Northamptonshire County Council’s library service has received a national award for its work to help local people get started in business.
Enterprise Hubs, which are run by libraries working together with Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership, have won a prestigious EDGE 2013 award, which highlight and promote innovative and creative library projects.
By working with partners, training library staff and imaginatively adapting library spaces, the Enterprise Hubs offer coaching, advice and access to facilities (meeting rooms, IT, knowledge and information) to people interested in developing a business idea and taking it to market.
They also offer workshops and one-to-one advice on legal and tax issues, marketing and financial control to help customers who might not have considered self-employment or entrepreneurship otherwise.
Since the Enterprise Hubs were launched in April 2012, they have helped 350 people and a number of these are known to be already trading in areas ranging from cleaning services to gardening and from creative arts to children’s entertainment – about 10% of all the county’s start-ups in that period.
Leader of Northamptonshire County Council Councillor Jim Harker said: “This is a true success story which has seen our libraries work together with Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership to take an entrepreneurial approach by identifying the economy as an area of need and spotting a gap in the market to offer business start-up advice through the Enterprise Hubs.
“It’s this type of approach that has made Northamptonshire officially the most enterprising place in the country. We have put prosperity high on our agenda because we know the people of Northamptonshire have the economy and employment opportunities at the top of their agenda.
“The Enterprise Hubs are a service that makes a real difference to people by enabling them to help themselves by offering aspiring entrepreneurs the advice they need to kickstart their new businesses. Libraries are at the heart of the county’s communities and are ideally placed to support local people as they turn their ideas into a reality.
“I congratulate our library staff on winning this prestigious award which represents a huge endorsement of the scheme and I look forward to seeing new Enterprise Hubs being set up in more of our libraries over the next few months.”
Cabinet member for customer and community services Councillor Heather Smith said: “I am delighted the Enterprise Hubs have won this award for the work they carry out to help people in Northamptonshire get started in business and take control of their own prosperity.
“Through the Enterprise Hubs, libraries work alongside Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership to equip people with the skills and confidence they need to develop their business idea from concept to market. Plus would-be entrepreneurs can use libraries as a base for their fledgling businesses in the very early stages, where there is access to a wealth of advice and information.
“The Enterprise Hubs are just one way libraries support people during difficult economic times. They also offer job clubs and job fairs, Change! Zones which bring together information and books on all aspects of jobseeking, careers, business and finance and personal confidence as well as free E-Fridays which are particularly beneficial for jobseekers who don’t have internet access at home.”
Rob Purdie, Executive Director of Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership (NEP), said: “Providing business support to the right people, at the right time and place can make a huge difference, and libraries offer a unique and powerful way to do this. It makes sense for NEP to work with the county’s libraries to support would-be entrepreneurs. This project has proved enormously cost-effective in terms of supporting new and growing businesses and delivering one job at a time. In fact we’ve already seen five successful start-ups emerge from the project.”