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Offering a financial service to independent schools by handling their bursary application process, BAA Consultancy Ltd, was founded in 2017 and is scaling up swiftly following advice from the Business Growth Programme (BGP).

Business owner Jo Beer started her career at Rolls Royce as a management trainee, becoming a qualified accountant at 21 and building her career to board level in global businesses such as Dunlop, Danone and Unilever. Taking a change of direction, Jo entered the independent education sector as director of finance and operations at The King’s School, Chester, developing a business plan for the new infant school and sports centre. Jo founded BAA Consultancy Ltd. (trading as Bursary Assessment Associates) in November 2017 and has worked full time in the business since January 2019. Having charitable status, independent schools are obliged to demonstrate public benefit by offering free or discounted bursaries to pupils. A thorough, consistent assessment process is required and as most schools lack the resources or in-house systems to manage this, Jo saw a business opportunity: she set up BAA with three clients and has grown through recommendations since then.

The consultancy had reached the scaling stage and needed to focus on streamlining its processes, building the team and its marketing strategy. Jo was seeking inspiration and support to progress her business having proven the concept; following a referral from the Cheshire & Warrington Growth Hub, she joined the BGP in January 2021.

Signposting the way

Helped by the Business Growth Bootcamp, Jo submitted a successful grant application. “The Bootcamp was great for giving me a boost, providing structure, accountability and space to work on the business rather than in the business,” commented Jo. “There was a great cohort of entrepreneurs, all facing the same challenges. We are still in contact.”

“The business development managers have been incredibly supportive, always available to signpost us to the right place for support – Emily in particular has been a brilliant partner, working through the grant application process for our new software development project; she has a great understanding of how businesses work as well as being able to link this back to what we need to fulfil the processes internally.” Jo also received advice from Chris Lawlan regarding intern placements and has welcomed an intern for two projects: software development and marketing research, which she is very pleased with so far.

Business plan gives confidence to expand

The business grant will be used to develop software to simplify the experience for families applying for bursaries. The BGP helped draw up a five-year business plan showing that the business will double its turnover within two years. Jo plans to employ a new office manager in the autumn and is continuing to scale BAA’s freelance assessment team across the country. Jo added that the BGP has given her a huge boost as running a business can often be a lonely experience: being able to bounce ideas off knowledgeable people kept her motivated and energised.

The Cheshire and Warrington Business Growth Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Entrepreneurs, SMEs and pre-start businesses registered or trading in Cheshire and Warrington, meeting the eligibility criteria, can apply for support. Help is available from our team of Business Engagement Managers and access is also available to facilities at the University of Chester’s Thornton Science ParkRiverside Innovation Centre and the NoWFOOD Centre.

If you are a business seeking access to facilities and expert growth support, contact the University of Chester’s Business Growth Team by emailing businessgrowth@chester.ac.uk.