Ards Business Hub has met the challenge of Covid-19 by providing expert advice to entrepreneurs determined to launch new businesses during the pandemic.
Despite the nationwide lockdown, the Newtownards-based enterprise hub supported 60 clients with virtual delivery of its ‘Go For It’ business support programme.
Chief Executive Nichola Lockhart said: “Our small businesses continue to be the backbone of the local economy and it is their spirit of enterprise and innovation that will help spur an economic recovery from the effects of the pandemic.”
The work of its business advisers during lockdown resulted in the launch of new enterprises, including iFogg Ltd, set up to provide sanitation to small businesses, churches, community centres, sports clubs and gyms.
Company Director Ryan Connolly and his brother Brett began looking at the idea for a new business back in January when the spread of a new strain of coronavirus led to lockdown in the Chinese city of Wuhan. After a period of initial research, he signed up for the Go For It Programme of which Ards Business Hub is a delivery agent.
Ryan said: “During lockdown we had seen China using fog machines to sterilise premises and thought this was a way of making people feel confident about returning to the High Street. After completing the Go For It programme and Covid-19 awareness courses we opened our doors on June 10.”
The brothers have concentrated in building up their client base and are hoping to generate enough work to take on employees to do the cleaning work while they focus on growth.
Opening a new wedding business in the middle of a pandemic might be a risk but Jean Michel and Lisa Pascal, the couple behind Craic ‘N’ Campers have built up a solid base of bookings kicking off with their first wedding on September 25.
Jean Michel and Lisa had to postpone their own wedding which had been due to take place in July. Undeterred they now provide transport for other couples on their big day in their vintage VW Campervan called Gino and a Beetle called Bella. The VW Campervan can also be hired as a Campervan Photo booth.
Jean Michel said: “Starting a business during lockdown isn’t easy but our business adviser from the Go For It Programme was extremely helpful in formulating a strong business plan and explaining the legal aspects of the market.”
Lisa, a professional photographer, said that they were already looking ahead with plans to buy another campervan and VW Beetle.
“Our bookings are so strong for next year that we are looking for other vehicles to meet demand. This will depend on circumstances of course and we are monitoring the Covid-19 situation,” she said.
Another business supported by Ards Business Hub is #Goals, a new coaching and personal development consultancy run by Niamh Crawford-Walker.
Niamh works with millennial women to help them gain clarity in their career goals, unlock their true potential and build a career that fulfils them. She specialises in career coaching for women to help them build up the confidence to start their own businesses.
Before Covid-19 she had been running a series of small casual workshops, but lockdown gave her the incentive to bring all her content together online and create her own business.
She said: “I decided during lockdown that I wanted my future to be helping other young women fulfil their potential. I got in touch with the Go For It programme which enabled me to put together a business plan, learn about financial projections and the administrative side of things. It was helpful to have an advisor show me how to create a solid online business. I began the programme in June and got my logo sorted and website up and running and hosted my first online workshop on September 2.”
For more information about the support offered by Ards Business Hub email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 028 9181 9787.