[Y]oung entrepreneurs in South Lakeland have been enjoying success after using a service that offers businesses expert advice to help them grow.
South Lakeland District Council’s (SLDC’s) business advice programme has been running since 2012 and has helped create more than 150 jobs and led to the start-up of over 110 new businesses.
Last week latest figures showed that the employment rate in the Westmorland and Lonsdale parliamentary constituency, which includes most of the South Lakeland district, is in the highest two per cent nationally, with just 0.6% of the economically active population claiming unemployment benefits.
Kellie Bradburn-Sims delivers the SLDC business advice programme, which has helped 21-year-old Ben Grenville Evans move his business Level 8 Games into new premises on Finkle Street, Kendal.
Mr Grenville Evans opened his business in 2013, selling video games from a stall in Kendal’s covered market.
A keen gamer himself, he expanded the business to sell card-based board games and now specialises in selling gaming equipment and resources.
As the business outgrew its stall in the market, he was given help by the council on relocating to the new premises seven months ago.
While the council’s Invest in South Lakeland economic development team assisted with the premises negotiations, he used the council’s business support programme for help with a financial review of expenses and income, a cashflow forecast, business planning, marketing, guidance with staffing and to get an overview of health and safety requirements.
He said: “Having not run a shop before, I had no experience of the day-to-day commitments this type of business would need. Fortunately, I have plenty of offers for help and having a business adviser on hand to guide me through the process and talk through plans was really helpful.
“There are always opportunities to improve, expand and develop your business in new ways but it’s not always easy to identify them, and that’s where a business adviser comes in. They are able to help you explore new ways in which you could manage your business that can help to increase your productivity and improve your overall business activity.”
The business programme has also helped Stuart Pearce, 26, from Kendal, by giving useful advice about how to develop his company, 54 Floral Clothing.
Mr Pearce set up the business, which sells a range of clothing he designs himself, in 2013.
He now sells the clothing via his own website and pop-up shops – including using the council’s own pop-up unit in Kendal – and his products are stocked in 12 stores nationwide and on 10 online shopping sites.
“Kellie and I had an advice session every two weeks from October through to the end of December last year,” said Mr Pearce, a former student at Queen Katherine School.
“We began by going through things like business plans, the idea of getting government grants and legal things like contracts for wholesaling to help me protect my brand, as well as different methods of marketing the brand.
“A lot of it was more the admin side and things like accounting and insurance – the things that you can forget but are very, very important. She put me on the path to being VAT registered, which will really help the business in the future. It was so useful to be able to speak to someone face-to-face and ask them questions, because you can’t get all the answers you need on the internet.
“She definitely opened my eyes to things I hadn’t thought about and it helped me focus my mind and categorise what needed to be done and where to focus my energy.”
The business advice programme is part of SLDC’s key ambition to create 1,000 new higher paid jobs in the district by 2025 and to support and promote the growth of existing businesses.
Mrs Bradburn-Sims said: “It has been a fantastic experience working with South Lakeland District Council to deliver business advice and support across the district.
“The South Lakes programme has seen a variety of different businesses wanting to access help or advice. It is truly inspiring to meet and work with so many people who have the passion and drive to turn their skills, ideas and experience into a sustainable business.”
Councillor Graham Vincent, SLDC’s new portfolio holder for Economy, welcomed the positive impact of the council’s advice service.
He said: “We have a Council Plan commitment to support businesses to thrive and create jobs, and this advice programme has been very successful in contributing to that.
“It is wonderful to see two young entrepreneurs making such a success of their enterprises and I am delighted that we have been able to help them.
“As a council we are very much focused on supporting businesses, including small businesses and start-ups. We have a vibrant local economy and the latest news on unemployment rates is encouraging evidence of that, but we will continue to do all we can to help create even more jobs and prosperity for our residents.’’
For further information about the council’s business advice service contact South Lakeland District Council’s Invest in South Lakeland economic development team on 01539 793280, or email: [email protected]