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Creative Agency receives funding and business support from Growth Hub

Friday 22nd January

The Growth Hub and the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) have assisted a creative agency with receiving the SME Restart Grant and business support. Bluechilli is a multidisciplinary team of designers, web designers, animators, illustrators and printmakers in Birmingham.

Many businesses in the creative industries have suffered due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bluechilli being one of them. Karl Wheeler, Creative Director, said: “we’ve dealt with 12-15 sporting clubs around the country that we don’t deal with now.” The severe impact of COVID-19 on the events and hospitality industry has also affected Bluechilli, Karl continued: “quite a few restaurants are shut at the moment so we’re not doing any work for them and exhibitions are not happening and that’s been for nearly 12 months. It has affected our workload a lot and we’ve had to take things in a different direction as we’re moving to do more digital work.”

It is costly to transition and transform the operations of a business, which is why Bluechilli were seeking funding, Karl (Creative Director) explains: “we were trying to find our way through the minefield of grants and trying to do it ourselves. Not knowing when these grants are coming out, then trying to look for them, is time-consuming.” Trying to navigate between all of the COVID-19 business support can be overwhelming, which is why the GBSLEP Growth Hub does it for you. You can find a collation of the key information businesses need to know, and resources we think you might find helpful here.

Having worked with the GBSLEP before, Karl knew of the business guidance that is provided, “we deal with the GBSLEP often and do a lot of design, websites and print work for them – we produce the annual reports and brochures, so through that, we were aware of the support that was available”. Karl contacted the Growth Hub and spoke to Jeanette Peters, a SFEDI accredited Business Adviser: “I called one day about the technology grant that I saw and from there I built a relationship with the brilliant Jeanette and she is now my go-to person for advice and anything that I need and she’s great.”

Karl applied for the SME Restart Grant, this funding came in response to the COVID-19 crisis affecting businesses and the economy. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has rolled out a programme of small grants through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The grants are administered through the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership and the GBSLEP Growth Hub, and is a part of the GBSLEP’s Your Step Forward programme.

Bluechilli was assisted by Jeanette with their application for the grant and was successful in receiving it. “The Growth Hub helped us with getting hold of available money within grants and knowing the best direction for us. Also, it was nice having a buffer there for applications and knowing how to fill them in correctly. Working with Jeanette saves a lot of time.” Karl (Creative Director) further explained: “If someone is giving you the heads up, as the Growth Hub do, saying that there may be something available for you and giving you the heads up before it is gone, it makes it easier for you. They also provide support if you receive the grant.”

The funding will make a big difference to Bluechilli as “at the moment we’re pushing through on getting our accreditations and the grant has helped us fund that. That’s something that hopefully will open up doors for bigger clients and for when we’re going for tenders and more work in the future. (Karl Wheeler, Creative Director, Bluechilli)

Karl also received guidance for funding from Silvia Gaplovska, the Growth Hub’s Innovation Account Manager, who is also a Business Navigator and Account Manager for Bruntwood SciTech. “Silvia’s been helping with training funds and having her there as well has been helpful. We’ve also used her as a buffer, we’ll ask ‘is that right?’ and she’ll give us guidance. It really cuts out the wasted time of struggling to fill things out.” 

Through the GBSLEP, Karl also participated in the Creative Scale Up programme, specifically designed to help creative businesses in the West Midlands with support. He explained: “it’s been quite restrictive as it usually would be face to face, but it has been helpful as we see how other people are dealing with the pandemic. It is nice to have that network of support, realising that it’s not just you that is going through this and knowing that there are other businesses in the creative industry that are struggling, but we can get through it.”

Karl has been delighted with all of the support that Bluechilli has received so far, “I have been most impressed with Jeanette and her service, and how she pushes us through. I had an hour and a half conversation going through what the company needed and what is available. She got us to talk with the Department for International Trade and that has been good.” He further said: “We got the training fund because of the Growth Hub. I mentioned to Jeanette that I didn’t think there was any funding available and then as soon as it came up, she mentioned it to me and now the guys are all on training courses. This will help the company and obviously help them to grow as designers and creative people within the industry.”

Seeking and applying for grants can be exhausting but programmes delivered by the GBSLEP and the Growth Hub make it easier. Karl states: “I think sometimes you’re quite weary, you’re putting all this legwork into applying for a grant and you’re thinking ‘is it worth it?’ but with their help you start seeing money coming in that could really help you.”

We encourage all SME leaders who need business guidance, funding, or coronavirus support to get in touch with us for tailored one-to-one assistance from our accredited Business Advisers and Sector Specialists.

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