Business Gateway Highland offers expert local business support and guidance during challenging times
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By Danny Gallagher, Business Gateway manager for the Highlands
Business Gateway Highland is the gateway to expert local business support and practical guidance. Whichever sector a business is in, or whatever stage it is at, specialist advice and business skills workshops are here to help.
Start-up businesses have access to the critical support they need to get their idea up and running during these challenging economic times. Free support available includes one-to-one advice with local business advisers; online resources including webinars and online tutorials; and research services, helping start-ups determine if their business idea is viable.
For growing business there is also specialist advice in HR, digital, financial planning and we can help fund a graduate for a business as the business grows.
We have business advisers based locally, from Skye to Caithness and Inverness to Lochaber. In the last year our team has supported more than 2000 businesses. For the first part of this financial year we have helped businesses access the Small Business Bonus Scheme, introduced as part of the coronavirus rescue package for businesses. This delivered almost 7500 grants totalling £74.5 million in Highland, the third highest in Scotland.
The changes we’re facing in 2020 as a result of the pandemic are unparalleled and the way we all do business has changed forever. The Business Gateway service in Highland is no different and we too have had to adapt. All our workshops are now delivered online and cover digital, marketing, branding, finance and more. Our tutorials and podcasts are also vital pieces in our support service.
There is also one small matter of Brexit looming for businesses and if you export or import you will need to be aware of the obligations. There are a number of other matters including potential supply chain delays or shortages, along with environmental preparations and one of the most significant changes for the Highland economy will be that freedom of movement will cease. Businesses might be required to get a sponsors licence, this could all mean a shortage of migrant workers for the crucial tourism/hospitality industry. Business Gateway can guide you through the current proposals.
There is however lots to be positive about too, evidence that most small and micro businesses can adapt and be much more flexible when dealing with significant change. Recent research conducted by Business Gateway highlights that while the pandemic and its impact are a concern for 80 per cent of respondents, two-thirds (67 per cent) of the survey sample said they are ‘seriously considering’ starting their own business within the next six months, including half (49 per cent) who said they were ‘definitely’ going to do it.
Motivations individuals gave for starting a business included wanting to be their own boss (80 per cent), doing something they enjoy doing (73 per cent), and exploiting an opportunity in a sector or industry (63 per cent). These factors were more influential than Covid-19 or Brexit, although these were cited as secondary influences.
The industries where people hoped to start a business were varied and included food and drink, financial and business services and retail and wholesale. However, no single sector dominated across the board.
The Business Gateway DigitalBoost programme, which recently received an additional £1.5 million funding from the Scottish Government, provides businesses with free support to help them take advantage of technologies, improve productivity and resilience and create new market opportunities in this new climate.High up that list of growing businesses is the food and drink sector and local produce, especially in the Highlands. Many of us are now shopping locally and this has allowed local businesses to survive, and for a number to grow.
All Business Gateway resources are available at bgateway.com