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The University is part of a consortium of delivery partners in the Business Growth Programme along with Manchester Metropolitan University and Reaseheath College. The ERDF-funded programme provides a minimum of 12 hours fully-funded business

development support through a range of activities depending on the individual needs.The University’s offer includes masterclasses, workshops, seminars, bootcamps and one-to-one advice.

From April 1, through May, June and July the University’s business development team have worked with a range of local experts to deliver:

  • Lunch and Learn sessions attracting over 350 attendees. Subjects included smartphone photography, branding, wellbeing and resilience, social media, GDPR, email marketing, blogging, time management, managing cash flow, website and SEO and public relations.
  • Six workshops, attracting 110 attendees to learn about Facebook groups, marketing strategy, Instagram, website and SEO, bid writing and branding strategy.
  • Two month-long boot camps, supporting 30 ambitious businesses: ‘Grow, Survive and Thrive’ and ‘Innovating and Commercialising for Growth’.
     

All of this has been on top of the one-to-ones that the University’s business development team have over the phone and via Zoom and Skype to replace face-to-face meetings.

A thumbs up all round

The feedback from beneficiaries has been overwhelmingly positive:

“An amazing and powerful set of sessions. It was so useful hearing stories and receiving support from peers in the same situation or similar to myself.” – Sean Bailey, Sean Bailey Wellness.

“I’ve been inspired and it’s given me the motivation I needed. It has been great to meet everybody whose paths normally wouldn’t have crossed. I look forward to continuing those relationships and hopefully working with some of them in the future.” Helen Stott, Marketing Doris.

Delivery Partners working with the University have really stepped up to be responsive to the situation and ensure that delivery of support could be offered. It has been a learning curve for them too, adapting from classroom to online teaching.

Becs Bate, Social Media Executive, was the first Delivery Partner to take her popular workshops online. She said: “I've been really impressed with the team and how quickly they've adapted to the coronavirus restrictions by facilitating our face-to-face workshops online instead.”

The Delivery Partner team at Ruby Star Associates has also proved instrumental to the programme’s move online, developing resources and content tailored to the beneficiary businesses. Director Isla Wilson stated: “The University of Chester were among the first of our clients to react to the changing needs of the businesses they serve. It has been a pleasure to work closely with them to design and adapt content which not only delivers high impact through remote delivery, but also addresses the new challenges and concerns which businesses and entrepreneurs have been tackling through lockdown.”

What does the future hold for online delivery?

More courses will continue to be delivered virtually. The feedback has shown that online delivery in bite-sized chunks is actually more effective than full of half days, so the team plans to continue delivering this way until there is a change in demand. It will be led by local business needs.

Bryony Robertson, Lead Business Development Manager said: “Given the economic and social impacts of the pandemic, the business community faced unprecedented challenges and were in more need of support than ever. The team and our fantastic Delivery Partners have needed to be extremely agile to keep pace with the continually evolving rules. We’ve been forced to think creatively which has proved of benefit to the programme and our beneficiaries. Taking the support online has removed geographical, mobility and resource barriers making us more accessible to busy business owners across all of Cheshire.”

To add to the business support offer, the team has created a ‘Business Growth Club’ Facebook Group. It’s designed as a space for sharing best practice and encouraging peer-to-peer support. The roll out of the group has had a very positive start with lots of businesses requesting to join. It is hoped that all businesses engaging with the University will be able to come together to support one another as well as continue to engage with the University’s students, academics and alumni community.

For further information about the University’s Business Growth support please visit: https://www1.chester.ac.uk/business-growth

 

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