About This Episode:

In this episode of the Brunel for Business podcast series on business challenges and recovery strategy, Steve Parker speaks with Rhotic Media’s Joe McGrath about managing growth during a pandemic and learning to make tough decisions to sustain the business over the longer term.

Rhotic Media is a 12-person financial services content agency that’s emerging from start-up mode to enter its growth phase. With an editorial team that has written for large media groups including Dow Jones and the Financial Times, Rothic Media offers corporate content, emergency editorial and research reporting services. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Rothic Media faced a steep learning curve in managing unanticipated business growth following contract cancellations and pulled projects at the start of the pandemic. 
  • Attending the SBLP while running a business at the same time allowed Joe to apply what he was learning and to put in place meaningful changes to make Rhotic Media more resilient for the future.
  • Learning about how important it is to measure everything you do in the business provided Joe with a degree of comfort to make strong decisions, including focusing on clients that could offer more predictable contracts and most likely to stay with the company as it grows. This has led to improved productivity per employee as well as better profits for the agency.


About This Episode:

In this episode of the Brunel for Business podcast series on business challenges and recovery strategy, Tulbinder Mahal, Director of Paragon AV chats with Steve Parker about pivoting his business during the pandemic and how business coaching has helped him re-evaluate his own business practices. 

Launched in 1986, Paragon AV offers audio-visual and lighting services to the events industry as well as film productions and concerts.

Key Takeaways:

  • Due to COVID-19, Paragon AV went from a booming business with £30,000-£40,000 worth of jobs a month to less than £200-£300 a month. In order to survive, the business pivoted towards extending its capabilities to help companies enhance their presence online.
  • Running a business for over 30 years does not automatically mean you know everything, as Tubbs discovered through participating in the Small Business Leadership Programme (SBLP)
  • The SBLP provided opportunities to network and make new contacts with other business owners facing similar business challenges in a difficult economic climate, and also highlighted the importance of resilience: the ability to pivot and develop lines of business to grow in the event of market changes.


About This Episode:

In this episode of the Brunel for Business podcast series on business challenges and recovery strategy, Steve Parker speaks with Anuuj Kohli, Director of SWJ Ltd about Oak Furniture House’s pandemic growth success story and how that brought its own challenges. 

SWJ UK Ltd, better known by its trading name Oak Furniture House, is a family-run business offering oak furniture for home interiors and accessories for gardens and outdoor spaces.

Key Takeaways:

  • In 2020 Oak Furniture House increased its turnover by 98% over the previous year as demand for the company’s garden furniture doubled in the summer months. But success brought its own challenges; the heightened demand along with a delay in the supply chain left the company struggling to meet customer expectations as service levels deteriorated. 
  • As staff grappled with this as well as working from home, taking care of their mental health and wellbeing became crucial.
  • Attending the SBLP helped Anuj learn how to delegate responsibilities to his core team, making them accountable for different areas of the business and allowing him to focus on its strategic aspects.


About This Episode:

In this episode of the Brunel for Business podcast series on business challenges and recovery strategy, PLM Central’s Director Niketh Shetty speaks to Yuliya Stancheva about how companies need to think out of the box to remain competitive, and how the SBLP provided him with some comfort in challenging times. 

PLM Central Ltd is a software company that aims to help innovators with digital product design and digital transformation. It offers next generation design and manufacturing software through new software sales, consultancy, support & training services.

Key Takeaways:

  • PLM Central’s business has grown throughout the pandemic, but working with clients through remote online sessions rather than face-to-face interaction has been challenging. The company has had to do more marketing online as well, using alternative platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter and maximising search engine optimisation (SEO) to attract more traffic to its website. 
  • The Small Business Leadership Programme (SBLP) offered the opportunity to learn and to access resources for marketing and funding, as well as providing Nikesh the comfort of knowing his business was not the only one facing challenges due to the pandemic.
  • As the pandemic has pushed businesses towards adopting digitisation and embracing technology, companies need to think out of the box and continue innovating if they are to face their competition in a post-Brexit, post-pandemic world.


About This Episode:

This episode of the Brunel for Business podcast series on business challenges and recovery strategy features Steve Parker’s conversation with Christina Gray of Gray & Associates, in which they discuss how to handle those missing ‘water cooler’ moments now that we’re all working from home, and how to ace that Zoom job interview. 

Gray & Associates is a London-based independent recruitment agency providing temporary and permanent recruitment solutions for roles in administration, management, secretarial, finance and IT. It also has a specialist Teaching Division providing staff to schools in Greater London.

Key Takeaways:

  • The pandemic has prompted a need to look at different ways of marketing your business including social media. For Gray & Associates, the traditional ways of sending people information via email or a phone call is no longer relevant in this current economic climate.
  • Most people seem to have adjusted to working from home but there’s a need to keep staff engaged, whether they are temporary or permanent, to make up for those missing water cooler moments.
  • Job interviews are now being conducted remotely online and this looks likely to continue as a practice, especially for first interviews. People need to overcome their discomfort with the technology and practice how they look in front of the camera.


About This Episode:

This episode of the Brunel for Business podcast series on business challenges and recovery strategy features Voyage Control’s Imogen Morgan and Isabel Martin in conversation with Steve Parker about how attending the SBLP benefited their business. 

Voyage Control is a logistics management solution business that started out in the events industry but over the past 10 years has expanded into the construction and ports industries as well as facilities management.

Key Takeaways:

  • The SBLP was an opportunity for Voyage Control to gain an overview of its different business areas and how it fared as a company against others of a similar size, as well as to connect with other businesses experiencing similar challenges.
  • Participating in the SBLP also prompted a revisit of Voyage Control’s strategy and internal message to ensure that everyone was aligned with the vision of the business and where it would be heading in 2021.



About This Episode:

This episode of the Brunel for Business podcast series on business challenges and recovery strategy features KASHKA London’s Naqiyah Sultan speaking with Yuliya Stancheva about shifting from growth to survival to get through the pandemic-hit retail sector.  

KASHKA London is an online retailer of demi-fine jewellery, offering affordable, stylish jewellery for everyday wear that’s designed with purpose, handmade with care and sustainably sourced and conflict-free.

Key Takeaways: 

  • As a predominantly e-commerce business, KASHKA had to explore alternative ways of finding new business when lockdowns put an end to the offline events it relied on to generate sales leads. 
  • KASHKA shifted from a growth business strategy to survival as the second and third lockdowns saw consumers pull back on spending due to ongoing economic uncertainty. 
  • The business focused on aggressive marketing promotions through social media and email marketing channels as well as maintaining honest communication with its clients to create empathy with them.
  •  Taking part in the SBLP was eye-opening, giving Naqiyah the opportunity to learn new theories, principles and concepts, but also to connect with other business leaders going through similar challenges.


About This Episode:

This episode of the Brunel for Business podcast series on business challenges and recovery strategy features Q AccountantsFarid Gasanov speaking with Yuliya Stancheva about capitalising on unexpected business during the pandemic, and how the SBLP gave him the opportunity to network and learn from other business owners. 

Established in 2015, Q Accountants is a London-based firm that provides a comprehensive range of national accounting and tax services for SMEs with business interests in the UK, EU and beyond.

Key Takeaways:

  • Q Accountants’ revenues were not hugely impacted by the pandemic, as accounting services were still needed even during crisis times. But the firm had to make changes in the way it worked, including running webinars to communicate with its clients about government support packages.
  • The pandemic provided unexpected opportunities for the firm to expand into new services such as supporting clients to access government support packages and loans and to help them manage insolvency and recovery.
  • The Small Business Leadership Programme (SBLP) was a ‘mini-MBA’ that gave Farid the chance to network with other like-minded business owners experiencing similar challenges and to learn from each other on how to optimise the opportunities presented by the different aspects of their business.


About This Episode:

In this episode of the Brunel for Business podcast series on business challenges and recovery strategy, Yuliya Stancheva speaks with Sanjay Rode of Pioneer Global Services about the need for businesses to change its approach and focus.

Pioneer Global Services is a telecommunications firm offering hosted VoIP phone systems to UK businesses as well as business broadband and bulk SMS services.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Pioneer Global faced challenges in generating new business when staff couldn’t conduct their audit visits with potential clients due to the pandemic. 
  • This prompted it to work on a sustainable business model that resulted in a huge shift online, from sales channels to marketing and offering its services through a self-service portal. 
  • Believing that client retention is key to survival during this pandemic, Pioneer Global also focused on offering its clients as much flexibility and support as possible.
  • The biggest lesson Sanjay gained from the SBLP is the need for management to change its approach and be flexible to adapt to new circumstances.



About This Episode:

This episode of the Brunel for Business podcast series on business challenges and recovery strategy features Sriram Aylur, Operations Director of Taj International hotels Ltd speaking with Yuliya Stancheva about businesses needing to be innovative in the face of the pandemic and how having the right attitude makes winners. 

An internationally acclaimed chef, Sriram Aylur has been associated with Quilon, the only Southern Indian restaurant in the world with a Michelin star rating. He also directs operations at Bombay Brasserie, another acclaimed restaurant offering North Indian and Bombay cuisine. Both London-based restaurants are part of the Taj International Hotels group.

Key Takeaways:

  • A tremendous drop in business in February and March 2020 forced the restaurants to reinvent themselves by starting a takeaway and delivery service
  • Innovation was key for the restaurants to remain relevant and maintain their brand presence, enabling them to expand into new markets such as offering virtual business lunches and dinners and catering for private jets
  • Having a positive and enthusiastic attitude helped Sriram and his team seize opportunities and navigate the pandemic as a winner
  • The SBLP provided an environment for business leaders to interact with and learn from each other; it also gave Sriram guidance and helped him think differently.


About This Episode:

In this episode of the Brunel for Business podcast series on business challenges and recovery strategy, Steve Parker speaks with Iman Sheel of Sahan Cares about running a care home during a pandemic and how the SBLP was an opportunity to retrain as a business leader to handle crisis times. 

Sahan Cares CIC is a social enterprise homecare agency that’s been running for 11 years, providing care and support to vulnerable and disabled people in the West London area.

Key Takeaways:

  • Challenges Shahan Cares faced during the start of the pandemic included a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and care staff working longer hours leading to poor morale and burnout. 
  • Holding therapy sessions has empowered staff to talk about their mental health and receive necessary support, helping to ultimately improve the quality of service offered.
  • The SBLP was an opportunity for retraining to adapt to the changing business landscape, and to exchange ideas with other business leaders experiencing similar challenges.
  • The resilience and sustainability matrix is a useful framework to give business leaders a holistic understanding of their business and how prepared and resilient they were, enabling them to act instead of reacting in a crisis.


About This Episode:

In this episode of the Brunel for Business podcast series on business challenges and recovery strategy,  Yuliya Stancheva speaks with Colour Sound Experiment’s Business Manager Gemma Bates about diversifying into new business areas and how a positive attitude helps you push your business forward in difficult times. 

Colour Sound Experiment is an event hire specialist supplying lighting, video, rigging, staging, special effects and design and production services. An owner-operator family business, it has been described by Touring Production International Magazine as the last great Independent in lighting, supplying some of the most iconic events from the Shard to the London Eye, Kensington Palace to Kew Gardens.

Key Takeaways:

  • The first Covid lockdown in March 2020 resulted in Colour Sound Experiment losing 99% of its business. It had to be creative with working within social distancing rules and diversifying into new areas, but the company pushed on and even invested in equipment to continue serving their clients.
  • Participating in the Small Business Leadership Programme (SBLP) was an opportunity to take time and reflect on the business to make it more efficient at every level so that it can come out of the pandemic much stronger and better. 
  • An important lesson learnt from the SBLP is that positivity in the face of difficult circumstances can be a real driver for your business, motivating you to push your company forward even during times of great adversity.


About This Episode:

In the latest episode of our Women in Business podcast series, we are joined by the amazing co-founder of 4myschoolsSimone Payne who will share her entrepreneurship highlights, challenges, and advice.

Simone grew a business that strives to make it easier for schools and highly motivated candidates to work together and better help children to succeed through investment in innovative technology. Tune in and be inspired by the woman who believes in positively encouraging life-long learning for everyone. 

Find out how Simone’s business not only survived but also thrived throughout the pandemic, and how every day they give back to teaching and learning in the UK.


About Simone Payne:

Simone co-founded 4myschools in 2008 to make a difference in recruitment into schools across Essex, Suffolk, Hertfordshire and Norfolk. 

Simone is passionate about quality of service and making a social impact on people’s lives across the UK and those less fortunate around the world. On her last trip to Tanzania Simone was able to experience the impact 4myschools has made on children there, and she hopes to one day visit the well built in Ethiopia.

Simone is the elected Vice-Chair of the Education Sector Group at The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), which sets the standards for the recruitment industry across the UK. 

Interesting Facts:

Simone enjoys climbing mountains and has conquered Base Camp Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro, each time raising money for causes that impact education in the UK and overseas.



About This Episode:

According to the UK Legal 500, Wilson Solicitors LLP partner Anita Vasisht “is a force of nature; her ‘abilities with clients are unparalleled’ and she is ‘ready and able to take on the most difficult and complex cases and execute them with the very highest degree of skill, precision and professionalism”.

Anita joins us in the latest episode of Brunel’s Women in Business series, where she talks us through how she has remained successful throughout her career, especially during the pandemic, having been newly appointed Head of the Immigration Law department in April 2020. 

Tune in and be inspired by Anita’s journey – both the highlights and the challenges – and take away her important self-care tips and advice for all Women in Business.

Anita Vasisht:

Upon graduating in French, Russian and Law from Surrey University, Anita worked in Amnesty International’s Legal Office before qualifying as a solicitor in May 1997. She has been a partner at Wilson Solicitors LLP since 2005.

Since 2013, Anita has been named as one of London’s “Super Lawyers”. She is also listed as a recommended lawyer in Spears, the influential financial services magazine.

As well as her other roles, Anita also recruits, trains and mentors young lawyers, continuing to inspire future leaders.

Interesting facts:

  • Anita fluently speaks English, French, and Punjabi.
  • Anita’s work has taken her to Moscow, Beirut, Tunis, Istanbul, Frankfurt and Beirut. She has also spent time in the southern Lebanon Palestinian refugee camps.
  • She loves films, family, and travel


About This Episode:

We are delighted to have Helen Stenhouse on the latest episode of Brunel’s Women in Business podcast series.

Helen is a business specialist whose key focus is making businesses more commercial, scalable and ready for growth. Hear about her journey from being a Portfolio HRD to becoming a Regional Director, and now the Managing Director and co-owner of People Puzzles

Be inspired by Helen’s story - with its highs and lows - and take away her top tips as a successful woman in business.

About Helen Stenhouse:

Helen Stenhouse gained a BSc in Biology from Bristol University and an MA in Human Resource Management from Middlesex University. 

She has a broad range of consultancy experience in SMEs including recruitment, management support, procurement, contract negotiation, budgeting, marketing, sales, property, research, agile working and event management.

She is passionate about People Puzzles and exhibits good humour which comes to the fore when things become challenging. 

Interesting facts:

  • Helen has two children and a beautiful dog.
  • She also loves to garden when she has time.


About This Episode:

Melanie Lay has mastered the art of business growth as Director of Marketing & Resources at Energy Solutions (UK) Ltd.

In the latest episode of Brunel’s Women in Business series, discover Melanie’s journey of working in business, how she overcame the obstacles she faced, and how her actions have helped make Energy Solutions the leading supplier of off-grid power solutions in the UK today. Tune in to take away her highlights, challenges, and advice as a strong, successful woman in business.

Melanie Lay:

Melanie, who holds a Business Administration and Management degree, is a marketing professional experienced in e-commerce, strategic development, brand management and in delivering marketing and PR results in both B2B & B2C environments.


Melanie is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.



About This episode:

We are proud to kick off Brunel’s Women in Business podcast series with Natasha Ray, the co-founder of &Keep and a UK Top 100 Inspirational Female Entrepreneur of 2021. 

Tune in and discover how Natasha built her sustainable retail company from the ground up, what her motivations are, and why her amazing business idea came to her whilst she was touring across Europe in a little red campervan.

Be inspired by Natasha’s concept of forever as she juggles her roles of motherhood and businesswoman. Also find out how Natasha and her team responded and grew the business throughout the COVID pandemic, how she overcame challenges in order to pursue her company’s mission to bring people closer to the planet.

Finally, be motivated by nuggets of advice to help you keep going and achieve your goals!

Natasha Ray:

Natasha Ray is the co-founder of the online retail store &Keep (www.andkeep.com) and she is also an all-around passionate business leader who actively raises awareness of plastic pollution and the global environmental crisis.

She is a public speaker, a Keep Britain Tidy LitterHeroes Ambassador, an Eco-Schools Green Flag Assessor and a Community Leader for the Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Communities Campaign.

Natasha is also an experienced project manager specialising in relationship management, business change/transition management, business analysis & business, process mapping, stakeholder management, global multi-stream implementations, total, operating model, planning and budgeting and risk & issue management. 

She has been recognised for her passion as the recipient of multiple awards including two Successful Women in Business awards in 2018:

  • Business Mother of the Year and Overall Successful Woman of the Year.
  • Her company &Keep has also won the Heart of Gold Award at the Small Awards in 2019 which recognises small businesses that give back to the community.

 Interesting facts:

  • Natasha is fluent in German.
  • She has expertise in a number of business sectors including fitness, engineering, construction, health insurance, government, automotive and banking.


About This Episode:

For the latest episode of Brunel’s Women in Business series we are joined by Hazel Symington, Director of HR & Workplace and Studio Manager at Applied Information Group UK Ltd.

Hazel is responsible for Applied’s team who creates systems that make complex places legible. They do this by helping people who run places, make the best use of investments, optimise flow, and integrate systems. Applied is trusted by the managers of the world’s most important environments (including Google & Princeton University) to solve their most entrenched movement challenges.

Find out how Hazel became successful in her position in an international company, what her motivations are, and how she responded and overcame challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Be inspired by her story and take away her wise words as a successful woman in business.


About Hazel Symington:

Hazel Symington is the Director of HR & Workplace and Studio Manager at Applied Information Group UK Ltd.

She has extensive experience in the creative, design and retail sectors and has successfully developed internal controls to ensure the efficient and cost-effective running of some of the UK’s leading design studios.



About This Episode:

For the final episode of our Women in Business podcast series, Yuliya Stancheva interviews Christina Gray, founder and Managing Director of Gray & Associates Recruitment Services!

Christina is a leading example for all businesspeople. Having been a successful woman in business for over 26 years, she is a respected professional voted most influential women in recruitment for two consecutive years. Her business, Gray & Associates Recruitment services, have also been voted best independent employment agency in London on several occasions

Tune in and be inspired by Christina’s journey – both the highlights and the challenges – and take away the wealth of knowledge and experience she delivers throughout this final episode, as a successful woman in business!

Christina Gray:

Christina Gray is the founder and Managing Director of Gray & Associates Recruitment Services. A respected professional voted most influential women in recruitment for two consecutive years. Gray & Associates Recruitment services have been voted the best independent employment agency in London on several occasions.

For over 26 years Christina has led Gray & Associates Recruitment Services as they provide temporary and permanent staffing solutions to a wide range of companies and organisations in Central and Greater London. Christina has set up three specialist divisions:

  •  Office and Professional
  •  Higher education and NFP
  •  Teaching and support staff


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