Transitioning from a bootstrapped local business to an organisation with multi-national goals isn’t easy, but Sheila Smith found the support she needed in the European-funded Ready2Grow project. Here, she tells the story of how a chance encounter with the Northamptonshire Growth Hub inspired her to seek the funding she required.


“I became aware of Ready2Grow in 2016 through a Growth Hub event that focused on funding options,” Sheila explains.

“I was intrigued, so I booked an appointment with one of their advisers. The process started with this meeting, followed by free attendance at three business-related workshops at the Innovation Centre in Northampton.

“The workshops focused on marketing, social media and managing people. The marketing session was one of the most useful from my perspective, as it gave a brilliant insight into the many routes to market to which we have access.

“It was during that particular workshop that I had a bit of an epiphany. The presenter happened to mention that business exhibitions generate more sales leads than any other form of marketing. I had no idea, yet I was deeply into running my own expos at the time! As it turned out, the Growth Hub team were very pro-exhibition, which was really encouraging and affirmation that I really was onto something.

“To find that my service was acknowledged as being a great way to generate sales leads was fantastic. It was worth the attendance alone!”

This gave Sheila the boost and support she needed to really push on with her idea.

“Following the workshops, it was time to get down to brass tacks and work out what I needed as a business,” she added.

“Ready2Grow taught me that to accelerate the growth of my business, it’ll take more time and effort than I probably originally gave it credit for. You get to learn so much about yourself and the business, and through those workshops you also gain some fantastic contacts.

“The support I’ve received since those initial workshops has been fantastic. The Growth Hub are always just a phone call or email away. This is great, because I did have concerns about applying for Ready2Grow following my previous experience with a government body where I was refused funding.

“That left me feeling rather disenchanted with the whole process. And then I met the Growth Hub team, who were convinced that I did have an original business idea. It’s also great to have them working with me on my business expos, because it means they know more about me and have a unique, first-hand insight into the way I operate.

“In 2014, my business was an unknown quantity, and rather easy to dismiss. Thanks to the Growth Hub and Ready2Grow, they’ve helped turn what was originally a bootstrapped business into something that can expand and meet the wider goals I have.”

Ready2Grow is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by Northamptonshire Growth Hub, led by the University of Northampton in partnership with Northamptonshire County Council. The Ready2Grow project can help your business achieve its potential, whether you are an entrepreneur who is starting out, or an established company planning for growth. We support eligible Northamptonshire-based SMEs to enhance their skills and apply for funding dependent on their specific needs and stage of business development. Our experienced business advisers will provide you with 121 advice, highlighting relevant workshops and identifying the most appropriate grant funding with you.

To find out more about Ready2Grow, contact us!

To find out more about Sheila Smith Sales and Events, visit their website: eventssmith.co.uk


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