Richmond Enterprise Challenge - Step-up, Start-up, Scale-up

Helen recounts how The Richmond Enterprise Challenge came about and how it changed over three-thousand peoples lives in Richmond.

The Richmond Enterprise Challenge was commissioned by Richmond Borough Council focusing on micro and SME businesses in Richmond. The programme began in July 2018 for a 12 month period and reached 3844 people across all mediums. 

99% of businesses in the borough of Richmond are classed as SME’s, and the council set us the ambitious task of building the most comprehensive programme of business development ever delivered in the borough. This was no mean feat as we sought to balance limited funding, time constraints, and the labour intensive process of helping fledgling entrepreneurs start a business. This was one of the first times we had developed a programme specifically for these types of businesses at the same time and we were also set some ambitious KPI’s alongside our own aims of reaching minority groups. Not only did we meet these targets, due to its success we were asked to extend the programme for another 12 months.Richmond Phoenix Enterprise Challenge

The council originally asked for us to engage 600 people with a limit of 60 one to one mentoring sessions. Although we knew everyone who came through the programme would benefit from personal one to ones, one of our biggest hurdles was to work out who needed it the most. To make the most of those targets set by the council we also needed to work out which businesses would have the best chance of success and survival. This is where our diagnostic business tool came to the fore, this is unique to us and every business who comes through our programmes benefits from this tool when starting their training with us. With so many people engaged and needing support, it’s important to line them up with the right resources which is why offering a blended approach was pivotal in this programmes success. We tend to not turn people away, and saw 104 business owners for personal one to ones as there was so much potential in these participants. We mark our success on their success and try to support as many people as possible, providing the extra support was necessary to develop these entrepreneurs in Richmond.

10% of businesses only survive the first decade, and 50% of start-ups will be gone within two years. Everything we do at CPG is geared towards giving people the tools they need to be successful, to get them the revenue they need and help entrepreneurs thrive. We aim to be inclusive not exclusive in all our programmes working with everyone, not just those who can afford it. We are driven by a passion of giving business owners the tools they need to build a sustainable business that enables them to make life on their own terms. This echoes my own upbringing where I was raised to be the captain of my own ship and to believe I could be whoever I wanted to be in this world. Over the last 15 years I’ve had a deep passion for what makes some people successful and others not, and it’s all been around this sense of purpose, sense of being and the stuff that you do everyday that feeds and nourishes your soul – everything we do at CPG revolves around this ethos.

The Richmond Enterprise Challenge provided a blended learning approach, it’s important to understand that everyone learns differently so we felt strongly this was the best model for the project. With over 60 live events and creating a large online library of e-learning videos and resources everyone could benefit from some sort of business support. The council were initially reticent about the blended learning approach, wanting face to face only, but we were insistent that this would enable us to reach everyone including full time working parents and those with disabilities, and as we’ve seen from the COVID-19 pandemic, this learning approach has very much become business as usual now.

We understand that once the train is on the track it’s easier to keep the momentum going, the start up process is quite labour intensive, from then entrepreneurs might only need maintenance care and all our programmes provide this. Not only did we meet and help some fantastic business owners, we exceeded the councils targets and expectations, developing a huge amount of publicity for the council and more. We hosted a large international women’s day event alongside Paypal and Natwest with some fantastic speakers and ticked some of our own boxes helping more women start a business.

Coffee & Cake Co an independent cafe doubles turnover in 5 months and have plans to open a second cafe with the help of the Richmond Foodies programme.

Turnover had dropped dramatically as a result of increased competition and the after effects of the Brexit vote on supplier costs. Stana, the owner, was concerned about the future of the business, and sort advice and guidance from CPG via the council programme. Not only was the business rebranded, but a clear sales and marketing strategy was implemented to differentiate the cafe from competitors. She opened a commercial B2B wholesales revenue stream and expanded her product range amongst other revenue increasing activities and focused on looking after loyal customers thus creating a sustainable business model.

“We are all sceptical when we hear that there is a “free seminar” and loathe as business owners to give up, what little free time we have. It was lucky that I ignored my initial scepticism and launched into the programme that Richmond Council initiate in conjunction with CPG, “Richmond Foodies”… In the one to one session we came up with an action plan specifically for my business..achieving month on month growth.” Stanojka Mrkic