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Tom Whittingham

Backing Staffordshire enterprise on Small Business Saturday

Small business success in Staffordshire is being marked by the county council as part of a national event on Saturday December 3.

The county council backs hundreds of small companies through its business support package which includes its enterprise centres for start-up and fledgling businesses and a business loan scheme. It also helps to deliver the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Growth Hub which provides a range of services including a business helpline. Small Business Saturday is promoted by the Government and now in its fourth year.

Ten enterprise centres across the county offer start-up units with flexible tenancy agreements – crucial for new businesses. In addition, the centres provide a range of facilities like meeting rooms, networking opportunities and security. Any businesses needing advice on a range of issues should contact the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Business Helpline on 0300 111 8002.

Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader said:

Small businesses play a vital part in our growing economy as well as generating thousands of jobs and improving people’s skills. We will be celebrating our diverse economy in Staffordshire and the entrepreneurial drive here on Small Business Saturday. The county council will continue to support small business wherever we can and we are seeing considerable successes at our enterprise centres and in the growth of our business loan recipients. We believe we are getting the mix between smaller enterprises and bigger business right in Staffordshire which is ultimately leading to a more prosperous county.”

Tom Whittingham from Coven in South Staffordshire moved his start-up business into a unit at Cannock Chase Enterprise Centre in 2014. Having graduated in computer-aided design, Tom retrained in carpentry and began to manufacture bespoke furniture and fittings. In his first two years, Tom has been marketing his products nationally, displaying at trade and design exhibitions, in order to build up a long-term customer base. Tom had initially called the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Business Helpline, run by the local enterprise partnership, to find out more about setting up a business and on premises options.

Tom, aged 28, said:

I wanted to do something which was more hands-on and so decided to retrain and set up my own business. There is a lot of help and support available which is encouraging. This is my first premises and it has been ideal – there’s 24 hour security, a supportive centre management team and some great opportunities for networking with other businesses. I’d highly recommend the centre.
In my first two years I have been working hard to build up my portfolio and market my products as widely as possible. I became a member of the Crafts Council which is affiliated to the Arts Council in 2015 and this opened a lot of doors. This summer I was invited to set up an art studio as a display at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Eventually I’d like to be in a position to take on employees and apprentices as the business grows.”

The Staffordshire Business Loan Fund supports growing small and medium sized businesses that are unable to secure finance from traditional lenders, with loans from £10,000 to £50,000. In Staffordshire over 170 business loans have been administered, creating or protecting over 1,000 jobs since it was set up in 2009. Any Staffordshire businesses looking for access to finance should contact BCRS Business Loans through the fast track online application facility at www.bcrs.org.uk or call 0345 313 8410.

More information about Thomas Whittingham Furniture at: www.twfurniture.co.uk