Across the country a network of Growth Hubs has been created, backed by government investment, to help businesses scale up and grow.
Growth Hubs are local communities of business experts – from universities, local chambers of commerce and the wider private sector. They were created to act as a single point of contact for local business support and offer tailored guidance to entrepreneurs in their scale-up journey.
Helping small businesses to start and grow is a cornerstone of the government’s Industrial Strategy, which commits to improving access to finance and addressing barriers which can stop small businesses from developing their full potential.
Getting targeted advice from experts that understand local challenges can make all the difference. Growth Hubs have already helped more than 400,000 English businesses and are easy to contact both online and via their business support helplines.
To support Growth Hubs, I’ve had a look at how they can help your business achieve its maximum potential – without you having to spend a penny of your hard earned cash.
(1) Starting the journey
For budding entrepreneurs and fledgling startups, those early days can be some of the most difficult. But there is a tonne of support out there, and Growth Hubs are a good place to start looking.
I know plenty of highly experienced entrepreneurs who still rely on a mentor – as a confidante and sounding board – and I would absolutely recommend that new entrepreneurs have a chat with their local Growth Hub about mentoring and networking schemes.
They can also help direct people towards accelerator schemes, which can be a source of invaluable support and even finance.
Already the country’s network of Growth Hubs has directly helped almost 5,000 entrepreneurs to launch their own businesses and has provided support to around 21,000 new ventures.
(2) Finding your funding
The process of gaining finance for your growing company can be a daunting one, not least because of the wealth of options available to growing companies at different stages of their development.
Growth Hubs can help you paint a much better picture of the funding landscape, including building the best strategy to get funding, providing you with information on the kinds of loans or grants available and helping you with the application or pitch process.
In the day-to-day hustle of launching and growing a startup, it can be difficult to see where you and your staff could develop the necessary skills to boost your business. Growth Hubs can help you assess which skills you could build on, providing both advice and even grants for training.
Mentoring can also play a key role here – an experienced mentor, someone to coach you along your scale-up journey, is a fantastic asset. Currently Growth Hubs provide more than 2,000 entrepreneurs with one-on-one mentoring and they have the capacity to help even more.
(4) Building an innovation nation
England has a heritage of innovation. This is why keeping the country’s businesses at the forefront of technological developments is a key priority for Growth Hubs and there are a number of ways they can help keep your business ahead of the competition.
Whether you need support with the development of new products, or you want to find out more about innovation grants and tax breaks for research and development, it’s definitely worth talking to your local Growth Hub team.
(5) Getting your business online
One of the most important things to think about your business is online presence. Potential customers will measure you against your competitors based on how your company’s website and social media profiles appear – so it’s vital to focus on online branding.
Luckily Growth Hubs are there to help on a whole host of digital and tech initiatives. If you need help with the basics of setting up a website; looking for development funding; want coaching on search engine optimisation; or are thinking about growing your social media network, Growth Hubs offer the support you need.
(6) Going global
I’ve heard it said that English startups lack the ambition of their US counterparts – but this hasn’t been my experience of our own entrepreneurs. One way of taking your business to the next step and reaching full potential is by taking your business global.
But there’s no denying how intimidating a step this can be. This is why Growth Hubs are on hand with detailed guidance on overseas markets, and the necessary contacts and information on distribution networks, agents and even translation services.
This is the best place in the world to start and grow a business, but we still all need a helping hand along the way. I would urge all entrepreneurs to check out their local Growth Hub and find out how they can help you take your business to the next level.
Simon Devonshire is entrepreneur-in-residence at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
There are 38 operational Growth Hubs providing access to independent, impartial and trusted business support and advice across England. See: http://www.lepnetwork.net/growth-hubs/ or telephone the Business Support Helpline on 0300 456 3565 for more information.