesday’s Civic Journalism Lab event, hosted at BBC Newcastle, was an opportunity to explore what the media industry needs to do to change the ways things are in regard to diversity in order to try and win back the trust of the general public

Ran in partnership with Newcastle University, the audience around me was predominantly made up of university students. As much as it felt like I was back in a university lecture room, it was brilliant to see so many young people in attendance. After all, the millennial generation, of which I would include myself, has one of the highest distrust percentages when it comes to the media, often feeling disengaged from what’s going on in the world around us.

The discussion was held by four guest speakers, all of whom are actively working to encourage diversity within their outlets, in order to support the voices of those who are often unreported on by the media and write from a perspective that audiences can relate to and trust.

These were, Michael Segalov, the News Editor for Huck Magazine, Helen Amess, Outreach Manager for BBC North, Joshi Hermann, Editor-In-Chief for The Tab, and Jamie Clifton, UK Editor for The Vice.

Michael spoke about how Huck Magazine looks for ways in which they can bring alternative perspectives and fresh voices to the conversations had around major news stories.

These opinion pieces will come from young writers from a diverse range of backgrounds, who the magazine call on to ask ‘how do you see this story?’ By creating content that mixes the factual information in with the opinions and experiences of the writer, you are creating something that the audience can engage with and maybe even relate to.

Helen highlighted that the BBC feels it has a real responsibility to engage with the audiences who pay their license fee but perhaps never see themselves reflected on the television, never hear themselves on the radio, ad would never see themselves on the BBC’s social media platforms or website.

She pointed out the opportunity that news outlets have to engage with diverse audiences online but admitted that there’s is almost a skills gap when it comes to older journalists working effectively on social media. In order to reach audiences who don’t engage with traditional forms of media, journalists need to place equal importance on social channels, producing content that is designed specifically for online, not a rehash of what appeared on the TV or radio bulletins.

Joshi Hermann, Editor-in-Chief of The Tab, suggested that because the magazine has a good understanding of its reader’s interests, cultural references and educational backgrounds than most publications, they can tailor editorial for them. Page views online don’t necessarily indicate what people care about, the best way to find that out is to get out there and ask. To attract the attention, and most importantly the trust of readers, variety is essential, and content should be diverse in order to appeal to a diverse audience.

So what does all this mean for when the team at Publicity Seekers are storytelling for our clients? At Publicity Seekers we always say that people buy from people and in some cases it may be the stories, opinions and experiences of the staff members that customers will relate to and engage with.

There’s so much of the same news out there but a different opinion piece from a team member may provide an alternative perspective, which will shine the story in a completely different light and make it unique and attractive to the publications that we target.

Make sure to look out for our client stories in our media centre.

Seymour Civil Engineering celebrates continued growth with the appointment of board of directors

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North East civil engineering firm, Seymour Civil Engineering, has taken further steps towards securing its future success, with the appointment of four new company directors.

All hailing from existing roles within the company, Adam Harker has been named as contracts director, Simon Rodgers as commercial director, Stuart Dickens as construction director and Karl Brennan as pre-construction director.

Karl, who has been with Seymour Civil Engineering for 13 years, previously as the company’s bid coordinator, said: “I’m delighted to have been appointed in this new position. It’s fantastic to have been rewarded for my commitment to the business. It’s also testament to one of Seymour’s key values, ‘A People Business’. Seymour is excellent at fostering an environment that provides opportunity.

“A major part of my new position as pre-construction director will be looking at how Seymour engages with clients and stakeholders and how those relationships develop throughout the lifecycle of a project.

“Seymour has always been a client focused contractor, and as a result will have been successfully trading for 40 years next year, but placing a continued importance on maintaining strong relationships, and promoting sustainable outcomes above short term gains, significantly contributes to a positive and robust future for the company.”

Adam added: “I feel honoured and privileged to be promoted to director. It’s coming up to 10 years that I have been with the company and throughout that time the firm has assisted me to develop and grow. It’s now my turn to help take the business forward.

“I see the appointment of a board of directors as a real statement of intent by our Managing Director Kevin Byrne. It shows his drive and determination to see Seymour grow and continue to establish itself as the leading multi-discipline civil engineering company in the North East. With the new directors in place I can only see the business going from strength to strength in the coming years.”

Speaking about the latest appointments, Managing Director Kevin Byrne, said:  “As Seymour approaches its 40th anniversary I felt this was the perfect time to undertake the re-structure and introduce the board of directors to assist with making the vision we have for the company a reality.

“I will be working closely with the new directors to identify both strengths and challenges within the business, allowing us to prioritise time and focus attention on the key areas.

“As a team I am confident we will be able to lay the foundations for Seymour’s sustainable and structured growth going forward.”

Based at Seymour House on Hartlepool Marina, Seymour Civil Engineering has enjoyed a successful year, securing and completing a number of major projects across the region.

Most recently the firm celebrated a landmark contract win securing civil and infrastructure work for the £18 million exhibition development at Beamish Museum

J&B Recycling achieves record growth

Vikki Jackson-Smith, Managing Director of J&B Recycling

J&B Recycling has celebrated record financials for the financial year ending March 2017, reporting a turnover of £15.7m. The company also increased its gross profit by 159% to £2.3m and reported an EBITDA of £1.7m, up 87.2% from 2016.

The company has continued its strong growth into the current financial year. As at August 2017 it is now running at a £4m EBITDA run rate, as the results of previous investment into staff, machinery, process optimisation and a range of new significant contracts have begun to contribute.

Over the last year J&B Recycling has been working to dramatically increase its efficiency and most recently recorded an average of 98% of on-time services across the whole of the business during the last six months.

Vikki Jackson-Smith, Managing Director at J&B Recycling, said: “The past 12 months have been both exciting and very successful for J&B Recycling. On top of our best ever recorded financials, we have also successfully implemented and delivered on our two-year programme of development following our initial investment from the Business Growth Fund.”

In 2014 J&B secured £7.5m from BGF in order to help the company expand its operations across the region and increase its processing capacity across the company’s three sites in the North East.

Vikki said: “This financial year sets us up perfectly to move into the next and continue the growth of the company. Over the past few years we have transformed as a business using our investment to ensure we are working at the highest possible quality, environmental and health and safety levels.”

“Significant operational capacity has also been added across our three sites which is now beginning to be fully utilised.”

Vikki concluded: “Key to our business has to be our people and ensuring they are continuing to develop through our business. We have made a number of in-house promotions and also continued adding to our team, employing 30 new members of staff over the last year.”

Over the next financial year J&B Recycling will continue optimising its operations and commencing with its next phase of growth through new development of new installations or acquisitions.

The firm was also awarded its third Corporate Livewire Award earlier this year, taking away the title of ‘UK Recycling Firm of the Year’ for 2018.

Securing the future whilst remembering the past Seymour Civil Engineering helps Stanley remember its war time history

Mick Mair from Seymour Civil Engineering with Adrian Cantle-Jones from Durham County Council, representatives from The Environment Agency, The River Wears Trust, The Heritage Lottery Fund, and Stanley Town Council, and local residents.

North East Civil Engineering company, Seymour Civil Engineering, has completed work on a town regeneration project that captures the history of its residents.

Due to issues with flooding across the South Moor Terraces in Stanley, Seymour Civil Engineering was called upon to install a sustainable urban drainage system, a natural approach to managing drainage and recycling water.

To do this, rain garden planters were fitted between the pavement, providing homes for five trees, each commemorating one year of fighting in the First World War.

Along with additional foliage, the trees, positioned along the length of Pine Street, act as markers within the Twizell Heritage Trail, a route which tells the story of South Moor’s origins shortly before the First World War and how the miners shaped the community. Each tree will be marked with a World War one battle insignia, remembering the hundreds of miners who lost their lives.

The project was funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund, Durham County Council, Stanley Town Council and The Environment Agency.

Keith Love, Site Manager at Seymour Civil Engineering, said: “As a company, we are really proud to have been a part of a project that has not only contributed to environmental improvement and flood alleviation, but has commemorated Stanley’s heritage.

“Seymour Civil Engineering does everything it can to make sure it builds positive relationships with the communities affected by the projects it undertakes.”

Before starting on the Pine Street project, the Seymour Civil Engineering team attended a meeting with the residents to discuss the up and coming work.

Keith added: “Through the community meeting, we established the importance of avoiding unnecessary road closures and ensuring 24-hour accessibility to the households of vulnerable and elderly residents. Without that meeting, we would have been none the wiser and the project would have likely caused a lot of problems and upset.”

The project also saw Seymour Civil Engineering refurbish the pathways with block paving, designed in the style of old fashioned film reel to commemorate the important role that local cinemas played in war time communications.

During both World Wars, the community surrounding Stanley depended upon the five cinemas in the area for updates from the frontline.

Seymour Civil Engineering is renowned for its commitment to giving back to the communities within which it works and the Pine Street project was no exception.

Keith added: “Seymour Civil Engineering is passionate about going above and beyond to ensure its presence is considered a benefit, and its work is well received.

“Just one example of this is the work we did at the Stanley Community Centre. Mid way through the project we were approached by the centre’s management committee, asking if we could help make the facilities more accessible to the large numbers of elderly residents who use it. We offered to install dropped kerbs around the site, as it was clear that the community centre was an important part of community life, as anything we could do to help out was no trouble.”

“It’s brilliant to know that we’re making a real difference to people’s lives. The adjustments we made to our schedule and the extra work we added, had no effect on the completion of the project, but the positive impact it had on the community was ten-fold.”

Adrian Cantle-Jones, the Durham County Council Project Manager, said: “South Moor residents are delighted with the wonderful improvements to Pine Street and the wider Twizzel Burn and South Moor Heritage Trail. The South Moor Partnership is looking forward to continuing the regeneration of the South Moor Terraces and Twizzel Burn Catchment”.

The Pine Street project is one of a number of community initiatives that Seymour Civil Engineering has completed. Starting this Autumn, the firm has been contracted to carry out the civil and infrastructure work for the Remaking Beamish project, an £18 million development at Beamish museum that will see the addition of more than 30 new exhibits including a 1950’s town.

London needs to provide accessibility to all

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WITH  disabled people and their families spending power, or the ‘purple pound’ standing at £249 billion in 2017, it is vital that London businesses are ensuring their premises are accessible for all.

This year Transport for London announced that 25% of its tube stations are now step-free. With transport now leading the way, Cibes UK Sales and Marketing Director Gary Sullivan is calling on bars and restaurants in the capital to follow suit.

Gary Sullivan, Sales and Marketing Director for Cibes UK said: “London may be making a headway in its transport accessibility but a survey by the charity Scope found that 38% of disabled people feel that attitudes haven’t improved towards them since the London Paralympic games in 2012.

“When you look at the statistics they really do speak for themselves. Attitudes towards those with disabilities haven’t improved, despite the positive legacy the games intended to deliver, and this is apparent when you look at the contrast between the amount of people that use a wheelchair compared to the amount of bars, restaurants, and shops that are actually accessible and step-free.”

London – a city of contrasts

7% of Londoners consider themselves to have a mobility impairment, with 2% using a wheelchair on a permanent or regular basis.

However, a 2014 Government audit showed that 40% of restaurants in the UK don’t have an accessible toilet and 20% of High Street shops were not able to provide access for wheelchair users.

The Equality Act 2010 protects disabled people from discrimination and requires that ‘reasonable adjustments’ are made when providing access to premises.

Making the High Street accessible

French eatery Villandry café recently took steps to become more accessible by installing a new Cibes lift in its St James Restaurant. The decadent Edwardian building has private rooms on the first floor and toilets in the basement.

Phillippe Le Roux, Managing Director for Villandry said: “We are committed to providing the most top quality service for all of our guests and each of our restaurants is fully accessible. This is something that is extremely important for us and that we will not compromise on.

“Our previous lift was very old and was breaking down more and more. It was imperative that we replaced our old lift with a new one as soon as possible.

“One of our other lifts had been installed by Cibes and the company’s service was exceptional, from the installation down to the maintenance and aftercare.”

Gary added: “Villandry have a reputation for excellent customer service and wanted a reliable lift that would go above and beyond disability regulations for their diners.”

“The lift was fitted outside of working hours and another lift was used during the works to ensure disabled customers could access the restaurant.”

Gary concluded: “Bars and restaurants shouldn’t fear becoming step-free. Almost every space can become accessible and our Sales Managers who are briefed in health and safety, construction and accessibility legislation, will be able to guide you every step of the way.”

GCSE Results Day 2017, but what do those grades really mean for the future of the next generation?

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Waking up, I could only imagine how year 11’s across the country were feeling as the news reader on the radio announced the beginning of GCSE results days 2017.

Easily one of the most nerve wracking days of a 16 year olds life, memories flooded back of the day I arrived at school to pick up the brown envelope, that, at the time, you believe contains the fate of the rest of your life.

I arrived at Manor Community Academy in Hartlepool at 8:30am and eager students were already waiting at the door, ready to get that dreaded moment over and done with. After five years of secondary school and two years of hard work preparing for the GCSE exams, the day not only symbolises the start of the next step in life, but the end of an era. Emotions were high, but it was brilliant to see so many chuffed faces as expectations were met or even beaten.

But a clear difference this year was the look of confusion on some of the students faces.

A new numerical grade system has replaced the traditional A*-G grades for English and Maths and according to research from The Student Room, students find the 1-9 grading system is difficult to understand.

The reforms to the grading system have been introduced in an attempt to raise standards, so that pupils have the knowledge and skills they need to compete in a global workplace. Yet with the new grading system brings new, tougher exams which has resulted in a dip in the pass rate across England.

For some, classroom studies and GCSE exams are a breeze, but what about those who struggle? Do harder exams and disappointing results really mean the end of the world?

After this year’s drop in the pass rate it is more important than ever to inspire young people to keep their heads up, keep concentrating on their ambitions and to not be too disheartened.

At this point it’s vital that students are encouraged to find an area of study that they love. Maths, Science and English aren’t for everyone and it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are so many alternative areas in which students can excel. Once they find their niche and their passion, educational success will follow.

I know many successful business owners who will happily tell you that GCSE results aren’t the be all and end all, and as Publicity Seekers Managing Director, Samantha Lee, very rightly said: “Celebrate what you’ve got and don’t beat yourself up on what you don’t. Life is full of interesting paths and yours will come, regardless of what an exam paper says.”

Teesside, as a thriving business community, has an opportunity here to step up and inspire the future generations. After all, 2017’s GCSE students will one day soon be making up the Teesside workforce and what better way to secure a business’s future success than by preparing them in advance?

Apprenticeships, internships, work experience placements, school visits offering demonstrations, and talks are just a few ways that businesses can make a massive difference. It’s about taking a step back and identifying how, as role models, they can inspire and make an impact.

So what are you going to do?

J&B Recycling announced UK recycling firm of the year

Vikki Jackson-Smith, Managing Director of J&B Recycling

The North East’s largest independent recycling company, J&B Recycling, has been crowned ‘Recycling Firm of the Year’ by the international Corporate LiveWire Innovation & Excellence Awards 2018.

After being awarded the ‘Most Outstanding in Recycling Solutions’ for the previous two years, J&B Recycling has now been recognised and awarded Recycling Firm of the Year, due to its on-going investment and community-based initiatives.

Vikki Jackson-Smith, Managing Director of J&B Recycling, said: “We’re incredibly proud to have been named 2018’s Recycling Firm of the Year by Corporate LiveWire, and it’s fantastic to be officially recognised for our achievements in 2017. Going forward we will continue to live up to our title, by providing the very best waste management service for all of our customers.”

The awards are thoughtfully undertaken to recognise businesses that are transforming their trade, and setting trends in innovation and improvement throughout their respective industries.

Category winners are invited to a glittering awards ceremony in London where they will be recognised for their overall performance and their exceptional customer service.

A spokesperson from the Corporate LiveWire Awards, said: “Throughout 2017 J&B Recycling has really stood out to our readers and our judges. We are delighted to award them Recycling Firm of the Year and look forward to working with the team in 2018.”

Vikki added: “Through strategically planning investment in improving our quality service, technology and staff training we have built on the momentum of our previous award wins to become a leader in the North East recycling industry.”

The awards were judged by an independent panel that use its collective experience across a range of industries to showcase the most outstanding companies in the UK within a variety of sectors.

The 2018 judging panel featured individuals from high profile firms such as Capita, Prelude and Dealmarket.

Weschenfelder to enter German market after dramatic sales increase

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Sausage making specialist Weschenfelder’s has celebrated a 25% increase in online sales this year and has set its sights on the German sausage making market, thanks to Forrest Digital.

In a partnership that spans over 12 years, the digital marketing specialist has led to the the evolution of Weschenfelder’s web presence, undertaken ROI analysis and perfected an online marketing approach, that has helped the company sell to over 15 different countries from its base at Riverside Park in Middlesbrough.

Weschenfelder Direct sell sausage making equipment, casings and seasonings to individuals and businesses who want to make their own sausages.

Tim Weschenfelder, Director of Weschenfelder Direct said: “As our business has grown so has our partnership with Forrest Digital. When we first started working together we were selling around 30% of our products online, this has now dramatically increased to 70%.

“Countries we export to include France, Portugal and Spain with our latest target being king of the sausages, Germany.

“This would never have been within our reach without Forrest Digital, they have helped us build a professionally translated German site, complete with a strategic digital marketing campaign and incorporating data insights from the German market that will stand us in good stead next to our competitors.

“Every country is different and that’s why if you are going to export, you need to find an experienced digital consultant with knowledge of the preferences and behaviour of your target market. I never would have known that German customers are more cautious when paying online and less likely to use credit cards and that small changes like implementing a PayPal or a debit card payment system would give potential customers that extra confidence to shop with us.”

The German ecommerce market is growing rapidly and was worth over 66 billion euros in 2016, an increase of seven billion euros since 2015. Over half of internet users in Germany have bought a product from a foreign country.

Iain Forrest, Managing Director of Forrest Digital, said: “Tim came to us back in 2005 after using another digital marketing company he was not completely happy with.

“As one of our long-term clients Weschenfelder has truly reaped the benefits of a partnership that has seen us working together to build an online presence and content that is market leading. Together we’ve created one of the most trusted sites in this market and Weschenfelder is now a go-to destination for businesses and individuals seeking advice about these types of products.

A long-term relationship like this really enables clients to leverage the working partnership we have with internet-giant Google, which allows us to test and trial new services, keeping them a step ahead of their competitors.

“Achieving success in the German sausage market is ambitious but very achievable as far as we’re concerned. When we were looking at site statistics we noticed already a large number of visitors were from Germany. When we discussed this with Tim, it turns out it was something he’d been thinking about for a while and was keen to develop.

“We use a professional translator for all our German AdWords, SEO and site content, in order that the right colloquial language is used throughout, with none of the bad grammar or comical translation errors that come as part and parcel of automatic translation services and which instantly put a potential customer off.”

Tim concluded: “My grandfather Ludwig Weschenfelder emigrated from Bavaria to Middlesbrough in 1895 to work as a butcher’s apprentice and from there grew Weschenfelder. Hopefully we can now come full circle and start selling our products back to the German market.”