Amidst the doom and gloom that has become the new norm during the current pandemic, glimmers of joy have emerged as we hear about local businesses doing good things for their communities in their moment of need.

It will not come as news to anyone, that while the Government has offered a very generous support package for most people in the UK – it does not cater for every individual circumstance and many are still left with no financial support at all.

In particular, the most affected groups include Company Directors whom may have seen their income dwindle to nothing but are unable to ‘furlough’ themselves, as someone needs to continue sailing the ship through the choppy waters; and the newly self-employed (trading after April 2019) who do not have the required trading history to make a financial claim.

These types of business owners typically include directors of micro-businesses that only employ one or two people, hair and beauty therapists, service based companies without premises such as business coaches, web designers, marketers, copywriters… all of whom have seen their revenues plummet to zero – or close to it.

Local Support Group available

We spoke to Nikki Hesford, the founder of The Small Business Academy which is a local Coworking and Start-up Support hub located on Peel Road.

Nikki told us, “Our Coworking space is mostly utilised by freelancers and very small businesses, and it’s really upsetting to see all of their livelihoods pulled out from beneath them, most with young families to support and no Government help that they can qualify for.

Many have come to me, asking about the Interruption Loan, self-employed support and even Universal Credit and I wanted to do something to try and help. I could see many posting in local groups asking for advice, but the groups were not really set up for that kind of support – so we decided to create one”

While the group does permit self-promotion (subject to certain rules) the main focus of the group is so that business owners do not feel alone. It can be a little uncomfortable posting on Linked In or your personal Facebook page about your business struggles, and often business owners feel as though their friends try their best to support them, but as employees on a full, or even 80% wage, it can be difficult to really understand the weight of responsibility they have on their shoulders.

Some small business owners have car leases to cover, beauty equipment to pay for such as lasers and skincare machines, and there are others who have to find the cash to pay their staff before the Government reimburses them. Throw into the mix the added stress of potentially having no childcare until September and lots of previously successful entrepreneurs are suffocating under the pressure.

Nikki tells us, “I have had tearful calls from start-ups who are still legally allowed to trade, have no money to feed their family, but are so frightened of the abuse they might face online for their ‘non-essential’ services, that they do not dare to consider working. They just don’t know which way to turn”

What happens in the group?

The group is designed for people to ask for advice, give advice, bounce ideas, sense check their advertising plans and promotional activity and generally just get support from other people who understand what they are going through.

Several specialists have been invited to the group – including a Natwest Commercial Manager, accountants, web developers, lawyers and HR experts who are on hand to offer help and guidance.

Plans are in situ for a ‘Zoom’ Business Social, curated as an informal chat with a glass of wine of an evening – giving business owners the chance to meet new people, and share their challenges from the safety of their own home.

How do I join this group?

You must be a business owner to join the group (this can be freelance, sole trader, limited company – anyone with any kind of business venture) but this group is open to anyone across the UK and you can find it here

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