A funding scheme called Bridging the Gap has helped dozens of small business grow. STUART ANDERSON spoke to funding recipients about how they have benefited.
The idea was to create hundreds of new jobs and safeguard many more.
And since it began in 2012, the News-backed Bridging the Gap fund has supported more than 111 small and medium-sized business to the tune of more than £4m.
Through the Solent Growth Deal, the Solent LEP has secured a funding commitment from government of £12m over the next six years to continue the programme.
Some £1.85m of funding is guaranteed for the period 2015/2016, and future funding from 2016 to 2020 is awaiting confirmation.
Solent LEP senior account manager Steve Futter said: ‘We are delighted with the wider impact that the funding is having and our investments have unlocked additional money meaning the total value of investment for the Solent is over £13m.
It really helped us get off the groundHesta Dalton
‘We are now seeing the real benefit of the programme with more than 700 jobs being created or safeguarded.
‘In Portsmouth and surrounding areas of Gosport and Havant where the fund was first launched in partnership with The News, we have supported 29 SMEs and helped 27 entrepreneurs start up new businesses.
‘SMEs are critical to the success of our local economy and it is fantastic to see Bridging the Gap supporting our local business community.’
Mr Futter said another round of Bridging the Gap funding is now open for applications, and the deadline is July 17.
He said: ‘We’re extremely pleased the government has recognised the success of Bridging the Gap and has now offered us another £2m funding through the Solent Local Growth Deal to continue to operate the scheme in 2015-2016.
‘We also hold business support events that give information about our funds – the next one of these is July 16.’
Portsmouth City Council leader Councillor Donna Jones visited some of the businesses to hear about how the funding scheme has helped them.
Cllr Jones said she was impressed by how much the firms had achieved.
She said: ‘Through this fund they have been able to safeguard existing positions and create new jobs.
‘Small businesses are vital to the Solent’s economy and it was great to have seen these local success stories first-hand.
‘It’s great news for the Solent that new funding will be available to support small businesses and I can’t wait to see all the success stories to come from it.’
Funding from Bridging the Gap has helped two Southsea entrepreneurs climb online.
Si Bunting, 36, and Ruth Eades, 38, received £29,000 from the scheme, which they used to create jobs and launch a new events guide website for Portsmouth.
Mr Bunting said the site, called goongoout.com, launched in may last year.
He said they wanted to create a new resource to give people ideas on what to do and where to go out in Portsmouth.
‘He said: ‘We found that there wasn’t something we wanted with enough information about event in Portsmouth. I have good experience in web development so we realised that we could do this.’
Mr Bunting said the project started as a Facebook page.
‘The Facebook group is still active, and then we developed the website and it has gone from there.’
Mr Bunting and Ms Eades have just employed a third person for their business. They have an office at the Portsmouth Guildhall and also work from home.
Nikola Ondrouskpova and her partner Ladi Adamek opened artisan bakery Bread Addictions in Elm Grove last August, fulfilling a long-held dream.
Nicola, who did not want to specify how much she received from the business initiative, said: ‘My partner and I used to talk about opening a cafe but then we started to make a lot of bread at home and we thought we could make that a part of it.
‘We want to offer the best possible bread, the best possible coffee and the best possible cakes.
‘We are really focusing on the quality.’
Nikola said they were planning to expand the business with new equipment and furnishings.
‘We’ve just ordered a beautiful patisserie counter so we can offer more products,’ she said.
‘It’s really exciting. Now we can offer more beautiful desserts like chocolate mousse.
‘We’re also going to purchase new equipment for coffee and we’re going to redesign the shop so that we can have more seats.’
Bread Addiction also runs bread-making workshops.
Thanks to funding from the Solent LEP, businessman Karl Pampus was able to consolidate his two businesses at their new Portsmouth home.
Mr Pampus applied to Bridging the Gap for help with moving his business Victory Graphics from Slough to the Railway Triangle in Drayton, where his other firm, Victory Repro, was already based.
Victory Graphics produces high-quality flexographic printing plates for food packaging and book covers.
‘Bridging the Gap has been extremely helpful in allowing us to move part of the company to consolidate our business,’ Mr Pampus said.
‘The grant has helped with moving, installing our existing equipment as well as purchasing new equipment that we need.’
Funding from the scheme has helped create five new jobs at Victory Repro and another four at Victory Graphics.
A Bridging the Gap grant has helped a keen crafter start up her own business.
Hesta Dalton, 35, of Somers Town, got a £12,000 grant to help get The Craft Kitchen up and running.
Ms Dalton said the cafe/workshop, which opened in October, focused on teaching crafting skills and invigorating Portsmouth’s crafts scene.
‘We really want it to become a community focal point,’ she said.
The Craft Kitchen is found in Cornwall Road, Fratton, in the same building as Make, a sewing retailer/workshop operated by Ms Dalton’s longtime friend, Nicola Bates.
Ms Dalton said her workshops centred around cooking, baking and papercraft.
She said: ‘We teach different groups of adults and children. They can come in and do all sorts of thing like cake decorating, sweet making and arts and crafts. We also host a lot of hen’s parties and they might want to do something like making wedding invitations or table plans.’
Ms Dalton said without the funding her dream of creating a crafting centre would have been a lot harder to realise.
‘It really helped us get off the ground,’ she said.
‘The building needed a lot of renovations done before it could open, and we also had to build a cafe inside.
‘It has also helped us do marketing and employ one other person.’
Ms Dalton said the Craft Kitchen was about to start workshops designed for children and over-60s.