A support scheme which worked with COVID-hit businesses in Earlestown town centre is to expand to include those in the wider Newton-le-Willows area.
Earlier this year, St Helens Borough Council teamed up with St Helens Chamber and the local franchise of Business Doctors to launch ‘Business Advocates’ – a free resource for independent traders seen as a key part of the council’s Economic Reset and Recovery Strategy.
Investment for the scheme came from various grant funding streams, including the Metro Mayor’s Town Centres Fund and the European Regional Development Fund’s Welcome Back Scheme. In phase one of the initiative – which focused on St Helens and Earlestown town centres – business specialists visited more than 120 traders across a variety of sectors to understand the opportunities or issues they are currently facing.
The project also provided 12 events, involving networking opportunities and training workshops, with hands-on expert knowledge, strategic planning and goal setting among the advice provided.
Following its success to date, Business Advocates will now be rolled out to other district areas in St Helens Borough which have a strong retail, hospitality, and general business presence, including Newton-le-Willows, Rainford, Fingerpost, Rainhill and Thatto Heath, among others – with business owners encouraged to come forward to enquire about free support.
Claire Jones, owner of Self Love Salon in St Helens Town Centre, has spoken of her positive experience with the initiative.
Claire said: “Being involved with Business Advocates has opened lots more avenues of being able to get help, support, and funding for things. I might have had to let go of one of my staff, but I’ve managed to get help and have been guided in the right direction with that.
“Although I’m a hairdresser with a business, I’ve never done a business degree so I’m getting support with business plans with the financial side which I’ve never had training in – I’d just been learning on the job and it’s hard to grow a business when you’ve not got the proper foundations.”
Encouraging fellow business owners to make the most of the opportunity, Claire added: “You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. You can never learn too much and if you want to grow your business and you’re open to learning and taking advice and following it, it’s really inspiring and motivating when you get the right support.”
Cllr Kate Groucutt, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy, Business and Skills, said: “Local independent businesses are the heartbeat of our town and district centres, and we know the last couple of years have been very difficult. We hope the expert support provided through this scheme will help them to grow, strengthen their business and employ more local people, as well as contributing to the revival of our town centres and high streets.
“We had fantastic feedback from businesses who have benefited from phase one of the scheme, so I’m pleased we’re able to continue this project which will reach out to even more businesses across our borough.”
Want your business to get involved?
To find out how your business can benefit from this initiative, email email@example.com or telephone 01744 742125 or visit www.sthelens.gov.uk/businessadvocates for more information.