Monday, April 11, 2022
Small businesses across Kent are being urged to grasp a potentially vital funding lifeline before it disappears.
Since July 2021, business support and grants of up to £2,000 have become available under a one-year Covid-19 Recovery Funds Programme.
The scheme has proved vital to dozens of owners and entrepreneurs running micro or fledgling businesses in the county from building firms to beauty salons and tattooists to tailors.
Many have spoken of how the package of support has given them the tools to survive as they try to navigate their way out of the business impact of the pandemic.
But now the clock is ticking. The scheme, delivered on behalf of funders the South East Local Enterprise Partnership by the business support organisation WSX Enterprise, is due to end in June 2022.
With mounting inflation and energy costs set to affect business activity in all sectors over the coming months, the programme’s backers are encouraging new applicants to come forward for help before it is too late.
Robyn Brookes, Project Manager for WSX Enterprise, said: “The programme is there to iron out and remove any blockers stopping you from going ahead with your business.
“It is especially relevant now as people with small businesses start to build back stronger from the impact of Covid, but see rising living costs, inflation and higher energy bills kicking in.
“We have made it as easy as possible for people to access help under the programme through one-to-one contact with experienced business advisers, group support, a wealth of online resources and of course the grant funding.”
The programme can cover all areas of business support including how to make better use of digital technologies for financial management, operations and marketing.
Business owners already helped by the scheme have given it much praise.
Folkestone-based Tam Hobbs has set up an online English language teaching school, Boost Academy, offering non-native speakers the opportunity to access group classes on Zoom.
Tam said: “The programme was exactly what I was looking for and came at just the right time for me. I thought the resources were absolutely brilliant, incredibly helpful.
“The business advisors have also been really good. What’s important is when you’ve got an idea and you think it’s great, that’s all well and good but you need somebody with expertise to give you a reality check and to say: ‘what about this?’.”
The £2,000 grant is specifically supporting the Boost Academy website, the purchase of presentation materials and new business development.
Tam’s advice to other businesses seeking help from the programme is to ‘go for it’. She added: “I would say 100% don’t hesitate, it’s really worth doing. We’re very lucky that these opportunities are in place. When I first started the programme, Boost was just a small idea, but having actively participated in the course, Boost has been able to grow to what it is now and will keep growing.”
Also grateful for support is former teacher Camilla Baker, a great granddaughter of the architect Sir Herbert Baker, who has been assisted through the programme to launch a business designing bespoke benches, Herbert Baker Furniture.
Camilla, who is based in Cobham, Kent, said: “I can honestly say my business would never have started without WSX Enterprise. They helped me take an idea that had been scratching around in the back of my mind for almost ten years and allowed me to sound it out with an expert. Their support meant I could keep coming back with different questions. Crucially they connected me to another small company who could help me manufacture. This connection to specific expertise has made all the difference.
“The grant is paying for photography and marketing, specifically for the logo and website development. We are creating a high-end product so we need high-quality photos and marketing, in particular a website as point of sale.
“I’m very grateful. WSX Enterprise stuck with me and were patient with my lack of expertise. I took courses that inspired me by hearing from other entrepreneurs who also started with just an idea.
“When I began, I thought I wasn’t a business person. I have learnt that business is about connecting with people, and marketing is telling stories. As a teacher I have lots of experience of both of those – and understanding that has given me the confidence to take it one step at a time and learn as I go.”Back to all news posts