SOLENT Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is releasing £600,000 via an online initiative to pump cash into the tills of small and micro businesses.

The LEP says it was the first body of its kind to make money available to the Pay It Forward campaign, which provides a way for businesses to “pre-sell” their goods and services to see them through the coronavirus crisis.

The £600,000 will be available to match fund payments made to qualifying businesses via the website Crowdfunder.

Micro and small businesses make up 98 per cent of the Solent region’s economy.

Crowdfunder and Enterprise Nation set up Pay It Forward to allow the self-employed, micro and small businesses to sell their goods and services in advance, while they wait for government aid. In its first week, the campaign raised £380,000 for 320 businesses, through donations from 9,000 people.

Anne-Marie Mountifield, chief executive of Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Following an extraordinary board meeting, the LEP board agreed the immediate release of £600,000 to Crowdfunder’s Pay it Forward with more available if the demand is there.

“We are taking action to provide immediate access to emergency funding now to ensure that a rapid response in these challenging times will make the difference between businesses staying afloat or going under.

“We’re looking for the local community to back their businesses and for every £1 put in, the LEP will do the same – up to a maximum of £2,000 per micro business and £5,000 per small business. These businesses and leaders are vital to our local economy and the lifeblood of communities. We will do everything we can to protect them and enable them to bounce back.”

Crowdfunder chief executive Rob Love said: “Businesses are telling us they need to keep trading or will go bust. That’s why we’ve set up Pay it Forward. Micro and small businesses as well as the self-employed can pre-sell goods and services and incentivise customers to buy now.

“It enables them to maintain cash flow and stay connected to their customer base which is vital if they are to bounce back quickly once this is all over. The Solent LEP match funding will take the pressure off of small businesses and enable many to protect their staff and livelihoods. We are ready and able to work with any LEP or local authority that is able to do the same.”

Emma Jones, founder of small business support network Enterprise Nation, said: “This is pulling together like nothing else. By using the Pay it Forward initiative, local authorities like Solent can add another level of security and speed to their fiscal support for important, local ventures that would otherwise be under threat.

“By doing this they are safeguarding their own communities and retaining important services that people will be able to go back to once this crisis is over. Not all businesses will be able to withstand taking on extra debt via the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme, but with local authorities match-funding customer support, this could be a compelling solution.”

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