An innovative programme to create small businesses took root in Blaenau Gwent 15 years ago – and now the long term benefits are being harvested.
Kickstart was launched in 2001 by Tata Steel subsidiary UK Steel Enterprise and Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, and in that time has helped establish 185 start-up ventures. The aim was to encourage people with business ideas to turn them into reality by offering grants and loans at grass roots level.
A huge range of businesses have been created across the county borough, from the everyday, to the highly sophisticated and technical.
Cllr Jim McIlwee, Deputy Leader of Blaenau Gwent Council said:
“The Kick Start initiative has been a long standing scheme set up to support new and existing businesses within the area. The initiative supported by Blaenau Gwent Council has seen a number of businesses successfully awarded the grant and therefore grow over the years.
“As well as this scheme, the Council offers a wide range of services to support new and existing businesses via the Council’s Economic development unit such as business advice and property unit management. For further information visit, www.blaenau-gwent.gov.uk”
In recent years Kickstart Plus has been launched too, providing ongoing help for the ventures started by the initial scheme.
One excellent success story from the Kickstart programme is SteriTouch, based at Abertillery, which has developed a highly technical sanitising product based on silver, used as an additive in production. The firm exports its products worldwide.
The business launched in 2003, when engineer Huw Durban watched a documentary on poor hygiene and cleaning practises in hospitals. He developed an additive for rubber gloves which killed bacteria.
“Adding the agent to the product rather than putting a protective coating on it proved to be a great idea,” said Huw.
He and Nick Corlett launched the business at UK Steel Enterprise’s Innovation Centre in Ebbw Vale, and now SteriTouch products can be found in paints, baby cups and a host of other applications.
The firm received a Kickstart grant of £2000 which Huw says was instrumental in getting the business off the ground.
SRS Valeting is based in Tredegar, and has created 19 jobs. The firm collaborates with motor dealerships working on their sites as well as their home base, and is looking to expand its operations.
In 2011 SRS received a grant of £2134, which owner Sean Seaward says was vital to allow the business to start.
“We used it to buy the essentials of the business – vacuum cleaners, jet washers and polishes. The grant was very useful and really helped us.
“We started small and now we are growing and want to grow further.”
Glyn Thomas, Manager in Wales of UK Steel Enterprise, said:
“Seed-corn funding of this type is absolutely vital to the economy. Without it, the businesses with the ability to grow and create jobs might never have been discovered and their potential lost.”
And it was not simply the financial assistance itself the was the key to the scheme’s success. “Often as important as the money they receive, is the vote of confidence in the business idea and the feeling that they have backing,” he added.
The list of businesses given help through the Kickstart scheme to get off the ground is long and diverse and most types of business are considered, provided they fulfil the scheme criteria. here isn’t a lot of form-filling or formalities involved and the process is as straight-forward as we have been able to make it.
One of the very first businesses launched was tennis coach Chris Hill, one of Wales’ top veteran players and a renowned figure in the game. More recently The Warehouse in Brynmawr has opened its doors, LMC Tiles in Tredegar and The Olde Sweet Shoppe in Abertillery. Since the Kickstart scheme started in 2001, it has supported 185 business start-ups and created 262 jobs in Blaenau Gwent.
Blaenau Gwent’s Business Economic Development Unit provides support and assistance in a number of areas and in one location, to both new and and existing businesses.
These services include: social enterprise support through the BG EFFECT Initiative, business grant support through Kickstart , employment skills support for employers and employees and property / unit management.
For further information about the support available or to enquire about the business support services available visit www.blaenau-gwent.gov.uk or telephone 01495 355700 or email [email protected]