Posted Monday 24 April 2023
More than 300 small businesses have now graduated from Kingston University's innovative Help to Grow Management Programme, which aims to boost businesses owners' resilience and provide them with the skillset to grow their company.
The twelve-week short course, run at Kingston Business School, features sessions led by expert speakers, businesses coaches and lecturers and is 90 per cent funded by the government. The programme, which has now been completed by 21 cohorts, has had a significant impact on participants, helping them improve their productivity, employee engagement, and leadership skills.
Dr Bahare Afrahi, Director of the Help to Grow Management Programme, praised the support of her team behind the programme. "Passing the milestone of 300 small businesses graduating through Help to Grow is an achievement that was only made possible by the hard work and dedication of our team of expert speakers, business coaches, facilitators, and coordinators who bring such a wealth of expertise and passion to their work," she said.
"We have ensured that the curriculum remains relevant and engaging for participating businesses. The diverse range of small businesses that have gone through the programme testifies to its broad appeal and effectiveness," she added.
Helen Barker-Benfield, director of Hampton Hill ice cream shop Scoop and Waffle, said the learnings from the course would put her business in a fantastic position to thrive in the future. "The main challenge of the business is it is very seasonal. I've never run a company before so developing an understanding of what structures needed to be put in place has been invaluable," she said. "The one-to-one mentoring has really revitalised the business, we're already seeing customer numbers increasing and outgoing costs reducing."
Richard Angel, co-founder of interior design company Angel O'Donnell, said the course encapsulated everything he was looking for to grow his business. "The course fitted in with my day-to-day responsibilities well and really helped me understand recruitment, accounts and digital marketing," he said. "The mentoring has been crucial. Realising you are not alone, that other businesses are facing the same challenges, has been reassuring and really helpful," he added.
One of the key reasons for the programme's success was its focus on human-centred solutions and meeting the unique needs of each business, Dr Afrahi said. Each business leader receives one to one coaching to develop a deeper understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses and provided them with the tools and guidance needed to achieve sustainable growth.
Many graduates of the Help to Grow Management Programme have gone on to create new jobs and expand their businesses, contributing significantly to the local economy. The programme has also fostered a supportive community, with participants often staying in touch long after their course has finished, sharing experiences and best practices.
Building on the success of the Help to Grow Management Programme, Dr Afrahi and her team are now developing new offerings for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). These include more specific topics, an online health and well-being course, and collaborative projects between University students and industry partners.