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CORONAVIRUS: A helping hand for businesses during lockdown


If you have something you would like to add, which could help Shropshire businesses or workers through the coronavirus situation, email editor@shropshirebiz.com, clearly marked 'bulletin' in the subject line. Please keep items to no more than 100 words.


* Network Telecom, the Telford-based business telecoms and IT provider, is offering three months free on new business phone systems to assist businesses during this challenging time. This includes using features such as call recording, computer integration, transferring, diverts, music on hold and hunt groups. In addition, Network Telecom is also giving all customers, both new and existing, access to Enreach Meetings for free until September 30th.

* A Shropshire software company has launched a free platform to supply, sell and exchange personal protection equipment (PPE) throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Shoothill has launched www.ppeexchange.co.uk, a free to use service to connect independent, voluntary and public sector buyers including care homes and other organisations with suppliers of PPE during the COVID-19 outbreak. The PPE Exchange is entirely free for all users to encourage as many people as possible to get involved.

* The Chancellor's extension to the furlough scheme, taking it through to October, is explained in this latest advice piece from the team at Aaron & Partners in Shrewsbury, You can see the article here https://bit.ly/3dGQGLw

* Good2Great have launched ‘Survive and Thrive’ online workshops to support owner operated businesses at this difficult time. The new Growth Club has been developed for businesses that need to re-evaluate and see this as an opportunity to put in place strategies, direction and accountability, working with likeminded businesses. https://good-2-great.co.uk/growth-club2020/  The team says: “A change in circumstances may have also made people think about starting a business. Our Start Up Boot-camp and masterclass is a good starting point. Perhaps now is the time to reassess skills, experience and passion and turn it into a business - an exciting prospect but can be daunting, particularly in the current climate. The boot-camp gives a whistle-stop tour of the main considerations and pitfalls of starting a business.” See https://good-2-great.co.uk/business-start-up-boot-camps/

* Ascendancy, the Shifnal based digital marketing agency, wants to raise awareness of some grant schemes being offered by the big online advertising platforms. Facebook are launching a Small Business Grants programme which many UK  businesses should be eligible for – you can register for details here: https://www.facebook.com/business/boost/grants. Google are offering free advertising credits to small businesses who have been using Google Ads and who have been affected by Covid-19. If you have advertised on Google for 10 out of the 12 months of 2019, plus January and/or February of 2020, you should be eligible. Grants will automatically appear in accounts from late May onwards, so keep a look out, because if you don’t spend the grant by the end of 2020, it’ll disappear again! More details here:  https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/9803410?hl=en-GB

* A Shropshire spicing guru has found a way to help families caught in the lockdown to make simple dishes together in a fun, sociable way. Lajina Leal, who runs Lajina Masala  wants people to take the time to cook and then eat together so they can enjoy tasty, authentic home style Indian food. To solve this problem she has launched Lajina’s Curry Club, a monthly subscription spice service suitable for vegans, vegetarians, meat-eaters and gluten or dairy intolerant curry lovers. More information at https://www.lajinamasala.com/lajinas-curry-club/.

* Family-led care provider, Morris Care has issued a call for volunteer Befrienders to spend time with Care Home residents missing the company of family and friends. The first new Befrienders have helped residents to connect with families using Whatsapp, Facetime and Skype, and other tasks. To find out more about the scheme email info@morriscare.co.uk

* Madeleys chartered surveyors in Much Wenlock has opened up a dedicated phone line to lend a helping hand to the farming community during the coronavirus crisis - a dedicated point of contact for those who want to check-in and chat, or are seeking any advice during the crisis. Anyone can call 01952 727007 between the hours of 9am and 5pm or 07977 238212 outside of these hours.

* Carrie Stokes Limited has been helping people understand the help and support available to businesses through Carrie’s Vlog posts and social media.  These posts help explain the help available and how to apply, rather than just sharing the HMRC legislation.  As well as the support available there have been posts helping businesses understand why cashflow management is critical for COVID19.  For an up to date position see https://www.facebook.com/carriestokesltd/ or https://www.carriestokes.co.uk/blog-1.    

Shrewsbury’s first-ever online marketplace has opened its “virtual doors”, with town centre businesses offering a variety of gift vouchers and experiences for sale. Support Shrewsbury has been developed by Shrewsbury BID, supported by My Shrewsbury magazine, to help businesses create an income during the coronavirus lockdown.  The website - www.supportshrewsbury.co.uk - is open to all businesses in Shrewsbury and is free to join. Traders can use the platform to sell vouchers and experiences online. These may be used to buy products now or when shops reopen following the crisis. 

 * Even if you are not directly marketing or advertising your business now is not the time to stop communicating with your customers with helpful advice and valuable insights says Telford marketing company, Connect Consultancy. As well as pushing out good quality content on your social media platforms you could take this time to improve your LinkedIn profile and post some articles; claim and post to your Google My Business listing; ask for, then publish some testimonials; enter an award or start blogging through your website. There’s plenty of free advice on the Connect Blog.

* The Prince’s Trust and NatWest have announced the launch of a £5million fund to help young entrepreneurs across the UK to keep their businesses afloat during the coronavirus crisis. It is available to entrepreneurs aged 18-30, who can apply for grants and tailored support from today. Grants can be used to maintain core business operations during the crisis, as well as meet any existing financial commitments, such as paying for essential equipment or settling invoices from suppliers. In conjunction with these grants, the initiative will also offer one-to-one support and guidance to applicants who need it.  To be eligible, businesses must have started up in the last four years and be run by someone aged 18 to 30. More details at: https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/about-the-trust/coronavirus-response/enterprise-relief-fund.

* Employment law experts in Shropshire have welcomed further guidance issued by the government regarding the coronavirus job retention scheme. Head of employment at Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors in Telford, John Merry, has outlined the main points for employers on the firm's blog here.

* A family-run pub in a Shropshire village has secured jobs for all of its full-time staff and made the switch to offering takeaway food during the coronavirus shutdown, thanks to support from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. Like all pubs, the Bull’s Head Inn in Chelmarsh was told to close its doors to customers, but owner John King was determined to protect the future of the business he has owned with his wife Norma for 14 years.

* What exactly is this 'furlough' job retention scheme all about, and how does it work? Experts at Terry Jones Solicitors say it has caused a great deal of confusion, and have put together a useful  online guide. Check it out here.

* Legal experts at a Telford firm have launched a free helpline after a surge in enquiries about Coronavirus and employer obligations. John Mehtam, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, said: “We wanted to show our support for local companies during these difficult times, and so we have launched the new free helpline to offer advice specifically about Coronavirus and the issues it is causing.” The helpline – 01952 566920 – will be run by Martin-Kaye’s Alpha team and will be available between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

* Tax relief can help businesses struggling with cashflow during these unprecedented times - gaining a potential cash injection without increasing debt. Shrewsbury-based Catax Group has put together a blog post with some helpful tips and advice. Click here.

* Nick Jones Wealth Planning of Shrewsbury has posted an investment insight which summarises the impact of the current situation on global markets. Click here

* Senior insolvency solicitors at Aaron and Partners, Mark Davies and Jan Chillery (pictured) have offered their support to businesses throughout Shropshire on surviving the tough business climate. They will help highlight the options available to them, including how they could take advantage of new measures announced by the Chancellor around things such as business rate relief and small business grants. The sessions will be one-hour long phone clinics. Email here The company is also publishing daily advice blogs, which can be found here.

* If staff are working remotely, Pure Telecom of Shrewsbury can offer temporary handset rental which can be sent direct to their home address. This is available for a monthly rental fee on a 30-day rolling contract, to keep it as flexible as possible for your business.

* Karen Carpenter Coaching, a former mental health nurse with 20+ years senior operational management experience in health and social care, is offering five one-hour telephone coaching slots each week free of charge to local SMEs and micro businesses needing support through coronavirus crisis. Times subject to availability, evening and weekend appointments negotiable. Maximum 2 hours per business. Email here

* Accountancy firm Dyke Yaxley is offering help and advice to companies keen to explore the opportunities that a successful research and development claim could bring - unlocking a valuable tax refund in return for what they describe as 'a relatively low investment of time'. “For a loss-making business, every £100 of qualifying expenditure could potentially generate up to £33 of cash for the company and we are seeing that HMRC have sped up the repayment process of late,” says tax director Francesca Hutcheson. More details here.

* DM Recruitment, which has branches in Shropshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire, and Powys, is offering services at cost price to new and existing clients to aid recruitment of temporary workers. Director Stuart Danks (pictured) said: “There are many employers in the food, travel and waste sectors who are under pressure with increased demand for their services. Those same businesses are facing staff sicknesses and absences as many workers have no choice but to self isolate. We can provide temporary workers on short-term contracts that can fulfil those positions and keep production going." More details here.

* Shropshire-based PR agency Be Bold Media has created a guide containing valuable advice on how to handle communications during the coronavirus crisis. The guide is available to any business to help them ensure their internal and external messaging is working as hard as possible to help them survive the crisis. There is no need to sign up or leave contact details to get your copy – simply download it from here

* Chilled pastry producer Addo Food Group is now recruiting for temporary jobs at its Palethorpes site in Market Drayton, which may help all those people who have been affected by recent redundancy within hospitality and leisure-based businesses as a result of COVID-19.  The company, which is manufacturing a range of savoury quiches, pies, pasties, slices, scotch eggs, sausage rolls and pork pies for major retailers, as well as category-leading brands Wall’s Pastry and Pork Farms, is offering roles to people with all levels of experience within its Shropshire-based factory.

* Avara Foods, at Hortonwood in Telford, says: "We understand some people may be facing an uncertain future caused by a redundancy or a reduction in working hours. We are creating varied and flexible positions within our business. Whether it’s a 4 – 12 week fixed term contract or a permanent role, we should be able to help. Help us keep the food industry operating and refill those empty shelves." Get in touch via www.avarafoods.co.uk

* Catering staff who have lost their jobs or may be facing uncertain circumstances as a result of the closure of restaurants and bars are being offered alternative employment with Coverage Care Services, which operates 14 care homes in the county. Chief executive David Coull said: “We are calling on all those with catering skills who may be looking for alternative employment to get in touch with us. We will do what we can to accommodate those with relevant skills and would also be interested in hearing from any cleaners from the hospitality sector who may have lost work.” More details here

* Visit Shropshire has launched a FREE membership to support the tourism industry of Shropshire during these difficult times. Project leads Mark Hooper and Sarah Creighton say they want to help businesses keep up to date with the latest changes and how to access the government help initiatives. Check out the facebook group ‘Visit Shropshire Businesses’ for more details

* Oswestry-based Your Digital Marketer, a Google partner agency which helps drive online sales through Google Ads, is offering a 20% discount on its management fees for three months, to new clients.

* Ricoh 3D, based in Telford, has contacted Make UK and the Government to confirm it is willing and able to support an increase in mass ventilator manufacturing. Ricoh 3D says it can help by using additive manufacturing to produce vital components for ventilators both quickly and cost-effectively.

* Press Red Rentals Limited of Madeley is offering IT hire for homeworkers to allow companies who might not have sufficient resources to kit their staff out to work from home - laptops, desktops, monitors etc which can be delivered straight to the homeworker. Flexible monthly rolling deals.

* Team4U in Shrewsbury is offering its Shropshire-based clients temporary staffing solutions across all sectors at a cost price. This means that hourly rates will reflect total overheads only. This will require temporary Terms of Business being signed outside standard terms and will be reviewed on a week by week basis alongside Government self-exclusion advice. More information is available from  jess@team4you.today

* The Marches Growth Hub has put together an information page, offering help and advice. Click here


Duncan Ward

Chief executive, Network Telecom in Telford

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