Business support in London by Deputy Mayor of London for Business, Rajesh Agrawal
As Deputy Mayor of London for Business, I would like to thank the British Library Business & IP Centre for giving me the opportunity to tell readers about the importance of business support in the capital and what the Mayor of London has to offer London’s SMEs and entrepreneurs.
With over 1 million micro-businesses and SMEs in the capital, we recognise the crucial role that small and medium sized enterprises play in London’s Economy. And as an entrepreneur myself, I closely identify with the many entrepreneurs that I meet through my new role in city government – and I know the kind of challenges that SME owners face day in day out.
I also know that there is help, advice, support, and funding out there to help businesses grow, but it can be difficult, complex and time consuming to find. But the vast majority of businesses that do take advice find that it adds real value to their business. So, to help more businesses access the type of support that can really make a difference, in 2016 we launched the London Growth Hub, funded by the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP), London’s local enterprise partnership.
Initially an online support tool, the original objective of the London Growth Hub was for it to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all the available business support in the capital. Since its launch, it has provided support to hundreds of businesses and entrepreneurs. The website offers various forms of support, such as fact sheets that provide key information for starting a business. Using the Growth Hub’s support search tool can help you find new solutions that you might not have initially thought about. Users can also filter their search to find support specific to their needs, and their sector.
Networking is a great way to meet potential clients, collaborators, investors as well as mentors. So, we’ve created an events calendar, updated daily, where you can find relevant events taking place near you. Shared and open workspaces are also a fantastic way of broadening your networks, as well as marketing your business. The Growth Hub’s interactive workspace map lists over 400 workspaces, studios and more in, as well as incubators and accelerators.
The Growth Hub team also meet with businesses from around the capital to find out how business support programmes in London have helped them to grow. The portal hosts a series of inspiring case studies showcasing business support in London, as entrepreneurs who have benefited in the past take you through their business journey, the ups and downs that come with starting a business, and the importance of perseverance.
However, we also understand the importance of providing face-to-face support to entrepreneurs so we have now launched a series of free pilot programmes that provide one-to-one mentoring, master classes and tutorial events. The Growth Hub launched Mentoring for Growth last summer, a programme that matches up SMEs with high potential for growth with leaders from top British businesses. The London Growth Hub can link you up to the right mentoring scheme for you through government, local councils, trade associations and more.
Meet the Buyer, launched in 2018, helps small companies access buyers from street markets, through to major multinationals. The programme offers London’s SMEs the chance to learn how to pitch products to different sectors and types of buyers and gain the essential knowledge to present ad pitch successfully, as well as attend events where they can meet potential future clients. Participants have also been able to network with other SMEs that have successfully pitched to buyers and find out the lessons learned to hone in on their technique.
We have begun to work with London’s entrepreneurs to ensure that the face-to-face programmes we offer are inclusive for all Londoners. LEAP began hosting a series of roundtables with BAME female, disabled and LGBT entrepreneurs in 2018, as a way of initiating discussion with London’s minority entrepreneurs to get guidance and recommendations on what we can do to help access to growth. One of the outcomes of this has been an events series with Funding London, aimed at supporting BAME and female-founder start-ups.
We also teamed up with the British Library Business & IP Centre on their season of Digital Disruption, which included a series of including workshops, mentoring, talks and online webinars, taking place at the British Library. As we covered a variety of topics, including marketing, SEO, social media and more, SMEs were able to learn what it takes to be noticed and make their mark. These events helped SMEs in all sectors get ahead by embracing change and forging new, creative solutions to existing problems.
Chaired by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, LEAP is responsible for allocating over £440m government funding across regeneration, skills and business support initiatives. LEAP is also investing over £300m in London’s Royal Docks Enterprise Zone and provides strategic oversight for London’s £650m EU structural funds programme. It brings entrepreneurs and business together with the Mayoralty and London Councils to identify strategic actions to support and lead economic growth and job creation in the capital.