Dorset Growth Hub targets company support

Martin Mason, founder of Inplace, and Shelley Collins, Enterprise Manager at The Dorset Growth Hub at the Crown Hotel in Blandford

Business support agency Dorset Growth Hub is aiming to help 1,700 companies and start-ups and see 450 jobs created over the next year.

It plans to point eligible businesses to around 360 grants up to the end of 2019 to help with their investment and expansion plans.

The targets follow the hub’s first four years of operation in which it has helped create more than 260 jobs and given dedicated, one-to-one input to 3,800 companies including 500 start-ups.

Much support activity for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), for example on access to finance and improving digital capabilities, is delivered through the hub’s Dorset Business Growth Partnership launched in June 2017. Since then, 112 business grants have been arranged.

Digital Project Manager Richard Burn said: “Our mission is to support businesses that want to grow, increase employment, improve Dorset’s competitiveness and encourage inward investment to the county. We have amazing businesses doing great things that deserve to be supported and celebrated. If you are a start-up taking your first steps or an established company looking to invest and expand, we’re right here to help. EU funding is available via the Dorset Business Growth Partnership until March 2020 and we encourage businesses across the county to maximise this opportunity while it lasts.”

Dorset Growth Hub works across the whole business community, from micro businesses up to larger corporates, and in every sector. Reflecting the county’s economic strengths, there is particularly active support for companies working in advanced manufacturing, the visitor economy, the creative and digital industries, food and drink, construction, logistics and transport, green tech, and agriculture diversification.

With growth hub help, Gillingham firm Inplace Interiors launched in January 2018 and within months had a UK and European client base for its office interior installations. Founder Martin Mason first attended a business essentials workshop course in Blandford and then secured grant funding for expansion. He had help with his business plan from Shelley Collins, one of the hub’s enterprise managers.

“Starting my own business was a major step for me,” says Martin. “The Dorset Growth Hub and Shelley have given me great confidence, and have been vital for me to bounce ideas off. They really put my mind at rest as well as offering real practical help. I would recommend them to anyone looking for assistance.”

Dorset Growth Hub operates across the county, delivering workshops and training sessions in a variety of venues, visiting business premises for one-to-one meetings, and facilitating ongoing mentoring programmes.

The hub, operated by WSX Enterprise, is funded from a variety of sources including local and national government and the European Regional Development Fund. Twelve hours of free input are available together with a phone helpline, triage support and access to regular ‘business essentials’ workshop courses. Deeper engagement covers signposting to sources of grant funding and appropriate lenders for debt and equity finance.

As well as WSX Enterprise, the hub’s partners include The Arts Development Company, Dormen, Silicon South, YTKO and local authorities across Dorset including the county council.

To reinforce its role as the first port of call for business support, Dorset Growth Hub is supporting a number of business-related events and initiatives including the Dorset Food & Drink Awards, the Rock Star Awards, UX Insider and You Are The Media.