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Growth for business support firm

Fri 28 October 2016, 12:37 pm

A social enterprise, supporting businesses which are starting out, has expanded into new premises.

Funded by Harrow Council and operated by Meanwhile Space, the two-year Start Here programme enables local business to use low cost workspace and free pop-up shops in vacant or underused premises.

The Start Here scheme began in October 2015 from a vacant shop opposite Harrow and Wealdstone station at 1 The Bridge. It then expanded into the former Rayners Lane library site in March 2016, creating low cost co-working areas, a free pop-up shop and flexible event space.

The project has now added two ‘Step Up’ spaces, taking two formerly vacant shops on Wealdstone High Street. They are now available for businesses which have already operated from pop-up shops at 1 The Bridge or Rayners Lane for up to a month and are ready for the next step. They will be given a larger space for a longer period of time.

The space is available for free, and users are only asked to pay a refundable deposit and make a contribution towards utilities.

Harrow residents or people wishing to work in the borough can register for space in one of the premises by presenting their proposals during regular idea building sessions: the next will take place on 9 November from 6.30 to 7.45pm at 226 Imperial Drive.

Fifty businesses have been part of the programme so far. “The feedback received from the space users has been incredibly positive,” Anna Burton of Start Here told BIG. “They said that using the space has helped to develop their business and enabled them to get customer feedback.

“It has also been an invaluable promotional tool, helping increase awareness of their services in the local area, driving traffic to their websites and social media, allowing them to network and make links with potential clients or collaborators. Most importantly, it has boosted their confidence.”

Pop-up shops in the anchor site and in the former Rayners library can be taken up for a maximum of four weeks, that in Wealdstone High Street is available for three months. Workspace can be used for up to six months.

“It’s such a fantastic scheme for local businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Waverley George, who has been selling her Waverley G urban streetwear at the pop-up shop in Wealdstone.

"I feel like the shop was a great success,” added Harrow-based artist Lolita Parekh. “It went beyond my expectations, so I could not have asked for more.”

The project will be active until March 2017. More information can be found here. People wishing to apply can email anna@meanwhilespace.com.

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