VOICE For Locals, a consortium launched in Northern Ireland to support businesses who want to level up their services after the challenges of the pandemic, has announced a partnership with Omagh Chamber of Commerce.
Voice For Locals, which was awarded £1.82m by the UK Community Renewal Fund, offers micro and small businesses a range of free skills, marketing and other services to aid their business’ recovery.
Over 1,400 businesses have enrolled to avail of the benefits, of which 235 businesses have innovated new processes in their business, and over 500 businesses are to be certified in August.
Following the success of transforming St George's Market to trading online and sponsoring High Street Heroes NI - a campaign from Retail NI and supported by Voice for Locals - working relationships have been established with many local councils, business improvement districts (BIDS), enterprise agencies and chambers of commerce across Northern Ireland.
Voice For Locals is all set to level up local businesses across the Omagh area.
Omagh Chamber of Commerce has a diverse range of members. It provides professional advice and gives a voice to the business sector in the local area. Welcoming the initiative Colm Broderick, pPresident of Omagh Chamber of Commerce, said:
“The Chamber is delighted to welcome Voice For Locals to Omagh to help micro and small businesses recover, rebuild and rebound post pandemic. There are a lot of small and micro businesses, in addition to independent stores in this area.
“Omagh is a wonderful place to live, visit and do business. We also have a broad hospitality offering centrally, with lots to see and do. Together we can make Omagh the very best that it can be for everyone!
“However, our members are facing a perfect storm of challenges including energy hikes, labour shortages, National Insurance increases and Covid-19. The prices of many commodities are soaring and the cost of doing business is rising. Now is the time for business to unite for the common goal – Business Survival!
“Omagh is a vibrant economy with many small businesses showing the resilience and entrepreneurship associated with the area. I welcome this free initiative for business to avail of modern technology to assist in post pandemic and cost of living recovery.
"It takes less than ten minutes to sign up and I am confident Voice For Locals will allow business owners to increase their visibility and credibility, and boost profitability to mitigate growing costs.”
Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Barry McElduff, added:
"As Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council I am pleased that Omagh Chamber of Commerce and Industry is working in partnership with Voices For Locals on this new initiative for the Omagh area.
“All businesses have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and by the increasing cost of doing business.
“It is vital that businesses take advantage of the opportunities available to them to ensure that they are able to adapt to the changing economic environment.
“Our Council (FODC) is committed to ensuring that our economy is thriving, expanding and outward looking.
“Any initiative, such as this, which will help to realise this outcome for the benefit of the District is very welcome."
Jay Thattai, Founder and Steering Authority at Voice For Locals, said:
“We are looking forward to working in partnership with Omagh Chamber. There are so many synergies and collective efforts yield better results than individual efforts.
"The membership organisation is a priceless asset to the local business community, helping it navigate some of the hardest times ever faced. The Chamber’s objectives align perfectly with ours in that it wants to support members and help them rebuild and recover.
“We provide the digital tools for data driven business decisions and enable business owners to go digital with mobile apps, get marketed locally, get certified with e-learning courses endorsed by City & Guilds, and avail of personalised business and technology advice, to build a self-reliant economy in the wake of the pandemic.
“The levelling up initiative has been designed to address a number of challenges. At a local level, it allows engagement with a broader audience, on a more consistent basis, thanks to the Voice For Locals digital directory of all rated businesses across Northern Ireland, ni.voiceforlocals.co.uk.
"Meanwhile, with an expanded digital presence, local businesses can now tap into rest of the UK, Europe and world markets that would have otherwise been unattainable.”
Mr Thattai adds: “Each business will have a dedicated landing page with a business description, an enquiry button to generate leads, and pictures and videos featured in the Voice For Locals NI directory. Business owners will be given the tools to collect genuine customer ratings and reviews which will reflect online automatically, encouraging online shoppers to shop locally with confidence.
“This is a personalised small business success programme. A dedicated team is in place to provide mentoring until the business owners become self-reliant. It is completely free and fully funded by the UK Government. The consortium, which includes firms Unloc Limited and TieTa UK, hopes to support even more businesses in Omagh as they navigate recovery post pandemic.”
The consortium’s tender win for the project makes it the recipient of the fifth largest grant in the UK and the largest in Northern Ireland. Unloc will provide the technology, marketing and skills development element of the offering while TieTa will offer business and technical support.
The team is working closely with City & Guilds to gain recognition for e-learning programmes delivered to local businesses throughout the scheme’s duration.
This project is funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund. For further information log on to voiceforlocals.co.uk