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Aber student fuels his future with fare splitting petrol app

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A YOUNG entrepreneur studying in Aberystwyth has designed a fare splitting app that solves the problem of dividing petrol costs between friends when one person is the ‘designated driver’.

Friendfare, the brainchild of Jack Thomson, 21, calculates the amount of petrol spent per journey based on car type and distance, making it easy for lift-sharing friends to fairly split the cost between them.

The software engineering student at Aberystwyth University came up with the idea with his cousin Tom and friend Rob after spending long journeys travelling to various mountain bike locations around Wales. Following their trips they were inevitably faced with the task of working out how much the designated driver was owed.

Applying his knowledge of software design to solving this common problem, Jack spent several months designing and perfecting Friendfare. And his efforts are now bearing fruit with the app set to launch next month on both iOS and Android platforms.

Speaking about the launch of Friendfare, Jack said: “I hope Friendfare will be a handy solution to the common conundrum of when friends are trying to work out how much they owe each other in petrol costs.

“It’s gone through several prototype stages and been heavily influenced by user feedback to ensure it’s easy and functional to use. It’s been a labour of love and I can’t wait for it to go live now!”

Despite the app not being available to the public just yet, Jack is already thinking of ways to develop the Friendfare concept further still, in order to help facilitate solutions to other problematic day-to-day finance issues, such as bill splitting at a restaurant.

And crucially Jack is also developing mobile payment functionality within the app’s range of services, so Friendfare can become a full service mobile application.

Jack continued: “I believe there are real opportunities to branch out beyond lift sharing and now I am comfortable with building and developing the app, I’m actively looking for ways to continue expanding and evolving Friendfare’s offering.”

Tony Orme, careers consultant at Aberystwyth University said: “Jack is a fantastic example of a student applying entrepreneurial thinking to their studies to start their own business. At Aberystwyth we encourage all our students to act upon their entrepreneurial flair to enhance their own experience at university and increase their employability when they graduate. We’re looking forward to seeing Jack’s app launch soon and wish him every success in the future.”

Jack created the Friendfare app with the support of Big Ideas Wales, the support service for young entrepreneurs aged 5 to 25. Big Ideas Wales, which forms part of the Welsh Government’s Business Wales Service, and is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, provides business support and mentoring for young people to enable them to kick start their business ideas.

Jack credits Big Ideas Wales with supporting his entrepreneurial ambitions, in particular his business advisor Sam Allen. Jack first heard about Big Ideas Wales through his university Entrepreneurship Society and soon after had his first meeting with Sam.

Sam was able to offer Jack advice on how to develop his business, as well as advising him about upcoming events hosted by Big Ideas Wales that could benefit him, including the annual ‘Bootcamp to Business’ event in Margam Discovery Centre.

The three-day residential workshop in November last year played host to fifty young entrepreneurs with the aim of equipping them with the essential skills they need to help get their business ready and grow their network of connections. It was here that Jack received advice from Big Ideas Wales mentors about his business plan, as well as meeting other likeminded young entrepreneurs.

Jack said: “Bootcamp was amazing. I left feeling so inspired and found myself constantly thinking of new business ideas. I’d encourage anyone with even the start of a business idea to think about attending the next Bootcamp event, as it will give you the information and tools you need to get it off the ground.”

The next Bootcamp to Business will be held at Rhyd-y-creuau, Betws y Coed, Conwy between 2nd – 4th March 2018. To apply for a place and for more information, visit www.bigideas.wales

The Welsh Government’s Big Ideas Wales programme encourages and supports young people aged between 5 and 25 to develop entrepreneurial skills and start a business. Part of the Business Wales Service, it is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund. For more information, and to access support, visit – www.bigideas.wales

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Llanwrda bookshop in the running to be named Britain’s Best Small Shop of 2020

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AN appointment only bookshop in Llanwrda, Carmarthenshire, which offers a beautifully curated collection of books as well as cards, wrapping paper and Fair Trade gifts, has been named on the shortlist of retailers in the running to be named Britain’s Best Small Shop of 2020.

Books At The Dragon’s Garden says it “aims to make a visit to our shop an experience”. The shop runs a loyalty scheme for customers and offers promotions throughout the year. In addition, in its base at the market garden it uses organic compost, seeds and freshly picked vegetables and flowers. It only uses paper bags and has planted lots of pollinators in the garden to increase biodiversity.

The Best Small Shops competition is managed by the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC), whose member trade associations represent approximately 100,000 independent retailers throughout the UK between them. The competition celebrates the commitment and creativity of independent retailers on the UK’s High Streets and the central role they play in their local communities. It is sponsored by Maybe*, an engagement platform that helps make social media work for independent retailers. The winner will be announced next month.

In addition to the main award, Books At The Dragon’s Garden has also been shortlisted for a special award to be given to the independent retailer that has demonstrated specific innovation to combat the impact of COVID-19. This award is sponsored by booost, the loyalty, gifting and promotions app.

“It was impossible to make my previous shop both safe and financially viable, so I had a radical rethink and a conversion of two old stables at my market garden meant I was able to move the entire shop to a rural location,” explains owner Mandy Tomos.

In the interim I continued to promote the business on social media and sold online via the website. I received an award as a “Local Hero” for continuing to supply my local community during lockdown. As the shop is now appointment only, it is very safe for both customers and staff, numbers are low and social distancing is easy. Contactless payment is taken outside under cover. I used social media to maintain contact with my customers and wrote a chatty book suggestion column in our local free paper every month.”

“This has been a particularly challenging year for small, independent retailers and many have come through to this point through innovation, quality of product and service, a commitment to serve their local communities and a large dose of determination,” explains Mark Walmsley, Chair of the IRC.

“As more and more people have been forced to stay home and work from home, we have seen just how much we all value local independent shops and want to see them not just survive, but also thrive. These shops offer choice, diversity and genuine customer service. And, after what has been a rather dark year, that has to be worth celebrating.”

The annual competition highlights the best of Britain’s independent retail sector, celebrating the commitment and creativity of independent retailers and the central role they play in their local communities. Previous winners have included Bristol-based delicatessen Papadeli, the 2019 winner, and The Mainstreet Trading Company, a combined bookshop, café, deli & homeware shop based in St Boswells, in the rural Scottish Borders, which won in 2018.

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Safe Zone arrangements during firebreak

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Aberaeron Safe Zone

FOLLOWING the announcement by First Minister Mark Drakeford that introduced a ‘fire break’ across Wales, Ceredigion County Council will not be closing the roads daily within the safe zones between 6pm on Friday, October 23 and 11am on November 9.

Some aspects will remain where changes are in place 24/7 or temporary parking restrictions apply. Council owned public car parks will remain free during this period for residents and visitors alike.

Safe Zone – Recent amendments

Further minor amendments have come into effect this week, they are:

· In Aberaeron, on street parking will return between Cadwgan Place and Market Street junction.
· In Aberystwyth, there is controlled blue holder access to Eastgate from Portland Street as well as controlled access to Chalybeate Street from Terrace Road.
· In Cardigan, there will be controlled blue badge holder access along High Street.

Safe zones are reviewed fortnightly in line with the infection rate and available evidence. A further announcement will be made before 09 November.

More information can be seen on the safe zones Council web page: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/SafeZones

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Two week national ‘Firebreak Lockdown’ announced for Wales from 6pm on Friday

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MARK DRAKEFORD, The First Minister of Wales has announced a two week ‘fire break’ lockdown from Friday October 23 at 18:00 HRS, to last until Monday November 9 at 00:01 HRS

Mr Drakeford said: “This firebreak is the shortest we can make it. It must be sharp and deep in order to have the impact we need it to have on the virus.”

All non essential businesses, including tourism businesses will be told to close.

Businesses have been told that they will be given £1000 each automatically to help with the economic impact of the shutdown.

Mr Drakeford added that children will be the priority and that childcare facilities will open as normal. Primary schools will open after half term.

Secondary schools will be closed for a week after half term to help control the virus.

Universities will offer a mixture of face-to-face learning and learning via video link. Students must stay at their university accommodation during the lockdown.

Responding to the Welsh Government’s announcement of a Wales-wide lockdown, Paul Davies MS, the Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament, has called the lockdown “not-proportionate” and is calling on the Welsh Government to be “open and transparent” on the evidence to support a lockdown and if the First Minister is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns every month.

Paul Davies MS said: “Sadly, the First Minster has failed to get public support for this second Wales-wide lockdown, failing to be open and transparent about the evidence to justify this lockdown and what his actions will entail for the future.

“The Welsh Government also has to be honest that this road they are taking us down is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns. This is not a two-week break to solve the pandemic, it is likely that we will see regular lockdowns across the rest of the year. The Welsh Government must be clear what actions they are taking during the lockdown to prevent further Wales-wide lockdowns which will have a significant impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

“However, the main concern is that this national lockdown is not proportionate. The impact on businesses in areas such as Powys, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, who have the lowest rate of Covid-19 cases in Wales, will be severe at a time when they are desperately struggling to recover from the pandemic so far this year.

“The First Minister needs to urgently come to the Welsh Parliament and answer these questions, to face effective scrutiny by elected representatives and not run his government by media.”

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP, Stephen Crabb told The Herald: “The evidence to support an all-Wales lockdown is weak and I am sceptical that this so-called ‘fire-break’ will tackle the situation in those parts of Wales where infection rates have been out of control. The key issue for Welsh Government to address is what will be done differently after the firebreak ends in those parts of Wales where infection rates have spiralled out of control. Otherwise the whole of Wales risks being dragged back into a series of rolling lockdowns.

“As we saw earlier in the year, lockdowns come with huge costs in terms of harm to the economy and to people’s emotional and mental wellbeing. With the Welsh Government asking UK Government to fund this lockdown, I hope that as many businesses as possible get support they need quickly. Pembrokeshire’s hospitality businesses will be hit particularly hard by these latest restrictions and I will be fighting hard again to see that they are protected as the lockdown kicks in.”

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