GB Consortium awarded £1.82 million to support the levelling up of NI small businesses
The Voice for Locals Initiative is seeking to support businesses in NI post-Covid by providing access to intelligent online marketing and customer experience development tools to allow firms to reconnect with customers, gauge performance and pinpoint new business opportunities.
A GB-based consortium, ‘Voice for Locals’ — a levelling up initiative sponsored by the UK Community Renewal Fund (UKCRF) focused on investment in skill development and local business — successfully secured a grant to offer participating NI micro and small businesses a range of free skills, marketing and other services to aid business recovery.
The Voice for Locals Initiative has received £1.82m from the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.
The consortium, which includes firms Unloc Limited and TieTa UK, won funding to support the ‘bounce back’ of the small business sector in NI.
The consortium’s tender win for the project makes it the recipient of the fifth largest grant in the UK and the largest in Northern Ireland.
Unloc Ltd will provide the technology, marketing and skills development element of the offering while TieTa will offer business and technical support.
The team is working closely with City & Guilds to gain recognition for the e-learning programmes delivered to local businesses throughout the scheme’s duration.
Funded by central government, participation in the initiative is completely free for NI firms.
Voice for Locals is unique to the marketplace and does not directly compete with any other NI UKCRF funded initiatives. The team will seek to work in collaboration with councils, trade bodies and membership organisations to assist businesses at a grassroots level to increase productivity and in effect ‘level up’.
The objective of the UKCRF initiative, funded by central government, is to grant opportunities for UK businesses to invest in businesses or skills, or communities and places, or to help people into employment.
The Voice For Locals Initiative seeks to invest in local businesses and skill development across the whole of Northern Ireland in areas including Belfast, Newry, Derry-Londonderry and Lisburn.
Voice for Locals’ Founder / Steering Authority, Jay Thattai, said: “This is a mission-oriented innovation programme personalised for local businesses in Northern Ireland to recover, rebuild and rebound post-Covid. We will provide simple toolkits, built using emerging technologies, to help local businesses own and analyse their business data and introduce process improvements through on the job training in customer experience and marketing. The initiative helps change ways of working and delivery of services in line with the 10X vision laid out by the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland”.
Mr Thattai adds: “While talent is spread equally, opportunity is not. Levelling up is a mission to challenge, and change, that inequity. Levelling up gives everyone the opportunity to flourish. It means living longer and more fulfilling lives, and benefitting from sustained rises in living standards and well-being, everywhere.
“Local businesses operating anywhere in Northern Ireland deserve the best-in-class personalised support to boost their credibility and expand their visibility for sustainable profitability. By engaging in the Voice for Locals Initiative, local business owners will derive a number of business benefits. In addition to collecting post-Covid customer expectations and experiences, they will be made self-reliant, empowered to make data-driven business and marketing decisions confidently.
“In addition, there is a facility to develop and drive customer loyalty programmes, develop referral programmes to drive new business and personalise a series of rewards for loyal customers. Participants will also be offered an e-learning course on which they can attain new skills. Having this recognised by City & Guilds will in turn advance professional development and build credibility with local customers.
“We will list all rated local businesses in a directory for Northern Ireland. Businesses will be listed by their cities, skills, trade, ratings, reviews and a number of other metrics. Consumers will be both encouraged and empowered to shop locally with greater confidence.”
This programme’s directory will act as a unique ‘Shop Local initiative’: to buy, book and hire from local businesses in simple clicks; genuinely rate local retail and service businesses to allow them to correct any customer service gaps and help them improve and grow. Local consumers will be encouraged to join the local loyalty programmes and gain reward and referral points as part of the journey.
Voice for Locals aims to recognise exemplars in their field too with the launch of a ‘Special NI Edition of Top-Rated Businesses’ highlighting the best micro and small businesses in the retail and service sectors as the programme evolves.
This initiative will also offer incredible local insights to local government to better understand the post-Covid environment and to evaluate consumer expectations and local business skill challenges to make data driven policy advocacies and interventions.
This project is funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.
For further information about the Voice for Locals Initiative log on to voiceforlocals.co.uk
Caption: Voice for Locals Initiative Project Lead, Jay Thattai, is pictured with Andy Trevelyan, Head of Partnerships at TieTa.