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Solent businesses hear about local Support


The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) recently hosted the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (SLEP) for a Business Support Event at Newclose Cricket Ground.

Over 50 people attended in order to hear presentations from Julie Jones-Evans FSB IW Lead, Steve Futter from SLEP, Graham Biss from Natural Enterprise, Xavier Baker from the Isle of Wight Distillery, and Denise Barlow from the Solent Growth Hub. There was also an opportunity to take part in break-out sessions with IW College, Department for International Trade, Solent Growth Hub, UK Export Finance, University of Portsmouth and FSB.

Following a networking breakfast overlooking the County Cricket Ground, delegates heard from the speakers about the many funding and support opportunities that are available for Island businesses, both start up and those looking to grow, including The Solent Growth Fund Small Business Programme with grants from £10,000 to £75,000 being made available. Also of great interest was the Isle of Wight Rural Fund, which is a competitive fund of £450,000 managed by Natural Enterprise on behalf of the Solent LEP. 

This Rural Fund seeks to support the Solent economy by providing grants to rural small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) with potential for economic growth, leveraging in private sector investment, creating or protecting jobs and assisting the rural sector on the Isle of Wight. Graham Biss explained how the fund works and also the support that his team gives to businesses in helping them put their bid together, to maximise chances of a successful outcome. The grants are available for capital expenditure between £2,500 and £50,000 and must be matched with private funds (at least 50% of total costs). All projects need to create and/or safeguard jobs to be eligible, and all projects must also demonstrate how they will benefit the Isle of Wight’s rural economy.

Xavier Baker then offered a case study of how this grant enabled him to grow his business very quickly, especially the Mermaid Gin, which the funding enabled him to invest in producing a miniature to be sent out for marketing purposes, resulting in the gaining of many new customers, and the creation of more jobs. Xavier said “Our grant has allowed us to move up to a more professional and sustainable level. The quality and longevity of our Spirits will be optimised as our volume production increases, so we can market our spirits further afield and explore export opportunities with confidence.”

Denise Barlow gave an overview of the work of the Solent Growth Hub, which is a ‘One Stop Shop' that helps business navigate its way through the complexity of growth initiatives, and promotes growth opportunities to help unlock business finance options. The Business Growth Helpline 01329 820889 offers businesses access to free help, expert advice and specialist services. Denise will be returning to the Island in September for a Bid Writing workshop, which will help island businesses on to the next step of growth.

Following the presentations, the Q and A session raised various discussion points including the lack of micro funding available which when only small sums are needed to get a business to its next stage, can provide a real challenge. Delegates were then able to talk through their particular business needs during the breakout sessions.

Kim Brown from Nature Therapy said: “Fantastic event. Was able to network to take my enterprise to the next level, make links with experts to assist in this process, and find out more about the grants that are available. Thank you for organising and I was inspired to join the FSB that morning.”

Tristan Griffiths from who arranged for the event to be live streamed on Facebook by added “'A very well organised and informative event - helping local businesses understand what funding, investment & support is available to them right now.'

Julie Jones-Evans, FSB IW, said: “This has been a great event, well supported from the IW business community and partners both on and off Island. There is such a strong entrepreneurial spirit here and being able to get business and growth support organisations in the same room is vital in my opinion, opportunity can arise from these conversations. The FSB has been a champion of small business for over 40 years and here on the IW we continue to do all we can to make sure that voice is heard far and wide. The backbone of our economy are our small businesses.”