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Place Innovation, Workington

When Gina McCabe set up Place Innovation at the beginning of 2020, she found our Business Start-Up Support Scheme (BSUS) to be invaluable.

Place Innovation helps schools, businesses and not-for-profit groups to increase their social impact.

Services include full project design and delivery, bespoke employee training to realise company social impact vision, and fundraising support.

Gina had worked in the private, public and third sectors, including spells abroad, and she is a specialist in community development, education innovation, and outdoor and adventure growth.

Despite all this experience, it was a huge leap to start her own business.

She said: “The business idea has been a slow burner. It has been on my mind for a few years now but, if I’m honest, I was nervous about taking the plunge.

“I have been fortunate enough to bring some existing projects with me so I haven’t started entirely from scratch.”

By a happy coincidence, she was working on an unrelated project with a colleague who also worked as an adviser for Cumbria Business Growth Hub and who recommended that she sign up for the BSUS programme.

The package of free support includes a three-day course covering the basics of starting a business, one-to-one meetings with a business adviser, training, help with a business plan and membership of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce.

Gina said: “My business adviser, Paul Crook, had specific knowledge of legal structures for companies, which was really useful.

“In addition, I really valued the allocated time in my diary to speak to someone about my plans.  It’s easy to get caught up in projects and work but so important to take the time to get business plans together and make sure all your housekeeping is in order too.

“That was the most valuable part of being on the BSUS programme. It forced me to think about things I might have put off thinking about otherwise.”

She found the three-day course for start-ups to be highly beneficial.

“The trainers were absolutely amazing and so knowledgeable,” she said. “No bit of information was wasted – from accounting, to marketing, to really forcing me to think about what my business is and who my customers are.”

The business made a strong start and Gina is in the fortunate position of having paid contracts as well as time to create and design new products.

Projects include the full design and preparation of application materials for a new primary school in Carlisle.

Although a sole trader, Gina can all on educators and experts in their field who work with her on a consultancy basis.

In September, in collaboration with another consultant, Gina plans to launch social impact training for employees.

“I have lots more plans for the coming years,” she added.

Here are Gina’s top tips for anyone thinking of starting their own business:

  • Go for it and wherever possible be passion led. Recognise the assets that you bring and what is unique about you.
  • Expect your vision and idea to evolve and change over time. It takes time to get it to a point that you’re happy with.  And even then it’s okay to review and change it.
  • Know what to spend your time on and what not to. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted my business graphic to be and started trying to design it myself.  I very quickly realised that despite being technically quite able I really didn’t want to spend my time learning how to use a brand new graphic design programme.  I spent less than £100 for a professional who I had worked with before to do it for me.  Tick!
  • Say your idea out loud. Speak to people in your network, friends, family etc.  Speaking it can be a great way to clarify your thoughts and ideas.  And it will be less intimidating when a potential client asks ‘what do you do?’ if you’ve practiced before.

To find out how Cumbria Business Growth Hub can help your business, call us today on 0844 257 84 50.

ERDF logoThe funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Sellafield Ltd., Carlisle City Council, South Lakeland District Council,  Penrith Industrial BID and  Cumbria LEP.  The Growth Hub is receiving up to £2,528,767 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The BSUS project is receiving up to £1,112,686 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, click here.