Fledgling enterprises in Dumfries are being offered the chance to trade for free on the High Street.
The opportunity to make use of The Smithy from Fridays until Mondays is part of a package of support being made available for start-ups through a Pop-up Enterprise Hub initiative aimed at providing a springboard to success.
Led by Midsteeple Quarter – the community benefit society which owns the building – it will also see organisations including Business Gateway, CodeBase, South of Scotland Enterprise and Third Sector Dumfries and Galloway use the space to host advice sessions and networking events.
These will include its experts providing specialist insight for those starting – or with an idea for – a new enterprise, as well as support for local small businesses more widely.
The scheme, which runs until October (2024), is open to people who live in the DG1 and DG2 postcodes and will see The Smithy made available for rent-free trading, advice sessions, promotional events, co-working or meetings.
Kathryn Hill, Midsteeple Quarter’s Community Engagement Activator, is coordinating the initiative and encouraging anyone interested in being part of it to get in-touch.
She said: “We always love to hear peoples’ ideas and look at how we might be able to support them, so we are delighted to get this initiative up and running. One of Midsteeple Quarter’s aims is to encourage new enterprise and create opportunities for them through our spaces.
“For some, this could provide the support they need to move things to the next level – maybe even giving them the confidence to want a permanent home on the High Street.”
The chance to offer the space rent-free is thanks to support from the Social Enterprise Academy and National Lottery Heritage Fund, combined with the certainty of regular rental income from Barclays Bank, which operates a Local Hub from The Smithy every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Donna Petrie, Head of Delivery (Adults), at the Social Enterprise Academy, said: “We are delighted to have been able to support Midsteeple Quarter on their journey to develop the Pop-up Enterprise Hub initiative, through the Steps to Sustainability programme. This initiative presents an exciting opportunity for small businesses in Dumfries to not only thrive but also pave the way for a more sustainable future.”
Organisations involved gathered at The Smithy to launch the initiative this week.
Allan McNaught, Team Leader at Business Gateway Dumfries & Galloway Council, said: “As the dedicated agency for start-up businesses in the region, we are delighted to be involved in the pop-up Enterprise Hub Initiative and look forward to utilising the space with Meet The Adviser sessions in the coming months.”
CodeBase delivers the Scottish Government’s national Techscaler programme, which gives people, whatever their sector or background, the skills they need to build and develop tech and digital products and companies..
Sarah-Jane Burns, Head of Regional Engagement for CodeBase in the South of Scotland, said: “I’m thrilled to be part of a partnership working towards delivering more for entrepreneurship in Dumfries.
“Having spaces to deliver activity from is part of the CodeBase story, and is where communities are often built from. We’re excited to be able to have some space on the High Street from which to build a tech community, deliver our education programmes and create connections for the tech community in and around Dumfries.
“Setting up a business, freelancing or exploring new avenues like technology for your work can be daunting, isolating and scary and we want people to know that there’s a community and spaces out there to help, support and welcome you to ask questions and be curious, so come and visit us at the Enterprise Hub.”
Kenny Bowie, Chair of Dumfries & Galloway Chamber of Commerce, added: “Encouraging enterprise and new business is so important to the future of our community and the economy. We are delighted to be part of a project that is creating opportunities to not just access advice and support to help that, but use of a great space on the High Street too.”
Selina McMorran, Social Enterprise Manager at Third Sector Dumfries and Galloway, will be holding meetups at The Smithy on the last Friday of each month.
She said: “I am really looking forward to meeting people and starting meaningful conversations which inspire social innovation. Let’s build our communities and see where our discussions can take us.”
The duration of any rent-free period will be agreed on a case-by-case basis, with the final decision at the discretion of Midsteeple Quarter’s board of volunteer directors, in line with the eligibility criteria set for the Enterprise Pop-up Hub initiative. Terms and conditions of building use will apply.
For more information about getting involved, email Kathryn Hill – [email protected].
Midsteeple Quarter Community Benefit Society also owns 51 Bank Street, 109 High Street, 111 High Street and The Press, as well as 135-139 High Street, which is being transformed into modern homes and enterprise spaces. Work on that is due for completion this summer.