Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Some of our services have temporarily stopped or changed. See our Changes to Council services page for services’ status and our Coronavirus updates section for latest information.

Business Support and Advice

Welcome to the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Business Support web pages.

Click here for the business help page for companies who are adversely impacted by the Covid19 pandemic

We have a variety of contacts and links listed on the right to help your business grow and prosper in the region of West Kent.

Free one to one business support and advice for Tunbridge Wells Borough businesses is provided through the West Kent Partnership:

  • Personalised 121 consultation meetings with experts from the National Centre for Micro Business available to advise you.
  • Ask Phil - free live webchat now for immediate business advice with experts in bottom right hand corner pop up. This is provided by the Kent and Medway Growth Hub (Mon-Fri, 9am-7pm) from experts who have 30 years' advisory experience;
  • Find information on grants and funding for borough businesses;
  • Read case studies on how such business support helped Paddock Wood business Visualix 3D and also Kate Griffiths, a Tunbridge Wells entrepreneur.

There is a great deal of resources and tools available from the central government website: Business is GREAT, and you can find a business plan template via the British Library.

Better Business for All is a local partnership that bridges the gap between businesses and bureaucracy, saving you time to concentrate on what really matters in your business.

Research is a major part of business planning. Suitable resources include the British Library Business Centre and the Kent Libraries Business research as well as Ask a Kent Librarian, and the various business Chambers.

Follow this link for franchise opportunities.

Specialised Businesses

Dealing with unpaid invoices

Help is at hand from The Office of the Small Business Commissioner. In order to help small businesses with this tricky issue The Commissioner will:

  • support small businesses to resolve payment disputes;
  • tackle the unfair payment practices of larger businesses that adversely affect many small businesses.

Visit www.SmallBusinessCommissioner.gov.uk to find out more, as well as how to take action if a payment is overdue.

Specific late payment enquiries go to complaints@smallbusinessccommissioner.gov.uk or telephone 0121 695 7770.

Exporting

    • The Department for International Trade provides a range of advice and activities to help get all SME's exporting including a face to face meeting with an expert trade adviser.
    • Open to Export is a free interactive portal where companies can find country/market information, seek advice from other exporters and exchange ideas.
    • Export Savvy is available as an on-line learning tool for businesses who want to learn more about doing business overseas.
    • Kent International Business (KIB) is a Kent-wide initiative which aims to encourage Kent businesses to access overseas markets and to provide information, advice and support to help them do so. For export support activities see Upcoming Events
    • Do you want to expand to China, India or any other part of Asia? Check out the useful and easy business guidance first from Asia House.
    • Those in the science and technology industries can obtain guidance and support from Innovate UK

Our Business Support Events page has details on helpful business seminars, workshops and business advice sessions - many are free.

Follow us on Twitter to keep in contact for the latest local business news landing right in front of you @TWBC_Business.

Please note organisations listed here are not necessarily endorsed or vetted by us neither are we responsible for the quality of business advice or service provided.

The Kent Healthy Business Award

Healthy Staff = Healthy Business. In April 2014 the Government established a Health and Work Service, a free occupational health service to SMEs. A £500 tax exemption per employee for any health intervention recommended by either this service or another occupational service has been introduced. Check KCC Healthy Business web pages.

Whether you are a business looking for help finding the right recruit or training for your staff, or an individual wanting to improve your skills to get you noticed by employers, there are a number of organisations who can help you.  One of these is a government website called Great Business.

For Businesses

Training your employees

The Local and National Business Groups (see tab) provide a range of training and courses to local businesses. Get in touch with them as well as the Kent Business School at Kent University which can talk to you about your training needs.

Apprenticeships

Numerous changes have taken place with regards apprenticeships, training and careers guidance for young people. Please visit www.apprenticeships.gov.uk for the latest information on funding and how to go about setting up the apprenticeships. At a basic level, if you are a small business (less than 50 employees) then you pay 5% of the training and assessment costs of those over 19 and nothing for those aged 16-18. You still need to pay the salary. West Kent College and Hadlow College both offer apprenticeship training. There are a number of other training agencies across the UK, use the search tool for your role.

Support from Jobcentre Plus

Did you know that Jobcentre Plus can run bespoke recruitment support schemes for businesses? Even though the Job Centre is no longer in Royal Tunbridge Wells, their services are still available to Tunbridge Wells Borough businesses.

Supporting your recruitment needs across West Kent, Jobcentre Plus Employer Adviser, Mark Lloyd has local expertise and will provide a tailored service, to find the best people for your jobs. Mark will work with you to design a package of support which will create opportunities for people in your area and build your business. This could include: interview facilities, supporting recruitment days, pre-screening candidates, arranging a trial period to a job-seeker (incurring no wage costs) through a Work Trial. If you would like to know more about the support that they can offer contact Mark.Lloyd@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

Tourism and Hospitality Sectors

The Kent Guild supports the Tourism and Hospitality sectors, find out what assistance is available to help you recruit the right staff for your business. The Kent Guild is part of Visit Kent Business.

Work Experience

The British Youth Council has put together a best practice paper on managing work experience for businesses.  The toolkit provides an essential guide for small and medium sized businesses who are not familiar with the process.

For Individuals

  • The National Careers Service is for all from the age of 13. CXK has a service in Kent for adults too.
  • Construction Skills Certification Schemes (CSCS) Cards provide evidence of skills and competence for working on construction sites. They cost around £50 including some training and testing to be done for different sectors of the industry including a mandatory Health & Safety test.
  • Click here for Apprenticeships in Kent.
  • A further range of advice and guidance, including information about JobCentre Plus is available on the government website.

The High Weald Unit

The High Weald organisation often has grants available to small local firms which are looking to improve the natural environment.  Contact them with project ideas if there are no grants relevant on their website.

Low Carbon Across the South East

The Low Carbon Across the South East (LOCASE) grant has reopened with a limited amount of funds as a stop gap before LOCASE 2 commences later in the year. As this is an extension of the first programme this means that anyone who has already received a grant cannot receive one in this round of funding, they would need to wait until the second LOCASE programme kicks off. The application process remains the same. Deadline is end March 2020 so be quick.

Kent and Medway Business Fund (KMBF)

The fund has re-opened for new pre-applications.  Apply for 0% loans from £50,000 up to £500,000 if you are a small or medium sized business looking to launch new or improve existing products, services or processes that will create new jobs, business growth or improve productivity in Tunbridge Wells borough.

Loans are for all sectors that can evidence innovation, added value and long term job creation. Priority sectors are AI, Creative and Digital, Engineering, Food Production and Technology, Innovative Rural Business, Manufacturing, Pharma. More info here.

South East Creative, Cultural & Digital Support Programme (SECCADS)

Grants of between £1,000 – £20,000 are available to businesses in the creative sector.

Grants will be available for a range of projects with both revenue and capital spend. Grants for ‘capital’ (buildings/equipment) spend of over £5,000 should be shared by two or more businesses. Grants will be for up to 35% of overall costs and are paid retrospectively.

For further information about the Grants available please contact our Local Co-ordinator, Philippa Wall: PWall@thurrock.gov.uk, 07546 522 078.

Transport and Logistics Efficiencies Grant (TALE)

Open to SMEs with a logistics function including freight transport, manufacturing, food processing and distribution. It will also help you to understand cyber security and the implications on your data.  Specialist expertise is provided by the University of Essex and University of Kent.

MAKE YOUR DATA WORK HARDER FOR YOU

  • Free support and funding contributions for your logistics business
  • Safeguard Your Data - Improve cyber security and comply with GDPR
  • Improve Customer Insight - Market intelligence to reduce costs and grow sales
  • Use Data Strategically - Launch new Products and implement innovation
  • Book a 1 to 1 free data assessment: to get a diagnostic support plan to identify opportunities on better data use opportunities.
  • Attend free workshops on topics in the field of data exploitation.

Funding contributions (40% of the total value of your business case, up to £60,000, non-repayable cash) can be spent to implement your company's growth plans, for example starting a new service, buying software or employing a data specialist! Apply now!

Kent Life Sciences Fund

This is a venture capital fund from NCL Technology Ventures, backed by Kent County Council, to invest in small high growth companies in the life science sector. Equity investments can be applied for projects such as scaling up the manufacture of new medical devices, taking a new therapy to clinical trial or a software / service company who supply this market. Apply via KCC.

Manufacturing Growth Programme

Small manufacturers can apply for a grant to support their business growth in a sustainable and competitive way. These funding opportunities are available from the European Regional Development Fund. Our local manufacturing growth manager is Robin Simpson, e-mail: robin.simpson@egs.live or call 07773 228 147. Visit Manufacturing Growth Programme for more details.

Start Up Loans

Pre-start up and new businesses trading for less than 2 years can receive up to £25,000 at 6% p.a. fixed for up to 5 years. Free mentoring, support with your business plan and cash flow is also part of the scheme.

More details are on the Start Up website.

Funding for Corporate 'Green' Projects

The Sustainable Business Partnership has a Utilise Plus programme that can provide grants for energy saving projects applicable to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Apply for a grant of between £1,000 and £5,000 to cover up to one-third of the cost.

Funding for Innovation Projects

All kinds of companies can apply for various funding schemes (grants and loans) from Innovate UK which is a central government department, including pre-startups.  You may be able to receive between £25,000 and £10 million if eligible.

Additionally, you can apply for funding from the International Programme. See Innovate UK for lots of details about the many different opportunities to gain funding for your business.

Breakthrough Funding

This Government scheme rewards businesses by providing research and development tax credits. It gives money to business owners that develop new innovations, such as software, products and processes. There needs to be a ‘resolution of a scientific or technological uncertainty’ and costs need to have been directly related to the innovation project to apply for Breakthrough Funding.

EIRA Grant

For R&D activity for A.I., Biotechnology and Digital Creative sectors. £20 000-£50 000 available as 75/25 match funded grants which can help towards feasibility testing, development of a product or service, de-risking a complex innovation, diversifying product range, enhancing products from prototypes and more. See Enabling Innovation: Research to Application.

EIRA Innovation Vouchers

Worth £7,500 for the AI, Biotechnology and Digital Creative sectors again. 80/20 match funded for academic experts to provide a business with support for scoping or developing new products, solving problems, carrying out a feasibility study, scoping a new business idea and more. See Enabling Innovation: Research to Application.

Fredericks Foundation

Charity organisation that provides loan finance for those who have been turned down by mainstream banks. This is especially helpful for start-up businesses which either have a poor credit history or have no track record of running a business.

Fredericks Foundation offer repayable business loans, generally over 2-3 years (depending on circumstances), it is cheaper than borrowing from banks.  Your business can be at any stage to apply. For start-up businesses, it offers up to £10,000, but the average loan is usually less than £5,000.

Fredericks Foundation is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, more information at: fredericksfoundation.org/who-we-are/

The British Business Bank

This is a Government owned business development bank which aims to make the financial market accessible to small businesses. It assists with start-ups, scale ups and helping businesses grow or giving day to day advice. Just because an SME doesn't fit a risk profile of one of the large banks doesn't mean that they won't succeed.

Business Finance and Support Finder

The UK government has a Business Finance and Support Finder to help you search for financial and other support for your business from central government.

Business Rate Relief

A number of schemes exist to support local business with paying business rates. To find out more go to the Business rates team web pages.

Please also visit West Kent Partnership and the Kent & Medway Growth Hub for further ideas and support.

Networking Opportunities

There are a number of useful business networking groups and forums that local businesses across the borough can join. These range from local retailers representative groups to Chambers of Commerce. Meetings of these groups are frequent and welcome any businesses keen to participate and learn about enterprise and business in the local area.

Many more networking opportunities can be found on social media sites too.

Support and Advice

The Kent Foundation

Are you aged 18-30? Want to start a business? Or grow an existing one?
Answered yes to the above questions? You have come to the right place! Take a look at the Kent Foundation Services for young people offering business advice and support. They will help you reach your goals and learn more about becoming a successful entrepreneur. Also apply to them for your Start Up Loan. You can also find them @KentFoundation

Young Start-up Talent

'Young Start-up Talent' is an entrepreneurial initiative which is supported by a number of local business and is aimed at helping 16-25 year olds with an entrepreneurial flair for business to make their dreams a reality. To find out more information on how to take part in this fantastic opportunity, visit their website or @YoungStartUpTal.  Get inspiration from the video of the 2015 West Kent Finals.

Shell LiveWIRE

This website is aimed at 16-30 year olds and offers free online business advice. It is the UKs biggest online community for entrepreneurs and can assist when looking at launching your own business. To sign up, visit their website or @shelllivewireuk

The Prince's Trust

The Prince's Trust gives practical and financial support, developing key workplace skills such as confidence and motivation to young people who have struggled at school, have been in care, are long-term unemployed or have been in trouble with the law.

Young entrepreneurs can benefit from a specialised programme which lends money and mentors to help start a business.

If you are an 18-30 year old with a business idea, or are unemployed or working less than 16 hours per week, receive training and mentoring, support in writing a business plan and in applying for low interest loans.  More information at Princes-Trust.org.uk and @princestrust.

Training and Skills Development

CXK

CXK (formerly Connexions) is a charity which empowers young people and adults to maximise their potential.  Through providing careers advice and practical support in jobs and training, CXK makes a difference to the lives of people across the South East. They help people learn new skills, gain qualifications, experience positive influences and improve their employability. They also provide help with mental health and targeted support to vulnerable young people in Kent. Follow them @cxkltd

Kent Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are a fantastic way of getting work-based training. You'll do real jobs for real employers, training on the job and earning while you learn. Apprenticeships are open to anyone over 16, whether you're leaving school, want to start a new career or moving into a new role with your existing employer that requires new skills. More information can be found at Kent Apprenticeships.

Kent County Council has a support unit to help fight cyber attacks: Cyber Crime

The main message is to back up all your data on a regular basis and ensure your software is up to date.

Don’t let your business be the victim of internet fraud. 81% of large corporations and 60% of small businesses reported a cyber breach in 2014. The worst cyber-security breach is estimated at £600,000 to £1.15 million for large businesses and £65,000 to £115,000 for smaller ones.

For useful advice and strategies for dealing with cybercrime please visit :

www.gov.uk/government/news/cyber-security-myths-putting-a-third-of-sme-revenue-at-risk

www.cyberstreetwise.com/cyberessentials

www.gov.uk/government/publications/cyber-security-what-small-businesses-need-to-know

www.gov.uk/government/policies/keeping-the-uk-safe-in-cyberspace

www.gov.uk/guidance/crime-and-fraud-prevention-for-businesses-in-international-trade

If you have been a victim of any fraud including cyberfraud please go to www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud

The City of London Police website has some good information, links and support for fraud.

This link provides more information on the Bribery Act 2010.

< previous next >
A - Z of council services