Part 1: Interview with a Growth Hub Manager
We spoke with Helen Miller, Growth Hub Manager for Leicester and Leicestershire Growth Hub (part 1 of 2).
In the first half of this interview Helen tells the Business Finance Guide about what businesses can expect when they speak to their local Growth Hub, the questions most commonly asked by businesses and what she loves about her job.
What are Growth Hubs and Local Enterprise Partnerships? What can they do for my business?
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Name: Helen Miller
Role: Growth Hub Manager
Growth Hub: LLEP Business Gateway
Region: Leicester and Leicestershire
As a Growth Hub Manager, what’s your responsibility?
There are a few key aspects that I’m responsible for in my job.
My first responsibility is making sure that the Business Gateway delivers a high-quality service to businesses.
By working with business advisers, we use business intelligence from Leicester and Leicestershire to determine the needs of businesses in the region. I then look at whether we’re able to meet those needs – or indeed whether any of our partners in the local area are able to meet those needs – as well as assessing if there are any gaps in the provision of services in our region.
Secondly, I’m responsible for looking at the ways in which we can try to bridge those gaps, either through business funding opportunities, or by networking and partnering with public or private sector organisations that could potentially deliver the kind of support needed.
Finally, I’d say that the third aspect of my role is to ensure that intelligence about businesses in the region is fed through to the local LEP. The LEPs use that information when assessing the strategic needs of the region, especially when looking at local funding opportunities.
Can someone who hasn’t yet launched their company reach out to their local Growth Hub?
Yes, they can. Growth Hubs are open to all businesses. When starting out a lot of businesses don’t even know if it’s the right thing to do, as they might just have a loose business concept.
They should start off by speaking with their Growth Hub who’ll know where there are specialist business support providers that are used to working with start-ups. They can also help immerse them in the start-up environment, with peer-to-peer support, by linking them up with other businesses that are at the same point in their journey.
So yes, I really advise any business at any stage in their journey to start with their local Growth Hub who’ll put them in touch with the right people to help.
Find your local Growth Hub here
What questions are business advisers most often asked by businesses?
One of the top questions is always “what funding is available to me?”, and that’s often the starting point for many businesses when our advisers speak to them. But while they might need some funding, what they’re in real need of is support around aspects of their business growth plan.
Do people often ask about grant funding?
Well, businesses often begin by asking what grant funds available, but I think quite often the grants don’t meet their needs.
Grants tend to be either capped at quite a low level or have quite a lot of criteria associated with them, so can be challenging and time-consuming to obtain.
We’ve been working with the fund managers within the British Business Bank to see how we can encourage more businesses to adopt a cocktail approach to funding, to consider the different types of lenders that are available to them and to step away from grant dependencies.
There really are quite a lot of alternative funding mechanisms available to businesses and we really encourage businesses to educate themselves on them. The Business Finance Guide is a great resource for small businesses looking to learn more about business finance options.
Of course, if a grant is the right fit for a business then we will help them apply for that, but we do tend to advocate that cocktail funding approach wherever possible.
Finally, what do you most enjoy about your job?
One of the best things about my job is the people. I’m making lots of small and simple connections all the time, whether that’s when I speak with local businesses or our delivery partners, and it feels like it all contributes to a much bigger thing.
I really enjoy getting to know the people behind the businesses, and love to work with anyone who’s enthusiastic, because it’s completely infectious and it helps you to face the challenges when they arise.
In the second half of this interview
, Helen discusses the strengths and challenges in the Leicester and Leicestershire area, and shares the business story of a local company that’s been supported by the Growth Hub throughout their business journey.
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