The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and X-Forces have launched a new grant fund to help members of the Armed Forces community start up a business in the Solent.
Bridging the Gap - Armed Forces is a new, bespoke, fund for the Armed Forces community - service leavers, veterans, family members, spouses, reservists and cadets - and will support both new start-ups and established businesses with grants of between £5,000 - £75,000 to create jobs and secure investment.
The fund launch follows an Armed Forces Support Event held at Portsmouth Dockyard last week (15th October), where attendees received advance information on the fund and the package of support available through X-Forces.
X-Forces are well known in the business and military community for their work in supporting Service leavers, veterans, spouses, reservists and cadets through mentoring, training, access to finance and linking up with partners and charities providing welfare and support for military families. Access to business knowledge is essential for all entrepreneurs, and is available to the Armed Forces community through enterprise workshops and training programmes run with the Career Transition Partnership (CTP), Help For Heroes and ABF: The Soldiers’ Charity. As part of the provision of the new CTP contract Right Management has appointed X-Forces as the Business Enterprise Trainer for the delivery of support and effective training to those accessing the CTP who may be interested in business ownership and self-employment.
Ren Kapur, CEO of X-Forces said:
X-Forces are delighted to be partnered with Solent LEP to help them support the local Armed Forces community. These individuals are ideally suited to enterprise, as they already have the strong principles, work ethic and adventurous spirit of the Armed Forces. Partnerships with Local Enterprise Partnerships, councils and regions are creating a strong support network stretching across the UK. It is very important to provide the right support and create the right environment to help the ex-military understand enterprise, which can lead to fulfilling self-employment.
James Whelan, Managing Director of WightStream, started his business after a career with the Corps of Royal Engineers. He completed two operational tours in close support of the infantry and one tour in a High Risk Search Team as the Search Team Commander looking for roadside bombs. Speaking of leaving the Army James said:
After three tours in Afghanistan, I felt I’d done my part and it was the right time for me to leave.
Originally from Cheltenham, James settled in the Isle of Wight and launched WightStream with David Tottman in May 2015. The company provides a high quality exterior cleaning and restoration service to the domestic, commercial, industrial and maritime sectors.
The Isle of Wight is a great place to live and run a business, the community is very supportive. David and I are really excited for the future.
The new fund has been welcomed by key figures from across the Solent area.
Penny Mordaunt, Minister of State for the Armed Forces and MP for Portsmouth North, said:
Our armed forces offer fantastic career opportunities and the high-level skills that individuals build up during time spent serving our country have the potential to be applied in business to drive our local economies.
In Portsmouth, there is a huge community linked to the Royal Navy with skills in everything from engineering and manufacturing to logistics and support services. As people come to the end of their military careers we want to capture this expertise and provide support to individuals to help take the next steps in their civilian careers.
This new fund is an excellent opportunity to make use of these skills in new businesses and I will be encouraging Armed Forces colleagues to look at this unique opportunity for support.
Alan Mak, MP for Havant, said:
I am a strong supporter of our military. Havant is home to a large number of people linked to the Armed Forces and it is fantastic to see the Solent LEP and X-Forces targeting Government funding and bespoke support towards these communities.
The new fund offers the opportunity for Havant residents to build their entrepreneurial skills and I am hoping to see some exciting new businesses starting up in the area.
The fund will be operated on a competitive basis and applicants will need to develop a business plan to access the capital funding and demonstrate how they can create or safeguard jobs. Funding from the Bridging the Gap - Armed Forces Fund will need to be match funded with additional investment into the business.
Further information on the fund and how to apply is available now in the following documents: