147 small businesses and sole traders in Kensington and Chelsea are getting back on their feet after benefitting from a £500,000 Business Interruption Fund.
The Council created the Fund to help those who had “fallen through the cracks” after finding they were ineligible for other financial support through Government schemes.
Grants were opened up to businesses across all sectors, to cover essential costs if their operation had been significantly impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. As non-essential shops reopen from this week (15 June) and hospitality looking set to open in July, business owners are preparing to welcome customers again, putting in measures to operate safely.
Cllr Catherine Faulks, Lead Member for Economy, Employment and Innovation and the Council, said:
“We’re so lucky to have such a vast range of businesses in our borough and they are vital to keeping our local economy alive. It’s really exciting that we are able to welcome back so many of them and it’s a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit here to see how they have adapted.
“Our doors are very much open again to residents and visitors and I hope to see businesses start to bounce back.”
Haines of Sloane Square, the oldest news kiosk in London, stopped operating immediately when the lockdown was announced – the first time in the family-run business’ 128-year history that it closed for longer than 48 hours. Managers, Sarah and Alex say:
“The Fund has been essential to our survival, as we did not qualify for any other Government funding. Our business could not go online or use alternative channels to trade. We have been able to fund PPE for our staff and ensure an ‘in - out’ system can be created for serving our customers, increasing safety for all.”
Sarah and Alex also share some advice for other businesses reopening soon:
“Ensure your staff and customers are as safe as possible; look closely at your business, can you operate in a different way and still achieve what the customers require and stay solvent? Use any time before you open to prepare for the ‘new normal’.”
Jack’s Garage, which specialises in Volkswagen repairs and last year became the first UK company to convert old Volkswagen cars into electric vehicles. Owner, Joseph Salama explained that he has adjusted his business and continued trading:
“I received 5k which has gone straight into our cash-flow. There has been a substantial reduction in business, so I re-strategised our operational parameters and prioritised all key worker vehicles, irrespective of make and model.”
Monica Eter, who creates and sells her luxury natural candles and home fragrances, based in Portobello market, said:
“The fund has been instrumental in enabling us to keep the business going by purchasing raw materials and continue development of our new product lines.”
Giving advice to other retailers who have been impacted, she also says:
“Look at ways to encourage a better experience with your direct customers and invest in advocacy and referral programs online. We also offer a same day free delivery option to local customers and this appears to have helped.”
Another grant recipient Mark Barr, a stallholder at Portobello Market offering gifts and toys, M & S Products, said:
“The grant is being used to pay running costs and to make alterations to the set-up of our business to meet Covid-19 guidelines when we reopen.
“This will include transparent protection barrier, sanitiser, PPE and any other equipment to make our stall safe for us and our customers.”
The Business Interruption Fund is closed as all of the funding has been allocated but the Council will be opening up applications for the Local Authority Discretionary Fund shortly.
Information about the Discretionary Fund, plus all advice and support available for business, is provided on the Council’s website at www.rbkc.gov.uk/covid19-business.