We decided to reflect on the last 15 months and catch up with Tony, our Incubator Director, to see what he has been up to….
Whilst he has not been on site, he has certainly been busy providing support during an extremely challenging time.
Using his first-hand knowledge of our customers and their businesses, he has been able to provide proactive, tailored guidance and support in relation to available funding streams as well as sharing any other relevant information.
Stephen Dootson from Kast Energy who are based at our Merchants House centre shared their experience of this time, ‘We relaunched the business in September 2019 widening the product portfolio to encompass the newest renewable energy technologies, but within 8 months, we entered the first lockdown in March 2020 which stalled most of our work.
We welcomed financial support from Stockport MBC (SMBC) on business rates, which we were encouraged and supported by SBIC to apply for. In the summer of 2020 work picked up but then we went into the second lockdown and had to furlough one of our staff and again reduce our workload. Tony flagged and assisted with applications for Bounce Back Loan Support and more recently a Recovery Loan through The Growth Company at the Business Growth Hub.
It’s been challenging but we are starting to see an increase in activity, and we expect that following the support we have been given, we will now be able to successfully develop our business as we envisaged back in September 2019.’
Tony also helped the wider Stockport business community as part of the SMBC team contacting businesses to explain the grant funds available and help and encourage with the application process.
He didn’t stop there! He was part of the national Oxford Innovation business support helpline too! Oxford Innovation manage SBIC and his expertise was called upon to advise businesses across the country.
I think we have all realised how much difference a friendly face and kind word can make, clearly this is no different in a business context.
Ele from Speechwise Therapy reflected, ‘The support provided during the Covid-19 crisis (and even before that) has been a lifeline. Running a business can be a lonely job at the best of times, having the SBIC team to call on is incredibly reassuring; there is always someone to support me both practically and in a mentoring capacity. Key has been helping us access the Business Rates Relief Grant. A vital buffer financially as we re-designed our businesses to survive in the pandemic.
Crucially Tony provided contacts within the Local Authority to arrange vaccinations and testing for our staff. This has been instrumental in allowing us to continue to provide our services and ensure that we protect the children and young people that we work with, many of whom are extremely vulnerable.
Fundamentally the SBIC support is personalised; they know us, they know our business and they are always keen to work with us to find bespoke solutions to the challenges we face. Also the little things, forwarding our mail and checking on how we’re doing have been so valuable in reducing stress.
Knowing that we have access to that kind of support and backup is one of the key things that has kept us going and given us the drive and confidence to reinvent our business and continue to grow and develop in the worst of circumstances. Thank you SBIC team!’
We felt keeping in touch with all our customers and checking in was vital, it seems they think so to!
Schools Data Services Ltd, a longstanding tenant, provide data management systems to schools and local authorities. They have faced their own unique challenges, Ed explained,
‘When the schools closed during lockdown we found our ability to market to them and therefore generate new customers severely limited. Although we could meet our financial commitments, all income from new customers disappeared overnight. This resulted in a reduction in our turnover of 13% in the last 12 months.
However, one of the key advantages of our tenancy at SBIC is the wide range of support which is available via the Incubator Director and centre team. This support has proved invaluable for us during the pandemic. Receiving personalised updates and joining virtual SBIC customer coffee mornings helped us enormously. Webinars were flagged on such topics as Google Analytics and how to apply for grants and loans. We took advantage and have applied successfully for several grants, putting our company in a good position. We are also preparing to participate in the Kickstart Scheme, which was recommended to us as part of the ongoing business support we receive through SBIC. Support with tangible, positive impacts.‘
As part of their packages, our customers have access to dedicated business support. With 83% of our customers receiving grant funding it seems this really proved its worth during the COVID pandemic and it’s fair to say, continues to do so.
During the pandemic we have worked super hard to support our customer’s goals and provide additional help and support. Hearing how much of a difference this has made really does make it all worthwhile.