Libraries across Greater Manchester will offer a new service to budding entrepreneurs, in a bid to help residents who are interested in starting their own business.
The new programme of support will be put in place after Arts Council England approved a joint bid by Greater Manchester’s ten authorities for £45,000 of funding.
Under the Start Up Engines project, which will be managed by Manchester City Council, enterprising residents will be able to access a wide range of information through a virtual ‘Flatpack’, which will offer all the help a prospective businessperson could need to turn their ideas into reality - including how-to guides, strategy ideas, free web tools and apps.
Residents will also be offered the chance to use their libraries to meet up and exchange ideas, either by using available meeting spaces or virtually, through the creation of online enterprise communities.
A programme of 50 events is planned, which will bring top business brains to Greater Manchester to act as role models for the next generation, as well as offering practical help on the nuts and bolts of getting your business off the ground.
Councillor Rosa Battle, Manchester City Council's Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, said: “Through providing high quality information, expert advice and the chance to build up a network of like-minded peers, the Start Up Engines project will give potential entrepreneurs great support as they seek to grow their own success story.
“Greater Manchester's libraries are the perfect place to visit for anyone who would like to start their own business and needs some help to take their first steps.”
The Start Up Engines project is one of only ten projects in the country to succeed in gaining Enterprising Libraries funding from Arts Council England and the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The project will be closely linked with Manchester's new Business & Intellectual Property Centre (BIPC). Established in partnership with the British Library, the BIPC will be based at Central Library when it reopens in spring 2014.
Entrepreneur Russell Clifton started his own path to success by using information gathered from Manchester's Central Library and is keen for others to follow his example.
Russell, whose children's pushchair manufacturing firm Ruk-bug recently secured a £250,000 loan from the Greater Manchester Investment Fund to help commercialise its first product, said: "When I had the idea for a new kind of pushchair that would be easier to use for parents on the go, I wasn't sure of the best way to move it forward.
"It was only after I was referred to Manchester Libraries' Business Information service and found a wealth of information and support there that it seemed possible to turn my initial concept into a real business.
"When I started this journey, the library was the perfect place for me to go to work on developing my idea. I wanted to learn as much as I could and read up on market research, marketing, manufacturing - literally anything I could get my hands on.
"I also made valuable contacts through the Manchester Inventor Group, which I now co-chair. Those who aren’t sure how to take their ideas further can join the group to meet like-minded people and gain mentoring from independent professionals like myself, who can help them to bring their ideas to market.
"Ruk-bug has now developed interest from retailers and distributors through the UK and internationally. The business has benefited so much from the material I accessed at the library in the early stages.
"I hope the Start Up Engines project will help keep Manchester at the forefront of innovation and business enterprise - for which the city is so famous.”