A business network used LEADER funding to provide an alternative source of business support to rural communities through local people with relevant knowledge and contacts.
Before GrowBiz the area of Eastern and Highland Perthshire, Scotland, had no community of enterprises that could provide locally-based support and opportunities for collaboration. Any entrepreuneur seeking support for his/her business or wanting to start one had to travel to the nearest city (Perth).
The initiative started as a pilot project in 2007 aiming to implement the community-led Sirolli method of supporting businesses. Activities included establishing a volunteer board of up to 10 people from the community and appointing a locally-based Enterprise Coordinator. Support one-on-one meetings were organised to identify what new entrepreneurs need to get started with their business. These are friendly informal sessions arranged twice per month helping individuals meet others who are setting up or running their own businesses or ventures. A network of volunteers, the GrowBiz XChange, was also set up where they share their skills and help others achieve their goals.
The project helped over 500 individuals, small companies and social enterprises to creating more than 100 new businesses and over 200 jobs.
GrowBiz works with around 120 individuals or groups a year, of which between 10% and 15% are migrants to the area. For migrant workers, it has offered vital support in finding business opportunities - often in agriculture - after initial work contracts have finished.
During this process, there have been many other positive impacts on individuals and the community as a whole. These include boosting self-confidence and business planning skills as well as increased collaboration and volunteering schemes within the community.