The Voice For Locals Initiative offers state of the art technology tools, marketing techniques and customer experience training for small firms, and it is set to digitise businesses in the Ballymena area.
Voice For Locals, a consortium launched in Northern Ireland to support businesses who want to level up their services after the challenges of the pandemic, has announced a partnership with Ballymena Chamber of Commerce.
Voice For Locals, which was awarded £1.82m by the UK Community Renewal Fund, offers micro and small businesses a range of free skills, marketing and other services to aid their business’ recovery.
The team has digitised over 230 local firms across Northern Ireland in the last 30 days and 71% of business owners have introduced new innovative processes to their ways of working.
Following the recent success of transforming St George’s Market in Belfast to online trading, Voice For Locals is all set to level up local businesses across the Ballymena area in collaboration with local councils, town management, enterprise agencies and chambers of commerce.
Ballymena Chamber of Commerce has over 120 members. It provides professional advice and gives a voice to the business sector in the local area. Known as the ‘city of the seven towers’, Ballymena is highly regarded as a prime shopping location. The appeal of the perfect mixture of world-renowned high street names and independent retailers ensures the shopper will never be disappointed. Ballymena also boasts thriving industrial, agricultural and hospitality sectors which have continued to see inward investment and growth despite two very difficult years.
Welcoming the initiative Leigh Heggarty, president of Ballymena Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Chamber is delighted to welcome Voice For Locals to Ballymena to help micro and small businesses recover, rebuild and rebound post pandemic. From shopping until you drop in the town centre to relaxing at one of our first-class hospitality venues, there are plenty of things to see and do in Ballymena.
“It is a wonderful place to live, visit and do business, with its vibrant independent businesses and excellent schools. However, our members are facing a perfect storm of challenges including energy hikes, labour shortages, National Insurance increases and Covid-19. Ballymena is a vibrant economy with many small businesses showing the resilience and entrepreneurship associated with the area and I would encourage all local businesses to register. It takes less than ten minutes to sign up and I am confident Voice For Locals will allow business owners to increase their visibility and credibility, and boost profitability to mitigate growing costs.”
Jay Thattai, founder and Steering Authority at Voice For Locals, said: “We are looking forward to working in partnership with Ballymena Chamber. There are so many synergies and collective efforts yield better results than individual efforts. The membership organisation is a priceless asset to the local business community, helping it navigate some of the hardest times ever faced. The Chamber’s objectives align perfectly with ours in that it wants to support members and help them rebuild and recover.
“We provide the digital tools for data driven business decisions and enable business owners to go digital with mobile apps, get marketed locally, get certified with e-learning courses endorsed by City & Guilds, and avail of personalised business and technology advice, to build a self-reliant economy in the wake of the pandemic.
“The levelling up initiative has been designed to address a number of challenges. At a local level, it allows engagement with a broader audience, on a more consistent basis, thanks to the Voice For Locals digital directory of all rated businesses across Northern Ireland, ni.voiceforlocals.co.uk. Meanwhile, with an expanded digital presence, local businesses can now tap into rest of the UK, Europe and world markets that would have otherwise been unattainable.”
Mr Thattai added: “Each business will have a dedicated landing page with a business description, an enquiry button to generate leads, and pictures and videos featured in the Voice For Locals NI directory. Business owners will be given the tools to collect genuine customer ratings and reviews which will reflect online automatically, encouraging online shoppers to shop locally with confidence.
“This is a personalised small business success programme. A dedicated team is in place to provide mentoring until the business owners become self-reliant. It is completely free and fully funded by the UK Government. The consortium, which includes firms Unloc Limited and TieTa UK, hopes to support even more businesses in Ballymena as they navigate recovery post pandemic.”
The consortium’s tender win for the project makes it the recipient of the fifth largest grant in the UK and the largest in Northern Ireland. Unloc will provide the technology, marketing and skills development element of the offering while TieTa will offer business and technical support. The team is working closely with City & Guilds to gain recognition for e-learning programmes delivered to local businesses throughout the scheme’s duration.
This project is funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.