The Access to Finance programme has delivered real results for businesses across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly according to an independent evaluation of its services. The programme, which has been providing SMEs with impartial support on all aspects of business finance for the last six years, received high praise for the excellent value for money and impact it has achieved.
The programme, which was designed and delivered by Oxford Innovation Advice, was established in 2017 to address some of the main barriers to growth experienced by SMEs such as accessing finance and limited financial management skills. Since then, the programme has supported over 2,800 businesses across the county, helping local businesses raise over £39 million from over 110 different finance providers.
The report carried out by the company Wavehill found that 94% of businesses surveyed felt the programme had been useful, while 92% reported that their barrier to accessing finance was lower or no longer impacted their business since receiving support. The evaluation concluded that the programme had helped 63% of businesses accelerate their growth, increased employment by an estimated 955 jobs (full-time equivalent) and improved the financial skills of business owners.
Andrew Finley, Project Director, explains: “We are proud of our work and the positive impact we are making to the economy of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The excellent feedback we receive from businesses and partners year on year is testament to our achievements. In the last six years, we have helped local SMEs raise over £39m, but most importantly we have helped business owners develop the skills and knowledge they need to implement good financial management to help ensure their future success.
“As businesses are exposed to a tightening economy, they face multiple pressures from inflation, supply chain challenges and reduced consumer spending, it is now more important than ever that businesses have access to high-quality business support services and specialist expertise to help them achieve their growth potential. This in turn will enhance the local economy, job opportunities and the prosperity of our local communities.”
One local business to have benefited from the support was Venton Conference Centre in Summercourt. The Access to Finance team helped the centre secure just under £74,000 worth of funding from CLLD to cover 45% of fit out costs to get the venture off the ground.
“The expertise of the team at Access to Finance is second to none,” explains Georgina May, Managing Director of Venton. “I come from the world of finance, but I found it challenging as I tried different banks and nobody would take the chance on funding this project. The knowledge of the Access to Finance team was vital in securing the finance I needed to get my idea off the ground.”
KCS Print in Launceston also successfully secured a series of grants to aid expansion after receiving specialist one-to-one support. Zoe Deadman, Managing Director of KCS Print, adds: “Access to Finance has probably been the easiest and most directly beneficial business support I’ve received in the last five years.”
The Access to Finance programme provides free and impartial support through a mix of workshops and tailored one-to-one support covering all aspects of business finance. The team provide assistance with everything from writing a business plan and financial forecasting to identifying and applying for the most appropriate source of funding (e.g. grants, loans, equity, crowdfunding, debt funding, asset finance).
Businesses on the programme have also benefited from access to a suite of resources and tools. This includes GROWTHmapper® – the UK’s leading business diagnostic tool – which provides valuable insights into the perceived strengths and weaknesses of a business, so that support can be tailored to the needs of each client. Most recently, the team launched a new online learning platform, which offers 24/7 comprehensive video tutorials to provide business owners with the flexibility to learn at their own pace.
The Access to Finance programme is fully funded by the European Regional Development Fund, which comes to an end in June 2023.
Oxford Innovation Advice has been supporting businesses in Cornwall for over 12 years – enhancing the economy, lives and prosperity of communities and individuals across the county.