By Daniel Hunter

Santander has launched an ambitious year-long programme of support for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Delivered in partnership with award-winning social enterprise Cause4, the programme will develop a network for female entrepreneurs, support ambitious social enterprises to scale internationally, and encourage responsible business practices that impact bottom line results for ambitious entrepreneurs.

According to official statistics, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for 59% of private sector employment and contribute to almost half of commercial turnover in Britain, making them vital for job and wealth creation. This new programme of support is aimed at businesses with a turnover of between £500,000 and £50 million per annum with demonstrable growth in turnover, profitability or job creation. The Santander Breakthrough programme aims to help these businesses fulfil their growth potential to create jobs and stimulate supply-chain demand via a programme of both capital and development support.

The partnership between Cause4 and Santander will focus on three areas:

Women in Breakthrough Network — a new female entrepreneurship network and mentoring programme for ambitious female entrepreneurs.

Female entrepreneurs are responsible for at least a third of business start-ups in the UK, and can benefit greatly from a female mentor. According to the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development) most female entrepreneurs prefer to work collaboratively with others in virtual groups. By working in this way, independent entrepreneurs join up their skills and expertise to deliver greater value to their customers and the economy. The Women in Breakthrough Network includes a mentoring programme by high-growth female entrepreneurs for SMEs at the point of growth and expansion, as well as a UK-wide series of debates and networking events.

Social Enterprise Breakthrough Network — seminars and packages of support for 20 social enterprises in the UK with genuine national and international scale-up potential.

There are approximately 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, which contribute £18.5 billion to the UK economy and employ almost a million people. However, there is very little support for the more mature social enterprises that have strong potential to scale up their activities and to export internationally. Cause4 will develop a programme to work with 20 of the most scalable social enterprises in the UK, providing a year-long training package covering enterprise, growth, income generation and international export.

Encouraging Responsible Enterprise — a national programme to encourage fast-growth SMEs to improve their bottom line through charity, philanthropy and talent development initiatives.

This seminar programme will encourage responsible business practices, enabling SMEs to develop their community engagement and talent development programmes, with a focus on how responsible business activities can ensure a positive impact on a small businesses bottom line.

Cause4 CEO, Michelle Wright, said: “As a hyper-growth social business founded just five years ago, we understand the challenges faced by fast-growing SMEs and how crucial it is to be able to access the right kind of support during this critical period in any company’s life. All of these activities will be led by established entrepreneurs that can provide practical advice to those growing businesses, enabling them to take their enterprise to the next stage of development.”

Head of the Santander UK Breakthrough Programme, John Williams, said: “We are committed to helping people and businesses prosper. The Women in Breakthrough Programme has taken ambitious women on trade missions to potential export markets. Through the programme we now more closely understand the challenges faced by these fast-growing SMEs, and how we can support them even further.

“It is vital that we support female entrepreneurs. The mentoring partnership with Cause4 is just one way in which we encourage more women in the UK to collaborate with one another and benefit from their mutual experience to find solutions and inspiration to help grow their business”.

For more information about the Women in Breakthrough Mentoring Programme and to apply to receive mentoring, please visit http://bit.ly/breakthroughmentoring. The deadline for applications is 26 January 2015.

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