By Daniel Hunter

Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership (NEP) is celebrating the success of companies in the county that have taken advantage of its range of business support activity over the last 12 months.

45 new businesses have successfully applied for NEP’s start-up grant, receiving £1,000 to support their early growth, while nearly 600 businesses have benefited from NEP’s enterprising workshops to date.

With 99% of businesses in Northamptonshire small or medium sized enterprises (SMEs), the county’s economy is underpinned by enterprising local business owners. To ensure that this vital business community can continue to flourish, NEP is committed to supporting new and growing businesses in the county.

In the past year, NEP has been offering a comprehensive package of start-up support to aspiring entrepreneurs and new businesses including grants, mentoring, marketing workshops, extended business skills courses and business seminars.

· One of NEP’s most popular initiatives is the £1,000 to get started grant. This is awarded to new businesses in Northamptonshire to help cover set-up costs such as IT equipment and is subject to the viability of individual business plans and a strong application.

· Enterprise Champions, a six-month sales and marketing course, returned for its second year on 23rd September 2013. The course aims to help new and small businesses in the county to grow through sustained insight and access to expert advice. Recently nominated for the National Training Awards, the course is built around developing and putting into action the sales and marketing plans of participants.

· NEP’s Soft Landing Scheme is run in association with Northamptonshire's Innovation Centres giving inbound businesses a helping hand with a rent-free period during their key early stages. Over the last 12 months, 11 businesses have been awarded a total of £15,000, creating 36 new jobs. A further six new companies are set to benefit from the scheme providing an additional 15 jobs.

NEP’s Business Support Manager, Colin Lewis, commented: “SMEs are crucial to the Northamptonshire economy and supporting their growth is essential to developing new businesses and creating jobs in the county. However, starting up a business can be challenging so NEP wants to make sure that the county’s entrepreneurs have access to the best possible advice and information. We are committed to providing the right type of support and encouragement and are incredibly proud of the progress made by our start-up businesses to date.”

Councillor Jim Harker, Leader of Northamptonshire County Council, said: “Small and medium sized businesses are the engine room of the Northamptonshire economy and by applying this tailor-made assistance, it has been demonstrated that a little intervention can go a long way. Here we have some real success stories and I’m confident that with the county council’s support Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership can continue to deliver.”

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