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Staffordshire architects turn plans into reality with Growth Hub funding
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Staffordshire architects turn plans into reality with Growth Hub funding

Funding from the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Hub has given Cheadle-based architecture firm Hewitt & Carr the space they needed to grow.

Directors Natalie Hewitt and Mark Carr set up Hewitt & Carr in 2011. As the business took off, the directors quickly found themselves with six members of staff in an office originally designed for two.

Natalie Hewitt explained: “We set up the business after being made redundant from Hulme Upright Ltd. I’d worked there for six years and Mark, our other director, had been there for 22 years. We jumped straight in; four weeks after the doors closed at Hulme Upright, we opened the doors to new clients at Hewitt & Carr. And we’ve been busy ever since!”

Mark Carr added: “We’ve worked on more than 400 projects since we opened in 2011, and as we took on more staff to fulfil all of the work, Natalie kept redesigning the office space to fit us all in. Finally by there were six of us working full-time in a small two-person office, and we desperately needed more room to grow.”

As the directors started to consider their options they were put in touch with business improvement consultancy Winning Moves via the Growth Hub. They suggested that as a rapidly growing business, they might benefit from some Growth Accelerator Business Coaching. Natalie also contacted the Staffordshire Business Innovation Centre (BIC) and secured some funding towards the cost of 12 months of coaching.

The Hewitt & Carr team began working with their business coach, and quickly realised that if they were to put any of their growth plans into action, they’d need a much bigger building. After searching for a premises where they could showcase their architectural skills and creative flair, Natalie and Mark took the plunge and secured a Grade II listed building on Cheadle High Street. Originally a butcher’s shop, the building had more recently been a building society, and so required complete renovation and modernisation.

Natalie approached the Growth Hub Adviser team, made up of business experts from the Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce. She was signposted in the direction of the High Growth Investment Programme, which was set up the Growth Hub and is managed and operated by Blue Sky Corporate Finance, an independent business and finance consultancy.

Natalie and Mark worked with their business coach to put together their funding application, and were awarded £15,000 towards the costs of renovating the new building and creating three new jobs at the firm.

The High Growth Investment Programme has been funded by the Government’s Regional Growth Fund through Lancaster University, which has led the creation of 15 new growth hubs across the UK. It is 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.

David Frost, Chairman of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership commented: “Hewitt & Carr is a prime example of how the Growth Hub can help expanding businesses capitalise on their growth. The team at Hewitt & Carr knew they needed to make a move to bigger premises and take on new staff to continue to grow, and the main priority of the Growth Hub is to support business growth and employment in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire. They were a perfect contender for the High Growth Investment Programme and I’m delighted that their business continues to be a success.”

Tony Seaton, Associate at Blue Sky Corporate Finance added: “Hewitt & Carr entered a really strong application for the High Growth funding. Since they opened, they’ve grown significantly year-on-year, and clearly they had outgrown their old office. Successful selection for the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire High Growth Investment Programme is based on supporting local businesses with their growth ambitions and ultimately generating new employment in the region. Hewitt & Carr’s investment has created three new jobs at their firm within the first year, and their new building has the space to accommodate further growth.”

Since the move, the directors at Hewitt & Carr have continued to be supported by their Business Coach, and by the Growth Hub team, with additional training and networking opportunities.

Natalie added: “The new building really is our showpiece. It represents what we’re about as a firm – a creative, dynamic space. Clients love what we’ve done, and the studio we’ve created on the top floor is an amazing, collaborative space to work in. We couldn’t have done the renovation without the High Growth funding, it’s allowed us to turn the building around in a few short months, bring on board two new members of staff immediately, and we’ll be recruiting for another soon. The business coaching we received has been fantastic, and has really given us the confidence to say ‘Yes, we’re doing this right, let’s carry on growing.’ It really gave us the push we needed to continue to grow.”

Notes:

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.

Blue Sky Corporate Finance is an independent business and finance consultancy based in the West Midlands. It specialises in helping the owners/managers of small to medium sized enterprises to become investment ready, raise finance, to sell a business, to undertake management buy-outs/buy-ins and to make corporate acquisitions. It works with most of the national and local equity investors including venture capital funds, corporate venture funds, development capital funds and business angel networks. It also works with national and regional grant providers.

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