Sandwell is 50: share your stories

Share your stories of Sandwell to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our borough.

In 1947 our six towns of Sandwell – Oldbury, Rowley Regis, Smethwick, Tipton, Wednesbury and West Bromwich – were brought together under our current boundaries. As you know, a lot has happened in the half century since.

To celebrate the occasion, Sandwell Council is appealing for residents to share their memories of Sandwell. The Sandwell Business Growth team is encouraging businesses and organisations to do the same. We’d love to hear your stories of workplace successes, events and characters from the last 50 years.

Share your Sandwell stories with the world

We also welcome photos and videos. It’s great to see how Sandwell has, or hasn’t, changed over the years. Sandwell Council will feature some of the most notable contributions on its social media channels, on its website and in a special article in the Sandwell Herald. And we may well share your business stories here on the Sandwell Business Growth website.

If you have something special you’d like to share, get in touch. Let’s showcase half a century of significant and surprising Sandwell stories.

Share your Sandwell stories

Email the team

The West Midlands is also 50 this year! Head over to the Sandwell Business Ambassadors’ website to learn about a ’50forWM’ campaign, to honour inspirational volunteers.

Could you be a school governor?

Sandwell Council has launched a campaign to encourage local people to join school governing bodies. Here’s why being a school governor is valuable for you and your business.

Over a quarter of a million people volunteer to govern our schools in England. Their work, while often going unnoticed, has significant benefits for children and young people. It can also be a very rewarding experience for governors themselves – and the organisations they work for.

That’s why Sandwell Council is launching a campaign to encourage more local people onto school governing bodies.

What do school governors do?

Every school has a governing body of volunteers – ‘governors’ – who use their unique community knowledge, life experience and skills to make the school the best it can be. 

Although governors aren’t involved in the day-to-day running of a school, governing bodies meet regularly to set long-term goals, monitor progress and decide how budget is spent. They oversee policies, including those which protect the safety and wellbeing of staff and students.    

Who can be a governor?

You don’t need specific qualifications to govern at a school. It’s also a common misconception that you need to be a teacher, a parent, or have a background in education. Governing bodies need people from a range of professional backgrounds. They seek people with experience in disciplines such as strategic planning, finance, people management and health and safety – to name but a few.

In fact, the experience and skills needed to be part of a successful business are also vital in school governing bodies. That’s why Sandwell Council is reaching out to our business community for potential volunteers.

Responsibilities, training and commitment

As a governor, you would always have an induction and ongoing training, ensuring you understand your role and responsibilities and how to fulfil them. Governing bodies are collectively responsible for their decisions, so you would have individual liability only in limited circumstances. 

The time commitment for being a governor varies for each school. As a guide, it may start from around twenty hours in a year, with meetings roughly every other month – occasionally some in between. Meetings tend to take place in the evenings, so as many people as possible can attend. Sometimes, you may be able to attend remotely.

Why governing is good for business

Encouraging your staff to volunteer as governors is a great way of raising your business’ profile in the community, and showing social value.

Also, the skills that your employees will develop through being school governors can be brought back into the workplace. Through school governing, staff at all levels can experience what it is like to serve on a board that analyses, debates and makes decisions linked to improvement plans, financial strategy, performance management, infrastructure projects and partnership working.

So if you are committed to developing people and improving performance, having school governors among your workforce is an excellent business move.

‘Best CPD I have ever undertaken’

Steve Edmonds is from Sandwell Council’s Leader and Cabinet office. He and his team are keen to get local businesses to encourage more volunteer governors into Sandwell schools.

“People like me, who serve as governors, find the experience incredibly rewarding and gain fulfilment from using their skills and experience to support schools and communities, whilst at the same time contributing their ongoing development,” said Steve. “I can honestly say that carrying out my duties as a school governor is the best CPD I have ever undertaken”.

Meanwhile, Brian Cape is a Sandwell Business Ambassador and the CEO of SIPS Education. His Sandwell not-for-profit organisation is also promoting the benefits of being a school governor.

Brian said: “People with business skills are a real asset on school governance boards. It’s also an important part of community life that employers and business owners can support as part of their corporate social responsibility. Plus governors can play a part in developing future talent. Business and education have a lot to offer each other.”

Want to know more?

There are vacancies for school governors across Sandwell. To put yourself forward as a governor, you can complete an online application form, which Sandwell Council will use to match you to a suitable vacancy:

Social Enterprise Boost Fund from Access to Business

Access to Business is working with iSE to deliver the West Midlands Social Enterprise Boost Fund in Wolverhampton and Sandwell. This initiative aims to kick start and accelerate social enterprise activity across the region.

The SEB Fund runs until March 2025 and offers a range of grants and targeted business support. Its aim is to help new and existing social enterprises start up, scale up and grow. Organisers will also collect and share evidence on the impact of social enterprises on communities in the local area.

Are you eligible for a Social Enterprise Boost?

You need to be a Wolverhampton or Sandwell resident to apply to the Social Enterprise Boost Fund. You have to be thinking about starting a business, or have an existing business that is less than five years old, with an annual turnover under £250K. 

Your business doesn’t have to be officially registered as a community interest company (CIC) for you to apply to the fund. A wide variety of social businesses are eligible.

What does the fund offer?

New social entrepreneurs can attend a series of FUSE Start Up courses over the next two years, plus CIC Start sessions to help you register your new enterprise. Owners of more established businesses can attend a series of social enterprise MOT programmes. These cover topics such as contract readiness, social impact and managing people.

The fund will also provide one-to-one business support and networking, tailored to your specific needs. All recipients of business support will also be able to apply for a range of grant funding, up to a maximum of £10K.

Learn more about the Social Enterprise Boost Fund at the A2B website.

Wednesbury town centre plans: have your say

Sandwell Council has plans to redevelop the public realm in Wednesbury town centre. You can have your say.

Sandwell Council’s proposals seek to improve the attractiveness and safety of Wednesbury town centre’s public spaces between Wednesbury Great Western Street tram stop, Wednesbury Bus Station and Union Street. A consultation is running until Monday 11 March. You can complete it online or go along in person.

What do the plans include?

The aim of the project is to positively revitalise the town centre. The plans include the provision of more places to sit, rest and socialise. This means more benches that are more comfortable, more bins to minimise littering and more trees and planting.

The proposals also include better quality paving and improved lighting in these places:

  • Great Western Street
  • Union Street
  • Victoria Street
  • Outside Morrisons and the Museum and Art Gallery
  • The proposed Ethelfleda Square outside the bus station.

Have your say

Have your say on the plans from Monday 29 January until Monday 11 March. You can complete an online survey via the Consultation Hub. You can also drop into Wednesbury Library or an arranged public engagement event, where you can see the plans and discuss them with the officers working on the project.

The public engagement events are taking place on: 

  • Tuesday 13 February, 9am to 12pm in Union Street (near the bus station) 
  • Saturday 17 February, 9am to 12pm at Morrisons supermarket.

Levelling Up

This consultation is part of the Levelling Up partnership, between the government and Sandwell Council. 

The Levelling Up partnership will help Sandwell Council deliver much-needed new homes. It will also help tackle crime and antisocial behaviour and improve green spaces. It will contribute to the redevelopment of Wednesbury town centre, expand the Millennium Centre and help to give Sandwell residents the skills they need to secure better jobs. 

The Levelling Up partnership builds upon regeneration and plans in place to deliver ambitious projects for Wednesbury with £20m of investment.

Sandwell Council has set up a partnership board to oversee the Levelling Up partnership.

Chair of the Wednesbury Levelling Up partnership board, Maria Jardine, said:

“I am delighted to Chair the Wednesbury Levelling Up partnership board. The board brings together a range of representatives including councillors, MPs, statutory bodies, business leaders, voluntary sector representatives and young people. We want to make a lasting difference in Wednesbury.

“There are some exciting ideas for improving the appearance of Wednesbury Town Centre and I am looking forward to hearing your views through this consultation. We want the Town Centre to be a thriving place.”

Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and West Midlands Combined Authority is Councillor Peter Hughes. He said:

“I would urge people to contribute to this consultation and offer your thoughts. Our aim is to revitalise Wednesbury town centre, and we want your input to help us to do that. In fact, later this year, there will be a further consultation to gain your views on the long-term future of Wednesbury town centre.”

Find out more

To find out more about the Levelling Up partnership and the projects for Wednesbury please visit: Wednesbury Levelling Up Partnership – Regenerating Sandwell web page.

For procurement opportunities visit our business opportunities page.

’Sales accelerator workshop’: sales training from Business Growth West Midlands

Business Growth West Midlands is offering a free sales accelerator workshop on Tuesday 27 February

This half-day sales accelerator event is for business owners and entrepreneurs in the West Midlands who want to boost their sales skills. It takes place at the TechnoCentre in Coventry. Experienced sales trainers Lindsey Newman-Wood and Iain Wood will be leading it.

The workshop will focus on practical strategies to increase sales. It will also be very interactive with plenty of discussions, case studies and hands-on activities.

Practical and interactive

Attendees can expect to learn lead generation tactics, acquire practical skills, develop sales strategies and network with other Midlands professionals.

Business Growth West Midlands works in collaboration with seven local authorities to help businesses in the region grow and develop. It has links with government, education and the private sector, and offers tailored support to businesses of any size and any sector.

Places are limited, so register now:

We’ve got more ideas for growing your Sandwell business.

‘Access to Finance’: taster session from Oxford Innovation Advice

Oxford Innovation Advice is giving a free interactive taster session for the Access to Finance programme on Thursday 21 March.

The Access to Finance programme offers guidance and support on business finance to West Midlands SMEs. The aim of the scheme is to demystify the world of business finance, enable growth and boost the regional economy.

This taster session is an opportunity to meet the Oxford Innovation Advice team and get an overview of the funding options available to businesses.

It takes place at our very own Sandwell Start-Up Hub here in Oldbury, from 10am to 3pm on Thursday 21 March.

The session will explore:

  • Debt finance and understanding interest rates
  • Alternative finance
  • Grant funding – is it free?
  • Crowdfunding – reward, social and equity
  • Angel investment and venture capital – when is it right for you?
  • The importance of creating a pitch deck or a business plan
  • Financial forecasting.

You can sign up via Eventbrite, or see other sessions on alternative dates.

FSB small business awards open for entries

It’s time to send your entries in to the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards 2024. There are twelve categories, open to all small businesses and self-employed people from anywhere in the UK. There is even a brand new category for 2024 celebrating franchise businesses.

This year, the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) is celebrating 50 years of supporting small businesses in the UK. Winning, or being shortlisted for, one of its prestigious awards is a great way to gain national recognition for your business success. 

Sponsored by Tyl by NatWest and others, the awards are free to enter. Finalists get an invitation to a free networking event in March, and a free ticket to the awards ceremony. This takes place at the Winter Gardens Empress Ballroom in Blackpool on Thursday 9 May 2024.

Twelve categories to enter

There are twelve categories in the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards, which means twelve chances for your business to shine. The categories for this year are:

  • Sustainability award: for ethically, socially responsible and green businesses
  • Micro Business award: for businesses with 9 or fewer employees
  • Start-up Business award: for businesses under two years old
  • Family Business award: for businesses owned and run by at least two family members
  • Young Entrepreneur award: for people whose business success belies their age
  • Community award: for businesses that support their local community
  • Innovation award: for new business models and innovative products
  • Self-employed and Freelancer award: for people with tenacity and drive
  • Expansion and Growth award: for businesses with 10 to 250 employees
  • Diversity and Inclusion award: for putting diversity at the heart of a business or project
  • Service Excellence award: for first class customer service
  • Franchise Business award: for a high-performing franchise

Don’t miss this opportunity to get recognition for your work, raise your profile, gain new connections and celebrate your achievements. Get your entry in before the final deadline of Sunday 11 February.

Harness the power of AI for non-profit marketing

Sandwell community interest company 4 Community Trust is holding a seminar on Tuesday 27 February. It will look at harnessing the power of AI to revolutionise marketing in the non-profit sector.

The CIC 4 Community Trust serves Sandwell residents, particularly those with children in their care. Its aim is to create equal opportunity for all. Its services include:

  • Mainstream wrap-around care – before school, after school and holiday clubs with activities and catering
  • Inclusion – breakaway SEND club, respite care, SEND holiday club, breakaway 4U club (for parents or carers of SEND children)
  • Education and training – apprenticeships and traineeships
  • Health and wellbeing – J’s Food Pantry, Lego therapy and mentoring.

The seminar will reveal how cutting-edge technology can drive greater impact and reach for charities and non-profit organisations. It takes place on Tuesday 27 February (12 noon to 1pm) at the 4 Community Trust Hub in West Bromwich.

Go along to learn how AI can: 

  • Optimise marketing strategies
  • Identify donor patterns
  • Maximise fundraising efforts. 

The event will also provide the opportunity to gain insights from industry experts, network with like-minded professionals and be inspired to make a difference.

The event is aimed at charities and non-profit organisations.

Sandwell business support in 2024

Big things are happening in Sandwell this year. We’ve got a wide range of business support, guidance, networking and finance for companies both new and established. Here’s what’s going on …

Business support for start-ups

When Sandwell businesses thrive, they create jobs, raise aspirations, boost skills and generate wealth for our local economy. You’re Sandwell’s lifeblood – and so our Sandwell Business Growth Team is here to champion your business at every stage.

The Sandwell Business Growth Plan sets out Sandwell Council’s strategy for supporting businesses over the next two financial years. 

In 2024, we’re offering some amazing business support to help your dreams get lift-off.

Sandwell Enterprise Programme

This scheme is for people who are setting up a new business, or who have set one up in the last two years. In collaboration with business consultancy Aspire4U, it offers both group and one-to-one support, and is fully funded by the UK Prosperity Fund. 

‘Start Up in Sandwell’ grants

Businesses registered on the Sandwell Enterprise Programme are also eligible to apply for grants of up to £3K. This could help fund equipment, a website, leaflets, producing a new prototype, property refurbishment or improving systems and processes.

Learn about Start Up in Sandwell grants.

Business support for established companies

We’re going through some of the most difficult trading times ever. Our Sandwell business support extends to companies that have been around a while and would like an injection of knowledge, ideas or even finance to achieve their next stage of growth.

Sandwell Business Boost

Business consultancy Winning Moves is working with Sandwell Council to deliver this free programme of tailor-made support to help businesses maximise their growth potential. It is designed to help develop leadership skills and stronger relationships with clients, partners and employees. It is also a chance to build market insight, resilience and sustainability.

‘Grow in Sandwell’ grants

Grants of up to £20K are available for Sandwell SMEs that have been trading for over two years. The money can fund activities such as relocation, developing new market opportunities, promotion, capital investment and improving systems and processes.

Learn about Grow in Sandwell grants.

‘Net Zero in Sandwell’ grants

Achieving net zero carbon emissions is one of Sandwell Council’s seven economic priorities. Grants of up to £20K are available to help local businesses improve energy and resource efficiency through changing or updating things such as ventilation, heating, lighting, refrigeration, insulation and waste management.

Learn about Net Zero in Sandwell grants.

A banner to represent international trade showing a globe, planes taking off, container ships and lorries

International trade support

Sandwell Council has teamed up with experts at Falsum Consulting Ltd to provide one-to-one business support to companies with global trade ambitions.

If your business has been importing or exporting for at least a year, then you may be eligible for specialist advice, a customs review, and ongoing consultation.

We also have two international trade workshops coming up at the Sandwell Start-Up Hub in Oldbury, on Friday 12 January and Friday 22 February.

Support for all businesses

Sandwell Start-Up Hub

Nasteha, Helen and Carlene at the Sandwell Start-Up Hub launch - new co-working environment in Oldbury

Whether you’re new to business or highly experienced, you’re welcome to come and work from the Sandwell Start-Up Hub. It’s our supportive, innovative, co-working space in Jack Judge House in Oldbury (opposite Sandwell Council House), which offers free WiFi and networking opportunities).

Desks are free for start-up businesses for twelve months after they sign up*, with designated zones for collaboration and quiet working.

You can also hire space at the Sandwell Start-Up Hub for events. 

[*Free for twelve months following sign-up, and before March 2025.]

People to shout about how great you are

Sandwell Business Growth will be here throughout the year, writing news stories, promoting your successes and featuring local businesses through Made in Sandwell profiles. If you have something to celebrate, we’d love to hear from you at any time.

You can also follow us on X or LinkedIn for the latest news and updates.

Have your say on the future of Sandwell Valley

Sandwell Council has opened a consultation on the implementation of the Sandwell Valley Master Plan. It is asking residents and businesses for their views.

The Sandwell Valley Master Plan plan covers the ten-year period until 2034. It brings together different aspects of the country park’s visitor services with the aim of making Sandwell a destination of choice. 

Sandwell Valley country park

Sandwell Valley is a large estate spanning over 1,800 acres of open countryside. It has strategic importance for the borough and already attracts thousands of walkers, runners and visitors every year. 

The country park includes a visitor centre, Forge Mill Farm, Sandwell Showground, Sandwell Valley Amusements, the King George V pavilion with changing room facilities, and Swan Pool. There are playgrounds and sites for various sports and leisure activities including mini-golf, high ropes, bike tracks and model flying.

The Master Plan

The Sandwell Valley Master Plan offers a proposal of improvements to the following areas: 

  • Connectivity and parking across all sites
  • Sandwell Valley Visitor Centre – including repairs, a retractable roof for events and activities, and an expanded cafe and shop offer
  • A new heritage discovery zone offering educational play and activities linked to the history and conservation elements of the area
  • A new watersports centre and cafe at Swan Pool to replace the current building, with expanded parking
  • A new food education and cooking barn to promote healthy eating and cooking in Sandwell for schools, families and parents.

Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for leisure and tourism Councillor Charn Singh Padda said:

“Sandwell Valley Country Park is one the jewels in Sandwell’s crown. It is a place that many of us have been visiting for years for leisure, sport or just to relax. We want to make sure that it can be enjoyed by Sandwell residents for generations to come. This is why we are asking everyone to let us know what they think of the improvements we are proposing.”

You can have your say on the plan at https://consultationhub.sandwell.gov.uk/.

Paper copies will also be available at libraries and Sandwell Council House.

Did you know Sandwell Council is currently running a public consultation on its budget? This is running until Tuesday 2 January 2024. Learn more.

Will your Sandwell business #Pledge2Invest?

Through its #Pledge2Invest campaign, Sandwell College is encouraging employers to invest in their workforce and community.

Sandwell College is the West Midlands’ largest provider of 16-19 study programmes. As the video below explains, the college is asking local businesses to #Pledge2Invest: commit to at least one of three investments in order to improve the life chances of people in our communities.

Would you #Pledge2Invest by:

  • Offering an apprenticeship 
  • Upskilling existing staff
  • Offering a work placement?

Employers and entrepreneurs also have opportunities to come and speak to its students and inspire the next generation.

Improving life chances

The external engagement team at the college will collaborate with employers to offer operational support, and to advise on training options. Sandwell College also offers a free recruitment service for local businesses that want to take on new staff.

Sandwell College’s aim through #Pledge2Invest is to work with local businesses to help grow a talented workforce of the future. This will ultimately improve the life chances of people across the region.

Skills in Sandwell

Investing in your workforce is one of the most effective ways to nurture a thriving business. Alongside #Pledge2Invest from Sandwell College, learn about support available from Sandwell Council on our skills and training page.

‘Enabling net zero’ webinar from the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge

On Thursday 7 December, the IDC will host a webinar about a new report from UKRI and Innovate UK – ‘Enabling net zero: a plan for UK industrial cluster decarbonisation’.

The report highlights the UK’s potential to harness the power of its industrial clusters. It explores how to drive the next phase of emissions reductions, while contributing to a stronger economy and energy security.

The webinar will give an overview of the report, and discuss the key findings, outcomes and recommendations. There will also be a live Q&A with IDC experts.

You can download a copy of the report from the event web page.

Free energy efficiency assessment and funding for your Sandwell SME

Get a free energy efficiency assessment for your SME. Eligible businesses can then apply for a grant to implement measures to reduce energy demand. 

We’re sharing details of a new government-funded scheme that is providing free energy efficiency assessments to SMEs across the Black Country. 

As part of the Decarbonisation Net Zero Programme, the scheme aims to help small businesses transition to net zero by improving competitiveness and energy efficiency and enhancing business resilience. It is being delivered in affiliation with the Business Energy Advice Service.

Grant funding 

After a free energy efficiency assessment, your eligible business will be able to apply for between £1,000 and £100,000 of 50 per cent net zero grant funding. The funding is available to enable businesses to implement recommended measures to reduce their energy demand and provide energy savings. 

These measures could include investment in new machinery and equipment, improved manufacturing processes, or LED lighting and insulation. 

Energy intensive engineering

Manufacturing experts will also be delivering specialist assessments for energy intensive engineering firms located across the West Midlands.

Register now for your energy efficiency assessment and subsequent funding

Many SMEs faced challenges last winter with rising energy bills, so don’t miss this opportunity to access support and funding.

To learn more about the Decarbonisation Net Zero programme, you may wish to attend this launch webinar on Wednesday 15 November.

You can also get more ideas for energy savings and efficiency on our climate resilience page:

How smaller businesses in the West Midlands can thrive with diversity: British Business Bank event

On Tuesday 7 November, the British Business Bank will bring together an expert panel to share advice about debt and equity options for smaller businesses. This event is particularly relevant to entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds.

The event will be a great opportunity to hear from guest speakers, network with the presenters and ask your own questions. The speakers will include:

  • Tracy Sherratt – senior manager at British Business Bank
  • Harinder Kunor – regional ecosystem manager at NatWest
  • Jim Shirley – founder of Funding Hero
  • Steve Parry – director at Q Commercial Finance
  • Surlender Pendress – co-founder of Love Writing Co.

British Business Bank is hosting it, in partnership with NatWest, Funding Hero and Q Commercial Finance. The event is free, and includes a networking lunch and refreshments.

For more information, and to register your place, visit the Eventbrite page.

Birmingham Black Business Conference: an event from Legacy Centre of Excellence

The Black Business Conference provides knowledge, services and networks to businesses of all kinds. It takes place on Saturday 14 October at the Legacy Centre of Excellence in Birmingham.

This year, NatWest is the headline sponsor. Actor and presenter Richard Blackwood will host the event, alongside journalist Merisha Stevenson. The day includes a business networking expo, industry-focused workshops and panel discussions featuring renowned black business leaders such as:

  • Paulette Simpson
  • Beverly Johnson
  • Corey Weekes
  • Craig Pinkney
  • Karl George MBE
  • Kenneth Gray
  • Deirdre LaBassiere LL.B (Hons) FTLS
  • Sophie Marie Bennett
  • Yetunde Dania
  • Natalie Scarlett
  • Zoe Bennett, BEM.

There will be plenty of advice, links and resources for both start-up and established companies.

For more information, and to book your free place, visit the Eventbrite page.

Join the launch of Business Growth West Midlands

West Midlands Combined Authority is launching Business Growth West Midlands (BGWM) on Tuesday 12 September at Coventry Building Society Arena.

BGWM will provide comprehensive business support services to help your West Midlands business grow and succeed.

The launch event is for West Midlands business leaders, entrepreneurs and business support providers.

At the event, the Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street will give the keynote address, showing his commitment to promoting business growth in the region. He will explain where this new service fits into the economic development of the West Midlands.

The aim of the event is to raise awareness about the support packages available through BGWM, fostering economic development and empowering local businesses (including WMCA business programmes, such as its decarbonisation programme).

You can gain valuable insights on navigating business growth, AI-driven digital transformation, financial management, funding options and building a skilled workforce.

The launch event will also offer networking opportunities to connect with business support providers, stakeholders, and fellow attendees, encouraging active engagement with BGWM’s support services.

Why attend the launch?

  • Attendees at the event will be among the first to hear about the £100m of new support programmes and grants launching for West Midlands businesses.
  • You can find out how the new fully funded service can help businesses navigate the wide range of support available across the region.
  • There will be opportunities to network with business support professionals and fellow business leaders,
  • You can access free business support opportunities in the exhibition area.
  • There is a free lunch for all attendees.

Other inspirational and expert speakers will be announced in the coming weeks. You can follow @BizGrowthWM on Twitter or LinkedIn for speaker and programme updates.

When? Where? How do I register?

  • When? Tuesday 12 September, 9.30am –  4.30pm (come along for all or part of the day)
  • Where? Coventry Building Society Arena, Judds Lane, Longford, Coventry CV6 6AQ
  • Register: Sign up here to attend.

Email businessgrowthevents@wmca.org.uk if you have questions. Or you can use the following links for more information about BGWM and the official launch event:

Learn more about Business Growth West Midlands.