Business Gateway helps over 34,000 businesses respond to COVID-19

Isle of Cumbrae founders

BUSINESS Gateway, Scotland’s national business support service, has helped 34,687 established and start-up businesses over the last 12 months as they were forced to adapt and respond to the challenges of the pandemic, according to recent figures.

The service also had to quickly adapt its own services. One-to-one support for businesses and the self-employed and those thinking about starting a business, was carried out via video or telephone calls instead of face-to-face and all previously planned workshops were made available as webinars. Additionally, a suite of new resources – including podcasts and online tutorials – were developed to support businesses trying to adapt to new circumstances.  

Now, as businesses across Scotland prepare to look to the future following months of closure and tight restrictions, the service is building on its programme of free support and resources to provide business owners with relevant advice and guidance when they need it most. 

This support includes national webinars covering key topics – including HR, Health and wellbeing, customer service, business strategy, marketing on a budget and writing a business plan – as well as a series of Back to Business panel webinars where businesses will also have the chance to put their questions around reopening directly to industry partners such as the Federation of Scottish Businesses, VisitScotland and the Scottish Retail Consortium. Alongside this, business owners are encouraged to reach out to their local Business Gateway office where 1:1 support from an experienced adviser can help businesses deal with issues that they have right now, and plan for the future.

Additionally, through Business Gateway’s digital upskilling programme DigitalBoost, businesses have access to a variety of free support and resources to help them gain valuable digital skills with over 680 1:1 projects carried out over the past year. Resources include webinars, a digital health check, 1:1 support from a digital expert, online tutorials, and practical guides on topics including online competitor analysis, setting up your digital presence when starting up, streaming your classes, digital marketing to find new customers, selling online & selecting online booking systems. 

One business that benefited from the Business Gateway service this year is Isle of Cumbrae Distillers, Millport’s first gin distillery, which launched in September 2020 with its signature ‘Nostalgin’.

The business, led by a five-strong female team; Bronwyn Jenkins-Deas, Jenine Ward, Juli Dempsey, Phillipa Dalton and Lynda Gill, already has plans to expand, with three additional jobs projected for the island in the short term.

Bonded by a love of the gin and a passion for the Island community, they met as strangers in a local pub to discuss fundraising for the local town hall and with that, the idea for Isle of Cumbrae Distillers was born.

Business Gateway supported the owners from a holistic, business perspective and signposted to various DigitalBoost webinars, guiding the team through the initial stages of development, and providing advice on taking the product to market. 

As well as a suite of start-up support services including advice on company regulations, funding, premises and HR issues, the team accessed Business Gateway’s fully funded workshops throughout the planning stages of their new business venture.  

Bronwyn Jenkins-Deas, joint director, Isle of Cumbrae Distillers, said: “Launching during the pandemic was risky, but Business Gateway gave us the confidence in our new skill sets, supported by the DigitalBoost programme. The webinars were exceptional, helped us develop our online presence and brand and reach our target audiences.”

Hugh Lightbody, Chief Officer at the Business Gateway National Unit said, “Since this crisis began, our local offices, national unit and advisers have worked tirelessly to provide vital support to businesses and the self-employed across Scotland, and these figures are a testament to their efforts.

“While it is welcome to see more businesses engage with the Business Gateway service, we appreciate that this has been an immensely difficult period for everyone. For those thinking about starting up a business, the last year has presented some of the most difficult economic and operating conditions since the 2008 financial crash, so it’s understandable some plans might have been put on hold. However, with the focus now firmly on reopening, Business Gateway will continue to provide critical support to businesses at every stage of their journey, guiding them towards a brighter future.”

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