Matchmaking initiative sees students help high street businesses get online

Created by the UK Domain, and being piloted from today in Lichfield, small business owners swap a free product or service in return for a website

A new matchmaking initiative that sees students help independent high street businesses get online is being piloted from today in Lichfield, Staffordshire.

Created by the UK Domain, which is run by Nominet, the campaign aims to help the quarter or so small businesses who still trade offline – and who are losing out to bigger multinationals and online shopping.

Launched after research found that 28% of small business owners not online would be interested in getting a website if somebody managed the process for them, the initiative allows businesses offer a ‘payment-in-kind’ to the students for their website build.

Usually a free product and service, examples of ‘payment’ could include anything from handbags to haircuts.

One of the first businesses to benefit was Spanish restaurant Platters Tapas, whose new website was created by Walsall College student Thomas Ali.

Supported by the further education college, which also offers Ali and his peers valuable work experience, students create a simple website that includes key company information such as services on offer, opening hours and location –  so current and potential customers can easily find their business online.

Eleanor Bradley, COO of Nominet which runs the UK Domain, said:

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“With so many of us checking the web before we shop, we know millions of small businesses are keen to get online to catch browsing customers, and that there are also thousands of talented young people out there desperate to show off their digital skills.

“This is a great way to bring people together for mutual benefit.”

Mina Katti, curriculum manager for computing at Walsall College, said:

“This exciting initiative is a win-win for all involved. As well as the freebies, students gain invaluable experience in practical web-building, giving them a step up on the career ladder. And their work directly benefits businesses in the local community of which we’re a part of.”