During the coronavirus crisis Welsh Government’s Business Wales service has supported over 750 entrepreneurs to start a business or become self-employed, Economy Minister Ken Skates has revealed.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted the economy and labour market at an unprecedented scale, threatening to reverse progress made in reducing unemployment and economic inactivity in Wales over the last decade. It has meant many individuals are facing even greater barriers to starting a business or accessing the labour market than ever before.
But Welsh Government made a commitment to ensuring nobody is left behind as a result of the public health crisis and that includes supporting people to start a new business venture and seize on the economic and lifestyle changes that have been driven by the pandemic.
Latest information shows that since start of the pandemic, Business Wales has supported Welsh entrepreneurs to establish businesses in a range of sectors, from the production and retail of personalised gifts, through to construction, creative and food and drink services. It also shows that many entrepreneurs are focusing on developing the digital presence of their businesses and that there has also been a growth in community based businesses.
Alongside an unequalled support package for businesses, Welsh Government has provided opportunities to retrain and upskill in new and high-growth areas have been created thanks to a nearly £40 million investment. This funding has ensured anyone over 16 in Wales can access advice and support to find work, pursue self-employment or find a place in education or training. It has also targeted at individuals in the Welsh Labour Market most likely to be negatively impacted.
One important element of the Welsh Government support package is the £1.2 million business start-up Barriers Fund which has been designed to help disabled people, those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, women and young people not in education or training, access targeted support to help them start their own business.
One of those who has benefitted is Suzanne Burgess, a full-time carer from Ceredigion, who has started her own natural beauty business, Green Heart Aromatics.
Being a full-time carer to my disabled child, I had to find a way of making money from home during the pandemic.
I began an online course in natural cosmetics and perfected a unique formula for an organic, vegan, shampoo bar made with natural oils, butters and fortifying extracts which I wanted to bring to market.
If it weren’t for the Barriers Grant I would still be a hobbyist, but I now see myself as an entrepreneur and small business owner. This has given me hope and a huge amount of self-worth as life as a carer is lonely and tough.
Economy Minister Ken Skates said:
Over the past year we have taken important steps to protect jobs and provide new opportunities for individuals including through self-employment. It has been one of the most challenging periods any of us have ever experienced.
The pandemic has transformed how we all live and spend our money and I am delighted so many people have been able to access our support packages to not just survive during this incredibly difficult time, but to take the brave step of starting a new venture.
We will emerge from this pandemic and the Economic Resilience and Reconstruction Mission I launched this week sets out our vision of how we will do this. The aim is for Wales’ post-pandemic economy to drive prosperity equally and help everyone realise their potential. Harnessing an invigorated entrepreneurial culture to create more start-ups is a key part of this.
Applicants can apply for the Business Wales Barriers Grant until 19 March 2021.