Next month IDEA Birmingham – a collaboration of leading figures from business and academia – will launch its first Birmingham Made Me Design EXPO at the Mailbox, a week-long celebration of everything that is good about industrial design in the region.

From June 15 to 22, the city centre venue will host a series of events and exhibitions showcasing talent from across the Midlands which will culminate in an awards night. Categories will include Best Brand, Best Innovation or Radical Design, Best Collaborative Design and Best Emerging Brand and a Lifetime Achievement Award for an exceptional contribution to innovation and design. The winners of each category will be decided by a public vote and people can vote online at for their favourites in each category. In a four-week series, we will showcase the shortlist for each of the categories and this week we are looking at the candidates for Best Emerging Brand.

Cafe Blend

Café Blend is the creation of Sophie Highfield (27) who has 11 years’ experience in the hospitality business. Incorporated in February 2010 and opened in Birmingham in June 2010. Since then they have developed a strong brand image and opened a second store in Manchester (Dec 2011), been shortlisted in the Birmingham Retail Awards (Mar 2011) for the Best Café and have recently won Theo Paphitis #SBS award. They have featured in trade magazines for their innovation and are soon to run a coffee martini reception for the Caffe Culture Show in London in May 2012. They are also soon to be teaching barista courses at Bournville College in Birmingham as well as continuing to develop skills among their own team of baristas. Offering live music events, coffee cocktail classes and community fundraising; Café Blend is going strength to strength with a very ambitious future ahead; planning to open two stores in the next year; alongside an e-commerce website. Cafe Blend embodies a pure love for discovery, culture and nothing but romanticism for coffee.

They are dedicated to providing their guests with new ways to enjoy quality coffee. They represent a blend of quality, authentic flavours inspired from around the world, a blend of coffee by day and liqueur concoction by night. The branding and design reflects their story, with serenity and relaxation being highlighted by the chosen colours of the logo; each store is an “oasis”. It is a place to be enjoyed.

Chase Distillery

William Chase, founder of Tyrrells has recently embarked on a new venture based out of his farm in Herefordshire, the Chase Distillery producing their first bottle of Chase Vodka in 2008 and voted the Best Vodka by San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2010.

Telling his story William Chase says: “I grew up here in Herefordshire and feel very lucky to have been brought up in this beautiful part of the world. I had been farming potatoes for 20 years, mostly supplying supermarkets as a commodity, which left me feeling detached – without any feedback from the end customer. I was hit one day with the ‘eureka’ moment by turning my potatoes into chips. I then spent 2002 travelling the world to source the equipment and recipe to make potato chips. By the summer, “Tyrrells” was born. As Tyrrells grew I was searching for the next step. In 2004 whilst travelling in the USA, looking for packaging equipment for the chips, I stumbled on a small distillery making potato vodka and thought this would be a great new chapter to life. So I returned home, thought about it and decided it would definitely be more fun making vodka.

“I researched the market and found it to be full of a lot of ‘twee’ marketing stories or large corporate companies. So I thought there would be a market if we could make a quality product and sell it with provenance and pedigree. From the idea in 2004, it took us until April fool’s day 2008 to make the first of our potatoes and then make the first batch of vodka in June 2008. Upon tasting the very first drop from the column before filtering I was so enamoured and proud of it I decided to call it Chase Vodka.

“So the William Chase distillery was born. The next shock was how little volume we produced: 16 tonnes of potatoes produced only 1,000 litres of alcohol! Which after 40 hours was very disheartening but it is testament to the quality of our vodka. So with this supreme quality over all of the other mass produced vodka I was sure it work.”

Disorder Boutique

Disorder Ltd is Birmingham’s Award Winning Best Independent Retailer. Located on Needless Alley, just off New Street. Defined as, ‘super cool’ by Sixty Nine Magazine, recommended as one of five reasons to visit Birmingham by The Guardian, and endorsed as, ‘one of the cleverest retailers I have seen in the UK in years,’ by international Brand Consultant Mary Portas.

Disorder has its own menswear label, specializing in truly ground breaking tailoring, made in the city itself and it combines art with graphics giving it an inconceivable edge. A beacon to those who love creatively made clothes with design integrity. ‘A very special shop even by world standards,’ Vogue Magazine.

Refreshing and individual cutting edge clothing (particularly the menswear) in the heart of Birmingham, for those who want something different from the chain store, youth-market or bespoke classic tailor.

Fei Liu

Listed as one of the Top 100 People in the Jewellery Industry by Professional Jeweller 2010, Fei Liu is growing in international acclaim. Originally from Chong Qin, China, Liu received his training from the School of Jewellery, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design and in 2006, launched his own company, Fei Liu Fine Jewellery. The essence of Fei Liu Fine Jewellery is that of great drama and elegance.

For Liu, design is all about the intricate details. Pairing delicately sculpted settings with vivid and colourful stones, Fei Liu’s look is a refined mix of femininity and drama. Combining his Eastern heritage with Western design, each piece is uniquely inspired with a three dimensional edge. Creating pieces that redefine luxury, Fei Liu’s jewellery is lavishly delicate and elegantly bold.

Fourseventy media

Founded in 2010 while studying at Birmingham City University, Steve Thornton and Chris Williams went on to become the first undergraduates to be nominated for a Sony Radio Award in 2011. It was for their feature length documentary UB40’s 30th Anniversary, which was nominated for ‘Best Music Special’.

Since the incorporation of the company, Fourseventy Media are proud to have worked with the likes of Birmingham City Council, Birmingham City University, The NEC Group, Retail Birmingham, South Birmingham Police, Fused Magazine, Dyson Media and many more. Fourseventy Media endeavour to help charities and non-profit organisations within the Birmingham area free of charge; their nominated charity this year is Edward’s Trust, who offer bereavement counselling for children and parents in the West Midlands.

Jack Row

One of the world’s most expensive pens worth £27,500 has been designed by an award winning graduate from Birmingham City University. 26-year-old Jack Row – originally from Nottingham, who now lives and works in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter has launched his début collection of luxurious precious metal fountain pens at Harrods, the world’s most prestigious department store. Amongst Jack’s designs is his exclusively hand crafted, white gold and diamond detailed fountain pen.

His ‘Architect’ Collection of fountain pens and cufflinks are all individually hand-crafted in solid silver and gold and set with accents of precious sapphires and diamonds.

His design inspiration is drawn from iconic British architecture, most notably one of London’s most famous landmarks, the ‘Gherkin’. The iconic profile and geometric spirals are reflected in the pens elaborate silver and gold filigree.

Jack came up with the design prototypes whilst he was a student on the Jewellery and Silversmithing – Design for Industry course at the School of Jewellery,

Birmingham Institute of Art and Design. His innovative designs also saw him winning a gold medal prize from the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. “Jack’s fabulous collection is luxurious, eccentric and quintessentially British, aligning perfectly with the unforgettable Harrods experience,” said Darren Walker, Gifts and Stationery Buyer at Harrods.

Liam Treanor

In early 2011 Liam Treanor founded his self-titled designer furniture brand which has promptly established itself as one of the emerging brands to look out for. The studio, working alongside its series of carefully selected manufacturers, has produced a distinctly fresh and international range of timber based furniture and lighting for both domestic and cafe-contract use.

The products adopt an elegant, minimal and seamlessly organic aesthetic pulled together by a selection of trend savvy colours. Stockists include renowned Hong Kong and Beijing designer retail store Lane Crawford.

Urban Coffee Company

The Urban Coffee Company is located in the business districts of major cities outside London and provides coffee via cafe emporiums and their online tasting club. Urban Coffee’s whole life revolves around creating a unique coffee experience for the customer. As they put it: “It goes without saying that our coffee is the best this side of the moon.

“We have created a “wine tasting for coffee” experience that’s not available anywhere else on the high street or online. But that’s not enough; we want the customer to be at the centre of everything we did so imagine this: In our cafe emporiums our Urbanistas (what we call our Baristas) are people who are naturally happy, friendly and smiley who enjoy their jobs (We hire them like that – they are harder to find than you think).

“Our Urbanistas remember our customers names and their usual drink order so the customer feels at home and loved and best of all they have the experience to make you a great coffee. So our customers can enjoy our coffee at home and work not just in cafe emporiums, we created the Coffee Connoisseurs Tasting Club.

“The club delivers single estate coffees to your door to experience on a monthly basis.” Amir & Simon had been in IT for over 10 years and until starting the Urban Coffee Company knew nothing about retailing coffee. “The UK has come a long way with coffee in the last 20 years, from polystyrene cups all the way to a fairly sophisticated understanding of coffee.

“However, we feel it can be taken up another notch and that’s our intent; think wine tasting meets coffee. So, unhappy with the quality of coffee on the average high street, we decided that the only way to get a decent cup was to start our own place.”