The business adviser perspective: what do businesses want to talk about

5 September 2020

Our business advisers may still be working remotely but one thing hasn’t changed at all during the COVID-19 pandemic, their phones are still ringing!


Amid such uncertainty, the role our experts play has arguably never been more important, acting as a vital conduit for businesses looking for support during a particularly difficult trading period.


Nathan March, a SEMLEP Growth Hub Business Adviser, has revealed the top five topics he is dealing with on a daily basis as he fields calls from companies across Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes.



  • COVID-19 specific support


The Kickstart grants have seen a spike in interest from companies across the SEMLEP region. Companies from all sectors have been hit by COVID-19, it’s a virus that doesn’t discriminate against people and its fallout doesn’t discriminate against businesses – all are vulnerable. Firms have seen they could be eligible for grants of between £1,000 and £5,000 and the demand has been phenomenal. Only a limited number of grants were available and we have seen hundreds of enquiries in just a few weeks.


  • Community grant queries


Many community organisations have been severely hit by the impact of coronavirus, with activities grinding to a halt and clubs and forced to temporarily cease operations. There are a number of funding streams starting to become available once again to these groups and as they begin to come online we are able to match community groups to the most appropriate grants for them. This can be a complicated and time-consuming process so we endeavour to make it as streamlined as possible and advise on the best way to access this finance.


  • Start-up business support


The SEMLEP region is full of enterprising, entrepreneurial business brains. We have a high number of exciting start-ups who are making their mark in a whole host of sectors but, clearly, the past six months or so have proved difficult. We have heard from people right at the start of their business journey looking for financial support and there seems to be a misconception that there are currently grants available. Right now, that’s not the case but hopefully as we start to emerge from the current crisis new funding streams will come online and we will see support available for the next generation of innovators and pioneers.


  • Business growth opportunities


The vast majority of businesses we speak to are keen to grow. There is a real appetite for success in the SEMLEP region and business leaders are looking for the next big project, the next opportunity to expand. Many of the queries we receive are finance related, with companies wanting to know what is available and who can lend. Currently there are a number of schemes available, ranging from traditional High Street lenders such as banks, to specialist organisations such as Innovate UK, MEIF and NatWest Accelerator. Our job is to speak to the individual business and ascertain what they need and why they need it, then we can match them with the most appropriate resource and signpost them to the right contact.


  • Retail and leisure grant support


As one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic, we have received more calls than ever from companies working in the retail and leisure industry. Many of these businesses were forced to close down entirely during lockdown and are only now starting to tentatively take their first few steps on the journey back to a ‘new normal’. Help is at hand for them in the form of specific grant funding and we are able to explain the process to them, go through what is needed from them and signpost them to the support available to help in their recovery.


Whatever support you need, our network of Business Advisers can help. If you have a query get in touch via or call 0300 0123435.