LEP Column: Helmsley sets networking example for others to follow

Working together: Helmsley in Business is a great example of how networking has helped their local business community. 'Picture: harry atkinson
Working together: Helmsley in Business is a great example of how networking has helped their local business community. 'Picture: harry atkinson
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Over in Helmsley, the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership (the LEP) recently discovered a business network called ‘Helmsley in Business’.

It’s made up of 50 businesses who work together to promote the town through the Visit Helmsley website and much more. You might be thinking, that’s nice, but so what?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again – as a small business owner it’s running your business that gets you up in the morning, makes the days whizz by and sometimes can keep you awake at night, it’s all-consuming – but, running a business is bigger than the everyday, for success and longevity, knowing and working with your peers can have a real benefit.

And that’s where networking comes along; and networks are no longer about the suited and booted forcibly exchanging business cards and pushily following up.

Networking happens in all different shapes and sizes. From having a pint in your local once a month with a few local business owners, joining your local Federation of Small Businesses and attending their events, through to getting involved in online forums with folks who have similar businesses to yours.

But what’s involved in all of these networks is just the same; talking, sharing, listening so you can get to know your local business community, share what and who you know, and build trusted connections. And Helmsley in Business is a great example of how networking has helped their local business community.

The network was first set up by Christine Garnett from Hunters of Helmsley Deli and Carolyn Frank of Libby Butler Jewellers.

Their intention was to corral a small group of local entrepreneurs together who would work to promote the town and boost the number of visitors to Helmsley; this is still the group’s main aim.

But since then the group has expanded, both in its member numbers and its role. There are now 50 members and this larger network means that their resources can be combined to promote the town more effectively and in a coordinated way, and as well as this, other benefits have become apparent.

One such positive by-product is that having a network of folks across the town means that members get to hear about more of the different things that are going on all over the town, some of which that they may not have known before.

They’ve found that by knowing more, the local business owners can better plan their own activity to complement what else is going on in the town.

Another benefit that the Helmsley in Business’ current chairman, Lizzie Would, who runs a local bed and breakfast called No54 has found is in responding to local consultations and requests from local authorities.

Being able to use a single voice, through Helmsley in Business has meant that more businesses have been involved in the responses and that there is more clout in the response, as any responses or concerns come jointly from the 50 different businesses across Helmsley.

As with any network, the more you get to know people the more you understand what your similarities and differences are. And, Lizzie rightly told me; the more you put into networking, the more you will get out of it; from knowing more about what’s going on in your local town, to working with other businesses to make sure the parking regulations remain sensible.

This network, like others all over the country enables small business owners to get support and have a voice.

At the LEP we got involved with Helmsley in Business fairly recently, as they applied for our Network Ideas Fund, where established networks based in York, North Yorkshire or the East Riding can apply for a grant of up to £500 by telling us how they would like to improve their network for their local businesses.

Helmsley in Business applied to the Network Ideas Fund to buy a gazebo.

They received the grant and bought a gazebo which has been printed with the Helmsley in Business brand and used in Helmsley’s regular market.

It’s also been to other local events to promote the visithelmsey.co.uk website, the network’s new brochure on the town, all with the aim of attracting more visitors to Helmsley and to get those already visiting Helmsley to keep on coming back.

So far the gazebo, like the network has been a huge success. Networking can be a real asset for small businesses; pooling ideas, knowledge and resources to support a shared goal and like a gazebo, networks are useful in both the rain and shine.

Fund that can spark ideas

Find out more about what’s on in Helmsley and the Helmsley in Business network at www.visithelmsley.co.uk

The Network Ideas Fund is providing up to £500 to bring to life the ideas of one hundred networks and groups of businesses. The fund is one of the innovative approaches that sits within the LEP’s new hub for helping business owners: How’s Business. There’s no limit on how big, or small, a group has to be, although they do have to be already up and running, based in York, North Yorkshire and East Riding and not be a sub-group of a larger organisation.

Find out more about the fund at www.businessinspiredgrowth.com