“Peer Networks changed my business forever” – when speaking to Paul Drake of WhiteStar,

Peer Networks changed my business forever” – when speaking to Paul Drake of WhiteStar, the impact of the guidance he received from fellow business owners is particularly tangible.

In many ways, it didn’t just change his business, it saved it.

The Northampton-based website and graphic design agency, set up in 2014, was particularly badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with existing projects put on hold and new work not materialising.

Faced with staffing issues and the challenge of attracting new clients as the world emerged from lockdown, Paul signed up for SEMLEP’s Growth Hub Peer Networks programme – discussing the needs of his company with like-minded business owners from across the region.

He said: “It was interesting to get someone else’s perspective on what we were doing and those conversations changed my business forever. We looked at what was holding me back, such as overheads and staffing. One guy, who was from a much bigger business than mine, said to simply close it down, go down the voluntary liquidation route and start again. I’d never considered it before.

“I looked into it the next day during a coaching session and it turned out he was wrong, but that didn’t matter – it had got me thinking in a different way.

“Rather than doing all the work in-house and having to rely on staff, I switched to an outsourcing model, finding trusted UK partners who I can get to do the work which allows me to play to my strengths, project managing and talking to clients.

“It’s made a real difference and we’re now looking to grow over the next year, with a refreshed insight into what we can provide and an ambition to work with bigger businesses.”

Paul’s first dealings with SEMLEP’s Growth Hub came in 2019 through the ‘Innovate To Succeed’ programme and he is a staunch advocate of the advice and guidance he has received since.

He added: “I’m now doing the Intensive Business Support programme which offers a £3,000 professional services grant. We’ll be using that to work with a marketing agency to promote our offering and I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes of that.

“The SEMLEP team are extremely helpful, I found the webinars during COVID particularly useful with some really helpful content. They are a vital resource within my business.”