More than 100 small businesses across Wiltshire have benefited from grants for specialist advice to help their enterprises grow.
The Specialist Business Advice grant from The Enterprise Network (TEN) Swindon and Wiltshire was funded through the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs Rural Growth Network.
The total grant pot of £150,000 has now been spent, with 112 grants of between £500 and £1,500 awarded to a wide range of small businesses across Wiltshire and Swindon.
The most popular requests were for specialist support in web development, brand enhancement and business development/sales support.
Chris Simpson from Wiltshire Business Support Service which managed the SBA grant on behalf of The Enterprise Network, said: "The TEN Specialist Business Advice grant proved the perfect way to help small businesses bring forward that small, but vital, project that they might have been putting off."
One of the grant recipients, Susanne Cooke, is looking forward to expanding her Salisbury-based national dog walking, pet sitting and pet boarding business after a £1,500 SBA grant helped pay for drawing up a vital new franchise agreement.
Susanne was the Salisbury franchisee for Paw Pals (UK) Ltd before buying out the company in 2012, and has since focused on finding the right people to grow the business across the UK. She now has 18 Paw Pals franchisees from Newcastle to Eastbourne, and is looking to recruit more.
Earlier this year, Susanne needed a new franchise agreement – the bedrock of her business – but found the cost of paying for specialist help a real challenge.
Then, through Wessex Chambers, her husband heard about The Enterprise Network Specialist Business Advice grant for businesses in Wiltshire and Swindon.
“The £1,500 grant was fantastic – it went towards the costs of the solicitor’s fees to draw up the new agreement. It was a weight off my mind,” said Susanne. “As a franchise business grows, there are more challenges so I needed a watertight agreement to ensure there was consistent quality across the brand.
“With the confidence of having a good franchise agreement in place, I’m now planning to take on some part-time help to build the business. We offer tailor-made care for people’s pets, following their, and their pets’, usual routine in their own home, minimising stress and anxiety that can sometimes occur when they are apart.”
Another of the grant recipients, former Royal Engineer Stuart Pearce from Corsham, launched SMARTech Energy Ltd in June this year.
He and his team help businesses understand how much energy they are wasting and then develop cost-effective ways to help them cut their energy consumption, carbon footprint and to become more sustainable.
By using SMARTech energy’s services, businesses can achieve between 30 to 50 percent reductions in their total energy consumption. But Stuart knew how important it was to ensure his business had the right impact on potential customers – so he needed to invest in quality logo, branding and on-line marketing support.
Thanks to a £1,500 SBA grant and the support of Wiltshire Business Support Service business adviser Debbie Neale, Stuart was able to afford the best professional advice.
“It is quite a crowded market, so it was essential that SMARTech energy stood out,” said Stuart. “The grant was brilliant as we were able to do so much more and to a much higher standard than we would have been able to afford at that stage of the business.”
Now business is booming with Stuart taking on a full-time project manager, electrician, plus two additional full time jobs and some part time roles to aid in the installation of energy efficient solutions.
Added Stuart: “It was important to find suppliers who we felt comfortable with and could work with over time. It was refreshing to receive a recommendation from Debbie rather than having to take pot luck finding a good support partner. We have really benefited from working with Mark Crone of Clearwater Traditional Marketing to develop our brand and ongoing marketing needs.”
SMARTech energy has developed a nine-step methodology, which enables a holistic approach to energy management and reduction by developing an energy plan and quantifying each energy-saving technology implemented in the client’s premises.