How Covid grants were ‘saving grace’ during turbulent time for these Ipswich businesses

When Dan Henshaw and Shaun Stanton launched DS Recruitment in January 2020 they had no idea what a rocky path lay ahead.

Within weeks of setting up their new business Covid hit and their plans were put in jeopardy.

Mr Henshaw said: “It’s been a turbulent time – we opened with a wealth of experience in recruiting drivers, but as everyone can imagine, it’s been a snowball effect of issues ever since the pandemic, really.

“Thankfully we were able to diversify into recruiting for warehouse-based work and a combination of the high demand for those jobs and the money offered to us has helped us grow.”

The business applied for an additional restrictions grant through Ipswich Borough Council, which they describe as a “saving grace”.

Mr Henshaw added: “We didn’t think we’d qualify for anything, honestly, we thought small new start-ups were just being left to it, but the ARG grant allowed us to keep our office space – which has now expanded into two offices – and we’ve just taken on our first member of staff. 

“The grant allowed us to push things further, knowing we had some breathing space because the bills were paid and the overheads were covered.” 

Two new schemes are being proposed this week, the first of which is a business hardship grant to protect small Ipswich businesses at risk of closure due to ongoing losses caused by Covid-19. 

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The business growth and innovation grant will provide up to half the project costs for companies that have identified some way to enable ‘innovative recovery’ from the impact of the pandemic.

This week, Ipswich Borough Council’s Executive will consider recommendations for more financial support for local businesses in Ipswich. 

Previously allocated grants have been well-received by business-owners who have suggested the money gave them more options in a time where challenges were around every corner. 

Mandy Errington, owner of DJV Boutique, said the financial support she received was “integral” for the continued success of her business. 

She said: “It enabled us to plan ahead. We had stability, so we could look to invest in new areas – like a loyalty programme and having a little bit more stock than usual so we’d know we had enough. 

“The grant money helped us keep our doors open. It’s been tough, no doubt, and I’m very conscious of the fact that not all small businesses have been able to get through.”

David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council – Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Leader of Ipswich Borough Council, Councillor David Ellesmere, said: “Since March 2020 we have paid out over £4.1m in Additional Restrictions Grants to help Ipswich businesses survive through the incredibly tough trading conditions caused by Covid-19. 

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“With this next phase of the scheme, we are proposing that we allocate the funding to support businesses still being affected badly by restrictions as well as help businesses to start looking forward beyond Covid-19, providing support for projects that create jobs, increase productivity or improve the town centre.”

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