The COVID-19 crisis has brought about fast-paced and significant changes to our lives and working practices. Many businesses were severely impacted immediately, and that impact is still being felt. We have seen many inspiring stories of businesses successfully shifting their business model in response to the crisis, enabling them to continue operating.
However, the simple reality is that many small businesses do not have the knowledge, skills or digital confidence to make this move quickly enough. That’s why in response to this crisis GBSLEP collaborated with expert partners across the private, public and academic sectors to establish projects to aid resilience and ultimately support a strong recovery for our businesses, towns and local centres.
In May 2020, GBSLEP launched its Step Forward campaign to encourage business owners to come forward for support and take a step on their journey to adapting to changing circumstances and increasing their future growth potential.
The projects bought together input from business, local government, Business Improvement Districts and universities to develop and guide a set of immediate interventions. We utilised our unique partnership networks and access to on the pulse local intelligence as well as strong existing evidence bases to develop and effectively target a series of support to positively impact the local economy.
Seven schemes were designed and launched with the support of multiple partners within two months. They offer direct support with challenges around adapting business models and increasing technology adoption to improve future competitiveness, all benefiting from additional wrap around support from the GBSLEP Growth Hub.
Support for improving digital capacity
Digital Welcome - A digital skills mentoring programme supporting small businesses and arts organisations to get back on their feet in the wake of COVID-19. The programme connected business owners with supportive digital mentors to work through the process of identifying new revenue streams and boosting revenue through online sales.
Digital Skills Support - The programme offered digital skills training particularly focusing on digital marketing and how to use social media to promote a business and brand story. This included workshops and expert one-to-one training on how to set up and make the most of the different social media platforms.
Find out more about our most recent Digital Skills Initiative, 'Prepare for Trading Online in 2021' here.
Support for retailers
Click and Drop - Six months free access to a digital platform enabling local independent shops and businesses to promote their products and services in one place online and providing locally owned and coordinated deliveries from small local retailers. The platform also has the capacity to operate as a click and collect service to help drive footfall back to local centres when it is safe to do so.
Retail Recovery Planning - Designed with retail businesses in mind, this programme, delivered in collaboration with local authorities provided support on recovery planning via webinar workshops for local areas, as well as one-to-one sessions to discuss individual challenges. It provided advice on reopening, cash flow and stock management, store layout and increasing sales and promotions.
Employment & skills support
Apprenticeship Triage Service - A free of charge service working with individuals, employers and apprenticeship training providers to match redundant and off-programme apprentices to vacancies as well as supporting employers with training of furloughed staff.
Employment Triage Service - A free of charge service assisting workers made redundant by the crisis to return to employment whilst supporting employers to recruit new workers to meet current needs in high-demand areas.
Funding business adaption, diversification and innovation
Pivot and Prosper grant programme - The programme provided businesses with match funding of up to £40,000 to support businesses to execute innovative adaptations to their pre-COVID-19 business model; strengthening the likelihood that they can endure the crisis and continue to prosper, grow and take on new employees. To read the full evaluation report click here.