Create Finance Makes New Home At Friar Gate Studios

A specialist mortgage broker has made its fourth move within the Connect Derby portfolio of managed workspaces, which is designed to give businesses the flexibility to upsize and downsize according to their business lifecycle.

Create Finance, which was founded in 2015 by experienced mortgage broker Gindy Mathoon, has taken advantage of the relaxation of rules allowing non-creatives to take office space at Friar Gate Studios and moved his 23 strong team of brokers to the headquarters of the Connect Derby scheme.

The company started life at Riverside Chambers on Full Street, which was the subject of a £2m refurbishment in 2015. Over the next three years its achieved significant growth – expanding from one to two offices and employing more than 15 mortgage brokers and 11 admin staff.

In June 2018, the company expanded still further taking over the historic Shot Tower building on the Morledge – with the creation of twelve new jobs.

The advent of the pandemic prompted a rethink of the company’s accommodation strategy and the decision to adopt a hybrid working approach, resulting in a move away from the three storey Shot Tower building to offices at Friar Gate Studios.

This will enable staff to make better use of their time, working from home, but able to come into the office for meetings and training.

Create Finance works with a range of customers – from the self-employed, contractors and professionals to people with adverse credit ratings.

Commenting on the move to Friar Gate Studios, director Gindy Mathoon, said:

“What we like about being with Connect Derby is the flexibility. This is our fourth office at Connect Derby, and we wouldn’t consider going anywhere else.

“Over the years, we have developed a tremendous working relationship with Ann and her team. In fact, when we told Ann we needed a bigger space at Friar Gate Studios than was available, she gave us her own office!

“We like the managed office space and the flexible tenancy agreement. Services like health and safety around the building are taken care of. If there are any issues, we just report it and it’s taken care of by the building manager, allowing us to focus on our day-to day business.

“Previously we had team of brokers working across the UK supported by local admin staff. When the pandemic hit, everyone reverted to working from home, so we no longer needed all the space at Shot Tower.

“Staff morale remains key, though, so maintaining an office will enable our admin team and brokers to touch base on a regular basis.”

Ann Bhatti, head of Connect Derby, added:

“We’re delighted to have been able to facilitate Create Finance’s expansion and changes within the business over the past seven years and are delighted they have found a new home at Friar Gate Studios.

“The relaxation of rules which enable non-creatives from the supply chain to the creative industries to take space at Friar Gate Studios and Sadler Bridge Studios has proved very popular and resulted in a dynamic and diverse community of tenants at both workspaces.”

Head of Connect Derby Wins Regional Leadership Award

Ann Bhatti, head of Connect Derby, has been recognised for her work supporting local businesses during the pandemic at the East Midlands Leadership Awards 2022.

Ann, who joined Derby City Council in 2003 and has been managing the Connect Derby scheme since 2014, won the Public & Third Sector Award at this year’s awards, which took place at the Crowne Plaza in Nottingham.

The East Midlands Leadership Awards, which are organised by Business Desk, celebrate the leaders throughout the region that set a shining example for people within their organisations. Winners of the awards have had a positive impact on both their employees and the wider community.

The Public & Third sector award honours those leaders who have been innovative and adapted successfully when faced with immense pressure over the last few years.

Ann is the driving force behind the Connect Derby scheme. She leads an 18 strong team to manage seven successful managed workspaces whilst also supporting tenants whose businesses and livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic.

Over the past two years Ann and her team have been at the forefront of the city’s economic recovery, helping to rebuild confidence and providing businesses with the support, guidance, and flexible accommodation they need to get back on their feet again.

During the pandemic, Ann also took over the management of the historic Derby Market Hall, putting in place procedures to support traders during a period of transition caused by the effects of the pandemic and the multimillion-pound transformation of the Market Hall.

Connect Derby’s recent annual business community survey underlines the results of Ann and her team’s hard work, with a massive 97% of respondents agreeing that Connect Derby meets or exceeds their expectations for the support it provides.

Connect Derby also maintained its ISO 9001 certification for another year, which reinforces its commitment to putting its customers first and highlights its dedication to continuous improvement.

Despite the current trading conditions, occupancy levels at Connect Derby remain at more than 79%, with 5% currently under offer.

Commenting on the award win, Ann said:

“It is such a privilege to be awarded the Public & Third Sector Award at this year’s East Midlands Leadership Awards.

“This award is given to leaders who have driven a cultural change in their organisation, which has been a key focus of mine given the shift in the managed workspace sector as a result of the pandemic.

“We have created a range of new packages for tenants, from fully furnished offices to hybrid working to make sure that all tenants are satisfied with our services.

“A huge thanks to the Connect Derby team for all their hard work. I look forward to continuing and developing my leadership skills at Connect Derby.”

Sam Metcalf, editor of The Business Desk, added:

“Firstly, congratulations to all our winners and shortlisted companies. The standard of this entries to the Leadership Awards this year was stronger than ever, and the judges had the toughest time picking a shortlist – never mind a winner.

“I’d like to extend my thanks to them – and everyone else who had a hand in making the East Midlands Leadership Awards such a success.”

Councillor Jonathan Smale, Cabinet Member for Finance, Assets and Digital Services, said:

“I am delighted that Ann has been recognised for her strong and innovative leadership skills, which have helped to establish Connect Derby as Derby’s leading managed workspace provider and brought huge economic benefits to the city.

“Over the past two years, Ann has been a trusted source of support for tenants whose businesses and livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic. Ann is an inspirational figure to her staff, those she mentors, and to the wider business community. She continues to go above and beyond to support SMEs and start-ups which are vital to Derby’s continued economic recovery.”

Connect Derby Gets Seal of Approval from Tenants In Annual Business Community Survey

Connect Derby, the city’s leading managed workspace provider, has published the results of its 2022 business community survey – and the statistics highlight the valuable role Connect Derby has played in helping tenants recover from the impact of the pandemic.

The annual survey measures the levels of service Connect Derby provides across all areas of its operation – from the quality of its workspaces and IT services to security and operational communication.

This year, the survey focused heavily on how Connect Derby has helped its 200 plus tenants get back on their feet again as they return to the office following the various local and national lockdowns in 2021.

Connect Derby received an 82% response rate from office tenants surveyed across the seven diverse buildings in its portfolio – Friar Gate Studios, Kings Chambers, Sadler Bridge Studios, Marble Hall, Riverside Chambers, Shot Tower and the iHub innovation centre on Infinity Park.

A massive 97% of respondents said Connect Derby meets or exceeds their expectations for the support it provides, an increase of 7% from last year.

96% of tenants reported that communications from the management team met or exceeded their expectations, an increase of 2% from last year.

The management team maintained communication with tenants to provide support and guidance throughout the lockdowns and restrictions of 2021, assisting them with applications for Covid grants and loans, addressing queries and helping them stay open for business. Connect Derby staff also regularly checked on the health and wellbeing of tenants.

95% of tenants said Connect Derby meets or exceeds their expectations, with 91% saying they would recommend Connect Derby to other businesses looking for managed workspace in the city.

Connect Derby has been supporting tenants return to the office by introducing new, flexible ways of working. In May 2021, furnished offices were introduced at flagship building, Friar Gate Studios in response to the changing working environment brought on by the pandemic. Offices reached 89% occupancy in less than two months.

92% of respondents said Connect Derby workspaces were clean, safe, and secure buildings to work in. Last year a bespoke COVID-19 induction programme was devised and implemented across all buildings. Connect Derby has continued to operate with some Covid measures in place such as hand-sanitising stations and social distancing signage.

84% of businesses said the IT network, internet access and Wi-Fi services meets or exceeds their expectations.

Connect Derby offers all tenants superfast Wi-Fi and telephony services allowing businesses to communicate with customers effectively. This has been particularly valuable to businesses who need to communicate with staff who are working from home.

Commenting on this year’s survey results, Ann Bhatti, head of Connect Derby, said:

“The last 12 months have been tricky, with many businesses trying to get on their feet again as we come out of the pandemic, so we’re really pleased to have received such positive service ratings.

“I’d like to thank all tenants for being honest in their assessment of our services. We’re committed to providing all our tenants with the highest possible levels of services and support and will continue to work with businesses to help with their recovery in any way we can.”

Project4 Learning Lab Chooses Derby’s iHub Innovation Centre As Its New Base

Specialist technology management consultancy Project4 Learning Lab is the latest hi-tech business to relocate its operation to Connect Derby’s iHub innovation centre on Infinity Park.

The company was founded by Keith Howells in 2019 after a 21-year career with Rolls-Royce, working in senior engineering leadership roles and running transformational programmes. He now inspires leaders to change their way of thinking in order to improve operational performance.

Project4 Learning Labuses a range of class-leading instructional design methods and accelerated learning techniques to provide clients with new and sustainable ways of achieving outstanding performance and making faster, better informed decisions that will help them achieve their business goals.

The office space and facilities available at the iHub will help the company to expand its services and team further as the business grows.

Its six dedicated areas of expertise include leadership training and development, business agility consulting, lean agile product development consulting, coaching for performance, digital enablement, and strategy deployment consulting.

The consulting team also use a four-step capability transfer model so the same momentum can be maintained once they have exited the business.

The company currently employs six staff and is expanding on a growth trajectory, with revenue up three times compared to the same time last year, which was up three times on the previous year. There are plans to recruit further staff during 2022 to cope with demand.

The iHub, which has Enterprise Zone status, provides quality, flexible workspace for start-ups, early-stage businesses and high growth SME’s looking to establish, or expand their role in the transport engineering and hi-tech sectors.

Since it was launched in 2016, the £12m facility has attracted a diverse range of businesses from across the rail, aerospace, and automotive supply industries. As well as 18 traditional office workspaces, it features 14 ground floor workshops for businesses seeking a more hybrid working environment.

This is complemented by the innovative ‘iLab’, which provides a local facility to undertake initial design, prototyping and testing of new products and services. It features an additive manufacturing cell, including vacuum casting machine, digital microscope, 3D printers and 3D AutoCAD software.

Speaking of their decision to base their business at the iHub, Keith Howells, said:

“We are delighted to be at the iHub, which is perfect for our needs. It was essential for us to find a high-quality, flexible workspace, and the iHub gives us a great platform to expand our customer base and collaborate with more businesses in the planes, trains, and automobiles (PTA) sector.

“The Connect Derby staff have all been very welcoming, including the reception team and business support adviser Pauline Roessler, who provided me with invaluable advice.

“We enjoy helping businesses who want to be more agile and understand their external environment better to change and improve.

“We work from the premise that insight and impetus result in innovation and work hard to improve our clients’ speed of learning, give them the insight to act differently and deliver innovation.

“Going forward we plan to grow the size of the team and increase our presence in different areas and help businesses make a bigger contribution to CSR.”

Ann Bhatti, head of Connect Derby, added:

“We’re excited to welcome Keith and his team to the iHub. For the last five years, the iHub has established a reputation for supporting innovative businesses like Project4 Learning Lab.

“We provide a collaborative environment for businesses to grow, and we look forward to supporting the team at Project4 Learning Lab as they continue their impressive growth.”

The iHub builds on the success of the popular Connect Derby scheme, which has created a strong market for mixed use and sector specific serviced offices across the city at its six other buildings across the city – Friar Gate Studios, Marble Hall, Riverside Chambers, Sadler Bridge Studios, Kings Chambers and Shot Tower.

The development has received funding from the Regional Growth Fund and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as well as Derby City Council and the University of Derby.

Details of available offices can be found at For further information, email

Marble Hall Managed Workspace Celebrates Its Fifth Anniversary

The iconic Marble Hall on Nightingale Road in Derby is celebrating its fifth anniversary as a managed workspace with the arrival of a raft of new tenants.

The former Rolls-Royce building, located in the Osmaston area of the city, was the subject of a £4m refurbishment in 2016 to transform it into a vibrant managed workspace facility, with a range of complementary facilities.

It joined the Connect Derby portfolio of managed workspaces soon after and was officially opened later that year by HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO.

The building, which was home to Rolls-Royce during the First and Second World Wars, is now home to a diverse range of local, regional and national businesses, from new start-ups to established and developing businesses. It also supports social enterprises, voluntary, community groups and charities.

Over the past few months, Marble Hall has welcomed new tenants from across a number of sectors, including Full Fibre Ltd; software company Logezy Ltd; real estate investment firm; Unique Fitness Sports Therapy, nursing agency Go Nursing and 4Life Care Services Ltd.

Accommodation at Marble Hall includes 42 offices, ranging in size from 100 ft2 to 800 ft2 including a stunning penthouse suite which is home to commercial photographers Cactus Images, along with meeting and conferencing facilities for tenants and external visitors.

The grade II listed building is home to the YMCA Derbyshire operated Claude’s Café, an on-site kitchen and training provision, which serves quality food at affordable prices.

It also houses the popular Little Angels Day Nursery, which caters for 50 two to four-year-olds.

All tenants benefit from 24/7 access, super-fast Wi-Fi, meeting rooms and a range of business support services provided by D2N2 and its Partners.

The focal point of the building is the stained-glass window in the reception area which commemorates the Battle of Britain and the Merlin Engine which played a part in Britain’s victory in World War II.

Commenting on Marble Hall’s fifth anniversary, Ann Bhatti, head of Connect Derby, said:

“When Connect Derby was launched in 2014, we recognised that there were many businesses and organisations that serve their local communities from outside the city centre. Marble Hall offers the same high quality offices and associated services that people need, but from a convenient out-of-town base.

“Since that wonderful day back in 2016 when HRH The Duke of Gloucester officially opened the building, Marble Hall has gone from strength to strength, attracting a wide variety of businesses, many of which have gone on to achieve great things. We look forward to celebrating Marble Hall’s continued success in the future.”

Cllr Jonathan Smale, Cabinet Member for Finance, Assets and Digital at Derby City Council said:

“We are very proud of what has been achieved at Marble Hall, and this is reflected by the high calibre of occupiers we have attracted and retained on the site.

“Despite what continues to be a very difficult time for many businesses, there is still demand for high quality, flexible office space in the right location.”

In 2016, Marble Hall was named Regeneration and Restoration Project of the Year at the East Midlands Property (EMPD) Awards. In 2017, the building was named the Best Restoration Project at the annual Derby Civic Society Awards.

Marble Hall builds on the success of the hugely influential Connect Derby scheme, which has created a strong market for serviced offices in the city. Connect Derby brings together Derby City Council’s workspaces – Friar Gate Studios, Kings Chambers, Sadler Bridge Studios, Riverside Chambers and the iHub innovation centre on Infinity Park.

Connect Derby Expands Furnished Office Offer Across Its Workspaces

Connect Derby, the city’s primary managed workspace provider, has extended its furnished office offering following the success of a pilot scheme at its Friar Gate Studios headquarters.

Just two months after it was launched, the furnished offices at Friar Gate Studios on Ford Street achieved 89% occupancy with tenants including recruitment specialists EMBS and lettings agency Monkey v Owl.

Now furnished offices are being introduced at Connect Derby’s other managed workspaces at the iHub innovation centre, Sadler Bridge Studios, Riverside Chambers, Marble Hall, and Kings Chambers.

The Covid-secure offices will be available to rent on a short-term basis of up to six-months, and will be equipped with desks, chairs, storage units, phone lines and high-speed broadband. Some offices also have a breakfast bar, sofas, tub chairs, coffee tables, plants, and artwork.

Furnished offices at Friar Gate Studios range from 282 ft2 to 442 ft2 (capacity of 3 – 6 people) and from 311 ft2 and 314 ft2 at Sadler Bridge Studios (capacity of 3 – 6 people). At Riverside Chambers furnished offices range from 334 ft2 to 355 ft2 (capacity of 5 – 7 people), whilst at Marble Hall, they range from 366 ft2 to 387 ft2 (capacity of 3 – 6 people). All furnished offices at the iHub are 970 ft2 (capacity of 8 people).

Furnished offices have been introduced at Connect Derby in response to the changing workplace environment and increasing demand from businesses for a short-term letting arrangement as they reassess the impact of the pandemic on their operations.

They provide flexibility for businesses looking to return to office premises after working from home while they consider their options – or new start-ups looking for a home for their business without the additional expenditure and effort of having to furnish it themselves.

Businesses taking furnished offices at Connect Derby workspaces will enjoy a range of other facilities, including on-site cafés, business support and meeting and conferencing rooms.

When their initial six-month tenancy ends, they will be able to take a permanent office or co-working space at any Connect Derby’s workspace across the city.

A range of safety measures have been put in place to ensure all Connect Derby buildings are Covid compliant. A recent Covid risk assessment audit carried out by Derby City Council’s Corporate Health & Safety team rated Connect ‘Outstanding’, with a score of 92%.

Commenting on the expansion of the furnished office offer, Ann Bhatti, head of Connect Derby, said:

“Our initial pilot scheme at Friar Gate Studios was a huge success, providing businesses with the breathing space they need to consider their future accommodation needs.

“Since it was launched in 2014, Connect Derby have been pioneers of the managed workspace sector in the region. We hope the expansion of these highly quality furnished offices will encourage more people back into the city centre.

“We look forward to welcoming new businesses to Connect Derby and helping them to gain a competitive advantage in this new era of work.”

Lettings Success for Connect Derby Furnished Offices

Less than two months after its launch, Friar Gate Studios’ new fully furnished offices have reached 89% occupancy – and there are now plans to introduce a similar offer at other Connect Derby buildings across Derby.

Continue reading “Lettings Success for Connect Derby Furnished Offices”

EMBS Finds New Home at Friar Gate Studios

East Midlands-based EMBS is the latest high profile business to take a new furnished office at Friar Gate Studios, the flagship building of the Connect Derby managed workspace scheme.

Since it was founded in 2003, EMBS has redefined the recruitment services market by providing its clients with competitive advantage via a range of traditional and digital talent attraction services.

The company has clients throughout the UK and has successfully placed thousands of candidates with hundreds of employers. Its team of talent partners work in the technology, property, engineering and manufacturing sectors and other specialised markets.

The changing recruitment market brought about as a result of the pandemic presented directors Simon Bucknell and Ian Stevens with the opportunity to rethink their strategy for the business. Working in collaboration with their team, they took the decision to adopt a hybrid working practice and move back into the city centre.

EMBS have taken one of nine newly refurbished, fully furnished offices at Friar Gate Studios on Ford Street, which have reached 89% occupancy just months after they were launched.

The fully furnished office accommodation is available for up to six months. At the end of the initial tenancy, EMBS will be able to take a permanent office at any of Connect Derby’s workspaces across the city.

The furnished offices provide flexibility for established businesses looking to return to office premises after working from home during the pandemic – or new start-ups looking for a short-term home for their business without the additional costs of furnishing it themselves.

The offices, which range from 282 sq. ft to 442 sq. ft, are equipped with desks, chairs, and storage units, phone lines, high-speed broadband, and sundry items, including tea and coffee making facilities. Some also have a breakfast bar, sofa, tub chairs, coffee table and plants.

Businesses taking furnished offices at Friar Gate Studios can also take advantage of other facilities, including an on-site café, Covid secure meeting rooms and business support.

There are now plans to introduce fully furnished offices at other Connect Derby buildings, starting with Sadler Bridge Studios on Bold Lane, which is set to be up-and-running at the beginning of October.

Commenting the move to Friar Gate Studios, Simon Bucknell, director of EMBS, said:

“While working from home has its merits, our staff still want to work together in the office for learning and development and to collaborate with their colleagues. Friar Gate Studios offers us the perfect opportunity to have a flexible office hub and we absolutely love it.”

“We do a lot of work in the property sector and wanted to be close to where regeneration is currently taking place in Derby. We viewed a lot of office space in the city centre, including all the Connect Derby buildings, which offered lots of choice. We were torn between Friar Gate and Sadler Bridge Studios, but Friar Gate Studios won thanks to the great flow of the building, parking facilities and the great vibe in the café.

“We particularly like the flexible lease arrangements and the fact we can scale-up across the Connect Derby buildings in the future.

“The level of service we have received from Sonia and the Connect Derby team has been second to none. We went from initial enquiry to moving in within six weeks. We are currently looking to hire new staff in readiness for a strong 2022,” added Simon.

Ann Bhatti, head of Connect Derby, added:

“I’d like to welcome Simon, Ian and their team to the Connect Derby family. Our fully-furnished offices are the perfect solution for businesses like EMBS, who are reviewing their property strategies and want a high quality base for their business while they are deciding how much office space they are going to need going forward.”