Perthshire-based GrowBiz launches £3m campaign to help rural companies

Perthshire-based enterprise support organisation GrowBiz has launched what it says is the first multi-million pound campaign of its kind to support the thousands of micro-enterprises in rural Scotland hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The aim is to provide a vital lifeline for rural communities as they recover and rebuild. Picture: Phil Wilkinson.
The aim is to provide a vital lifeline for rural communities as they recover and rebuild. Picture: Phil Wilkinson.

Working with Crowdfund Scotland, the Reds Fund: Supporting Rural Scotland’s Future aims to raise £3 million by 6 August, which will support about 1,200 small rural firms north of the Border.

It will offer grants of up to £5,000, as well as advice. The initiative will work on a 50:50 principle; half of the grant awarded will go the business requiring the support and half to whichever business(es) provide it with a service or support, “thereby circulating cash within rural communities”.

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GrowBiz said that more than 60 per cent of rural and island businesses in Scotland had to halt all business activity at the start of the pandemic, with only 8 per cent reporting that they were operating as usual.

Brierton said the longer-term aim is to build a £10m fund. Picture: Graham Clark.

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It added that the financial impact of such a lengthy period of non-trading will make it “impossible” for many businesses to fully recover.

GrowBiz boss Jackie Brierton said: “The coronavirus crisis has had a devastating impact on thousands of Scotland’s micro-enterprises, which form the backbone of our rural economy. In order for these businesses to survive in the short term, they need support – both financial and practical – and a sense that they’ll be assisted to adapt where necessary and ultimately recover.

“One of the key target groups for the funding will be young people. Benny Higgins’ Economic Recovery report earlier this week highlighted the need for a jobs guarantee for 16- to 25-year-olds, but in rural areas, opportunities for self-employment and enterprise may be a more viable solution for this age group. And they’ll need funding to develop their ideas.

“Over the past few months, we have witnessed the hardships and suffering experienced by those who have poured years of hard work into building successful rural micro-enterprises and watched them collapse overnight as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Whilst the Scottish and UK governments have provided much-needed temporary support, many small enterprises and self-employed people in rural areas are struggling to survive.

“Our campaign to raise £3m is the first stage of a larger vision to build a fund of £10m so we can reach and support as many of Scotland’s rural businesses and micro-enterprises as possible, providing a vital lifeline for rural communities as they recover and rebuild.”

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