A new initiative aimed at bringing small firms together in a way which enables them to lead the local economy out of recession was launched today.
The free online resource – www.smallbusinesscan.com – is designed to enable small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the North and across the island to overcome the challenges they are facing together.
It has been created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs and includes a series of interlocking tools and forums to enable SMEs to share information, knowledge, experience, contacts and ideas.
The innovative not-for-profit scheme has been in the making for 18 months, led by Irish business experts Greg Byrne, Ron Immink and Fionan Murray, with backing from the Ulster Bank.
An advisory panel of four of the North's entrepreneurs and business leaders - Michael Caulfield, Steve McIlwrath, Karen Murray and Damian Cranney – has been established to support the project locally.
Joint founder Mr Immink said early visitors to the website were already enabling each other to benefit from new opportunities.
One firm had been able to locate valuable contacts in China through a contact made on smallbusinesscan.com and another found help from a very experienced entrepreneur with a new product introduction, he said.
Mr Immink added: “Small firms are the absolute bedrock of the Northern Ireland economy and their success will lead the economy forward, out of this recession to future prosperity.
“To be successful, these firms need practical solutions to day-to-day challenges, which smallbussinesscan.com can provide.”
He said the site could empower small firms to overcome the challenges they face by providing them with a unique free and straightforward means to access and contribute a huge amount of experience and knowledge.
Among the features of the site are advisory articles, podcasts and a networking room called InsightsXchange through which members can share their views.
At the heart of the site is a tool called RoadMap4Growth, which profiles the user’s business according to three growth stages and offers advice on money, management and marketing appropriate to the characteristics of the individual business.