Project sets out to help jobless 
to be self-start entrepreneurs

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YORKSHIRE’S unemployed are the target of a new project which aims to help them to start up small businesses.

Samantha Katherine Linstead, who set up the Open Star Project, said it will initially focus on Wakefield and the surrounding towns of Pontefract, Castleford, Knottingley, Normanton and Featherstone, before being rolled out across the region.

Ms Linstead, who runs public relations and business development firm NMD Associates, explained: “The project has been designed to target the region which currently has a very high rate of unemployment with a large number of skilled workers, especially over 25 who have struggled to get back into work. Its aim is to assist in bringing more business to the region by helping people follow their dreams and ambitions and create success.”

In the three months to May, the jobless total in Yorkshire and the Humber rose to 9.7 per cent from 9.3 per cent in the previous quarter.

Ms Linstead said the project will aim to connect unemployed people of all ages who have a business idea across any sector with private funding providers. “So we connect people and then we coach them, so we help them work on their business plan, we help them write their business plan. If they want to go and see particular investors for example, private investors, we help them to build their proposal up so it does impact them. We give them coaching, for example in confidence building.”

The Open Star Project, a not-for-profit scheme, offers support free of charge. Currently, Ms Linstead is trying to get a group of experts together who can provide free help.

She is looking for business coaches, mentors and private investors who can support the new starters in their first year, and is also hoping to gather backing for the project from Government representatives, including local MPs.

“There are approximately five million small to medium sized businesses in the UK and that during our current time of recession instead of the public sector and the larger enterprises usually helping to lift the economy out of recession it is the smaller enterprises that will help us to boost our economy once more”, said Ms Linstead.

“In the creation of smaller businesses jobs are then in turn created and the economy lifted back up, but of course someone may have an excellent business idea but just do not know how to get it started, especially if they fall into such categories as those with excellent skills gained through experience but no formal qualifications; those with a natural flair that could really make a business in their field work and those who just do not have the capital to get their business off the ground”, she added.

“One small business venture can in turn grow to become a medium to larger sized venture requiring staff which of course creates more jobs and reduces unemployment vastly.”

Thomas Bain, from Knottingley, is launching his own business, offering training in IT design and desktop publishing, thanks to the Open Star Project. He is the project’s first client, said Ms Linstead. Mr Bain was previously unemployed, but volunteered for a few weeks at printing and publishing company Pen2Print, based in Ferrybridge.

Now, Pen2Print is offering its premises as a base for Mr Bain’s new business.

Ms Linstead said: “We’ve been helping him get his business plan going and have been helping him with personal confidence.” The Open Star Project has also helped him secure funding to get formally qualified, she said. “We are helping him connect with all the resources he needs to get started.”

The project, which aims to help new starters gain custom outside of their local area as well as from within, is being backed by small business organisation Ingenious Britain. To find out more, visit www.nmd-associates.co.uk

suzan.uzel@ypn.co.uk