North Devon Plus new role will help small businesses

THE Bideford-based economic development agency North Devon Plus is expanding to play a leading role in business enterprise support for unemployed people and small businesses in the South West.

This follows the Government announcement earlier this year to down-size the role of Business Link by closing its advice centres and replacing it with online services, a network of mentors and a contact centre.

North Devon Plus is to deliver the regional elements of the Business Link enterprise support service in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, offering practical free advice to the unemployed, start-ups and existing businesses.

It is working in partnership with other regional development agencies and local authorities to secure funding for business enterprise support and mentoring schemes.

Small businesses play a major role in the economy of North Devon as they account for 25% of the economic output of the area, compared to the national average of 12%.

Robin Makeig-Jones, the commercial director of North Devon Plus, said that securing the best business advice and support is vital if the local community is to thrive.

He said: “The main Business Link website was re-launched as a much improved online service in April. However, experience dictates that for success, businesses need to be able to discuss their options, plan for the future, access training and receive face-to-face support. So we have expanded our suite of services to support local businesses from start up to growth.

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“It is vital part of the economic development that we ensure businesses and those people who find themselves out of work, but have the drive and desire to set up their own business, have all the advice, support and mentoring they need.”

North Devon Plus manages a range of business mentoring and training schemes to support local businesses, but Robin also called for more business mentors to come forward to support these new initiatives.

“The mentoring scheme is sponsored by Maynard Johns Accountants. We currently have 18 qualified mentors working with 47 businesses and with more mentors in the pipeline, but more experienced business entrepreneurs are needed,” he said.

“We hope to be able to help around 720 unemployed people in the region who could benefit from their advice, support and business acumen. So please get in touch if you can help in this way or if your business or company needs skills advice.”

Janet Herniman is one of North Devon Plus’ accredited business advisors, helping the unemployed via the National Enterprise Allowance.

She said: “The NEA scheme gives people who have been unemployed, financial support for their early months of self-employment, access to a mentor and start-up loan. North Devon Plus and its partners across Devon and Cornwall are currently supporting more than 200 individuals through this scheme.”

For more information about the business mentoring scheme go to:

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