West Midlands Create Growth Programme

Applications are now open for the West Midlands Create Growth Programme. The programme is designed to support growing creative businesses in the region.

The aim behind the West Midlands Create Growth Programme is to help businesses in the creative industries to develop the skills needed to secure investment and achieve growth. 

Run by Creative UK, the programme is tailored to the needs of different creative disciplines, their respective markets, governance and distribution models.  

Creative UK is an independent network for the UK’s creative industries. It aims to unite creative businesses and generate opportunities for innovation.

The West Midlands Create Growth Programme has two stages, running in parallel: 

Stage 1 – Preparing for investment

A six-month programme starting in May 2024. The deadline to apply is Monday 1 April.

Stage 1 has been designed for businesses that want to grow and explore commercial investment pathways. 

Over six months, you will be placed in a cohort of businesses with access to: 

  • A course of workshops designed to unlock your commercial capacity and describe routes to investment and growth
  • Two one-to-one mentoring sessions to define and refine your business ambitions
  • Access to the Ethical Equity Simulator – a unique piece of software that enables users to learn about the different types of investment from a practical point of view. 

Stage 1 closes with a diagnostic session with investment mentors to help you plan the next steps on your investment journey. 

Stage 2 – Get ready for investment

A nine-month programme starting in April 2024. The deadline to apply is Monday 4 March.

Stage 2 is an intensive investment readiness programme for businesses that are ambitious to get commercial investment. 

Over nine months, you will receive: 

  • On-going one-to-one mentoring to address your challenges and craft a bespoke nine-month journey for your business
  • A course of workshops covering business foundations and sector-specific challenges Opportunities to meet and pitch to investors.

Who can join the programme? 

Creative UK is looking for businesses operating in the West Midlands Combined Authority area with creativity at their heart. Businesses in the creative industries, such as: 

  • Design
  • Fashion
  • Architecture
  • Film
  • Broadcasting
  • Createch
  • Gaming
  • Immersive
  • Publishing
  • Music
  • Theatre
  • Art
  • Heritage
  • Media 

The Create Growth Programme is funded by the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). The programme will be delivered by Creative UK in partnership with West Midlands Combined Authority and Create Central. 

The Create Growth Programme team will be out and about at events across the region in the coming weeks. Find them at:  

The Midlands Expo 

When: Thursday 22 February | 10.30am – 3.30pm 

Where: Birmingham Business Show, Birmingham 

Register at Eventbrite 

Drop-in session 

When: Tuesday 27 February | 10am – 4pm

Where: SPARK Business Incubation Centre, Wolverhampton 

Register at Creative UK 

West Midlands Business Expo 

When: Thursday 29 February | 10.30am – 3.30pm

Where: Coventry Building Society Arena 

Register at Eventbrite 

For more information about the programme and the events visit the Creative UK website.

Expression of Interest

To apply for the programme fill in an Expression of Interest (EOI) form. Once the Creative UK team has looked at your EOI they will be in touch to discuss if they think you are eligible for Stage 1, Stage 2, or to discuss different options and opportunities. Please allow up to four weeks for a response to the EOI.  

You can read FAQs here before submitting an EOI.  

To find out about more programmes and resources that support Business growth and innovation visit our Programmes and resources page.

Come to our Sandwell ‘meet the buyer’ networking events

Sandwell Council has partnered with Constructing West Midlands and the Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust to host two ‘meet the buyer’ networking events in March.

The first meet the buyer event takes place on Wednesday 6 March. This is followed by the second event on Tuesday 19 March. Both events are being held at West Bromwich Albion Football Club.

Wednesday 6 March: Constructing West Midlands

The first event offers the opportunity to connect with top contractors and construction industry decision-makers. You can talk to representatives from local authorities and housing associations, as well as contractors from the Constructing West Midlands framework:

  • Galliford Try
  • GF Tomlinson
  • Interclass
  • ISG
  • Morgan Sindall
  • Seddon
  • Spellar Metcalfe
  • Willmott Dixon.

There will be presentations on opportunities stemming from major projects – including in Sandwell’s Regeneration Pipeline.

Attendees will also be able to hear presentations on where to find business opportunities and how to register for them. As well as the benefits of community wealth building, social value and sustainability, plus tender-writing tips.

For more information about Constructing West Midlands visit the website.

Tuesday 19 March: Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust

At the second meet the buyer event on Tuesday 19 March you can talk to procurement representatives from the NHS, local authorities, housing associations and more.

The event will focus on upcoming opportunities such as the Learning Campus in Smethwick and other major projects. During the day you will have the opportunity to talk to buyers and procurement teams. 

After the presentations you can also network over lunch with other Sandwell business people.

For more information about Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS visit the website.

More information about both events

At both events you will have the opportunity to meet exhibitors to talk about:

  • Recruitment and training with the Think Sandwell employment and skills team
  • Business opportunities from Find It In The Black Country
  • Digital inclusion
  • Inclusion and ‘giving back’ with the Care Leaver Covenant
  • Shaping the workforce of the future
  • The green agenda and net zero support.

Why are we holding these events?

When Sandwell businesses thrive, they create jobs, raise aspirations, boost skills and generate wealth for our local economy. You’re Sandwell’s lifeblood – and so we want to champion your business at every stage. Getting you face to face with influential buyers and decision makers is just one of our many ways to help.

Social Enterprise Boost Fund from Access to Business

Access to Business is working with iSE to deliver the West Midlands Social Enterprise Boost Fund in Wolverhampton and Sandwell. This initiative aims to kick start and accelerate social enterprise activity across the region.

The SEB Fund runs until March 2025 and offers a range of grants and targeted business support. Its aim is to help new and existing social enterprises start up, scale up and grow. Organisers will also collect and share evidence on the impact of social enterprises on communities in the local area.

Are you eligible for a Social Enterprise Boost?

You need to be a Wolverhampton or Sandwell resident to apply to the Social Enterprise Boost Fund. You have to be thinking about starting a business, or have an existing business that is less than five years old, with an annual turnover under £250K. 

Your business doesn’t have to be officially registered as a community interest company (CIC) for you to apply to the fund. A wide variety of social businesses are eligible.

What does the fund offer?

New social entrepreneurs can attend a series of FUSE Start Up courses over the next two years, plus CIC Start sessions to help you register your new enterprise. Owners of more established businesses can attend a series of social enterprise MOT programmes. These cover topics such as contract readiness, social impact and managing people.

The fund will also provide one-to-one business support and networking, tailored to your specific needs. All recipients of business support will also be able to apply for a range of grant funding, up to a maximum of £10K.

Learn more about the Social Enterprise Boost Fund at the A2B website.

Brum Rocks: Sandwell business event

Misfits Music Foundation is holding a business networking evening at Thimblemill Library on Thursday 21 March. There, you can learn about its Brum Rocks project.

Misfits Music Foundation is a local charity that holds community music activities for wellbeing in Birmingham and Sandwell. 

This year, the Misfits team is running a huge project called Brum Rocks. They are holding workshops across Birmingham and Sandwell, for adults who sing or play any instrument. These workshops will culminate in a Rock Extravaganza Finale Event in July 2024, with hundreds of people coming to sing and play together in Birmingham city centre.

To tell local businesses about Brum Rocks, Misfits invites you to a business networking evening on Thursday 21 March (7-9pm). Learn about sponsorship and volunteering opportunities, for an event that is likely to achieve a great deal of media coverage.

Brum Rocks logo in a plectrum shape

Over a glass of wine or soft drink and samosa, you’ll get to see a Brum Rocks workshop in action. This is thanks to members of Misfits’ Bearwood Rock Collective. You will also have time to network with people from other Sandwell-based businesses.

Send a message to rosie@misfitsmusic.org.uk if you’d like to attend. Tell her you heard about this event on the Sandwell Business Growth website.

National Apprenticeship Week 2024: two Sandwell success stories

For National Apprenticeship Week 2024, we share two stories about successful apprentices in Sandwell: Callum in carpentry and Paige in plastering!

National Apprenticeship Week 2024 takes place between Monday 5 and Sunday 11 February. It’s a chance to celebrate apprentices, their achievements, and the positive impact they make on communities, businesses and the wider economy.

Sandwell Council recommends apprenticeships to local businesses as a way of investing in the future. You can train an employee to have the skills that are exactly right for your industry, in a cost-effective way. In the meantime, you are fostering a culture of development and learning in your workplace.

A social value commitment

So we also recognise apprenticeships as a social value commitment: a way to give back to Sandwell and its people.

Therefore, we have been very glad to hear about the progress of local resident Callum Farmer. Callum started with a trainee multi-trade position with building contractors E Manton, which led to an apprenticeship with Sandwell Council.

E Manton was the principal contractor working to expand the Ron Davis Centre in Smethwick. This is a learning hub run by Sandwell Adult and Family Learning Service (SAFL).

Funded by the Towns Fund, the £360k development added two new specialised digital classrooms to the Ron Davis Centre. It boosted the range of services that SAFL can offer.

The work enabled Callum to invest in tools and start saving for a car. Its varied nature – and further work with E. Manton – also allowed him to decide which area of the building trade suited him best.

Now Callum has gone on to do a carpentry apprenticeship with Sandwell Council’s Neighbourhoods Team. We hear that he is doing very well.

“I wanted to know how to get into a trade”

We’re also glad to hear about Paige, who is doing a three-year plastering apprenticeship.

Paige’s original plan was to work in the beauty industry. She had done a training course in beauty. She was also having one-to-one sessions with a mentor, who was helping her to find courses and look for suitable vacancies. The mentor was from Think Sandwell. This is Sandwell Council’s Employment and Skills Team, which helps local people into work and supports local employers to fill job and skills gaps in their workforce.

Paige’s career path took a change in direction, however, when her mum was having building work done on her home and struggling to find people to carry out work.

 “I realised that there was lots of work available and wanted to know how to get into a trade”, said Paige.

Responding to Paige’s change of heart, the Think Sandwell mentor arranged for Paige to do a construction overview course. This included training for a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card. Carrying this card gives proof that an individual working on a construction site has the required training and qualifications for the type of work they carry out.

Paige got her CSCS card, and along the way, learned that she enjoyed plastering the most.

With support from Think Sandwell, Paige applied for relevant work experience placements. Soon, drywalling specialists DCL offered her an opportunity to work with them on the Windsor Olympus Academy site in Smethwick.

As a result of her strong work experience performance, DCL offered Paige a three-year plastering apprenticeship. She started it in April 2023.

Learning a skilled trade

Scott Joynes is a project manager at DCL. He said: “It’s nice to see younger age groups having an interest in learning a skilled trade. Having Paige on site has been a breath of fresh air, she certainly keeps us all on our toes. I started as an apprentice myself when I was sixteen and it’s great to see the support networks that are in place to support apprentices now.”

John Jacznik, director at DCL, said: “It’s refreshing to have someone with that enthusiasm on site. Her character and spirit will make her into a great asset. The support from Think Sandwell in finding an apprentice and setting up the apprenticeship has been a great example of partnership working”.

Learn more about apprenticeships in Sandwell – and read more social value stories.

’Sales accelerator workshop’: sales training from Business Growth West Midlands

Business Growth West Midlands is offering a free sales accelerator workshop on Tuesday 27 February

This half-day sales accelerator event is for business owners and entrepreneurs in the West Midlands who want to boost their sales skills. It takes place at the TechnoCentre in Coventry. Experienced sales trainers Lindsey Newman-Wood and Iain Wood will be leading it.

The workshop will focus on practical strategies to increase sales. It will also be very interactive with plenty of discussions, case studies and hands-on activities.

Practical and interactive

Attendees can expect to learn lead generation tactics, acquire practical skills, develop sales strategies and network with other Midlands professionals.

Business Growth West Midlands works in collaboration with seven local authorities to help businesses in the region grow and develop. It has links with government, education and the private sector, and offers tailored support to businesses of any size and any sector.

Places are limited, so register now:

We’ve got more ideas for growing your Sandwell business.