Investment in the match-funding initiative by Crowdfunder is part of Dorset LEP’s on-going response to support businesses during the pandemic.
Crowdfund Dorset Business provides businesses with up to £5,000 of match-funding. Dorset LEP has committed just over £29,000 of match-funding to seven small businesses across the county, with a total of £17,811 already issued to organisations including heritage site, Nothe Fort, Parley-based family-run shoe designer and manufacturer, Sole Buddy, Bournemouth-based classic rock bar, Zephyr, and the Dorset Artists Emergency Fund - a campaign that is helping Dorset artists to cover overheads and loss of income caused by COVID-19. It’s expected that the funds committed to date will help protect 44 existing jobs and create five new jobs.
Nothe Fort, a museum and family attraction in Weymouth attracting 70,000 visitors a year, was the first company to benefit from the scheme. Support for the heritage site, alongside Dorset LEP investment, enabled Nothe Fort to re-open, safely, within a week of the of lockdown restrictions being relaxed.
James Farquharson, Nothe Fort Chair, said: “I am overwhelmingly grateful to our staff, visitors, Dorset LEP and everyone who donated to re-open Nothe Fort safely. With the money raised, we have been able to make essential safety alterations to the museum’s entrance and display areas, including new barriers and hand-sanitiser stations throughout. We are over the moon to be welcoming visitors again.”
Sharon New, Founder of Turn Footwear and Sole Buddy manufacturer, shared: “We were a 90% wholesale business prior to COVID-19 and have had to pivot quickly to sell directly to customers online. Our successful Crowdfund campaign and the match-funding from Dorset LEP helped make this possible at the perfect time, just as the ‘back to school’ season began, allowing us to upgrade our website for online shoppers and deliver these wonderful new school shoes, designed to keep young feet healthy.
“The support, encouragement and community spirit we received from the campaign has been a revelation and we are glad we put ourselves out there!”
A further £12,000 has been committed to on-going Crowdfund campaigns including the Coda Music Trust, which teaches music and instruments to people across Dorset from all backgrounds, abilities and ages as therapy and for personal development. The Coda Music Trust has recently met their crowdfund target, and hopes to resume operations in the coming weeks.
SW Coast Refills, a ‘zero waste shop’ selling sustainable, locally produced, food items in Weymouth aims to crowdfund £3,000 to receive a further £3,000 in match-funding from Dorset LEP to make changes to their shop to accommodate social distancing. SW Coast Refills also offer a community space for local schools and crafters, running regular workshops on skills for sustainable living - as a bigger shop with a larger range of stock, it is hoped that people will shop here instead of in supermarkets, helping to attract more visitors to the seaside town centre in Weymouth.
Finn Morgan, Business Engagement and Dorset Gateway Manager at Dorset LEP said: “Feedback we gathered early on in the pandemic highlighted cash flow issues for small, micro and self-employed businesses. Small businesses have the potential to bring social and economic benefits to communities across the county and our investment in Crowdfund Dorset Business was designed to support SME’s take immediate and effective action in order to continue to operate.
“Tourism, hospitality and retail are incredibly important for Dorset’s economy, so it’s of little surprise that the majority of our applications so far have been from businesses in these areas. We’re keen to support any SME struggling with the impact of the coronavirus and will consider applications from any small business seeking support as they find ways to adapt.”
The Crowdfund Dorset Business campaign is still open for applications and Dorset LEP hopes to have issued the full amount by the end of the year. If your business needs a cash injection to bounce-back from the effects of COVID-19, or you know of someone who could benefit from this scheme.