The government's landmark Growth Voucher scheme is well underway. More than 1,000 SMEs of all kinds have received vouchers from the £30 million pot, which equates to £2 million worth of advice on support on areas like IT, finance and marketing.
In this guide, we'll take an in-depth look at the scheme and explore the ways that the initiative can make PR and marketing for SMEs much more cost-effective.
Announced in January this year by Lord Young, the Growth Voucher programme is just one of the ways the government seeks to find out the effect of advice and support on the growth of SMEs.
Help is available in disparate areas like leadership, management, staff development and recruitment, technology and marketing.
The vouchers themselves are worth up to £2,000 - although the stake must be match-funded by the SME that receives them. Suppliers are paid directly then the business in question can claim back funds from the government.
In the words of Lord Young:
"Most companies, when they are launching a new product or service, do a lot of research before they enter the market. With Growth Vouchers, the government is doing just that to work out the value of early stage advice for the growing number of start-up, micro and small businesses."
How to Apply
Before you get underway with your application, it's vital to ensure your SME is eligible. There's a range of requirements, which are freely available to view, but some key points include:
- Having less than 49 full-time employees
- A turnover of less than €10 million
- No more than 25% of the business can be owned by one or more external organisations
- The company must have been trading for at least one year
- Cannot have applied for Growth Vouchers previously
- SMEs must be registered with Companies House in the UK
Once you're satisfied you meet the requirements, you can proceed to the application stage. The government is looking to distribute vouchers to approximately 20,000 SMEs and is particularly keen on reaching those that haven't sought advice and support before.
You can carry out your application using the government's online form. If you're successfully considered, your company will be randomly assigned to carry out an online assessment questionnaire or a face-to-face appraisal.
If you pass both stages, your company is put into a pool and can be randomly chosen to receive a voucher for specialist support in one of the aforementioned areas.
As stated, you'll have to match any funding you receive up to £2,000, but once you get confirmation you can begin the process of finding an appropriate adviser in the Enterprise Nation Marketplace.
You can sort advisers by category and add further filters to find the highest-rated companies, as well as those that have been approved to participate in the Growth Voucher scheme.
When you find one you'd like to investigate further, you can add them to a shortlist or fire off an enquiry without having to leave the Enterprise Nation website.
Are you tempted to participate in the Growth Vouchers scheme or do you think the initiative is too limited and doomed to fail? Either way, we'd love to hear what you have to think so be sure to leave us a comment below.
We've also put together a brand new resource for SMEs looking to get to grips with the basics of marketing and PR, which you can download for free right now: