PERTHSHIRE-based enterprise support organisation, GrowBiz, has launched a multi-million pound campaign to support the thousands of micro-enterprises  across rural Scotland disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is estimated that over 60 per cent of rural and island businesses in Scotland had to halt all business activity at the start of the pandemic, with only eight per cent reporting that they were operating as usual.
Although many will be able to start to prepare for reopening in July, the financial impact of such a lengthy period of non-trading will make it impossible for many businesses to fully recover.
The Coronavirus outbreak has hit rural micro-enterprises and self-employed people particularly hard, with many being ineligible to access the government’s existing range of business support schemes.
Working with Crowdfund Scotland, the REDS  Fund: Supporting Rural Scotland’s Future launches today (Thursday 25 June) and aims to raise £3 million by 6 August, which will support almost 1,200 rural micro-enterprises across Scotland.
GrowBiz CEO, Jackie Brierton MBE, said: “The Coronavirus crisis has had a devastating impact on thousands of Scotland’s micro-enterprises, which form the backbone of our rural economy.
“In order for these businesses to survive in the short-term, they need support – both financial and practical – and a sense that they’ll be assisted to adapt where necessary and ultimately recover.
“One of the key target groups for the funding will be young people. Benny Higgin’s Economic Recovery report earlier this week highlighted the need for a jobs guarantee for 16-25 year-olds; but in rural areas, opportunities for self-employment and enterprise may be a more viable solution for this age group. And they’ll need funding to develop their ideas.”
Rural businesses will be able to apply to the REDS Fund for grants of up to £5,000. The project is designed to help micro-enterprises connect and help each other so it will work on a 50:50 principle; 50 per cent of the grant awarded will go the business requiring the support and 50 per cent to whichever business(es) provide them with a service or support, thereby circulating cash within rural communities.
Businesses and social enterprises applying to the fund will register with the Rural Enterprise Directory Scotland (REDS), leading to increased collaboration and support between businesses across rural areas. They will also receive business support and advice as required from GrowBiz and other ecosystem partners.
Brierton continued: “Over the past few months, we have witnessed the hardships and suffering experienced by those who have poured years of hard work into building successful rural micro-enterprises and watched them collapse overnight as a result of the COVID19 lockdown.
“Whilst the Scottish and UK governments have provided much-needed temporary support, many small enterprises and self-employed people in rural areas are struggling to survive.
“Our campaign to raise £3million is the first stage of a larger vision to build a fund of £10million so we can reach and support as many of Scotland’s rural businesses and micro-enterprises as possible, providing a vital lifeline for rural communities as they recover and rebuild.”
The crowd-funding campaign for the REDS Fund: Supporting Rural Scotland’s Future is open now at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/reds and runs until 6 August.
For further information on the REDS Fund and GrowBiz, contact Gaynor Simpson on 07790 104073 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editors:
- It is estimated that nearly 25 per cent of adults in rural Scotland are self-employed (more than twice the rate of urban areas).
- Rural communities and businesses face a range of challenges, including inconsistent broadband coverage, poor transport links and greater distances to food supplies and health services.
- GrowBiz is an independent, community-based organisation, founded in 2007 by local people in Perthshire to support rural enterprises. GrowBiz provides support to anyone starting or growing a business in rural Scotland.
- GrowBiz is funded by Perth and Kinross Council, Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government. The Making Rural Business Digital project is supported by the Rural Perth and Kinross LEADER Programme 2014-2020: The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas. pkleader.org
- Since October 2016, GrowBiz has supported more than 1500 rural enterprises across all sectors
- GrowBiz runs an award-winning mentoring programme, which currently has over 70 participants and which is the first and only business programme in Scotland to achieve the Scottish Mentoring Network Quality Standard
- The REDS fund will provide flexible 50:50 grants for micro-businesses and social enterprises across rural Scotland. The initial aim is to raise £3million and support an initial target of at least 1,200 micro-businesses, with a larger goal of building a fund of £10million.
 A micro-enterprise is defined as any business employing fewer than 10 people and/or with a turnover of less than £500k.
 REDS: Rural Enterprise Directory Scotland.
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