1,700 businesses supported as LEP growth service whipps up results

Entrepreneurs Josh Lee and Dirk Mischendahl have invested over £100,000 in their fast growing ice cream manufacturing business, Northern Bloc, with grant support of £21,000 from the LEP. Further investment is planned as the business partners bid to create a £15 million turnover business within the next five years.

Northern Bloc are one of over 1700 businesses who have been supported to grow since the launch of the LEP’s growth service in July 2015. The impact of the service is being felt across the City Region with 71% of businesses that received LEP support feeling more likely to meet their growth aspirations.

The LEP’s growth service can help businesses find the right support to help them grow and to date 1,000 businesses have enquired about access to finance with other popular requests including support for skills and recruitment and business planning and development.

The know-how of award-winning Italian chef Manolo Imperatori and the freshest natural ingredients are what Northern Bloc believe to be the recipe for the success of their great-tasting ice creams - now selling through high end retailers, theatres and major regional visitor attractions such as Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Bolton Abbey.

A winner of the 2011 World Gelato Championships, Manolo lectures at the ‘gelato university’ in Italy and is a third generation ice cream master from the town of Civitanova on Italy’s Eastern coast. His father, grandfather and other members of his family have all owned successful ice cream businesses.

“Manolo has developed a unique natural ingredient that we use in our ice creams. It means we can make the highest quality, pure ice creams with absolutely no artificial flavourings, additives or synthetic syrups. It also allows us to make an ice cream that’s easy to scoop straight from the freezer and has a super smooth texture,” explained director Josh Lee.

“We make ice creams and sorbets in traditional flavours but with a unique Northern Bloc twist. So, vanilla, strawberry and chocolate are still the best selling flavours on the market but we make our own versions of these – strawberry and black pepper, chocolate and sea salt, Madagascan bourbon vanilla – all combined with Manolo’s secret know.”

With new customers coming on board every week, the main challenge for the company has been increasing production and storage capacity to satisfy growing demand from the single portion consumer sales and the larger five litre batch size sold to the catering and restaurant market.

A total of £350,000 has been invested to date in setting up and developing the business, with £107,000 recently invested in additional cold storage facilities and automated filling equipment to boost production capacity by 300%.

A further round of investment and a move to larger premises is now on the cards as the enterprising pair bid to build a £15 million turnover business within the next five years.

Satisfying and growing demand for the core product range is the immediate priority but, looking ahead, business partner Dirk Mischendahl sees opportunities to expand the product ranges in the future.

Co-director Dirk Mischendhal said: “For too many years the ice cream market in the UK has been taken for granted and people overall have not known what is possible. At Northern Bloc we give a lot of respect to the art of ice cream making and Manolo treats it as a science rather than a summer treat. With the support from the LEP, for which we are very thankful, we’re confident that we can challenge perceptions and build a great business.”

Roger Marsh OBE, LEP chair said: “We have just celebrated the first year of the LEP Growth Service and I am delighted 80% of businesses that worked with the LEP growth service across Leeds City Region said that they were ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’ to recommend the service.

“Northern Bloc is a great example of an ambitious SME who can accelerate their growth by working with the LEP. Having spoken to businesses, we understand finding time to sift through all of the business support offers can be a real issue for SME owners. This is why we created the Growth Service and already it is paying dividends. I encourage businesses owners to pick up the phone and talk to us.”

To find out if the LEP can support your business grow, call the LEP growth service on 0113 348 1818 or email us on businessgrowth@the-lep.com