Originally published in the Herald on Monday, June 7, 2021

Give new business owners the help they need

By Finlay Kerr, managing director of Frejz

Last summer was one of uncertainty, adaptation and in some cases simply making it to the end of the day for businesses across the country.

There wasn’t much to do other than survive.

It’s the type of summer nobody wants to repeat – and with the right kind of support in place from across the eco-system, we could actually look forward instead to a summer of transformation.

All over Scotland there are new businesses which have sprung up, as so many great enterprises do, through necessity and adversity.

There are set-ups within the hospitality industry who have been forced to diversify, completely overhauling the way they get their product out to customers.

In commerce, we’ve seen how physical shops who relied on local footfall and become imaginative digital traders with customers the world over.

And there are skilled individuals who, either through extended furlough or redundancy, have taken the brave step of setting up on their own.

Many of these people will be decades into their careers, and probably never contemplated setting up their own business.

But thanks to coronavirus, a needs-must approach has kicked in, and now we have accidental entrepreneurs everywhere.

This is where councils, the government, Business Gateway organisations and the wider entrepreneurship eco-system have to come in.

Why? Because these people – however brilliant they are at their trade – won’t have had time to learn how to grow and spread a business.

They’ve been too busy doing their jobs all these years.

We need a taskforce of experts and motivated advisers with a collective objective – to stabilise and then grow the economy with new opportunities and a new approach.

And there’s something to be gained from the perspective of councils and governments too.

By showing these people how to expand, they will create jobs and opportunities for local people.

All over the country there are investors who still have money to spend when it comes to stimulating the economy.

Often these people want to keep their cash local too – it’s easy to forget, but investors take that additional sense of pride in helping new start-ups in their own neck of the woods.

So the businesses who need help are there, and the angel investors who can give them the impetus to move forward are waiting.

All that needs to happen is the link up.

Free summer schools would deliver the skills and pointers “accidental entrepreneurs” need to continue their new adventure – it will also get them to thinking about the next stage.

Even imaginative projects like Dragon’s Den-style events – where new businesses with the best ideas are rewarded with grants or resources – would get the economy moving.

Imagine the buzz created by all 32 local authorities running schemes like this across their cities, towns and villages?

It can be difficult to feel upbeat about the future after a year of such devastation and the next few months will be crucial.

This is not simply a case of just rewarding those businesses who’ve stuck it out through the hard times.

It’s about seizing on the opportunities that have been created, and harnessing the talented workforce who know their trade inside-out, but haven’t yet got the business know-how to develop things further.

Doing this successfully will turbo-charge Scotland’s economy, and lead a recovery which we can all benefit from and be proud of.