St Helens Borough Council backs economic recovery through Business Advocates initiative

02 Feb 2022


St Helens Borough Council has teamed up with St Helens Chamber and Business Doctors, to launch a new Business Advocates initiative to help independent businesses in St Helens Borough recover from COVID-19 and have their say on future developments.

Over the next three months, the Business Advocates will visit businesses across a variety of sectors to understand opportunities or issues they are currently facing – providing support through an advisory service, training workshops and networking events. In addition, they will share business building tools to help with social media, build customer loyalty and facilitate growth.

The Business Advocates are a free resource to help business recovery, with investment coming from various grant funding streams that include the Metro Mayor’s Town Centres Fund and the European Regional Development Fund’s Welcome Back Scheme, supporting the safe return to high streets and develop investment and growth in town centres and district centres. The Business Advocates initiative is a key part of the Council’s business support programme.

Business Doctor, Steve Smith, and Lorenzo Francioli, St Helens Chamber’s Membership Manager, will initially visit St Helens and Earlestown town centres before covering other district areas in the borough to engage with businesses all sectors.

They will also host regular ‘open surgeries’ where business representatives can drop by to share their challenges, ideas and opportunities – as well an online Business Growth Workshop in February, with other face-to-face seminars scheduled for March and April.

Steve Smith, a former Grange Park pupil, said: “Being St Helens born and bred, enjoying trips into town and the bustle of Earlestown Market as a kid, I’m delighted to be working with the Council and Chamber on this project.

“It is a privilege to contribute to helping businesses in my hometown recover from the pandemic, and the whole borough to prosper. With the recent announcement of the town centre regeneration plans for St Helens and Earlestown, these are exciting times, and we want existing businesses to be part of this success.”

Councillor Kate Groucutt, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Business, said: “The council has a vision for vibrant town centres in St Helens and Earlestown, where families can come together, and local business can thrive.

“However, this project isn’t just about the future, given the clear and present need to help businesses across the borough recover from the impact of the restrictions and upheaval caused by the global pandemic.

“Local independent businesses are the heartbeat of any town and district centre and we recognise the difficulties they have faced during the coronavirus pandemic, which is why we have put a number of initiatives – including the Business Advocates scheme – in place to support them during this tough time. I want our town centre and district centre businesses to fully utilise the Advocates and I look forward to getting out and speaking to businesses that have benefitted from our initiative.”

Rachel Willacy, Head of Business Services at St Helens Chamber, commented: “We are looking forward to hearing local business’ insights into the challenges COVID- 19 has presented to them and hearing about their plans for the future.

“This project aims to not only provide immediate support to businesses as we start to recover from the pandemic but support to network and build relationships with other local businesspeople, build their social media following to enhance brand loyalty and more.

“St Helens Chamber is running introductory Business Growth workshops for Town Centre businesses to learn more about the support available, the first being the 15th February.

“We are glad to be a part of this important project and would encourage town centre businesses to engage with our Advocates and take advantage of the support available.”

The Business Advocates will provide regular updates through social media platforms and for more information on the project, please email