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Watford’s new Business Recovery and Growth programme

A free support programme for businesses, start-ups, and local residents has launched in Watford. The service is being delivered by not-for-profit and social enterprise, Wenta, on behalf of Watford Borough Council. It aims to enhance ‘productivity and growth’ for businesses, along with helping individuals interested in self-employment or setting up small enterprises.

The new Business Recovery and Growth (BRG) – Watford Programme is therefore tailored to meet the needs of the local community, by providing a wide range of services. This includes one-to-one advice for starting or growing an existing business. Furthermore, the organisation offers skills training webinars and workshops. Topics vary from social media or marketing, through to cashflow and writing business plans. New small businesses can access co-working and Covid-19 compliant incubation workspaces, at Wenta’s business centre. Specialist support is also available on topics such as finance, IT and legal matters. Additionally, larger businesses will have the opportunity to obtain mentoring and guidance from other organisations within the Hertfordshire support network. In particular Watford Chamber, Watford Business Improvement District (BID), Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Hertfordshire Growth Hub.

Elected Mayor for Watford, Peter Taylor, said the Borough Council are ‘eager to help businesses survive’ the pandemic. An element of the scheme is ‘about getting people… back on their feet,’ and ready ‘to bounce back from the very difficult year.’ One of the ‘key’ ways the local authority hopes to achieve this, is by ‘working with Wenta’ to assist those ‘wanting to start up a new business.’ In turn, this means ensuring individuals ‘have the support’ needed ‘to do that.’

The Mayor continued:

“It’s been a really tough year, but I’m also very conscious that necessity’s the mother of invention. That lots of people are actually thinking about new ways of operating. They might have been made unemployed. They might have always thought about setting up a new business. This year a lot of people have been reflecting on where they are, and thinking actually let’s try something new.”

Ed Jordan, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Wenta, explained the social enterprise was trying to ‘provide people with meaningful advice and support,’ through the BRG Programme.  He further stated that Wenta wanted to maintain Watford’s ‘economic vibrancy,’ and ‘restore it’ where needed.  

Mr Jordan outlined what he considered to be the programme’s strengths:

“I think one of the most valuable things that this programme gives, is the time for people to have one-to-one personal advice. Time’s a really precious commodity when you run a business. Whether that be you’re thinking of starting one, or you’ve started, or you know the first few years. It’s really challenging to face up to the time pressures, the financial pressures. It’s quite a stressful thing to do so just having a friend, a mentor, somebody that you can go to who’s going to have the time for you is a really valuable aspect of this programme.”

He continued to say that ‘at the other end of the spectrum where businesses have more complex needs,’ they can ‘access expertise at the top end.’ Mr Jordan noted that Wenta were trying to establish a ‘catchall partnership,’ wherein ‘every business’ is supported through ‘a spread of services’ and different ‘aspects’ of the scheme. With regard to individuals contemplating self-employment, he indicated that advisors or specialists are on hand to ‘help’ people decide ‘if this is the direction they want to take.’ Additionally, they will inform individuals about the various new areas they may need to consider such as VAT applications, and setting up PAYE salary accounts.

Wenta is the second largest enterprise agency in England. Created in 1983, the organisation started as a small enterprise itself. Mr Jordan feels that Wenta’s ‘history and heritage’ within the town, puts them ‘in a great place to partner with Watford Borough Council on today’s challenges.’ He added this ‘arrangement’ in fact ‘strengthens’ their ‘joint position to support the businesses and residents of Watford.’ For 37 years, Wenta has helped ‘several thousand businesses’ to ‘thrive and grow,’ alongside developing their skills. As a 'one-stop-shop,’ Wenta provides free start-up advice, webinars and training workshops to new or growing small businesses. The not-for-profit also works in conjunction with a range of other organisations to assist new and existing businesses across Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and North London. These services include one-to-one business advice, training or skills development workshops and online support through their information library, Business Bookshelf

For more information on Wenta’s Business Recovery and Growth Programme visit: www.watfordbusiness.com/recovery.

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