If this level of interest in enterprise is reflective of entrepreneurial potential, Norfolk’s declining business birth rate – currently lower than rates for both the East of England, and the UK average – may soon take a turn for the better.
Outset Norfolk, funded by the county council and East of England Development Agency’s (EEDA) Investing in Communities initiative, is a free programme to raise awareness of the benefits of enterprise, and support people from across the county to start their own businesses.
Outset Norfolk was commissioned to address the poor business birth rate, and the programme will help to establish more than 52 new businesses. Clients have access to mentoring, coaching and, most recently, start-up training – an extension to the programme to address the provision gap for start-up support following recent spending cuts.
Chris Leighton, Programme Manager for Outset Norfolk, commented: “It’s misleading to talk about the county’s rural nature as a factor responsible for its low business start-up rate. Elsewhere in the country, start-up programmes such as Outset Cornwall are actively engaging with clients from all walks of life in very rural and isolated communities.
“The answer lies in the type and quality of training and support provision, the mode of delivery, which must be really client-focused and flexible, and the attitude and passion of the team. Community outreach, for example, is crucial in engaging with clients across sparsely populated areas. Providers cannot expect to engage with anyone except those actively interested in starting a business unless they take the service to the client.
“We are working hard to engage new groups who’ve never considered enterprise before, and in just two months of delivering the programme, we’ve experienced an astonishing level of interest from clients right across the county, from King’s Lynn, to Thetford and Diss. Our outreach work, approachable team and accessible content ensure that people have access to the right support at their individual stage of the enterprise journey. I’m confident, too, that there’s a lot more untapped potential out there which we will unlock.”
As of April, Outset Norfolk will be delivering information sessions and start-up training in Great Yarmouth, and other locations where funded programmes are coming to a close. Outset Norfolk will help to ensure a seamless transition for clients and continued support.