Small businesses in East Suffolk are to be offered advice and support on digital adaptations and interventions to help during the challenges of Covid-19.
East Suffolk Council have today launched a free-to-use Digital Advice Service which will offer small businesses, especially those in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, with an opportunity to get digital advice and diagnostics.
The service will offer extensive digital business support, a personalised session with a business growth coach, access to digital growth workshops and group coaching sessions, as well as signposting to other forms of support including a small grant scheme. East Suffolk businesses are urged to sign up for the service by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The service has been developed by the Council in response to the business hardship created by Covid-19 and to support town centre businesses who are struggling with local economic challenges.
Cllr Craig Rivett, East Suffolk’s Deputy Leader and cabinet member for Economic Development said: “The Digital Advice Service is being provided by East Suffolk Council to assist businesses with the challenges they currently face. We want the service to support our work to revitalise our high streets and support our businesses in adapting to the challenges of Covid-19. It will be a real opportunity to both assess your business’s current digital profile and customer reach and learn of new digital skills or products to support your business’s survival and growth.”
The Council is working with a team of experts from the Business Growth Coaches Network (BGCN) who will deliver the advice service on the Council’s behalf. BGCN brings together highly experienced coaches and mentors from around the country to support SMEs and their businesses.
Peter Basford, founder of the Business Growth Coaches Network, said: “I’m really excited to be working with East Suffolk Council first of all to help understand the digital challenges that retail and leisure businesses face and then to help them succeed in these unusual times with our practical digital advice and guidance through workshops and 121s.”
Business groups have welcomed the news of the Digital Advice Service. Didy Ward, jewellery maker and Chair of Bungay Events and Business Association said: “This is welcome news for many small local businesses. So many of us are having to adapt to lockdowns and social distancing, and we need clear advice and support especially around digital adaptions so we can improve web presence and marketing. We are keen for as many of our businesses as possible to sign up”
The service is also working as a business support pilot for the East Suffolk ‘Smart Towns’ project. The project has a core theme of ‘digital place making’ and aims to support town centres across East Suffolk with the installation of free-to use public WiFi and anonymised visitor monitoring technology with accompanying analytics. In addition, the project aims to deliver an ambitious business and town support ’springboard’ programme which will offer further digital diagnostics, workshops and funding for businesses and town councils across East Suffolk. This ambitious programme has been funded by the New Anglia LEP’s Innovative Projects Fund, the Getting Building Fund and East Suffolk Council internal funding.
Cllr Stephen Burroughes, East Suffolk's cabinet member for Customer Services, Operational Partnerships and Digital Transformation, said: “We are doing all we can to support our high streets and town centres which have been adversely affected by the pandemic. Once the current restrictions have eased and businesses can reopen safely, our Smart Towns project will bring a new vibrancy to our town centres by providing an intelligent and innovative approach to supporting communities and businesses.”
Following a successful pilot in Framlingham in 2019, East Suffolk’s ‘Smart Towns’ Project is now being rolled out to other market towns across the district including Aldeburgh, Beccles, Bungay, Felixstowe, Halesworth, Leiston, Lowestoft, Saxmundham, Southwold and Woodbridge.
The project will provide free public WiFi for visitors in the main shopping areas of each town, as well as providing anonymised visitor monitoring technology to help town councils and business groups understand how and when residents and visitors use these areas. This data will enable them to improve services and offerings to attract more visitors, as well as gauging the success of events and specific promotions. The project will also deliver a broad business and town support and digital growth programme to enable improved business and town online presence and digital skills across the district. The project will begin in January 2021 and is expected to be completed within 2.5 years.