Personal touch in developing local businesses
Do you run a business in our borough? Looking for some bespoke advice on how to grow it, recruit the best talent and keep your finances in good shape? Guildford Business Growth offers all this and more.
Guildford Business Growth, a dedicated support service from Guildford Borough Council, is delivered in partnership with the Enterprise M3 Growth Hub and UMi and sponsored by law firm Stevens & Bolton LLP. Covering finance, business planning, leadership and talent, innovation and exporting, the service is available to existing and start-up businesses in the borough no matter how large or small.
It includes telephone advice, face-to-face monthly clinics and regular workshops on specific topics tailored to a variety of business needs. Many have benefited from the service over the past 18 months including local personalised bag and accessory firm LRM Goods. The company realised a 135% increase in sales, following direction from the service which led to influencer Holly Willoughby being photographed wearing one of the bags.
Leader of the Council and Lead Member for Economic Development, Cllr Caroline Reeves says: "Guildford's economy is one of the most vibrant outside London, featuring regularly in the top five in various economic league tables, particularly around innovation, entrepreneurship, access to investment and the number of start-up businesses. Being just 30 miles from London and boasting a historic urban town centre and beautiful countryside, we have a desirable quality of life, attracting a strong network of entrepreneurs and investors. We are committed as a Council to supporting and encouraging businesses to thrive and grow, which in turn maintains prosperity and creates the employment opportunities that people need."
She adds: "In recent years Guildford's economy has grown from one with a relatively high public sector and manufacturing element to one with a much higher proportion of high growth sectors such as gaming, cyber security, life sciences and telecoms. We have also seen strong growth in professional services, legal, tourism, and food and drink. The total number of jobs in the borough stands at just over 78,000 with a total of 7,440 businesses. Despite these positive results, a proportion of start-up businesses can fail, so we introduced the Guildford Business Programme to provide the advice these businesses need to help them move successfully to the next stage of growth."
One company that accessed support from Guildford Business Growth and was awarded a business grant from Guildford Borough Council is LRM Goods. Director of LRM Goods, Rachel McCoubrie said: "Our support from the EM3 Growth Hub within the GBG Programme began last year. We worked closely with the growth adviser on the key elements of our business and the long-term vision and our growth ambitions. The regular meetings challenged us and provided an excellent sounding board for our ideas and testing new initiatives.
"In August we received one of the Council's last business development grants for £3,000 which we used on a marketing/PR project. The funding enabled us to engage a PR company in London, which at the time we did not have budget for, for three months of PR activity to help increase and grow our influencer activity. It proved a huge success and in that time, we gifted influencers in return for tags/mentions on their social media platforms. In turn this helped with brand exposure and we gained followers who converted to customers and generated sales. A very special moment was when Holly Willoughby was photographed wearing one of our bags as a result of this outreach. Safe to say our business growth (135% growth in 12 months) was largely down to this and our media attention rocketed as a result."
Rachel added: "We are continuing to pay for PR support, and we are hoping to hit £1 million turnover in 2020, in our fourth year of trading. In the short term we are going to continue doing what we know works, but a huge lesson is to always try new marketing activity as you never know what might happen."
Roya Croudace, partner at UMi who deliver Guildford Business Growth on behalf of the Council, said: "We are very excited to be the delivery partner for Guildford Business Growth. UMi specialises in helping businesses succeed beyond their expectations through high impact business improvement initiatives, intelligent investment solutions, and brilliant and original events. We are already working closely in Guildford providing the EM3 Growth Hub service to support scale up companies and Guildford Business Growth allows us to extend that support across all businesses and sectors."
Nick Atkins, Head of Entrepreneurs at Stevens & Bolton LLP, sponsors of Guildford Business Growth, said: "We are proud to be the legal partner to Guildford Business Growth. We are acutely aware of the challenges faced by businesses, both locally and nationally, in scaling-up and we are delighted to be part of such a fantastic initiative to bridge that gap. We are fortunate to be located within such a vibrant and innovative local economy, and we are pleased to support the Council in this initiative helping Guildford businesses scale-up."
Published on Wednesday 4 March.