BIG team proud to be helping business with brand new support
Warwickshire County Council's Business Investment Growth (BIG) programme is an invaluable first port of call for businesses seeking support and advice for growth and finance. Here we meet the team which is delivering the groundbreaking scheme.
The team behind the Business Investment Growth programme has been newly-assembled to deliver the BIG strand of Warwickshire County Council's £140million Warwickshire Recovery and Investment Recovery Fund (WRIF) while also leading on the business-facing delivery of some of the Council’s existing programmes.
The team works with Warwickshire businesses to raise finance through debt-funding through the WRIF and to access other finance and grants including support from the council’s Small Capital Grants programme.
It's three members - Hardeep Sandhu (BIG Delivery Lead) and Sim Lee and Jo Smith (Business Growth Advisors) - bring to their roles much energy and relevant experience. They also share a real vocational desire to help the county's business community stabilise and grow again following the challenges of pandemic.
Hardeep is eminently-qualified to lead the team, bringing to her role extensive experience from the last seven years working for Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce. At the Chamber, she managed two major contracts on behalf of Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council but felt it was time for a new challenge. She is now relishing getting to grips with the rollout of the WRIF and the BIG strand in particular.
"I have always really enjoyed working in economic development," Hardeep said. "I love making a difference, supporting businesses to put their ideas and visions into reality and having that real impact. That has always been close to my heart and I've been lucky enough that the jobs I have had enabled me to do that, more so than ever in my current role.
"We have recently launched loans for businesses of all sizes through the WRIF and its three pillars - the Local Communities and Enterprise Fund, the Business Investment Growth Fund, and the Property and Infrastructure Fund.
"We are fortunate to also offer businesses the opportunities to take advantage of WCC's Small Capital Grants (SCG), supporting businesses with a lifeline to encourage further growth and employment in the region.
"Working closely with our partners, such as the Chamber of Commerce, Coventry University Services, Coventry City Council, the Growth Hub and Warwickshire's Boroughs and Districts, we can provide up to 12 hours of fully funded business support, focused around accessing finance as part of our European Regional Development Fund support programme."
Sim worked in a client-facing role within the events industry in Australia before returning home to Warwickshire in 2016. He then joined WCC's Inward Investment team for the opportunity to transfer his skills into business attraction and place promotion. Three years in that role left him with a deep understanding of the economics of the region and key businesses within it.
In 2019, he took a different role in the Economy & Skills team, delivering the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)-backed business support programme which includes support to access finance and grants including the council’s own Small Capital Grants programme.
"That was a great opportunity for me to help businesses navigate the access-to- finance landscape and to play a part in some fantastic projects happening right here on our patch," said Sim. "Now I am really excited to be part of the BIG team. In this role I have already assisted over £3.2m worth of projects and leveraged over £900,000 in grant funding from various programmes, something of which I'm incredibly proud.
"With so many funding streams changing as EU money comes to an end, and new funding regularly coming online from WCC, it's a perpetual challenge to keep up with what's best for businesses, but that is what I love about the role. There's always something new to learn or a new problem to solve and doing that, and seeing businesses prosper with our help is so rewarding."
Jo has lived in Warwickshire since her mid-teens and first worked for WCC in the team helping to roll out CSW Broadband. After a period in the private sector, she returned to the council and is now delighted to have a role which enables her to actively support her community.
Jo, whose role is part-funded by the ERDF, joined the BIG team four months ago, on the same day as Hardeep. Prior to that, she worked in the council's Portfolio Management Office in project management within adult social care. She has several years experience of working in project management, including in the private sector within the construction and property development industry, so her knowledge of project management and debt finance make her well-equipped for her current role.
"As I have grown, both personally and professionally, it has become clear what is important to me and part of that is working within an organisation which is not just about making profit," Jo said. "My role in the BIG team offers me exactly that. I am proud to work for an organisation that works for social good and the benefit of the community, whilst remaining commercially aware and being careful with tax payers’ money.
"My role now is really community-minded and also a new challenge for me with the council both offering grants, and now loans which is very forward-thinking of a Local Authority. It is a challenging role but also very rewarding and exciting because our team can really
make a difference to people's lives and help safeguard their livelihoods."
* Any business in Warwickshire which is seeking support, is invited do get in touch with our Business Investment Growth team via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: 01926 412709. For more information please visit: https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/homepage/360/finance-loans-and-grants
* The BIG Team is about to become bigger with the creation of a new role of Business Growth Advisor. For details of the vacancy, please visit here