‘Without the funding it would have taken years to raise cash’

(middle) Andrew Jones with his two sons (left) Ethan (6) and (right) Lewis (4) and mum and dad Kathleen Jones and Kev Jones, outside their store in Nobes Avenue.''Picture: Sarah Standing (131078-9604)
(middle) Andrew Jones with his two sons (left) Ethan (6) and (right) Lewis (4) and mum and dad Kathleen Jones and Kev Jones, outside their store in Nobes Avenue.''Picture: Sarah Standing (131078-9604)
Jacquie Shaw of the NMRN

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IT HAS been nine months since a convenience store was given funding from Bridging the Gap – and now its owner is encouraging other businesses to apply.

Andy Jones, from Kev Jones & Sons, has said the grant, backed by The News, is a great opportunity for small businesses.

As reported yesterday, the Bridging the Gap fund has £800,000 left to give away to companies in Portsmouth, Gosport, Fareham and Havant.

But with only two months left in which to apply, businesses are being encouraged to act now.

Kev Jones & Sons, based in Gosport, has already reaped the benefits from the fund.

In April last year, the family-run business received £45,750 from Solent LEP and since then, they have paid to have its shop, in Nobes Avenue, extended.

Andy said without the funding, it could have taken five to 10 years for the business to raise the money.

The 36-year-old said: ‘The Bridging the Gap fund is a great opportunity for small businesses which might not be able to raise the money they need to move forward.

‘There isn’t always a lot of funding out there for small businesses so this is a great chance for them to get money.

‘We used it to expand one of our stores and the work was finished in a few months.

‘If we didn’t have that money, it would have taken so much longer to raise the money ourselves.

‘Once you start calculating the costs, it can get quite expensive and our investment isn’t something that will bring profits straightaway – it will be a gradual thing.’

Andy took over the business from his parents, Kev and Kath, and together they outlined what the funding should be used for.

As well as the extension, they are hoping to create more jobs.

Andy added: ‘The extension was the first bit but by expanding, we can now hire more staff to help out.

‘We are looking to hire in the near future which shows how much we have grown.’

For the year ahead, Andy is looking forward to a full year of trading in the bigger store.

‘By the time the store was done, we only had about five months to trade so I am looking forward to having the year ahead to trade,’ he said.

Steve Futter, senior account manager for Solent LEP, said the funding is a great way for entrepreneurs to start-up a business or for existing businesses to create a project or safe-guard jobs.

HELPING small businesses grow in different ways, the Bridging the Gap fund has already handed out £730,000.

Launched in 2012 by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, along with Portsmouth City Council, The News and the University of Portsmouth, the main focus of the fund is on private sector job creation.

Up to £50,000 can be applied for in grants by entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with the best new business and growth proposals.

For businesses ready to start up, funding is available for new projects, help getting a new business up and running and encouraging young entrepreneurs. Bidders will need to invest 30 per cent of the required funding.

For SMEs, funding is available to help overcome barriers to growth or facilitate business improvement. Bidders will need to invest at least 50 per cent of the required funding.

More than 15 firms have benefited from the funding and, with the other recent winners, has brought the funding total to just over £732,000.

It has also seen more than 100 jobs created in the region and a total of more than £1.5m bought into the Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant areas.