A NEW project has been launched to help Chichester businesses survive the tough economic conditions.
Peter Spence, a former business support officer at Chichester District Council, has been working on the programme for almost a year.
He was encouraged to act after learning almost half of all new businesses fold within the first five years.
His plan was to set up Help For Business, a network of advisers and ambassadors who will offer support and advice to small and medium-sized enterprises, micro businesses and start-ups.
Initial face-to-face advice will be given by local mentors and volunteers and will be free, and they will be put in contact with other businesses which may be able to assist them. The idea is that continued support from local experts will be charged at a preferential rate.
Mr Spence said: “The idea is we fill the gap Business Link has left. In its final year of operation, Business Link nationally helped more than 500,000 customers. This shows it was a significant player in the business support market. Help For Business is intended to support local businesses that have suffered from the loss of those face-to-face services.
“There is a real demand for this type of business advice, and the fact 52 per cent of businesses survive past five years shows there is still the capability for firms to survive and grow.
“We will be based at the City Centre Partnership’s office in North Street, will have a volunteer ‘signposter’ in place. This role is vital. It will provide information and guide users to a choice of providers for their needs. This information is free for all users.
“It is a credit to our community that established Chichester businesses are willing to step into the breach, providing a system of mentoring and support for our local micro enterprises and fledging entrepreneurs.
“We know face-to-face support is especially valued by small businesses who are much less likely to access more formal or expensive channels of information and advice than larger companies. We are confident we are creating a valuable model of support which can be replicated elsewhere.”
The project is being supported by the City Centre Partnership and the Chichester Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It was launched at Handelsbanken in North Street, Chichester, at an event attended by local businesses and project supporters.
Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie supports the scheme and said: “It’s very encouraging to hear a large number of businesses, entrepreneurs and educational institutions are coming together to support the local economy.
“Businesses want advice from other businesses, which is why it’s important to improve the delivery of local face-to-face advice. This service will help to fill that need.
“I have contacted the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to discuss how this scheme could be used as an example for other areas and I hope to arrange a meeting for the organisers and the department in the near future.”