Middlesex University and Barnet Council joined forces to support local micro-businesses severely impacted by Covid-19 with the Barnet Business Growth Programme which offered an inspiring series of workshops and internships.
The project began with the Centre for Enterprise, Environment and Development (CEEDR) at Middlesex University surveying around 500 micro-businesses to understand their business needs and post-pandemic aspirations.
This survey found 76% of micro-businesses were very small and had less than five employees, while nearly one quarter 23% were less than five years old.
Research findings helped tailor a series of short courses and workshops for 100 micro businesses which were designed to support their growth as well as develop their business skills, commercial awareness and entrepreneurial mindset.
These courses, which were delivered by MDX academics, were focused on subjects such as ‘business growth and sustainability’, ‘making reasoned and justifiable business decisions’ and ‘digital and social media – a marketing road map’.
One workshop was delivered by esteemed MDX alumni Danish Bagadia, EMEA Head of Media Governance, Operations and Performance Marketing at Google.
After the courses, 50 companies benefited from having a Middlesex University graduate intern to work alongside over a six-week period.
One of the interns Joyita Tasnia, an MSc Engineering Management graduate, said: “It actually expands your horizon, you can get to learn a lot about the community and the people. You can make connections and build networks. And these are all things important for your career.”
Another intern Johan Valenzuela, a BA Business Management graduate, said: “It’s good to work with people who are doing start-ups because I also have the dream of doing a start-up.
"So, working with somebody who has that kind of vision and that kind of experience is something good which I can learn from in the future.”
Barnet businesses also revealed how the expert courses and internships had been a massive benefit.
Shahab Uddin, from Barnet Combat Academy, who took on a graduate intern Petra Flipovicova, BA Music Business and Arts Management, said: “I would most certainly do it again, it’s been a great help to grow the business and also to grow me as a person.
“For me it was great to have her on board and to have the insight that she has and to use her knowledge and skills, particularly with social media and marketing.”
Through the workshops, Shahab revealed how he had started using Google advertising which had become a “very effective tool for his business”.
Monika Mudra, who runs MM – Meaningful Massage, said: “The programme helped me develop my business from the accountancy side. It makes it easier for me to see the numbers and after I can really see what programmes, packages or sessions to sell.”
In a report on the project Alan Stuart, Director for Careers and Employability, commented on the “hugely positive feedback and testimonials” from businesses who took part.
“This provides strong evidence that with further ideation and strategic thinking around marketing and promotion – from both Barnet and MDX, the provision of such a programme, the networking opportunities enabled, the internship offer and experience of the University’s facilities does have the potential to make a real, sustainable and positive impact on businesses who engage.”
The Barnet Micro-Business Growth project, which cost 476k, was negotiated and secured by Mr Stuart and project managed and delivered by MDXworks.
Oliver Pinch, Business Engagement Manager at Barnet Council, revealed more than 4,000 businesses were created in Barnet in 2021.
He said: “Barnet is a very entrepreneurial borough, dominated by small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs. It’s great to see so many of these investing in their development through practical training and access to a graduate intern.
“This programme was part of a package of Covid-19 business support delivered with local partners like Middlesex University and reaching almost 1000 companies in Barnet. We’re proud to have supported so many businesses and created a legacy of online resources and webinars.”
Barnet Council also offers support on Growing Your Business.