Stoke Staffs LEP
Business helpline supports expansion and employee development

Business helpline supports expansion and employee development

A children’s nursery owner has been able to expand her operations and carry out employee development with support offered through the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Business Helpline.

The helpline – 0300 111 8002 – is marking its first year in its current format – providing a wide range of support, advice and networking opportunities.

Andrea Simcock-Bull bought Small Steps Day Nursery in Penkhull, Stoke-on-Trent in 2008. It had 18 day children and a small after school club and eight employees. The nursery doubled in numbers until they needed new premises late in 2012.

Andrea’s focus on maintaining her client base meant that she didn’t want to move too far. She found new premises nearby and the nursery has since expanded considerably with 90 children now registered and employees up to 25.

Shortly after moving to the new premises, Andrea contacted the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Business Helpline to find out about help and support available to small companies locally. The helpline team was able to explain how schemes such as GrowthAccelerator, which works with high growth businesses, and Michelin UK’s development fund, which provides loans, could support Small Steps.

Andrea also wanted advice about how she could set up links with colleges and universities to enable students to experience a placement in a nursery in addition to providing stimulus for the children.

As Small Steps had expanded to offer pre- and after-school clubs, Andrea needed to ensure that parents were aware of the range available. Through support by the North Staffordshire Chamber programmes recommended by the business helpline, Andrea was able to create advertising and business development plans.

Andrea said: “My business has a very clear and strong customer focus model, which generates real trust and confidence from the parents and clear enjoyment from their children. I had ambition to grow and improve the business and just needed some easy to access guidance as to where I could receive the right support. That’s where the business helpline team made a difference.”

The LEP’s lead on business growth and innovation Jonathan Dale said: “Supporting businesses like Andrea’s is what the helpline and local enterprise partnership is all about. This is a real success story and encouraging to other entrepreneurs. We have seen the number of calls increase over the last year and we can see that the helpline is making a difference. We look forward to seeing Andrea take Small Steps Day Nursery forward and enjoy future growth.”

The helpline dealt with 1,200 calls in 2013 – supporting businesses from pre-start – up businesses through to large multi-national companies. Advisors signpost enquiries to where support can be found on a wide range of topics including starting a business, leadership, products and services, operations, employment, marketing, regulation, licensing and business rates issues.

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