Sponsored feature: Project aims to help businesses with their first steps

Last year, Torfaen Council ran an invaluable 12-month pilot project which offered help and support to local business start-ups and SMEs based in the Pontypool area.

This project was run by Foundational Economy Torfaen on behalf of Torfaen Council, being funded by Welsh Government with the aim to help grow local economic activity and employment.

The services and products within the Foundational Economy provide those basic goods and services on which every citizen relies, and which keep us safe, sound and civilised.

Care and health services, food, housing, energy, construction, tourism, and retailers on the high street are all examples of the foundational economy.

Estimates suggest they account for four in ten jobs and £1 in every three that we spend. In some parts of Wales this basic ‘foundational economy’ is the economy.

The foundational economy approach offers the chance to reverse the deterioration of employment conditions, reduce the leakage of money from communities and address the environmental cost of extended supply chains.

The project needed a base of operations, so HYB2 was created as an accessible headquarters within Pontypool Indoor Market. This easy to reach central location for young entrepreneurs and new business owners to meet in a welcoming and friendly office space environment, provided a local one-stop shop for business support.

Services were offered for free to people within the Pontypool catchment area, with mentoring, ongoing engagement and proactive support being readily available throughout the year.

Helpful business advice such as registering your business, finding a premise, planning permission, and marketing were just some of the topics covered, as well as engaging and facilitating meetings with key partners and business experts from national companies across Wales.

Introductions were also made to Social Business Wales, the NHS Public Health Wales, and the Local Education Authority to facilitate meetings, identifying opportunities and bridge the gap with business opportunities.

When the country went into lockdown in March 2020, services to help new businesses of Torfaen continued, but were offered online via video messaging.

An influx came from workers either being put on furlough or being made redundant, as they wanted to take full financial control and to follow their lifelong dream of running their own business to be self-employed.

Signposting for finance was crucial for these new businesses during lockdown and the team at Foundational Economy Torfaen, led by project officer Alyson Jones, made sure that everyone involved got the information and support that they needed.

Grants of up to £250 were made available for new businesses to be spent on local advertising, branding, websites, but the money had to be spent within the Pontypool catchment area, thus not only helping the new start-up but also the local economy too.

Originally, the project had set out to help 40 local businesses, but by the time the project ended it had helped 288 new business and young entrepreneurs – a huge success for everyone involved.

The overall aim of the project was not only to offer much needed support for individuals, but also make the new businesses fully compliant while being given every opportunity for it to succeed.

Councillor Joanne Gauden, Executive Member for Economy, Skills & Regeneration, said: “I am thrilled that HYB2 was such a success, especially during such a tough year for businesses due to Covid-19.

“From looking at the figures it just goes to show that new businesses really appreciated the support available, and it is always great to hear that young entrepreneurs are still up for the challenge of starting a new business.

“We hope to see you trading from one of our pop-up shops, market stalls and high street shops very soon.”

South Wales Argus | Business