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On 24th August 2023, alumni businesses, together with their Hub advisors and those involved with GC Business Growth Hub Start Smart programme, gathered at thestudio in Northern Quarter to celebrate the accomplishments of those who took part, including some who had experienced the challenges of starting during the pandemic period. 

During the time of the pandemic, entrepreneurs in Greater Manchester continued to venture into the brave new world with confidence and determination. GC Business Growth Hub walks with those who dare to face the challenge with the Start Smart programme, provides one-to-one business advice and support for individuals navigating starting up a new business.  

Start Smart has helped those with the entrepreneurial spirit realise their dream and significantly contributed to the foundational economy. From March 2019 – June 2023, around 1,000 people were given support, guidance, and training, with about 500 going on to start their own business immediately after, whilst others were looking at this as a future prospect. Around 100 jobs were created, not including the business owners themselves. By helping participants start new businesses and create jobs, Start Smart has allowed the Greater Manchester economy to flourish and reduced the burden of public funding on social support.

“I am incredibly inspired by those who have worked with us over the last four years. Greater Manchester is brimming with talent and creativity, and there is a huge shift in people considering self-employment as an actual route to channelling their gifts and passions,” said Caroline Jones, Senior Business Advisor for Start Up & Growth. 

“Start Smart’s delivery style is ‘person-centred,’ which means it was led by the client’s needs and worked at a pace they were comfortable with. During the pandemic, we were quick to pivot, delivering our workshops and one-to-one support online the week after the lockdown began. It was a period when many people turned to self-employment to bring in an income whilst being Furloughed. It was critical at that time that people could still access our support in lockdown, to ensure our support continued.”  

During the event, attendees also heard from alums like Ngwafu Tansie, founder and Chef of Gwafuvegan, who specialises in cooking and delivering affordable, high-quality vegan West African food in Greater Manchester and the Northwest. She has shared her journey and how the support she received from the Business Growth Hub enabled her to grow her business. 

“What motivated me to join the programme is that this is my first business, and I really lack experience in running a business, especially in marketing and financing,” said Ngwafu. “My experience of the programme was great as it was delivered in a very flexible and accommodating way, with the programme’s course designed in a modular form. I can pick different courses that interest me and take them in the time that suits my schedule, and this is a real benefit for me since running a business can be extremely busy. “ 

“The programme also assigned a business advisor who was always available to guide me when needed. It is a very accessible programme tailored to your business’s needs and timing. “ 

“The Alumni Start Smart Event was a great success, and it was good to meet so many people that have been through the start smart programme,” said Yvonne Sampson, Head of Enterprise at GC Business Growth Hub. “We are committed to supporting all individuals and businesses that are thinking of starting a business and will continue to offer enterprise support for all that live in the Greater Manchester area. 

GC Business Growth Hub has been helping Greater Manchester businesses grow and thrive since 2011. You can read more about their impact here - Our Impact | GC Business Growth Hub

Start Smart was previously funded by the European Regional Development Fund - find out more here European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) 2014-2021 | GC Business Growth Hub

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