SATURDAY, December 3 marks the 10th anniversary of Small Business Saturday – a campaign to support and draw attention to the country’s millions of small businesses.

One Devon charity is backing this campaign and encouraging burgeoning small business owners to come forward and register for its free enterprise support programme.

Last year the number of registered companies in Devon rose to 60,022, up from 57,278 in 2020.

The small business landscape is increasingly tough, with rising energy and material costs, as well as belt-tightening as a result of the cost of living crisis, eating into profits.

Yet nationally, the 800,000 businesses started during 2020 and 2021, have the potential to add £20bn to the UK economy if they succeed, with the right support.

Independent charity Devon Communities Together (DCT) supports hundreds of these new start-ups and small businesses through the Devon Social Enterprise Network and its New Start Devon programme, which receives funding from the European Regional Development Fund to provide free advice and coaching to start-ups and other microbusinesses.

As DCT Project Manager Hannah Reynolds explains: “The pandemic and uncertainty around jobs has led to people looking at alternative career routes.

“Lots of us have ideas that have been brewing in the backs of our minds for a little while and lockdown gave some people the time and space to develop these ideas further and begin small businesses.

“The fall out from the pandemic and the current cost of living crisis has also created opportunities for community interest companies (CICs) and social enterprises that provides services to support people in their communities.

“Our New Start Devon programme provides a minimum of 12 hours’ completely free support to anyone who has an idea for an enterprise, or existing small business owners who aren’t sure about their next steps.

“We provide a mix of one-to-one coaching, an online ‘bootcamp’ and tailored workshops with experts to help people develop their ideas and businesses. We aim to create a really open, supportive environment where people can feel inspired and upskilled to achieve their goals.”

So far, since the programme started in 2019, more than 200 businesses and entrepreneurs have benefitted from New Start Devon programme ethical clothing company The B Shirt, coaches Snow Limits Coaching and Sion Kemp Health Coaching, wellbeing business The Academy of Wide-hearted Living, charity The Buturi Project and many more.

Mark Brownbill, Project Manager and Enterprise Coach from Devon Communities Together, added: “The support offered from Devon Communities is designed to help people take their first steps into running a business and really helps give people that initial boost to the skills needed to take a professional approach.”

For an informal chat about whether you could be eligible for this free support, please contact Hannah Reynolds: [email protected]  or 01392 248919.

Devon Communities Together also runs the Devon Social Enterprise Network, which counts more than 240 of Devon’s social enterprises as its members.

Social enterprises are commercial businesses that reinvest profit into doing something good for their local communities or further afield.

For more information and to join the network, visit: .

• Devon Communities Together is the operating name for the Community Council of Devon, an independent charitable company, founded in 1961. It is part of a national network of Rural Community Councils - ACRE Network (Action with Communities in Rural England).

DCT is an independent charity engaged in a wide range of projects and services that support the vision of dynamic Devon communities shaping their own futures.

Its team is focused on inspiring, upskilling, training, supporting and advising groups and individuals to make changes and achieve positive outcomes for their communities.

It works with a very broad range of people, from rural and coastal communities to more urban centres, and supports them across a wide variety of areas including community buildings, community resilience, affordable housing, entrepreneurship, neighbourhood and community plans, sport and play, health and wellbeing and much more - but its work is always designed to help communities help themselves.