Business Link Yorkshire is fielding more than 100 enquiries a day and some of its South Yorkshire seminars are so heavily oversubscribed that the organisation is having to draw up waiting lists.
Although the organisation is set to close its doors at the end of October, it is keen to emphasise that it is still open for business and experiencing significant demand from people who are thinking of starting or have just started a business.
Cuts in Government funding ahead of closure mean the organisation can no longer provide the direct contact with individual business advisers that it used to.
However, it has attempted to get around that.
“We have had to be more creative and innovative,” says Bob Styring, Business Link regional director for South and West Yorkshire.
“There is only so much that people who are thinking of starting a business will do over the phone, or by using email.”
Business Link’s answer has been to take a number of business advisers along to the multitude of events it has been organising in a bid to help as many nascent and existing businesses as possible in its last few months.
The advisers spend 10 to 15 minutes with anyone who seeks their help at the end of the seminar and they then try to follow up issues over the ‘phone.
“The customer base has remained the same, which shows the demand is there, and we have been able to supply limited interaction with business advisers with a small surgery or clinic after the event,” says Mr Styring, who is delighted with the 90 per cent customer satisfaction the new approach has brought.
Business Link Yorkshire chairman, Tony Pedder, says talks have been taking place with Local Enterprise Partnerships in the run up to the closure, but whether they can find any finance to fund the continuation of some form of local business advice service remains a moot point. Business Link has also been working with local authorities to see if their business development operations could take over when Business Link stops, but they, too, will be pressed for cash.
In the meantime, Business Link is continuing to run events and trying to get across the message that it is still open for business.
“It would be sad if any businesses that might be able to benefit from our help didn’t do so because they didn’t know we were still around,” says Mr Pedder.