As the economy entered a ‘new normal’ after the COVID pandemic, entrepreneurs in Greater Manchester ventured into the brave new world with confidence and determination.

They were supported by GC Business Growth Hub’s Start Smart programme, which provided one-to-one business advice and support for individuals navigating starting up a new business.

In late August alumni businesses, together with their Hub coaches and those involved with Start Smart, gathered at The Studio in Northern Quarter to celebrate the accomplishments of those who took part, including some who had experienced the challenges of starting during the pandemic period.

Start Smart has not only helped those who have the entrepreneurial spirit to realise their dream but also significantly contributed to the foundational economy. From March 2019-June 2023, around 1,000 people were given support, guidance, and training, with about 500 going on to start their own business immediately after, whilst others were looking at this as a future prospect. 

Around 100 jobs were created, not including the business owners themselves. By helping participants start new businesses and create jobs, Start Smart has allowed the Greater Manchester economy to flourish and reduced the burden of public funding on social support. 

GC Business Growth Hub's Start Smart event

GC Business Growth Hub’s Start Smart event

“I am incredibly inspired by those who have worked with us over the last four years. Greater Manchester is brimming with talent and creativity, and there is a huge shift in people considering self-employment as an actual route to channelling their gifts and passions,” said Caroline Jones, senior business advisor for start up & growth.

“Start Smart’s delivery style is ‘person-centred,’ which means it was led by the client’s needs and worked at a pace they were comfortable with. During the pandemic, we were quick to pivot, delivering our workshops and one-to-one support online the week after the lockdown began. 

“It was critical at that time that people could still access our support in lockdown, to ensure our support continued. It was also a period where many people turned to self-employment as a way to bring in an income whilst being furloughed.” 

Attendees also heard from alums like Ngwafu Tansie, founder and chef of Gwafuvegan, which specialises in cooking and delivering affordable, high-quality vegan West African food in Greater Manchester and the North West. 

“What motivated me to join the programme is that this is my first business, and I really lack experience in running a business, especially in marketing and financing,” said Tansie. 

“My experience of the programme was great as it was delivered in a very flexible and accommodating way, with the programme’s course designed in a modular form. 

“I can pick different courses that interest me and take them in the time that suits my schedule, and this is a real benefit for me since running a business can be extremely busy. 

“The programme also assigned a business advisor who was always available to guide me when needed. It is a very accessible programme tailored to your business’s needs and timing.”

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Yvonne Sampson, head of enterprise at The Business Growth Hub, added: “The Alumni Start Smart Event was a great success, and it was good to meet so many people that have been through the start smart programme.

“We are committed to supporting all individuals and businesses that are thinking of starting a business and will continue to offer enterprise support for all that live in the Greater Manchester area.”

GC Business Growth Hub has been helping Greater Manchester businesses grow and thrive since 2011. You can read more about their impact hereOur Impact | GC Business Growth Hub

GC Business Growth Hub was part financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) 2014-2021, as part of a portfolio of ERDF-funded programmes designed to help ambitious SME businesses achieve growth and increase employment in Greater Manchester. Working in partnership with Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), formerly the Department for Communities and Local Government and Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership.

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