Festival offers lifeline to small businesses

A week-long festival of events, organised by The Women’s Organisation, to offer vital advice and support to small firms across Liverpool city region is now under way. Tony McDonough reports

Maggie O'Carroll
Maggie O’Carroll, chief executive of The Women’s Organisation

A week-long programme of events aimed at start-up and small businesses across Liverpool city region is under way.

Starting on Monday, November 8, and running until Friday November 12, Liverpool-based social enterprise, The Women’s Organisation, has launched the Love Your Business Festival.

It offers a week-long programme of events culminating with a ‘sparkling’ speed-networking session on Friday, November 12 – which will offer up the opportunity to make new connections over a glass of “Friday fizz”.

Liverpool-based law firm Morecrofts have sponsored this year’s festival. Experts from the firm will be on hand on Friday to informally address any legal queries or concerns.

The festival is designed to coincide with Entrepreneurship Week 2021. Events will cover key considerations for new or budding start up businesses, including business planning, social media strategy, finance and bookkeeping, and sustainability.

Global Entrepreneurship Week is now in its ninth year and is set to engage millions of people through more than 35,000 planned events and activities. It is run by The Global Entrepreneurship Network, who manage and deliver projects in more than 180 countries.

And Maggie O’Carroll, chief executive of The Women’s Organisation, says the festival cannot come at a more important time for small businesses amid what she says was a lack of clear commitment to small business support, funding or skills in the Budget last month.

Small businesses make up 99.2% of the total UK business population, account for three fifths of employment and around half of the UK’s private sector turnover, according to FSB. The total combined turnover of the country’s small business community at the beginning of 2021 topped £2 trillion. 

The skills gap is one of the primary affecting factors when it comes to businesses successfully scaling up, according to a survey by Scale Up Capital. Maggie says the Budget was a positive one for large infrastructure projects, but left small businesses and the people on the ground behind.

She explained: “The business rates reliefs announced stand to leave whole swathes of businesses unsupported and this just isn’t good enough. Start ups and small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and are absolutely critical to our recovery post-pandemic. They provide jobs and attract investment into individual regions.

“If we are to see the economy begin to recover and thrive, we must first lift it off its knees by investing in funding and support – it’s what we call speculate to accumulate. Discounting business rates is an old-hat way of addressing economic development.

“The reality is that businesses now operate in a far more agile environment, so to still be talking about bricks and mortar is, frankly, absurd. It is a strategy that neglects thousands of struggling small businesses and fails to address how we kick start the economy by helping new businesses set up and grow.”

The Women’s Organisation is the largest developer and deliverer of training and support for women in the UK. It has supported more than 60,000 women and helped to create in excess of 4,000 businesses since it was established in 1996.

Maggie says that now, more than ever, we should be focused on just that. She added: “Furlough and people being forced out of work incited a culture of entrepreneurialism, which should absolutely be celebrated and sustained.

“Companies House data reveals that 340,534 businesses were registered in the UK between January and June 2021 – over 30% more than was the case in 2019. That is all well and good, but now we must do all we can to help those businesses strategise, scale and succeed.”

Click here for more information on the Love Your Business Festival

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