Posted: Mon 9th Mar 2015
Fourteen months after it was launched, the Government's Growth Vouchers initiative has finally gained the momentum it deserved - with a dramatic late surge in applications over the past few months.
Figures published on Government debate forum theyworkforyou.com showed a steady increase in applications from July last year leading to more than a 500 per cent increase in small business applications last month compared to February last year.
An incredible 5,594 applications were submitted last month, compared to 927 in February 2014.
The figures, posted by Minister for Enterprise and Energy Matt Hancock in response to a question from Shadow Business Minister Chuka Umunna, suggest there have been 26,197 applications in 14 months with more than 12,000 small firms issued with a voucher - which means the trial has hit the Government's revised target.
While the initiative was a Government trial to test the effectiveness and efficacy of Government-subsidised advice, it has helped to raise awareness around the benefits of taking strategic advice for Britain's smallest firms.
An incredible 115,316 visits to the Growth Voucher eligibility page on the Government website suggests the initiative has started to impact on the way small firms think about using advice to grow, with more people willing to consider outside intervention for the first time.
This is confirmed again with the great progress that had been made on the Enterprise Nation marketplace itself. With more than 11,000 strategic advisers already on board, around 3,500 of them Growth Voucher accredited, the website has seen more than 75,000 unique users since it was launched with a growing number of reviews from advice recipients - more than 660 already.
Another Â£1.2m has been spent on helping the small firms that apply for funding understand what sort of advice could make a difference to their company - from strategic marketing, to digital to financial and leadership to taking on staff.
From March 31, no more applications for Growth Voucher subsidies will be accepted (although businesses will have up until 30 June to redeem and claim their vouchers). But that doesn't mean no more subsidised advice will ever be delivered.
Last week Enterprise Nation called on the big six energy firms to unlock funds held in closed business accounts to fund a new growth initiative - Enterprise Vouchers.
We're asking for a portion of an estimated pot of Â£204m to be diverted into a national scheme aimed at improving online competency, global trading skills and helping small firms find and deliver new contracts.
The Random Controlled Trial (RCT) element of the initiative will be removed and the marketplace will be there all guns blazing - as the first port of call for small firms looking to grow.