Devon County Council is inviting applications for grants to expand its award-winning network of work hubs.
There are currently 15 work hubs across the county and Devon County Council has provided funding to help establish eight of those.
The authority is now inviting applications for grants to add to the network, providing facilities in areas without work hubs.
Work hubs provide flexible-term, value for money office space, equipped with facilities that modern businesses need. They are ideal locations for small businesses that may have started from home but are now looking to expand into larger office accommodation.
Grants of up to £20,000 per hub are available to businesses and entrepreneurs to help the council develop the next wave of hubs, with free support also on offer. Funding is only available in areas that don’t have an existing work hub.
Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “Around 20% of people working in Devon work from home, and many of them are small start-up businesses. Our successful network of work hubs is providing an ideal venue for start-up firms, who may have just a few staff, helping their businesses to take that next step to grow and move on to larger work premises. Work hubs encourage collaboration between local businesses which can lead to new ways of working and improved use of technology.”
Among the work hubs that benefited from the previous funding round is RedPod Work Hub at the Clay Factory in Ivybridge, which has beach huts that have been turned in micro offices, as well as co-working space, workshops, offices, meeting rooms, and training/event space.
Damon Foster, from RedPod Work Hub, said: “The funding enabled us to renovate an empty space and turn it into what is now our work hub. It also allowed us to tap into the fantastic knowledge of the work hub community and the great staff behind the scheme are a much-valued resource for the local business community. RedPod Work Hub offers space to users who are looking for somewhere to work, either for the day or for prolonged periods. Users can access the facilities on a drop-in rate or via membership.”
Ashburton Work Hub is a former pub that has been refurbished. In its first year of operation it has had seven companies from all over Dartmoor taking space in the work hub, and it has run six events where local business owners have shared their experience of growing and scaling their business.
Andrew Ellis, from Ashburton Work Hub, said: “In setting up the hub we’ve been able to connect with other local businesses and collaborate with different local businesses across design, digital marketing, social media, PR and content marketing. It’s provided the local creative community a great space to work from.
“We offer the chance for freelance digital creatives to collaborate and work in a modern, well equipped space with a bit of character. We run events on how to scale your business and encourage tenants to collaborate on projects, rather than work from home. There’s 24/7 access so people can come and go as they please.
“Without the funding we would not have been able to get the hub off the ground. It’s also changed my work life balance as the hub is across the road from my house and it’s enabled me to cut down on travelling to London so often, as I now have a solid based here in Devon surrounded by reliable people who I can work with on an ‘as needs basis’.”
Cathy Debenham, from The Lighthouse in Sidmouth, said: “The funding helped us with the capital costs of starting up our work hub. The Lighthouse Sidmouth provides a warm, comfortable space for freelancers and self-employed people to work together, learn from each other, and share experiences and knowledge.
“We offer monthly masterclasses with local experts sharing their knowledge about the key skills that start-ups and small businesses need for their businesses to thrive, and additionally we have monthly networking sessions for local businesses.”
Teresa Murphy, has based her business, 1st Enterprise Training Courses, at The Lighthouse in Sidmouth.
She said: “The Lighthouse offers facilities that encourage you to focus or prioritise in a way that you feel motivated but importantly can ask for support at any time from other members. There is the added bonus of presentations given by members on their business and sharing of their knowledge to empower those working individually.
“The opportunity to have a space where like-minded business people of all ages and stages can focus and continue to expand while building on their own goals and achievements in their business.”
The Devon Work Hubs project was presented with the award for ‘Best provision of small business offices for upscale and growing businesses’ by the Federation of Small Businesses in 2018.
Expressions of interests for work hub funding applications should be made by midnight on Thursday 9 April.
For more information and guidance, and to download an application form, please visit Devon Work Hubs – Planning a work hub