Amazing Thames Valley Company: Fresh Direct
Think of Bicester and you think of one thing and one thing only: Bicester Village.
Heck, it’s so damn popular they even built a railway station there. Still, that should hopefully make the queues back to the M40 on Boxing Day a few coach-loads shorter. Blimmin’ Londoners and tourists - coming here, stealing all our discounted designer clobber.
But anyway, we digress (slightly). If you have a poke round Bicester, you might just stumble upon three whopping great warehouses full of tonnes of fresh fruit, veg, dairy and bakery.
And if you did, that probably means you’ve only gone and found the Head Office of Fresh Direct - who just happen to be one of the UK’s biggest fresh food suppliers!
Their Bicester depot is one of the key hubs of their operation, has been the HQ since 2001 and is also home to their prepared food teams, Fresh Prep and The Kitchen.
So what got did?
Well, in 1966 John Harris and Bill Hawkins started the business as a small shop in Bicester and a 3-tonne Austin lorry.
After 10 years, they had expanded to 32 shops. In the 80’s FreshGro (as it was known) grew into a fruit and vegetable wholesaler and in 1987, Bill retired from the business, leaving FreshGro as a 100% Harris family business.
This successful business kept growing to become less of a retailer and more of a supplier. They made one final tweak to the name – and so Fresh Direct was born! More space was needed for this rapidly growing business and in 2001 they constructed their brand new HQ in Bicester.
In July 2016, Fresh Direct was bought by Sysco, the world’s largest foodservice company. Even though they have new owners, this has not changed the way they run their business or their mission - they still like to think of themselves as that local fresh food seller!
They’re proud to be a non-corporate business that hasn’t forgotten it’s roots and still represents the same passion for quality, service and values that they were built on and that their customers can rely on – whether they’re a large, nationally-operating restaurant group or a small, independent village pub.
So what started out as just fresh produce and has grown to include a range of fruit, veggies, dairy and much more!
So from everyone here at Selective Recruitment, to everyone at Fresh Direct: WE SALUTE YOU!
Amazing Thames Valley Company: Laithwaite's Wine
Just like a super soft pair of socks and a great hand cream, wine is just one of those things you really start to appreciate with age.
It is just as well, as adulting can be hard, and after a tough week at work, a glass of 7up and your great hand cream sometimes just don’t cut it. Especially if you have friends over. There are few things in life as satisfying as pouring a glass of well-deserved wine on a Friday evening, aside from peeling off a sticky label entirely in one go (daym) and popping bubble wrap, which we all know is bad for the environment thus should be avoided.
Unfortunately, another side-effect of becoming an adult is suddenly becoming extremely time poor. Gone are the days of leisurely perusing the supermarket after uni, usually around 5pm as we could only afford to shop when discount hour rolled around. Ironically, we now have income to buy wine, but less time to buy it. Such cruel fate!
But don’t fret, this week’s Amazing Thames Valley Company has you covered: Laithwaite's Wines.
Not only does Laithwaite's Wines offer a huge selection of vinos from 450 winemakers across the globe, they will deliver it straight to your door. They even offer a wide range of deals including free delivery, meaning you have more income left for those nice socks and hand creams. Legends!
Wine connoisseurs can rest assured that the company, founded by Tony Laithwaite, was born out of passion for high quality wine while Tony was working as a young bottle washer in Bordeaux during the 1960s. In his own words, he “fell so, so in love with (the) wonderful world of wine” which let’s be honest, is pretty easy to do. What’s not so easy, is being obsessed with making the best wine possible, and Tony describes having the phrase “C’est qualite! Qualite!” drilled into him during his winery days.
With the wine scene in 1960s Britain as about exciting as a damp saveloy on Margate Beach in December, Tony and his girlfriend opened a small shop underneath a railway arch in Reading. The UK market received a welcome injection of great wine that didn't taste like vinegar and the customers flocked.
50 years have now passed, the company is headquartered in Theale and revenue exceeded £250million in 2018. Not only did Tony and his girlfriend get married, have three sons and grandchildren together, they have also racked up 400,000 customers and still manage to personally know all of their 450 winemakers and the likes and dislikes of every customer. Phew! Luckily they had all that wine to get them through the tough weeks.
For those of us who are self-proclaimed wine lovers, we don’t think there is more we could ask for than delicious wine delivered to our door, from a bloke who is obsessively passionate about his customers enjoying each bottle.
So from everyone here at Selective Recruitment, to everyone at Laithwaite's Wines, WE SALUTE YOU!
Amazing Thames Valley Companies: Oxfam International
Yeah yeah yeah, we know - pedants everywhere will be screaming that Oxfam isn’t a company, it’s a charity.
They also might be pointing out that Oxfam is different to Oxfam International - and they’d be right!
But frankly: a) bore off, b) we don’t care, and c) we’d do it again we tell you!
Anyhoo, any organisation that generates over £1billion of revenue each year and employs over 5,000 people in the UK alone gets to do whatever it wants - especially if it’s from God’s county of Oxfordshire.
Formed at 17 Broad Street, Oxford in 1942, Oxfam is a rather generous abbreviation of “Oxford Committee for Famine Relief”. The original committee was a group of concerned, prominent local residents including Henry Gillett, Theodore Milford, Cecil Jackson-Cole, Alan Pim, Gilbert Murray and his wife Mary.
The Committee met in the Old Library of University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, for the first time in 1942, and its aim was to help starving citizens of occupied Greece in World War II, a famine caused by the Axis occupation of Greece and Allied naval blockades, and to persuade the British government to allow food relief through the blockade.
Oxfam's first paid employee was Joe Mitty, who began working at the Oxfam shop on Broad Street, Oxford on 9 November 1949. Engaged to manage the accounts and distribute donated clothing, he originated the policy of selling anything which people were willing to donate, and developed the shop into a national chain.
By 1960, Oxfam was a major international non-governmental aid organisation. The first overseas committee was founded in Canada in 1963 and in 1995 Oxfam International was formed by the group of similar independent non-governmental organisations.
Today, there are 19 member organisations of the Oxfam International confederation: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Ireland, India, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Quebec, South Africa, Spain and the United States.
As well as becoming a world leader in the delivery of emergency relief, Oxfam International implements long-term development programs in vulnerable communities. They also campaign to end unfair trade rules, demand better health and education services for all, and to combat climate change.
So there we have it: good eggs all round. So from everyone here at Selective Recruitment, to all the yolk folk at Oxfam, we salute you!
Amazing Thames Valley Companies: Nominet
Cloud. Web. Net. Data. Site. Online. Broadband. WiFi. IoT. 3G. 4G. 5G. Big G*.
All of these terms are either totally new, or they used to mean one thing, and now totally mean another.
We are of course talking about one thing and one thing only: the internet.
It’s pretty big, isn’t it?
And as with anything that’s pretty big, there comes a great deal of power for those at the top. With power comes corruption, and with corruption comes the police. Which brings us squarely to this week’s Amazing Thames Valley Company: Nominet.
As anyone who watched the London Olympics 2012 Opening Ceremony will know, the modern internet as we know it was created by Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, who did something very special: rather than make it available for a fee, or to the few, he made it available to all - for free.\
In a list of 80 cultural moments that shaped the world, chosen by a panel of 25 eminent scientists, academics, writers, and world leaders, the invention of the World Wide Web was ranked number one, with the entry stating: "The fastest growing communications medium of all time, the internet has changed the shape of modern life forever. We can connect with each other instantly, all over the world".
In order to make it free, each country in the world creates a body that allows people to reserve website domain addresses, on which they can build websites. Nominet is the UK’s body, governing all domains that end in .uk, and as one of the world’s first professional operators, it is the model for most operators worldwide. With tens of millions .uk domain names, it is now the second largest operator in the world.
Nominet has been running up a profit on its operations since 2003, yet its constitution forbids it from distributing surplus funds to members in the manner of a commercial company paying dividends. It launched a charitable foundation: the Nominet Trust, and in September 2008 the board made an initial donation of £5m to its charitable offshoot, which supports "education, research and the funding of suitable projects for the benefit of UK Internet stakeholders". Further donations have been made since this date.
So from everyone here at Selective Recruitment, to everyone at Nominet’s global headquarters tucked away in the Oxford Science Park, WE SALUTE YOU!
* Big G is sadly not an internet term. Yet.
Amazing Thames Valley Companies: Unipart Group!
As any respectable owner of the 1987 Panini sticker album will know, the best named sponsor of any team was that of our beloved Oxford United - whose palm was crossed with silver by none other than Wang Computers.
As the Robert Maxwell era came to an end, and we waved goodbye to famous players with fantastic perm / mullet hybrids such as Dean Saunders, Ray Houghton, John Aldridge and Mark Wright (see below), so too did we usher in a new era of shirt sponsorship.
And that, dear friends, brings us squarely to an amazing Thames Valley company called Unipart.
Sponsoring the Us from 1991 to 2000, Unipart was originally founded in 1974 as the distributor of service parts for state-owned British Leyland (and later Austin Rover), before a management buyout in 1987 made it one of the UK’s largest privately owned companies - and part employee-owned to boot.
Originally operating two manufacturing sites, from which automotive service parts were distributed via its logistics division, like so many other amazing Thames Valley companies Unipart has not just survived but indeed flourished by innovation, acquisition and joint ventures.
In the 30 years since, Unipart has grown to a turnover of almost £900million by acquiring companies such as National Railway Supplies, Partco, Park Signalling and Key Fasteners. It has also worked closely with a succession of major UK companies such as Honda, Sky, Vodafone, Rolls Royce and Waterstones.
Most recently, in 2018 Unipart Logistics won a five year £730 million contract with the NHS. Each of the Unipart NHS Supply Chain warehouse across the UK now supply different products for the NHS across the country, making it one of the most important contracts Unipart have.
So from everyone here at Selective Recruitment to everyone at Unipart Group: We salute you!