Online university service helps small firms thrive
A NEW online service launched by the University of Nottingham will offer small firms advice and information that they need in order to innovate and grow.
The university says its Ingenuity Knowledge Hub should become an online community where local businesses share ideas, opportunities and collaborations.
It will also chart the real-life stories of small businesses in the East Midlands, offering an insight into the challenges facing new ventures during their early days.
As the first part of the development of the hub, three businesses have agreed to be mentored online by experts from industry and the university, posting real-time updates via social media and receiving advice from the panel of mentors.
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Companies taking part include software design company Pro-Genitor Solutions, which wants to bring a new product to market; sole trader Leonie Winson, owner of the Nottingham-based web design firm Line and Form, who wants to build up her business; and Bac-In, a social enterprise offering support, guidance and education for the African/Caribbean, South Asian and dual heritage communities, particularly in overcoming substance misuse.
Mike Carr, director of business engagement and innovation services at the university, said: "The university, along with other partners, has a vitally important role to play in helping local businesses to innovate and grow. We want to build a community of small and mid-sized businesses that want to work alongside us to get to know what we can offer."
Steve Upcraft, manager of Ingenuity, the university's local business network, added: "This new online venture builds on groundwork laid by Ingenuity, the university's business engagement network, and responds to the needs of our SMEs contacts, who say that social media sites are not always their preferred option.
"In particular, it is aimed at engaging with 'hard to reach' groups such as social enterprises, sole traders, new enterprises and graduates."
The three mentored firms will be using social media such as Twitter and blogging to document their experiences and will be offered guidance from a panel of experts made up from regional business leaders and successful entrepreneurs.
Followers of the Ingenuity Knowledge Hub will be able to watch the progress of them in real-time and use suggested solutions by the experts as a basis for influencing their own business planning.
Leonie Winson at Line and Form said that it was the opportunity to reach out to a much wider community that attracted her to the project.
"Like many other solo entrepreneurs I have to wear all the many hats by myself to keep my business running," she said.
"I'm looking forward to getting advice from the experts, and connecting with the wider local business community, through social media and my blogs.
"If I publicly set myself goals, I'm going to have to ensure I get results. I'm sure it will bring new opportunities and help me explore areas that I would not look at on my own."