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Say HELO to the next phase of support for small businesses

6 August 2012

HELO, the Higher Education London Outreach Programme, is entering its next phase following an announcement by UCL that it will continue to fund the project after European Union funding draws to an end.

HELO Party

The project has received funding from the EU Regional Development Fund from 2008 until now, and is organised in partnership with MegaNexus Ltd and supported by the London Business School.

The aim of the programme is to bridge the gap between the higher education sector and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in London, through transferring expertise, research and knowledge at UCL to support business growth.

Going forward, the programme will be entirely funded by UCL through the university’s centre for entrepreneurship, UCL Advances. The programme is aiming to double the level of support for small businesses across London, and is looking at increasing the number of projects from between three and five a month to ten a month.

One such project which has benefitted from HELO support has been Wicked Uncle, an online retailer based in Battersea specialising in gifts for the under-12s. Wanting to reach a younger market, CEO Mike O’Shea approached the project coordinators through a networking event and was matched with Salama Begum, a history of philosophy of science graduate, and two PhD students, Mary Gee and Neil Matthews.

The students devised a marketing strategy using social media such as Twitter and Facebook to keep in regular touch with – and retain – customers, resulting in substantially increased sales since the project was implemented.

“Support from the HELO programme has benefited us enormously,” says Mike. “Especially important was having the research carried out by people who were themselves part of that key social media-using demographic.”

“I think what Salama took away from here was the importance of having an incisive commercial attitude,” he added. “In a small company, sales are the top priority, not building brand awareness. Only big businesses can be that indulgent. We have to remain tightly focused on our goals.”

Speaking after the HELO Party, to which all participants and partners of the HELO project were invited to celebrated of the successes of HELO and the effects of support the programme has given to small businesses across London over the last two and a half years, Timothy Barnes, Director of UCL Advances, said the best years of the programme were ahead of it.

“HELO has already made a huge difference to the businesses it has worked with, and this is in no small part down to the efforts of the team at UCL Advances”, Timothy said. “Through the experience gained through operating the programme so far, I have no doubt it will go from strength to strength in the years ahead.”

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