Start-up and growing small businesses get a boost with new funding, workshops and support

OxLEP has launched the ELEVATE programme to boost the county’s SME entrepreneurs. Free service providing ‘support that’s priceless’

OxLEP is providing £200,000 in grant funding through its Oxfordshire Business Support growth hub team to support start-up and growing small businesses in Oxfordshire, as part of a new initiative launched last night (29 June).

Businesses will be able to apply during six rounds of awards between now and the middle of 2019.

Heather Martin, from OxLEP, said: “This is a really fantastic opportunity for some of our smaller businesses to secure funding, even before they start trading. It is not very often that SMEs, especially new businesses, are offered such grant support.

"We are certainly hoping to see plenty of applications from them for our Elevate grants.”

Though Oxfordshire has seen strong growth in recent years – with over 45,000 new jobs being created in the county over the past five years – it’s hoped the grant funding opportunity will support more SMEs to grow.

Heather added: “When businesses are small, typically employing a very small number of people, we know there is a need to help inject new skills and support. These grants will provide additional funds for projects which can help them grow, create new jobs and launch new services or products. It is the kind of support that’s priceless.”

Between £1,000 and £8,000 is on offer in the form of ‘match funding’ with each successful award. It is available for business-to-business enterprises and some consumer-facing businesses

The new Elevate programme is completely free to use and aims to help small and medium sized enterprises to prosper and create jobs.

Around 250 of the county’s business community gathered at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford at the Elevate launch event. Distinguished entrepreneur Keith Abel, whose own organic vegetable delivery business Abel & Cole grew to become a national success, described how vital it was for him to have support and encouragement when he launched his own venture.

Alongside its grants, the OBS Elevate programme also includes 96 workshops on a range of vital skills and a team of Network Navigators who work with entrepreneurs to guide and support them.

Between 2014 and 2016, Oxfordshire has seen the number of VAT-registered businesses in the county go up by 8.5% - a figure OxLEP is keen to see rise even further.

Nigel Tipple – Chief Executive of OxLEP – said: “In Oxfordshire – we have continued to grow our economy dynamically. We are over 50% of the way to reaching our 2031 target of 85,600 new jobs. Much of this is driven by small businesses in Oxford.

“In addition to funding opportunities – businesses can also benefit from many free workshops, providing first-class training and skills development, helping them to become more agile and supporting any ambition they have to grow.”

You can find out more about Elevate grants, workshops and Network Navigator support at: www.oxfordshirebusinesssupport.co.uk.