A scheme aimed at helping small businesses survive will be launched this week, supported by Customs & Excise and businesses such as Parcelforce, One2One, IBM and Visa.
The Big Small Business Initiative will act as a mentoring service, offering a helpline staffed by representatives of different sectors, a website with chat rooms where companies can exchange ideas, and a regional roadshows run in conjunction with Customs & Excise.
The initiative will focus on the needs of the smallest businesses - those employing fewer than 50 people - which make up 99 per cent of the 3.7 million companies in the UK. BSBI hopes to contact about 1 million small companies in the next 12 months.
The scheme is led by Alex Bennigson, former American Express marketing director, who set up a marketing consultancy, Peppercorn, in 1998. She said: "Something needs to be done fast to stop four out of five small businesses failing in the first five years... Many businesses fail because they don't have time to seek basic information on things like accounting and marketing, which can be the difference between survival and extinction."
The website and phone line go live on Thursday. The registration number for small businesses wishing to take part is: 0870 870 1165; the website address is: www.bsbi.co.uk
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