BUSINESS start-ups are booming in a West Yorkshire borough where the number of new companies being registered is almost twice the national average.
New figures show 94 small businesses were set up in Calderdale in December – a seven per cent rise on the same period last year – compared with 56 in the average district in England.
Registrations were up one per cent year-on-year in 2012 while falling by eight per cent nationally, according to data released by Calderdale Council.
The borough has been ranked eighth out of 326 English authorities for year-on-year improvements in new business start-up growth and has regularly topped the Yorkshire and Humber league tables, with its Ovenden, Northowram, Shelf and Town wards performing the best.
Its success follows the launch of the council’s business start-up programme, which has helped more than 1,100 people since it was set up in July 2009.
Among them was 22-year-old Helen Barraclough, who set up Jack’s Café in Halifax last September with the programme’s support.
“I was unemployed, and jobs were hard to find,” she said.
“I found an old café building that was to let and I had the idea to become self-employed. I thought ‘if others can do it, why can’t I?’
“I wasn’t sure where to start, but the careers office gave me details of the Calderdale Business Support Team.”
A meeting followed with Calderdale Council’s business enterprise officer, Eric Binns, who guided her through the process of becoming self-employed.
She was also given information and advice on the training and support available from the council and other organisations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, The Prince’s Trust, Jobcentre Plus and Calderdale College.
“The business is doing well and growing steadily,” said Ms Barraclough. The free advice, training and support I received gave me a basis to start, and a plan of action to get the cafe up and running.”
The council’s business support team offers free one-to-one advice meetings, workshops, business networking opportunities and help with writing business plans.
It has handled 2,000 enquiries since its launch from people with business ideas spanning a range of sectors including retail, creative, health, sport and wellbeing, professional, digital, e-commerce and construction.
The team has also been running monthly drop-in sessions for aspiring entrepreneurs since last April, which it said had proved popular.
Barry Collins, the council’s cabinet member for economy and environment, said: “It’s fantastic news that new businesses in Calderdale are thriving.
“Small businesses are so important to Calderdale’s economy. They reflect the creative, entrepreneurial spirit of the area, and help support the future of our community.”
Plans were announced earlier this year for more Dragons Den-style Government loans to help thousands more young people in England to turn their business ideas into reality.
Funding for the coalition’s Start-Up Loans scheme has been boosted by £30m to £110m over three years and the age limit has been raised from 24 to 30 in response to high demand.
The money and mentoring packages are being delivered through charities such as The Prince’s Trust.
Applicants whose business plans are deemed “robust” typically receive £2,500 which can be repaid over five years at a relatively low rate of interest.
For more information about the Start-Up Loans scheme visit www.startuploans.co.uk.
Any Calderdale resident interested in setting up a new business can contact the business support team on 01422 392222 for free information and advice.