The level of support available to local businesses in Barnsley has been bolstered with the appointment by the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub of more Business Support Advisors hired to work closely with SMEs across the town.

The new Advisors, who will work across Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield, have been hired as part of the ambitious £1.7bn Renewal Action Plan (RAP) developed by the Mayoral Combined Authority, Mayor Dan Jarvis and the Local Enterprise Partnerships.

The RAP has been developed in response to the impacts of COVID-19 and sets out a roadmap for how South Yorkshire can put itself on the path to recovering from the massive economic disruption the pandemic has caused. As well as supporting businesses to thrive after lockdown, the RAP will also create wide-ranging benefits for the South Yorkshire region including getting 55,000 people into work or training, helping 25,000 businesses to adapt and innovate, and accelerating key strategic objectives like decarbonisation.

The new team of Business Support Advisors will work on the ground in each of their appointed areas to identify SME businesses adversely effected by these current economic challenges and support them to restart and recover after lockdown.

Once identified, the team of advisors will work closely with each company to carry out a full diagnostic, pinpoint areas of improvement and proactively work to understand their challenges. Individual Advisors will then focus on their specific area of expertise to broker solutions and strategies for the business to help overcome barriers and identify other support schemes or funding opportunities available to help the company achieve its full growth potential.

James Muir, Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Chairman, explains: “These new appointments are a clear demonstration of how the Mayoral Combined Authority is working to support SME’s and start-ups across South Yorkshire and how we are already meeting the steps laid out as part of our Renewal Action Plan. There are still so many businesses who are unaware that there is this level of support available to them, especially during these unprecedented times. We would encourage any business owners that are struggling, or even if they just need advice on moving their company forward, recovering after lockdown or taking the next steps towards growth, to get in touch and make the most of this free, one to one service.”

James Muir adds: “The Sheffield City Region Growth Hub’s Business Advisors have been working hard to help companies across South Yorkshire to survive and thrive, especially throughout the past year and since the first lockdown was introduced. We’re pleased to say that hundreds of companies have benefited and are better off for it, so it’s no surprise that this new team has been welcomed greatly by the local authorities, who are also keen to reach and support more businesses in their district.”

One business that has already benefited from dedicated support provided by the Sheffield City Region Business Support Advisor’s is Merlinsoft, a Barnsley company specialising in software for the visitor attraction, retail and charity sector.

The Sheffield City Region growth hub had started working with the company back in February 2020 to develop a new marketing strategy when lockdown happened and unfortunately, Merlinsoft, like many other companies, had to furlough its entire workforce for three months. During this time, Merlinsoft further developed its Sitebuilder software, which is an on-line product that can be used by any businesses such as Pick Your Own Farms to create ‘slots’ for the whole day with a just a few ‘clicks’.

Owen Gleadall, Managing Director of Merlinsoft explains: “The lockdown meant ticket sales dropped to nothing, so we had no option other than to furlough our staff. Once restrictions were eased, we started bringing people back in late June, as we recognised that PYO Farms were looking for software to help them meet Covid-19 restrictions in enabling people to book and pay online in order to maintain social distancing and protect their staff.”

Virtually overnight, the business went from an income of around £400k per month in normal times to over £1m per month. Darren Buxton, Business Growth Specialist at Sheffield City Region, said: “I was worried for Merlinsoft when the lockdown hit as their business had clients solely in the retail and events sector. I got in touch with Owen in July to see how they were doing, and it was great to hear they had been busy developing their new software to meet the changing needs of the market. Now not only have we helped to recruit new developers to the team, but we are also helping Merlinsoft to market their software booking solutions to pubs and restaurants, which is potentially a huge growth area. We are really excited to see how things progress for them.”

The Sheffield City Region Growth Hub acts as a ‘gateway’ so that businesses can access support when it is needed the most and within the shortest timeframe. The Growth Hub team of advisors offer guidance in the fields of business development and industry support, including innovation, growth, logistics, trade and exporting and accessing finance or training.

Any business that is looking to re-establish or recover after making significant losses due to the Coronavirus lockdown or is facing challenges that put its long-term future in question, should speak to the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub team today.

Cllr Tim Cheetham, Cabinet spokesperson for Regeneration and Culture, said: “We’re delighted to receive what is a fantastic resource to be able to further increase our Enterprising Barnsley offer to a wide range of businesses in Barnsley. During what has been a difficult period for our many businesses, this is a huge step in providing detailed support and advice to set about positive restart and recovery, a value our businesses will hugely appreciate.



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