Offering business a helping hand

PUBLISHED: 12:22 17 December 2010 | UPDATED: 14:34 20 February 2013

Lydia McCormick Weeks, centre, of Hat Paws and Trogs finds the GEBS service invaluable to the success of her business

Lydia McCormick Weeks, centre, of Hat Paws and Trogs finds the GEBS service invaluable to the success of her business

Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services offers a new support service - and this time it's personal.

Following major changes within the national Business Link network, Gloucestershire has a new business support service. Gloucestershire Enterprise Business Services (GEBS) was launched in April to provide a range of support services and programmes to help small businesses in the county.

The Business Link service still offers information, advice and guidance to businesses, but GEBS goes further by offering one-to-one individual support which smaller businesses have found so valuable.

Philip Timson, a former senior director at Business Link Gloucestershire now heads up the new company. He said: "Once they had set up in business, small companies often found the most useful help they received from Business Link was the personal support offered by a business adviser who visited their premises regularly offering a valuable external and impartial view on their business. GEBS is providing this service, filling the gap that could otherwise have been left."

In Gloucestershire, there are more than 15,000 small businesses which employ between 0 - 10 employees - and Philip estimates a similar number elsewhere in the Cotswolds.

"These are the big businesses of tomorrow, and they want general advice to help them grow."

GEBS' business advisers hold relevant professional qualifications and work closely with other business support organisations such as Business Link, Gloucestershire First and UK Trade and Investment.

Philip adds: "Navigating your way through the different business support services has been difficult in the past - now we hope we've made it easier. Contact Business Link if you want to start a business: They can offer you a valuable 3-day business start up course. When you're up and running and want some hands-on support - call GEBS."

GEBS has been set up as an independent 'not for profit' company and offers a range of services from business advice and consultancy to mentoring and the well-respected Micro Business Review which gives companies a general 'once-over' to help owners establish where they are and how efficiently they are operating within their marketplace.

Other services, such as Action Learning Groups specially designed for entrepreneurs who wish to grow their business and develop support networks, are also available.

Philip adds: "Our team are generalists, not specialists in any one field. This is important because they offer a holistic approach to business growth. However, when a client needs specialist advice in any area, we know who they should contact and will help put them in touch with the right people to help them grow their business."

One company which uses the GEBS service is McCormick Weeks, a specialist designer of bespoke curtain poles and accessories, based at Perrotts Brook near Cirencester, with a showroom in London.

The company has been trading for 15 years and last year, director Lydia McCormick Weeks successfully launched a sister company 'Hot Paws and Trogs' which sells designer fabrics.

Lydia has been supported for a number of years by Mally Findlater, a business adviser who was first with Business Link and is now working for GEBS.

She said: "Small companies such as ours are always busy - there is no room for slack so every member of staff, directors included, is hands-on. Mally is a great sounding board for ideas - because she understands our issues and brings a wider business perspective which it's easy for any business to lose if you've got your head down, working hard."

Lydia is creative with lots of ideas, Mally helps her sort and channel those ideas into business reality. "Mally tempers my ideas, slows me down so I can think about them in detail and guides me through the processes which will help me decide whether I want to bring the ideas forward.

"I also use her knowledge on tax and human resource issues. She'll always find the answer for me, because she knows where to go for expert help in any business sector. Then she comes back and explains the solution to me."

McCormick Weeks furnishes the windows of international hotels, palaces, manor houses, city lofts and country cottages, all from its base close to Cirencester. With interior designer Lawrence Lewellyn Bowen moving to the area during 2007, Lydia is anticipating more work coming from this established customer.

Lydia's new company, Hot Paws & Trogg, was inspired by everyday favourite things; warm and cosy hot water bottles in their brightly coloured jackets, playful shapes of cacti on the windowsill, the individual charm of hand-thrown pottery, bobbing boats, dancing taps and the simplicity and freshness of the daisy. This relation to familiar and cherished objects gives the designs a nostalgic and comforting feel. Teamed with 'splotts' in fresh light colours, they offer something a little bit different.

Both companies are trading well and Lydia is excited about the future. "Everyone needs someone to talk to - especially when it's about business," she said. "Mally is always there to talk to, but she'll never say: 'You must to this, or that', she's just give another point of view and I like her approach. She stimulates my brain."

Philip Timson, at GEBS, says it's working like this which makes small business support exciting.

"As professional business advisers, we've seen pretty well every type of business set up, but we're always caught up with their enthusiasm. What excites me is that we know we'll make a difference to what they're doing - helping them build their business more efficiently from the start so they have more opportunity to move into profit quicker. For me, that's the real buzz of business."

Visit the GEBS website on, or call 01242 864200 and speak to Emily or Georgina.

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