The Digital Advice Service, launched by East Suffolk Council in November 2020, offers free support to small businesses in East Suffolk – especially those in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, who may need help with creating or improving their website, online shop or social media presence.
The service offers extensive digital business support, a personalised session with a dedicated business growth coach, access to workshops from local experts and industry experts and group coaching sessions, as well as signposting to other forms of support.
Once enrolled, businesses are also eligible to apply for an East Suffolk Digital Grant of up to £1,000 to help them implement new digital changes, such as improving a website, installing new online systems or attending further training.
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. It supports our work to revitalise our high streets and enables our businesses to better adapt to the ongoing challenges of Covid-19. It is 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 Digital Advice Service is being delivered by a team of experts from the Business Growth Coaches Network (BGCN) on behalf of the council. 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: “One of the key things that local businesses have been calling out for is more support with digital skills and Business Growth Coaches Network is delighted to be working with East Suffolk Council who have come up with this innovative way to provide support. We are providing reviews, one-on-one coaching and over 20 workshops to help businesses develop on their journey to adapt to the world of having to compete with Amazon and the other huge online retailers and organisations.”
For more information and to apply, visit: https://eastsuffolkmeansbusiness.co.uk/business-support/resources/smart-towns
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 Wi-Fi 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 Wi-Fi 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 two-and-a-half years.