Suffolk firm Hudson Group has been on a journey in recent years and accompanying it has been New Anglia Growth Hub. The Needham Market manufacturer of signage and branded clothing, which takes in three companies and employs 42 people, was supported to get access to a grant via New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s Business Resilience and Recovery Scheme, allowing it to diversify and increase its capacity. Sales director and owner Tom Wright has meanwhile participated in the Growth Hub’s Peer Network Programme and more recently worked with Senior Skills Advisor Lindsay Long and Business Skills Advisor Anthony Goggin on skills support and exploring the development required to support ongoing growth. This has included the recruitment of a new apprentice.
Here, Tom talks about the impact of Covid, how the business responded and the support it received from the Growth Hub.
‘How are we going to get through this?’ is a question I am sure many business owners contemplated in March 2020. I certainly didn’t have any answers but I did make a promise to myself and the staff we employed that it wouldn’t be without a fight, and I decided the best way was to consider something new, something we hadn’t considered previously. We had already at this point started to make virus protection screens and ‘Back to work’ products on our very old but trustworthy CNC router, which was seeing us through the initial downturn in our standard business model. But this was more personal and with very few staff left (most were on furlough) what could I personally do? We have had always had a strong attitude as a company of, ‘If you need something done, we need to crack on and do it, no second guessing’. What we had never considered was external help or funding but with in such extraordinary times, what better time to take a look.
This is when, through our Suffolk Chamber of Commerce subscription, I was introduced to New Anglia Growth Hub. I registered online for a couple of things that seemed of interest and relevance to me and our businesses: one was the Peer to Peer Networking scheme, a weekly Zoom session with fellow business owners where we could discuss our current issues (mainly Covid-related at time) and ‘what keeps you awake night’. I was sceptical initially because of the vast variation in the size and skills of the other businesses, but that provide to be misplaced. These weekly sessions were skilfully lead by Sam Lindley, the Mastermind Facilitator, and Sky Craig of New Anglia Growth Hub, the group was ideal for what I needed, challenging me and making me more accountable as a business owner.
I had also expressed some interest in the Business Resilience and Recovery Scheme, which we applied for promptly as the CNC router we had been using to make all the ‘Back to work’ products was now very much on its last legs. As part of the application, we had to demonstrate the need for the grant and how any new equipment would secure jobs and help the company grow. We did this by applying for funding for a new state-of-the-art CNC router and two new pieces of printing equipment for our clothing division. The grant was approved and seamlessly paid by Suffolk Council County, and is already proving its worth in revenue and profitability.
As by chance, one my fellow Peers on the networking group was Rob Davies of One to One Communications, who had recently been commissioned by the Growth Hub to video some of the companies to benefit from the Business Resilience and Recovery Grant Scheme. So, while Rob was with us we took the plunge and got our first ever company video up-and-running, skilfully directed by Rob.
Through the award of the grant and the Peer Network programme we were on a roll, had re-structured and the equipment was in place for us to grow. We had some job vacancies and through the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and the Kickstart scheme will employed a Production Assistant. But we were struggling to find a suitable candidate for the Sales and Marketing role, so I went back to the Growth Hub and was introduced to Lindsay Long. She has so many contacts with training companies, local colleges and recruiters, and on 4 January 2022 Robyn Brighton joined us as a Sales and Marketing Administrator. We are looking to use Blue Sky Assessing to facilitate Robyn’s Level 3 Marketing qualification and an added bonus to all of this is the £3,000 apprentice funding we can claim to help Robyn on her way.
My simple advice to other businesses is never be afraid to ask for help and The New Anglia Growth Hub can help in so many ways.
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