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Get help with your business: free schemes and training across the UK

With the elections at the forefront of minds across the country, we’re taking a look at some of the fantastic free training schemes and initiatives that the government has on offer to small businesses. While there are tons of cross-country options, there are a number tailored to specific regions of the UK that provide a tailored approach to businesses operating within those areas. To give a sense of what’s on offer, we’ve pulled together a list by UK region. Find out about business expertise and advice in your area here.

South East: Let’s Do Business

The Let’s Do Business group offers advice and support to both start-up and established companies in the South East – namely Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire. Their courses and training come at a cost (although the government can provide significant funding toward this), but the site has a number of useful resources, including business plan advice and templates, as well as survival budget and sales forecast templates.

London: Enterprise Europe Network

Enterprise Europe Network is all about helping businesses looking to expand into Europe to find trustworthy partners. They have a huge database of trustworthy contacts on the site and regularly organise matchmaking events for their users.

South West: Business West

The Business West site is full of online presentations and resources about digital marketing that could prove invaluable when setting up your site and managing your social media. They also provide a range of free events on the subject of understanding digital – available only to eligible businesses. Find out more on their site.

East: Centre for the Built Environment

Although the CBE helps businesses in the east of England benefit from natural materials and low-carbon technologies, its expertise extends to more general business development, including advice on starting a new business, protecting intellectual property and product development.

East Midlands: NBV (Real Creative Futures)

The Real Creative Futures scheme is aimed at small creative businesses in Nottingham – so the arts, music, crafts, design, film, photography etc – in need of some expert support. There are some eligibility criteria but, if you meet them, the programme offers one-on-one mentoring, networking events and seminars, industry weekenders and even access to editing suites, meeting rooms and desk space.

West Midlands: Touch Digital

As long as your business is eligible – you have to fill in a form to find out – Touch Digital will help you unlock the tech potential of your business. It offers advice and training on developing digital products, improving your user experience online and maximising your and your team’s productivity, with specialist help on digital marketing, social media, SEO, PPC, cloud usage and e-commerce.

Yorkshire and the Humber: Business Support Local 

This first locally run BSL programme offers small local businesses help in finding support, funding and networks. It also offers peer-to-peer learning groups and workshops on protecting your brand, managing your team and sales and marketing.

North East: PNE

PNE’s most significant offering is its mentoring services and free online resources. For eligible local businesses that apply, there are twelve hours of free mentoring available and advisory support. Elsewhere on their site there are podcasts on a diverse range of topics, from market research to business law.

North West: Cumbria Growth Hub

The University of Central Lancashire has put together a suite of resources called the Growth Hub Toolkit. This includes a diagnostic session, followed by a series of e-based learning that covers ‘how to’ guides, webinars, podcasts, webcasts, mentoring and business coaching. Check the link above to see if your business would be eligible.

Wales: Mentoring

The Welsh Government has a brilliant mentoring scheme that pairs up small local enterprises and experienced business owners based on the skills you need to take your business to the next level. You’ll get impartial support, guidance on improvements, an empathetic sounding board and a challenger who’ll push you further.

Scotland: Business Gateway

Scotland’s Business Gateway hosts a wide range of business resources, with a whole host of guides across subjects such as ‘Manage your business’, ‘Employing people’ and ‘Grow and improve’. Business Gateway also puts on events across Scotland that are free to attend, from the very basics for fledgling start-ups through to social media and Google Analytics for more established businesses.

Northern Ireland: Invest Northern Ireland

For those who register, the ‘Go For It’ scheme offers tons of online guidance, best practice advice, tools, videos and even a one-to-one assessment meeting with a business advisor. These services are free when it comes to regional initiatives, but their other training and courses are paid for. Find out more on their site at the above link.

For free, impartial business tech help and advice, why not book a session with an O2 Guru? They’re available online, in store and over the phone.

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