Lord Heseltine helps launch £100,000 fund to help young people start businesses

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Business go-getters of the future are being offered the chance to get their first firms started, thanks to a ground-breaking new fund.

It is a £100,000 pot of money that is being handed out by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership as part of its Bridging The Gap fund, which The News was responsible for starting up.

Michael Heseltine

Michael Heseltine

The money on offer is from the Solent Young Entrepreneur Fund, and was launched today at the Solent LEP conference at Botleigh Grange Manor, near Botley with the support of Tory peer Lord Heseltine.

Ahead of the launch, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, chairman of the LEP’s Solent Employment and Skills Board, said: ‘I’m really looking forward to launching this fund and getting under way the crucial work of supporting our next generation of entrepreneurs making those first, crucial steps in the world of business.

‘The young people of the Solent obviously have a huge role to play in our future success and, alongside our work with the education sector developing their skills and with existing businesses to ensure there are sufficient apprenticeship places available, we recognise that by helping young people to start up their own businesses we can unlock a huge potential growth area.

‘That’s why this fund is so important.

‘It could be the spark for great things in the future.’

Almost any young person, aged between 16 and 24 can apply for the scheme.

The business has to be started up in the Solent area, which stretches roughly between western Southampton and the boundary between Hampshire and Chichester.

The pot will stretch only so far, so grants of between £500 and £5,000 will be given out.

The LEP says the strongest applicants will also be putting in private funding, though it welcomes applications from all.

Those who have already started businesses, and want to access funding to help grow, are also being invited to enter the competition.

To qualify, a business owner has to pledge to employ at least one additional member of staff.

Not only will the Solent LEP be giving out cash – it is working with NatWest to offer one-to-one support from local business advisors.

Part of the package is also publicity – young people from The News’s circulation area will be featured in the paper, getting the chance to tell thousands of people what their business is hoping to achieve and following its progress as it succeeds.

A spokesman for the Solent LEP said: ‘Applying is easy, just send us your business plan. The template can be found at solentlep.org.uk/downloads.’

Send it back to bridgingthegap@solentlep.org.uk by February 28, 2014.

Tory peer Michael Heseltine was the keynote speaker at today’s Solent LEP Growth Summit, talking about his report, No Stone Unturned in the Pursuit of Growth, to local businesses attending the summit.

Lord Heseltine has set out a comprehensive economic plan to improve the UK’s ability to create wealth.

His independent report makes the case for a major rebalancing of responsibilities for economic development between central and local government, and between government and the private sector.

The report makes 89 recommendations which aim to inject stability into the economy, create the conditions for growth, and maximise the performance of the UK.

Before heading to the conference, Lord Heseltine will be going to Brune Park School in Gosport.

He was invited by the Portsmouth and South East Hampshire Education Business Partnership.

The EBP’s Cath Longhurst said: ‘The aim of the visit is for him to see some of the work we are doing in linking businesses with schools.

‘There will be attendance from local business representatives, as well as an opportunity for him to hear from schools, and the college, about the impact of this on young people’s readiness for work.’