Friday 19th March
The Growth Hub has provided a not-for-profit organisation with business growth and mentoring support. South Staffordshire Network for Mental Health (SSNMH) is a small charity based in Lichfield, they cover the southern part of Staffordshire.
John McKiernan, Chair of SSNMH explained that an obstacle that the charity has been facing is funding: “All charities are in a similar position at the moment, where we are all chasing funding, as funding is very difficult to get a hold of for smaller charities”.
SSNMH had been financed by The Big Lottery, however, once this funding had ended, they were keen to find a new source of finance, John explained: “We had a grant from the Big Lottery and it ran out in autumn of last year, they gave us a real lifeline by extending their funding. We are so grateful to them as it gave us time to look for more funding”.
The coronavirus pandemic and lack of funding resulted in the team of trustees to think about new ways to support the charity: “Coronavirus caused a lot of change in the way we do things but it also opened up new ideas and one of these ideas was to start talking to businesses about providing training services” (John McKiernan, Chair).
SSNMH decided to expand their current offering by seeking to establish a new trading arm to sustain the charity, John stated: “The charity has been going for about 20 years and as a result we have a big catalogue, so we thought we could offer business-to-business training on mental health awareness, and charge for it. This was new for us – the idea of charging – and we want to put the money back into the charity so that we are more sustainable and so that we aren’t so reliant on grant funding.”
John further explained: “A lot of people are providing this training but what we realised is that a lot of people doing it don’t have much of a background in mental health, whereas we do as we are a mental health charity and so we really understand emotional wellbeing services.”
Engaging in business-to-business activities is new for SSNMH and so they needed support in establishing their business plan and diversifying their current processes, which is why they contacted the expert team at the GBSLEP Growth Hub: “We realised that would be useful for companies, the idea of us helping to improve the mental wellbeing of their workforce, but the question was how do you do it? Where do you start? We started to look around and we knew someone in the Growth Hub. We asked them if the Growth Hub could be of any use to us and then that’s when all the doors opened for us” (John McKiernan, Chair).
John was advised by Klaudia Haines, one of the Growth Hub’s Business Advisers, who not only supported the charity herself but also referred him to several programmes including Mentoring for Growth. He said: “Klaudia had a conversation with us for about 2 hours, and she was an absolute font of knowledge. We would say something, and she would have a solution for it, and she would bring up things that we hadn’t even thought of. For example, the mentoring programme, which will be very helpful.” This free programme is available to businesses across the GBSLEP area and gives ambitious business leaders the opportunity to be mentored by senior personnel from some of the UK's most productive companies.
Klaudia also referred John to Keele University for digital support in improving their website: “We were looking at our website and knew that we needed to update it, so we wanted expertise and Klaudia suggested an internship programme at Keele University. We’ve been in touch with them and we’re working our way through the programme as well.”
Additionally, SSNMH were signposted by Klaudia to another LEP for further support training and upskilling opportunities. “We’ve been talking to the Staffordshire LEP and they’ve sent us some really interesting things for skills” (John McKiernan, Chair). Our GBSLEP Skills & Apprenticeship Hub also delivers a totally business focused skills service to employers across the GBSLEP area.
When speaking of our expert team, John explained: “There are so many people from the Growth Hub willing to help us. It was like a blast of fresh air – all of these individuals in the team wanting to help us, it is just incredible. Klaudia is a wonderful person, she is just so knowledgeable and amazing.”
John was most impressed with “the range of opportunities” as he has been referred to members of the team that can also support the charity, like Charlotte Bowden, one of our Growth and Resilience Specialists. He stated: “I’m happy with the amount of contacts that we now have, which is probably the most important part of this. For example, Charlotte Bowden, we didn’t know she existed and had never dreamed of meeting her but I’m so happy we did because we know she’ll be so helpful.”
Additionally, the charity has benefited from the support received by our partners and connections, as John added: “The way that we’ve been gently directed to areas that we have never thought of is amazing. The internship for example, it didn’t occur to us that this is something that we needed.”
“It’s the widening of our networks that I’ve been impressed with, we have a good network within charities, but we needed other things that the Growth Hub has provided. It’s been a very helpful and interesting experience.”
The Growth Hub has provided SSNMH with solutions to reach their goals: “We’re beginning this new journey which the Growth Hub has set us on. The service is really good, I highly recommend anyone to get in touch.” Our business support is fully funded and tailored to your organisation, contact us to access our specialist services.