A business started by a young entrepreneur after she was made redundant during the pandemic has unveiled a major expansion leading to around 100 new jobs over the next 12 months.
Rana Rihan launched Leeds-based Workoola in 2021 with seed funding and support from WeDo Business Services.
Workoola, which Rana founded with just three employees, started as a provider of temporary, fixed-term and permanent staff for sectors including manufacturing, food production and processing, transport, warehousing, logistics and distribution, primarily around Yorkshire and other areas of northern England.
Roles include factory operatives, pickers and packers and fork-lift truck drivers, HGV and van drivers, as well as supervisory and management positions.
The recruitment division has expanded rapidly, boosted by the granting of a Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) licence, which regulates businesses supplying staff to the UK fresh produce sector. This has enabled Workoola to provide workers to the sector.
Meanwhile, Workoola has also developed close ties to the glass manufacturing industry around West Yorkshire and has branched out into providing quality control for jars and bottles used for food and drink items, including sauces, yoghurts and liquors.
This operation has 30 staff based at a dedicated 11,500 sq ft warehouse in Stourton, Leeds, Workoola has an additional 15 staff in its recruitment arm, based in the city’s Beeston district.
Rana, 29, said the company has now outgrown its premises and is expanding further into glass decoration, reflecting growing demand from jar and bottle manufacturers.
She is seeking a larger site in the Leeds area totalling around 30,000 sq ft, to bring Workoola under one roof, with plans to recruit around 100 people over the next 12 months for the new glass decoration division.
Workoola’s growth comes amid surging demand from food manufacturers for glass containers as an alternative to plastic.
Rana said: “I was working in engineering recruitment but was made redundant in 2021 as the agency where I was employed did not survive the pandemic. I decided to go out on my own in business and see what happened.
“WeDo came on board straight away and helped me in numerous ways to get the business off the ground. We continue to work very closely with the WeDo team, who are a source of great support and advice.”
She added: “Because of Covid and Brexit, companies had difficulty sourcing staff, and the recruitment side of the business quickly took off. We have placed hundreds of people in roles over the past 12 months. Now we are GLAA accredited, we are able to expand this side of the business further.
“Alongside this, our glass manufacturing clients began asking us to train recruits to undertake quality control and, as demand grew, we developed our own facility providing an outsourced service staffed by fully-trained personnel with the specialist skills required.
“We have now outgrown our current premises and are looking to greatly expand our footprint at a larger site in the Leeds area, where our new glass decorating division will also be based, operating on a 24/7 basis with a team including machine operatives, labourers and supervisors.
“Demand for glass containers is increasing as manufacturers switch away from plastic due to its environmental impact. Glass tends to keep the flavours better, and is seen as being a more durable and presentable form of packaging, as well as being greener and more suitable for recycling.”
Workoola is continuing to receive support and advice from WeDo for its HR, back and front office, health and safety, risk assessment and payroll functions.
WeDo, which has its headquarters in Oldham and additional offices at MediaCityUK in Salford, Sheffield, Bromsgrove, Swindon and Colchester, provides a range of services to small and medium-sized companies, including invoice and trade finance, start-up funding, accountancy, HR, back-office, IT and digital and payroll support, with a focus on the recruitment sector.
Chris Robinson, a co-founder and director of WeDo, said: “Workoola’s remarkable expansion and success in the recruitment sector and glass industry exemplifies the power of resilience, innovation and strategic partnerships.
“Under Rana’s leadership it has not only provided employment opportunities through its recruitment arm but has also transformed into a multifaceted business that is serving the needs of glass container manufacturers.
“We are proud to have supported Rana in her journey so far as a young entrepreneur. By collaborating closely with WeDo, Workoola has been able to navigate challenges, grow its recruitment division and establish itself as a trusted provider of quality control services to the glass manufacturing sector.
“We are excited to develop our partnership with Workoola, supporting Rana and her team in various aspects of the business, and to play our part in its continued growth in the years to come.”