The Volunteer Business Support Scheme brings together leading business figures from across Hertfordshire to provide one-to-one mentoring to help businesses to get back on their feet. The scheme is funded by Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership as part of its £3.28m COVID-19 business support package, and is delivered by Hertfordshire Growth Hub and the University of Hertfordshire.
Interested SME business owners are matched with a mentor who can provide relevant specialist knowledge. The mentors work as ‘critical friends’ who ask pertinent questions and signpost to relevant resources.
The 40-strong team of mentors are headed up by Hertfordshire LEP Deputy Chair Neil Rutledge, who is Head of Advisory and Business Development at Amberside Advisors Ltd., and experienced entrepreneur Helen Froggett-Thomson from Thomson Training, who provides in-house business growth consultancy.
Helen said: "Companies that take advantage of external support tend to be most successful. This free-to-access scheme enables business owners to be supported by someone outside of their immediate circle who can provide additional information and resources, added momentum and a non judgemental sounding board which can be invaluable. I am thrilled to be heading up one of the two teams of volunteers and we are keen to spread the word to make sure more small business owners hear about and take advantage of the scheme."
One local businessman who has taken advantage of the scheme is Kurt Gunthardt, Managing Director of Right At Home Stevenage, Letchworth and Hitchin, a home care health service, who said: “I heard about the scheme through Baldock Network Group, which is run by Home-Start Hertfordshire. It seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. Right At Home provide valuable home care for adults over 18, many of whom are the most vulnerable people in our society.
"We started just before lockdown, so it has been challenging but have managed to stay open. We’ve been encouraged by feedback from clients and potential clients especially as family members who have been caring for their loved ones return to work. Now we are powering ahead and I have been assigned a first-class mentor, David Beattie, and I’ve received invaluable feedback.He’s responsive, enthusiastic and it’s great to talk to someone who has experience and objectivity. I am sure all small businesses would benefit from this.”
At the launch of the scheme, Adrian Hawkins, Chair of Hertfordshire LEP's Skills & Employment Board, said: “It’s a truly tough world and COVID-19 is not just affecting our country but the health of the nation. As a successful business owner with some 40 years business experience, this is an environment that none of us have experienced before. This virus is having a severe effect on our businesses that are essential not only for the goods and services they supply, but also the employment they provide and the taxes that they pay to support our economy and our country. It is vital therefore that we do everything in our power to help Hertfordshire businesses survive this storm.”
To join the Volunteer Business Support Scheme, please speak to a Hertfordshire Growth Hub business advisor by calling 01707 398168 or visit the University of Hertfordshire website.