Brother and sister team Jenny Walker and Jason Garner have secured funding from Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Hub to meet the growing demand for their events planning business, Lumiere.
Jenny, 27, and Jason, 23, who are from Stoke, began trading as LG Events Ltd in March 2014, working from a small office in an enterprise centre in Burslem. However, it soon became clear that without a bigger space and a retail presence, they wouldn’t be able to cope with the surge in demand for their services.
As a new business, the duo turned to the Growth Hub to see if there was any assistance available to help them expand. The Growth Hub advisors, business experts from the Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, quickly put them in touch with Jackie Millward at the Business Innovation Centre (BIC), who helped them to secure a Small Business Grant to cover 33 per cent of the cost of expanding the business.
Jackie explained: “Our initial visit to Lumiere was at their premises in Burslem. They were working out of a very small room, which was hindering the growth of the business. The BIC helped them with business advice and helped identify alternative accommodation and funding the renovation and equipment costs to be able to employ additional staff.”
After a few months of working with the BIC on their business plans, the pair were granted £5,000 towards the costs of moving to new retail premises, which included rebranding the business as Lumiere and hiring two new employees.
The Growth Hub advisors also signposted Jenny and Jason to Newcastle Borough Council, who helped them to find suitable retail premises on Merrial Street in Newcastle town centre and assisted them in promoting the new venture. And business has been going from strength to strength since the store opened in April.
It’s a dream come true for Jenny, who has a textiles degree, and Jason, an art graduate. Jenny said: “The store opening is the result of a lifelong dream for me and my brother. We’ve always been creative types and to be able to put our skills to good use by helping people have their dream wedding or party is amazing. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”
Jason added: “We are both passionate about art and design, and have a natural flair for it. This is a brilliant opportunity to build a business doing something that we love, and we are getting a great response from our customers.”
Since the move the Lumiere team has continued to benefit from the business support offered by the BIC and the Growth Hub, with invitations to start-up days, networking opportunities and training schemes available.
Jackie Millward added: “The Small Business Grant has been an excellent scheme for SMEs to help with the associated costs of employing a new member of staff. The scheme has helped to fill a gap in funding requirements and has proved that smaller grants are needed to help start up businesses and SMEs.”
The Growth Hub programme has been funded by the Government’s Regional Growth Fund through Lancaster University, which led the creation of 15 new growth hubs across the UK. It has been designed to enable local companies to realise their growth potential by offering grant funding for expansion, capital equipment purchases, support for training, and research and development.
Jenny concluded: “Without the BIC, we wouldn’t have been able to have a retail presence and grow like we have. Demand from clients far outstripped what we could offer from the old premises. Our new premises offer a stylish, relaxed environment where our customers can come to see us and try out some ideas for their event. The BIC have supported us all the way – neither of us had run a business before and their advice and help has been brilliant.”
David Frost, Chairman of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) commented: “We have a thriving creative community in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, and being able to support and nurture that creative talent is vital. From our strength and heritage in the global ceramics industry, to the entrepreneurs like Jenny and Jason; we are keen to support creative businesses across our LEP area. By securing a Small Business Grant, Lumiere has been able to grow and bring additional creative employment opportunities to the area, which we wholeheartedly support.”
Lancaster University plays two distinct and innovative roles in the Wave 2 Growth Hub programme – as programme managers and as expert support to programme development. A first for universities in the UK, this programme demonstrates the dynamic roles that universities, and especially their business schools, can play in the UK’s Growth Agenda. Lancaster University, which was named as a top-ten university for SME engagement in the recent Witty Review and has received a Gold Small Business Charter Award, successfully bid to run this Regional Growth Fund programme. This is due to its Management School’s long-standing reputation for innovative support to business, and also because of the university’s experience and expertise in successfully managing European Funding programmes across the UK.
The Staffordshire Business Innovation Centre celebrated 20 years this year supporting local businesses to grow through innovation. The company is a not-for-profit organisation funded through sponsorship and UK and European Regeneration Funds.
In the last 20 years it has awarded over £3.8m to help companies identify, research, develop and market new products and processes. The BIC offers business advice on new ideas, runs events and workshops to give people the skills to understand innovation, has access to finance for innovation and rents out small Incubation Units to help people set up in business with their innovations.