Almost 300 firms have been awarded a total of £818,000 in grants to help them emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown.
Cumbria Business Growth Hub enabled the businesses to receive funding from European Regional Development Fund’s Small Business Recovery and Kickstart Tourism grant schemes, 54 more than the targeted number.
The schemes provide grants between £1,000 and £3,000 to help businesses trade and survive by funding one-to-one specialist advice and purchases of equipment to modify and deliver services in line with COVID restrictions.
They aim to respond to challenges and strengthen businesses capacity to recover.
Suzanne Caldwell, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce managing director, said: “These continue to be really challenging times for many businesses.
“On top of day-to-day survival, many businesses just don’t have the cash to invest in recovering and moving forward. So we’re delighted that the Growth Hub has been able to help with this.
“It’s encouraging to see how businesses are using the funding available to help them move forward.”
Steve Cottrell, owner of the Santon Bridge Inn, which received the Kickstart Tourism grant, said: “The grant worked really well and has enabled us to upgrade wifi so that once guests return, they have full connectivity throughout the hotel.”
Rod Stewardson, owner of 32 Bar Hire in Workington, a mobile bar, also received funding through the Kickstart grant.
He said: “It allowed our business to become self-contained. We bought a trailer that had all the necessary equipment rather than having to risk using others’ equipment.
“We had a full diary last year and we didn’t fulfil any dates so this grant has really helped us move forwards.”
Growth Hub advisers can also help businesses to apply to other grant schemes.
Rod benefited from this too.
He added: “It was great having the adviser to help us through the process.”
The Growth Hub informs its clients about new grants as information comes to light. This is how Scott Wigglesworth, a commercial photographer from Blackfell Photography in Carlisle, heard about the Small Business Recovery grant.
With the Growth Hub’s help, he secured enough funding to buy equipment for video production and provide video work for commercial clients.
Scott said: “I saw this grant as an opportunity to pivot my business through COVID and add services to my offering.”
System Training in Carlisle also received a grant to help it attain the Cyber Essentials accreditation.
Managing director Tony Higgins said: “The grant has been extremely welcome during these hard times. It has helped us immensely.
“The whole application process was pretty seamless.”