New start-up platform aims to drive up survival rates across the UK - using East Anglian expertise

PUBLISHED: 11:14 15 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:14 15 November 2017

Kevin Horne, CEO NWES, with the website Start & Grow being launched to help businesses through their difficult early stages. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Kevin Horne, CEO NWES, with the website Start & Grow being launched to help businesses through their difficult early stages. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2017

The experience and expertise of East Anglian business has helped to shape a new platform which hopes to shake up start-up support for new companies.

Start&Grow is a new programme of business support developed by enterprise advisers Nwes which aims to simplify the process of starting and scaling a business by bringing all its advice together in one place online.

Start-ups and growing businesses across the country will have access to free round-the-clock business support via smartphone or laptop through the new personalised video e-learning platform – which was created, developed and built in East Anglia.

Kevin Horne, chief executive of Nwes, said the time was right for business support to be modernised, and that he hoped the new resource could drive up business survival rates across the country.

“If you do the same thing all the time you will stand still. We’re trying to be at the cutting edge of our industry and, just like our clients, want to show that we are entrepreneurial as well,” he said.

“The world of business support hasn’t changed much in the 20 years that I’ve been doing it.

“The idea of this ground-breaking platform is that it’s user-driven, while also rooted in practical real-life experiences and advice, giving people an opportunity to build and plan their business the way they want to.

“It can reach out to anybody at any time – not just nine to five.”

Start&Grow will be launched at the Business Show in Olympia in London tomorrow. Among the East Anglian businesses to have played their part in its development are Lisa Angel, Martyn Page of Angling Direct, Candace Rose of Suffolk Canine Creche and James Duez of Rainbird Technologies.

They offer their insights into running a business alongside Ali Clabburn of Liftshare, Matt Legon of Gnaw Chocolate and Tom Wood of Foolproof.

“People don’t necessarily want to know about business support, they want to know what business support has done,” said Mr Horne.

“By showing these success stories of people who have benefited from business support, it makes it much more powerful.”

Former Apprentice contestants Saira Khan, Tim Campbell and Rebecca Jeffery are among the presenters of the modules on the platform.

The programme begins with an entry-level module, for those considering setting up a business. It then progresses to creating a business plan, which can be used to help secure additional funds, with the aim that the platform learns a user’s needs and serves them relevant and trusted content.

Further modules include Finance for growth; Scaling up your business; How to generate more sales; Government support; Taking on staff; Leadership and management; Organising your workspace; Digital marketing; and E-commerce.

Mr Horne said the new programme would not be replacing the current advice structure at Nwes, and that it was currently recruiting for more staff, but would allow it to extend its reach.

The average value of advice a typical start-up receives from Nwes is currently around £2,500, and Start&Grow will allow it to reach more people at a lower average cost.

“The truth is that one-to-one advice is expensive and I want to make sure my advisers are used most effectively,” he said.

“For every 10 people who ask for advice about starting a business, only three will go on to do so. That means a lot of advice time is spent helping people work out if it is a good idea.”

Though designed to be free to users, Mr Horne suggested that premium paid-for content could be added in future.

“We are a social enterprise, so profit is not the main aim. We are looking to help more people at a lower intervention cost.

“If we helped all these people one-to-one that would be expensive, so actually the money saved is the important thing.”

The programme was researched, designed and built by a project team including former Mustard TV managing director Fiona Ryder, ex-EDP business editor Shaun Lowthorpe and Shane Morgan from Norwich-based software developers CD2 Solutions.

Survival rates

Starting a business can be only half the battle, with keeping it going presenting a new set of challenges.

In UK figures for business births and deaths, the East of England sits around average in both measures.

According to the Office for National Statistics the region had 265,000 active businesses in 2015. In the year there were 35,000 business births, a rate of 13.4%, and 24,000 business deaths, a rate of 9%.

This compares to a national birth rate of 14.3% – pushed up by an 18.6% rate in

London – and a birth rate of 9.4%.

The national five-year survival rate, for businesses born in 2010 and still active in 2015, was 41.4%.

Kevin Horne said: “With the UK facing the economic headwinds brought about in the wake of Brexit and continued low productivity, our ambition is to unearth and support the new generation or entrepreneurs needed to drive the economy forward and support businesses with the biggest potential to grow.”

Continuing to grow

The launch of Start&Grow represents the latest expansion for Nwes.

Originally known as Norfolk and Waveney Enterprise Services, it has rebranded and expanded across East Anglia. Last year it extended its reach with the acquisition of the London Small Business Centre, which made available a greater range of business advisers and support services for clients.

It followed that deal up this April when it bought Nottingham-based business support organisation NBV, boosting total staff numbers to 150 and creating the country’s biggest enterprise agency.

Nwes is expecting to turn over approximately £10m this financial year, which represents a doubling in size in two years.

The expansion was necessary to cope with changes in funding, with central government and local enterprise partnership (LEP) contracts – which typically cover a wider geographical area – becoming more common.

At the time, Mr Horne said: “We are acquisitive – where the opportunity is appropriate, we are open to it.”

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