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Britain's Businesses: Your Country Needs You!

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This year is set to be one of the toughest for the British economy in recent history.

We are faced with the highest level of unemployment since 1994. Economic growth is dwindling and the country is teetering on the brink of a second recession.

To kick-start the economy and get on the road to recovery, we shouldn't look to large corporations, but to the large number of small businesses that form the backbone of this country's workforce and output.

It is Britain's young businesses that have the most potential to create the new jobs, innovation and ultimately the wealth that this country needs. And so I guess you could say this is my Lord Kitchener moment, as I turn to these businesses and say "your country needs you."

In order for them to become the game changers that they can be, they must first exploit the power of the internet.

Up until now, when it comes to using the web, most small businesses have concentrated simply on getting online - on creating a web page and selling through it. Similarly, most efforts to improve and extend the web presence of small businesses have been too narrowly focused on this single issue.

Setting up a website is, of course, the prerequisite for effective internet exploitation - but businesses should not stop there.

Small businesses need practical support that will help them move beyond simply selling online. They need to be able to increase website exposure through search-engine optimisation, to drive marketing through social media, and to use business-to-business networks to procure and enhance supply chains.

The potential rewards to be reaped from an extensive web presence are huge. I believe that the internet can transform the fortunes of businesses, reducing their costs, increasing their exports, driving up profitability and helping them to grow. Small businesses can become global in the space of just a few clicks.

It is with this in mind that School for Startups has teamed up with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Yell to stage the Web Fuelled Business initiative, a nationwide series of one-day bootcamps teaching small businesses the skills of web exploitation.

Our approach to learning has always been face-to-face, and these bootcamps will allow us to directly assist more than 3,500 small businesses across the country by providing them with the skills they need to boost their businesses' own productivity.

But my mission doesn't stop there. Young businesses are the future, but when it comes to online they are stuck in the dark ages. They need longer term support and advice, which is why I am launching the School for Startups Store, giving them access to a whole new type of online learning experience.

The Store combines factual entertainment style TV, how-to videos, worksheets and resources from around the web to create a carefully curated learning journey. I believe this holds the key to unlocking the success of Britain's businesses.

So my message to small businesses? Step up, shape up and get web-savvy: your country needs you!