Nearly 400 businesses benefit from COVID-19 recovery grants, as GC Business Growth Hub support boosts productivity and saves jobs.
The Business Growth Hub has again proved that it is the go-to organisation for support accessing funding, after helping nearly 400 business to successfully apply for COVID-19 recovery grants.
A total of 399 small and medium businesses (SMEs) across Greater Manchester received £1.26 million in funding, as part of a package of Government support designed to help businesses upgrade equipment and technology, as well as access specialist advice.
The grants were rolled out in just six months, between December 2020 and June 2021, and also helped to create 48 new jobs, while safeguarding a further 761.
In order to manage the emergency funding, the Growth Hub established a new team, the Covid-19 Small Business Recovery Grants Service (SBG), which was soon inundated with expressions of interest. The funding, which came through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programme, was open to business with fewer than 250 employees.
The SBG team undertook a scoring exercise to determine the eligibility and suitability of each project, explains team manager Isabella Butterwick. This took into account the projected productivity impacts and number of jobs that would be protected, as well as company size, turnover, number of employees and sector. “It was important that the grants went to a good cross section of businesses,” she explains.
In total, the funding was four times over-subscribed, with more than 1,600 companies contacting the Hub.
An important part of the team’s approach was to help successful companies through the application process, continues Butterwick. “Applying for public funding was a totally new experience to most of these businesses. We set out to make it as easy as possible, explaining things in a common-sense way and cutting through all the jargon.
“We developed a strong relationship with all the business and made sure that at every stage they had a dedicated person to speak to. Without that approach, I don’t think we’d have been able to get the results we did.
“The average grant amount was actually relatively small but they were big enough to make a difference,” she adds.
Among those businesses that were successful was Bolton manufacturer Winget, which invested its £3,000 grant in a new website to boost marketing at a time when the company was struggling for new orders. The grant helped to bring in nearly £130,000 in additional sales, while safeguarding 15 full time jobs.
Another beneficiary was the restaurant chain Yard & Coop, which used funding of just under £3,000 to update its online ordering systems, protecting sales of over £1 million and safeguarding 96 jobs.
At the other end of the scale, six jobs were protected at the children’s indoor play centre Adventure Forest, where a £1,600 grant helped to develop an online booking system. “The grant support helped us massively at a time when we had been forced to close our business for over a year,” says director Jenna Camilleri.
And Butterwick adds: “We knew from the start that not every business would be successful but we didn’t want them to feel abandoned. So we made sure that at every stage of the process we had a really soft landing for them, and wherever possible we referred them onto other emergency COVID support and programmes run by the Hub.”