Startups alumni lead campaign to support SMEs

Small businesses can win a mentoring session with Dragons Den star, Levi Roots and beauty entrepreneur, Liz Earle MBE

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Helena Young
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Two previous Startups success stories are leading a new mentorship campaign to provide support for UK small businesses following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Founder of Reggae Reggae sauce Levi Roots, which featured as a Startups top company in 2007, and beauty and wellness megabrand founder Liz Earle, who was a judge for the Startups Awards 2017, have been announced as the famous faces behind the programme.

Run in partnership by BT and Google, ‘Get mentored, Get growing’ is designed to help UK SMEs unlock the benefits of digital skills training, by driving post-pandemic growth and prosperity.

As an extension of their mentoring programme, BT and Google are offering small businesses the opportunity to win a one-to-one mentoring session with Levi and Liz, where they can learn from their experiences of building and scaling a brand as well as adapting to a digital-first world.

Who are Levi and Liz?

As the powerhouses behind two successful business empires, both Roots and Earle are passionate about supporting the entrepreneur community.

Following his success on BBC’s Dragons Den, Roots is proof-positive of the power of business mentoring, which helped transform his kitchen table start-up into a £45M business.

In 2007, we highlighted Reggae Reggae sauce as one of the most disruptive startups in the UK, shortly before it took the retailing industry by storm.

Commenting on his involvement in the BT and Google campaign, Roots said: “Running your own business can sometimes be overwhelming and lonely, so I know from my own Dragons Den experience how game-changing it was, both professionally and personally, to work with someone who could understand and appreciate my challenges and ambitions, and give me personalised, meaningful and actionable advice, as well as practical tools and training to help me build and grow my business.

“I’m really delighted to get the chance to pay it forward and share my journey and insights with today’s small business community and help them unlock the power of digital to accelerate their growth.”

Liz Earle

Similarly, Earle is one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs. From a career starting as a health and beauty writer, she co-founded her eponymous beauty brand with her best friend, which was sold for a multi-million.

In 2007, she earned an MBE for services to the beauty industry, and acted as a judge for our Startups business awards in 2017.

Earle said: “When my beauty brand was  launched more than twenty years ago, our mail order business was based around paper forms and payments by cheque. Today everything moves at a completely different pace. With my later publishing brand, we had to learn a mass of digital skills super-fast and I encourage small businesses to grab all the available resources and training they can to help successfully navigate their way in the online world.”

More tech skills for small businesses

The campaign offers free one-to-one mentoring sessions for UK small businesses and charities covering a range of topics including digital marketing, ecommerce and business strategy.

It comes as BT research shows almost half of all UK small firms (49%) said they felt worried their business would not survive without external support. Meanwhile, 64% said they’d be more likely to adopt new technologies if the IT and telecoms industries provided training.

Since the launch of BT Skills for Tomorrow in 2019, BT has delivered free digital skills training to almost 300,000 UK small business owners and their employees. Similarly, Google has exceeded its target of helping train 100,000 UK SMBs. In total, over 700,000 business owners have been trained through the Google Digital Garage programme.

How can you apply for the mentoring programme?

SMEs can apply for the scheme online, although entrants must be:

  • Be 18 and over
  • Be UK-based
  • Be a small business with under 50 employees
  • Be available on 15th November, Tuesday 16th at 10:00AM, Thursday 18th at 10:00AM, 19th November (11:00 AM onwards)
  • Be looking for mentorship on one or more the following topics:
    • Building your brand
    • Building an online community
    • Time management
    • Team collaboration

Ronan Harris, Google’s UK MD, said: ”We’re proud to partner with BT and the participating business leaders on this inspirational program. Equipping small businesses with the digital tools needed to grow and succeed, is not only integral to future proofing the UK business landscape but it’s the next step in the UK’s journey to economic recovery.”

Chris Sims, BT’s MD for its SoHo (Single/Small Office, Home Office) unit, said: “Our partnership with Google comes from a shared vision and commitment to help small businesses harness digital as a driver of growth and prosperity. Through our free mentoring programme and digital skills training, we’re aiming to equip small firms with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a digital world.”

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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