A year after the coronavirus pandemic swept through Derbyshire, the economic impact is still being felt right across the county, with many businesses still counting the cost and people who lost their jobs still looking for work.
But while many sectors continue to struggle, there has been a huge increase in people setting up their own business in order to keep their heads above water or simply fulfil a long-held ambition.
And they are not alone. Figures show that across the UK more than 400,000 new businesses, including more than 2,000 in Derbyshire, were launched last year, with entrepreneurs who may have never dreamed of being their own bosses helping to lead the UK’s post-COVID recovery.
Now, a partnership of local authorities across Derbyshire, including High Peak Borough Council, have joined forces to launch Vision Derbyshire in order to encourage more people living locally to set up their own companies too.
Called the ‘Vision Derbyshire Business Start-Up and Business Support Grant Scheme’, the scheme is open to those who are about to take the plunge or have just started their business journey.
Vision Derbyshire has already assembled a team of local expert business advisors who will be there to offer free advice and support, while funding of up to £10,000 per applicant is also available.
Networking opportunities and help in securing a wide range of services necessary to help entrepreneurs turn their venture into a success will also be a part of the package.
Nothing on this scale has ever been launched in Derbyshire before and, unlike other business support schemes, Vision Derbyshire is targeting entrepreneurs and those aged between 17 and 30, or who are aged over 50 and who lost their jobs or livelihoods during COVID.
Councillor Anthony Mckeown, Leader of the Borough Council, said: “The impact of Covid has affected everyone with businesses forced to close for long periods and individuals facing decisions about their working lives and future aspirations.
“Councils across Derbyshire have been committed to doing all we can for our local businesses through what has been a challenging time but our local economy has been unavoidably hit hard by the pandemic.
“As we emerge from it, we need to focus on how we can support businesses and those who were affected as they look to recover and rebuild. For some, this might mean investigating launching their own business or making plans to go it alone.
“The scheme that Vision Derbyshire has put together is specifically designed to help these people, so that together we can nurture the spirit of enterprise and entrepreneurship which, in turn will help our local economy to re-emerge stronger.
“I’m pleased that the High Peak is playing a leading role in this county-wide initiative and would encourage anyone considering setting up in business, or who has done so during the last year, to find out more about how Vision Derbyshire can help them turn their ambitions into successful and sustainable businesses.”
A funding pot of £550,000, which has been raised through Derbyshire’s involvement in the Government’s Retained Business Rates Pilot scheme, has been set aside to fund companies, with a range of grants available over the next two years.