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Peer Network scheme recruiting businesses keen to innovate

Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP) is now recruiting eligible businesses for a free advice and support programme.

The Peer Network programme is opening a new cohort and is looking to offer guidance, support and advice to businesses looking to develop new ways of thinking and responses to their business challenges – really helping businesses to develop new solutions to the issues that they are facing.

The programme runs from October 2021 to March 2022 and a variety of topics will be covered from further developing your entrepreneurial and finance skills to how to support the wellbeing and motivation of your workforce.

Sessions will take place every fortnight on a Tuesday morning. Other topics will include:

  • HR – Hiring and developing talented people; recognising the difference between skills and qualifications; dealing with labour and skills shortages; linking with trainers and colleges.
  • Finance – Understanding your company’s financial needs; the importance of being properly capitalised from day one; finding seed funding, development capital, venture capital and investors.
  • Communication Skills – how to articulate your business mission; PR and media relations; the critical importance of internal communications; use of social media.
  • Sales and Marketing – What’s the difference? Marketing strategies and sales plans and how they must complement each other; understanding your audience and target markets – and how to reach them through the optimal media mix.

The sessions will be led by Jack Stopforth of Taylor Stopforth (Consulting Services), who has worked as CEO/MD and Chair of his own and other people’s businesses and organisations for many years. Jack has lived in Cumbria for 25 years and works as a management consultant across the UK and internationally. He is Chair of the Borderlands Economy Forum and is a member of the Partnership Board of the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal.

Jack said: “The stats are unequivocal. Business owners and managers, who reach out and seek external support are more likely to succeed than those who don’t. It is a cliché but running a business, whether it’s your own or somebody else’s, is a stressful and lonely job. Meeting others facing the same pressures and learning from their experience can only help.

“Coaching sessions will cover a range of business issues, but don’t expect lectures or seminars. I am less interested in teaching those things than I am in finding new ways to deal with them as challenges unique to your business.

“This is what we mean by innovative businesses – not necessarily technological solutions but fresh approaches to your business challenges discussed in an atmosphere of trust and collaboration, whether in the peer group or in one to one mentoring … and I can’t wait to get started.”

Cumbria’s Peer Networks is a programme free to qualifying businesses that brings them together across a range of themed cohorts to share their collective experience. Eligible firms should have been trading for at least twelve months, employ between 5 and 249 people and have a turnover of at least £100,000 per annum, up to a maximum of £36m.

It is aimed at SMEs with similar growth ambitions, allowing them to share their experiences, challenges and opportunities and offers one-to-one coaching to provide each business with bespoke support.

Businesses wishing to take advantage of the scheme are urged to register quickly, as places are limited. The programme is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and therefore businesses are able to benefit from the programmes at no cost. However, demand is likely to be high and businesses are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

To apply, or for further information, contact CLEP Programme Manager Amanda Wharton on 07920 877644 or

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