Chamber partners with free 'Voice for Locals' digital initiative

Dessie Blackadder

Reporter:

Dessie Blackadder

Ballymena Chamber of Commerce has announced a new partnership with ‘Voice For Locals’

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.

The team has digitised over 230 local firms across Northern Ireland in the last 30 days and 71% of business owners have introduced new innovative processes to their ways of working.

Following the recent success of transforming St George’s Market in Belfast to online trading, Voice For Locals is all set to level up local businesses across the Ballymena area in collaboration with local councils, town management, enterprise agencies and chambers of commerce.

Ballymena Chamber of Commerce has over 120 members.

It provides professional advice and gives a voice to the business sector in the local area.

Welcoming the initiative Leigh Heggarty, President of Ballymena Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Chamber is delighted to welcome Voice For Locals to Ballymena to help micro and small businesses recover, rebuild and rebound post pandemic.

“From shopping until you drop in the town centre to relaxing at one of our first-class hospitality venues, there are plenty of things to see and do in Ballymena.

“It is a wonderful place to live, visit and do business, with its vibrant independent businesses and excellent schools. However, our members are facing a perfect storm of challenges including energy hikes, labour shortages, National Insurance increases and Covid-19. Ballymena is a vibrant economy with many small businesses showing the resilience and entrepreneurship associated with the area and I would encourage all local businesses to register. 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.”

Jay Thattai, Founder and Steering Authority at Voice For Locals, said: “We are looking forward to working in partnership with Ballymena 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.

“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.”

This project is funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund. For further information log on to voiceforlocals.co.uk

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