Government Backed Scheme Finds 15,000 SME Mentors, But Lending To Businesses Falls Again

Good news for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs); a government initiative to introduce more business mentor volunteers has reached its target of 15,000 people.

The mentors come from the small business community and can be accessed through, the national mentoring portal owned and operated by the British Bankers' Association (BBA).

The BBA's site acts as a single point of access to 115 quality assured mentoring organisations across the country. The newly trained 15,000 recruits join 12,000 existing business mentors available through the portal.

The training was funded by a £1.9 million government grant through the Get Mentoring project, delivered by the Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative (SFEDI). Its aim is to harness the experience of business people to train them as mentors and share their expertise with new and growing businesses increasing their success rate.

Business minister Michael Fallon said in a statement that the government had invested in mentoring because the practical advice and support given to entrepreneurs was invaluable.

"The mentors have been there and done it, and can pass that experience on. I want to encourage people to come forward and take advantage of the mentoring network," he added.

SFEDI will now deliver a series of 'Meet a Mentor' events to connect small businesses looking for help with the volunteer business mentors. The first event takes place at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on 15 February and will involve more than 100 small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Twists Pasta Bar in Huddersfield, a fast food business, attended a 'Meet a Mentor' event last year; co-founder Adam Thompson said his mentor Janet Marshall offering her expertise and experience really helped his business to grow.

“I would recommend all growing businesses to seek the support of a mentor," he said.

"We have been able to expand our contact list, whilst also learning from (Janet's) expertise and experience, as well as her pitfalls and successes."

Marshall said being a mentor allowed her to step back and remember what it's like to start out and said being involved in a new and growing business "has been very exciting and rewarding".

It wasn't all good news for SMEs though as figures from the Bank of England showed lending to UK businesses fell by 2.1% in December 2012 - the second month in a row where lending to businesses has fallen.

Official data covering lending by all UK-resident banks and building societies indicated that the stock of lending to

businesses fell by around £4 billion in the three months to November, and net lending to SMEs by all UK-resident banks and building societies also remained negative.