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Home » Digital Transformation » New business programme is helping to support the growth of smaller firms

Olusola Oke

Founder, Tune-Up Seafoods Ltd

Katerina Burgess

Founder, EurasianLinguistics

Linzi Sortain

Founder, A New Icon

Lyn Hamblin

Programme Director,
Help to Grow, LSBU

Small and medium companies are being given a new lease of life via an innovative programme designed to help businesses grow.

Executive leaders from small and medium-sized companies have seen their organisations flourish after support from an innovative business programme.

For a number of participating entrepreneurs, their companies were established, but they retained a feeling they were still under-achieving, often because as individuals, they had never received formal business training or had never received the benefit of guidance from expert practitioners and mentors. In other instances, they simply needed a digital boost to help unlock new markets.

Help to grow

The Help to Grow programme has offered the opportunity to plug this knowledge gap and unlock a new lease of life for their organisation.

For seafood business owner Olusola Oke, that digital element enabled her to offer products online as well as from two established stores, while language specialist Katerina Burgess is applying new marketing skills to give her business a greater global reach. Linzi Sortain is already seeing the programme’s value in advancing her enterprise to take sports sponsorship onto a self-managed platform. All three entrepreneurs have undertaken the Help to Grow programme at London South Bank University (LSBU).

Business performance

Lyn Hamblin, Programme Director for the Help to Grow Scheme at LSBU, explains that the initiative is 90% funded by the Government, with participants paying £750, which is 10% of the cost of the 12-week course run through universities with Small Business Charter accreditation.

Since launching at LSBU in September 2021, she says about 200 businesses had benefitted from the programme that looks across all areas of business performance from strategy, innovation, finance, high performance, marketing and digital adoption. It also covers strategy, engaging customers through targeted marketing and building sustainable and agile businesses. In addition, at LSBU, participants have access to student talent pools to work on projects or as part-time or placement employees.

Practical course

At the end of the course, each business will have a growth action plan with a mentor assigned to each participant.

“The courses are a practical and applied perspective on academic theory. We find that being delivered by practitioners adds real value to business leaders and helps make this programme as meaningful and useful as possible,” explains Lyn.

The course gives small businesses access to resources but helps them to step back from their business, network with other business leaders, and share experiences.

Lyn Hamblin

Business growth

Olusola’s Tune-Up Seafoods Ltd was established in 2011 in Essex and has 11 staff with a split of 80% retail and 20% wholesale. With a scientific background, Olusola recognised she had no formal business training and joined Help to Grow to push the growth and productivity of her business. “It has had so many benefits,” she adds. “It has given me the confidence to work in business properly, and the digitisation part of the course has helped; we are now selling online and offering more products.” Olusola also points to the value of the programme’s mentorship opportunities.

Katerina’s legal translation and interpreting services firm was also set up in 2011 and is based in Wokingham, Berkshire. “I felt I needed to learn about innovation in marketing, to enable us to take the business to the next level faster,” she says.

Deeper understanding

Katerina says Help to Grow gave her the courage to experiment and since the course, she has conducted proactive online networking and marketing, and hired professionals as well as students. “It has given me a deeper understanding of modern business requirements,” she adds. “We are also giving opportunities for young people to work alongside very experienced digital marketing experts and helping them to grow as well as growing ourselves.”

Linzi had previously helped other organisations with digital transformation but post-pandemic has been focusing on her ‘A New Icon’ sports sponsorship platform. With no formal qualification, she often felt “on the back foot” but turned to Help to Grow to drive this new venture forward with confidence.

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