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Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)

FSB Local Development Manager covering Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull
FSB is a membership organisation representing small businesses and the self-employed. 
Established over 45 years ago to help our members succeed in business, we are non-profit making and non-party political organisation that’s led by our members for our members. Members receive an exclusive package of great value services including advice, financial products and support. 
FSB is the UK’s leading business campaigner focussed on delivering change which supports smaller businesses to grow and succeed
More information including FSB reports, resources and information on events is available on

Birmingham City Council

The Supplier Skills Programme (SSP) is a £12m skills fund launched to help SMEs to upskill/reskill their workforce and to succeed in a post-coronavirus business world. 

Programme offer is available to businesses across all sectors looking to develop the skills set of new and existing employees. The programme offers training grants of £500 to £18,000 to businesses based in Birmingham, Bromsgrove, Redditch, Solihull and The Wyre Forest.

This is very flexible programme supporting qualifications from Basic to Level 7 to support SME skills plan.

Programme Duration
1st April 2020 to 31st March 2023

Business Sectors
SSP offer is open to all business sectors

Application Process
SMEs submit application directly to BCC
Following approval, a funding agreement is secured between applicant business and the Council
SSP will only support project start and expenditure post the funding agreement date.

Funding claims must be submitted and paid for before 31st March  2023 (based on current programme end date)

Higher Level Skills Match

• Work with you to define the skillset your SME needs to achieve growth
• Match your needs to work-ready and highly skilled local graduates across all three
Universities to drive your business forward
• Identify free training opportunities for you and your employees
• Co-ordinate your HLSM partnership from start to finish
• Provide opportunities to collaborate and connect with other businesses on the
HLSM project


Business Crime Prevention:  Top Tips

Crime reporting (regarding prolific offenders).  If it is not a 999 call, then the police would encourage businesses to use the online portal.

Tips for reporting;
Use an email address and phone number that is linked to the business not personal details for the person reporting.
Ensure the email address can receive external emails and is monitored by an appropriate person.
CCTV and/or a witness statement is required to further investigate – if this is not provided the report will be filed pending receipt of this. *You can in the first instance upload the best still image of the offender if possible. It is also possible to go back in to the report and add these things at a later stage. 
If the crime is committed by a repeat offender, ensure the previous crime number(s) are added to the report so they can be linked. 
If it is not possible to share CCTV via an internet connection, it can be sent in to PO Box 52 Lloyd House Colmore Circus Queensway Birmingham B4 6NQ for the attention of Initial Investigations. Along with the crime reference number and contact details. Whilst this is not ideal, and something we wish to move away from, if it is the only option, then please use it. 
Reporting online is quicker and easier than calling 101.
If reporting online you will get an automatic Incident Reference (IR) number, once it has been processed, you will be emailed a Crime Reference number. If reporting over the phone, a crime reference will be given to you. It is important you keep a record of these reference numbers.

CCTV Uploads: WMP are hoping that this year they will see the launch of a new system, whereby an officer can send out a one-time secure link to people, either via text or email. This link will allow the person to upload images or CCTV there and then. It allows for a much larger file size to be uploaded.
This new system is currently being trialled in one of WMPs smaller teams first, prior to a force wide launch.

Have your say on a plan to tackle health inequalities across Solihull

Solihull Health and Wellbeing Board would like to hear your views, and the views of your staff, on a proposed three-year strategy to tackle health inequalities across the borough.  The aim of the strategy is to improve the lives of those with the worst health outcomes the fastest, to help them live healthier, happier, longer lives.

The strategy is a call to action to residents, community groups and local organisations to partner with the Council and NHS, to tackle health inequalities across the borough.  It focuses on what more can be done locally to close the health gap at different stages in people’s lives.

Please take time to share your views and let us know if we are focusing on the areas that matter most to you.   We welcome everyone’s views and are particularly keen to hear from local organisations working to improve health and wellbeing in Solihull.

You can view the draft strategy and have your say via our short anonymous survey here.  The survey is open until Monday 7 February.

Please share this consultation with your staff and encourage them to respond.


Social Media and Networking

The last 18 month have been challenging in so many ways and like many of us what I struggled with most was the lack of face to face human interaction. With people now back in the business, but many still working from home or as a hybrid working model (working a combination of from home and in the office) the opportunities to meet people that I used to enjoy remain significantly reduced. As someone who values in person interactions I find myself getting ‘cabin’ or more accurately ‘sales office’ fever when I’m stuck in front of my laptop for too long!

Thankfully restrictions have lifted from our days in lockdown and most of us would agree that technology has been an absolute lifeline. Networking events, meetings and even schooling moved to Zoom or Teams as a response to the challenges we faced due the Covid pandemic. Meeting people in the virtual world became the new way to make new business connections, network and to enjoy some much needed human contact.

As Chair of the Solihull Tourism Forum I know that I have certainly seen the value in our virtual forum meetings this year. They have been an opportunity to celebrate our member’s good news stories, maintain our focus on capitalising on future opportunities for our businesses and the Solihull borough and to benefit from the comradery that comes from knowing that you are all in the same boat and paddling like mad too.

As a sales person for a hotel during lockdown I also found myself feeling constrained from effectively doing my job. It didn’t sit right promoting gatherings and hotel stays when the whole country was doing their bit to socially distance to curb the spread of Covid, yet I needed to maintain relationships with our clients so that we were front of mind once restrictions lifted.

I also wanted to support my connections on LinkedIn, many of whom were having tough times at home or facing potential redundancy. It was when I was on holiday that the idea of my Friday TikTok/humorous videos began.

My first TikTok featured me swinging into shot on a rope swing to the Miley Cyrus track ‘Wrecking ball’. That week many of my friends and connections had posted news of redundancies, due the devastating impact of Covid-19. Many extremely talented, experts in their fields, across a variety of industries and my post featured a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt who once said 'when you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on'.

Since then I have had so many comments from my connections telling me that they looked forward to seeing my posts, as it gave them a much needed giggle when there was very little else on their LinkedIn feeds to smile about. Similarly with the Crowne Plaza Solihull’s social media channels we strived to achieve the right tone and mirror the sentiment of the nation. Our posts on Facebook and Instagram were more celebratory of the positive steps that we were making out of the grips of the pandemic with our ‘it feels great….’ straplines.

Fast forward to now and I am delighted to say that business is booming at the Crowne Plaza Solihull! We are full for our festive events, bedroom occupancy is back to 2019 levels and our meetings and events business is stronger than ever.

There are many contributing factors, but technology and the power of social media have without doubt played a significant role. Social media has supported us to recover the business, to attract customers as areas of the business, such as our outdoor terrace, re-opened to welcome guests back and to keep our followers updated. It has allowed us to maintain the strong relationships that we have with our clients and for me to continue to secure new business opportunities.


Social Media Hints & Tips Series – Twitter

Twitter for business is a great tool to interact with the 18-35-year-old demographic and to see what is happening and trending in real time. 


Getting started on Twitter for your business is simple. 

Firstly, you’ll need to come up with your bespoke username such as @JoeBloggs, which will be public and how people find you. 

Top Tip - If you find that your company name is taken for your username, get creative an add HQ or The Real in front of your company name to make it unique to you. 

Like with Facebook and Instagram you should upload a profile photo and with Twitter you’ll also need to include a header which could be a landscape picture of your business or product(s). 

Be sure to write a bio, keep it short and sweet and if you have a business tagline include that and any contact details. 

When it comes to posting content, Twitter gives more advice on their pages about how to Tweet and suggestions on what to Tweet. However here are some tips to get you started: 

Keep your copy short and sweet (there is a character limit on posts which should help)
Limit to 1-2 hashtags per Tweet 
Be conversational
Use images, GIFs, and/or videos whenever possible
Monitor events and trending conversations
Test, test, test (and use Twitter Analytics* to see how customers are reacting to your posts)
o *Twitter Analytics show you how many times it’s been seen outside of your own followers. It’s great to track engagement and how well your Tweets are doing. 
Trial different posts at different times and see how customers react – don’t be afraid to get creative! 
With this platform, it’s important to interact with other users, so make sure you manage customer expectations about how often comments and direct messages will be monitored. 

Once you’ve got to grips with this channel and started to build up your followers try to be more strategic about how you use the channel. For example, think about different campaigns through the year, where you may have specific promotions such as Christmas. 

During these times Twitter has the option for you to pin a tweet to your profile. You control how long you wish to keep it there but it’s a good way to ensure customers see this straight away and every time they visit your page.

Twitter also has dedicated ‘hours’ where you can use a particular hashtag (#) to reach a wider audience. It is also a good opportunity to share, like and comment during that hour with other businesses.
A great place to start is #SolihullHour, a local networking hour for Solihull businesses every Tuesday evening between 7pm-8pm. 

Follow our socials for up to date events, business support and Council news:


Happy Twitting! 



Net Zero – so what?

Climate change is in the news.

A quick look at the headlines sees articles on extreme weather across the globe, new technologies to literally suck the CO2 out of the air and all car adverts are seemly for electric or hybrid; there is a realisation that the climate change is something that is impacting all of us! 

You may have heard about the upcoming climate conference in Glasgow, the COP26. This comes 6 years after the Paris Agreement at COP21, the agreement that brought ‘net zero’ as an idea to the mainstream and whose goal is to limit warming of the global atmosphere by 1.5°C.

Net Zero is the latest approach to limiting carbon emission, but what does it mean, and what does it mean to us? Put simply, net zero sets out to limit the carbon put into the atmosphere, then remove from the atmosphere the carbon we put in. If you emit a tonne from your process, then you can pay someone else to remove it. These removals are called offsets and you can buy them to offset carbon emitted from a flight and global brands such as Land Rover use them to claim carbon neutrality.

The key thing is that we should be doing all we can to reduce our emissions first, eliminating waste and switching to more efficient ways of doing things, for instance installing more efficient lighting or eliminating unnecessary journeys and meeting online (of which we are all experts now!)  

We can also start using green energy. Solar panels have become increasingly common and green electricity tariffs are now a competitive option, and Solihull’s Switch and Save Scheme is currently providing green electricity to residents across the borough.

But what has net zero and the Paris agreement go to do with us at the local level? Well the UK government has signed up the agreement, and Solihull Council has set net zero targets for itself and the borough. That means it has set the target that everyone in the borough will contribute to a net zero borough by 2041.

Fortunately becoming net zero, or more sustainable is both great for the planet but also the way to go for businesses, just ask a few of the businesses on the local Sustainability Visioning Group (always happy to have new members!)

To find out more about the Council’s plans on net zero please don’t hesitate to email us at, referencing SFS Newsletter Net Zero.



Social Media Hints & Tips Series – Instagram 

It sounds obvious, but social media it is an essential part of every business, especially for retailers. It allows you to raise awareness of your business, as well as sell your products and services directly to your core target market. 

Over the past few years more and more customers have turned to the convenience of online shopping.  The pandemic has accelerated this trend, particularly during the national lockdowns.  

However consumers are increasingly keen to support local businesses so if this is you then now is a good time to build a relationship with your customers online.

The best thing to remember is work on the social media platform that works best for you, you can try them all but best start with a couple, like Instagram or Facebook to gage how best your audience interacts with you. 

Our fortnightly social media hints and tips for businesses will explore a different platform and offer insight to help your business grow online. Today we focus on Instagram. 


Getting started on Instagram is fairly straightforward. Facebook actually owns Instagram, so you may want to link both accounts from the outset, which will enable you to post on both platforms simultaneously.

Once created, remember to edit your profile; include a photo of your shop or business logo with a brief description of what you do. The most important part is to make sure you include your address and contact details. 

If you wish people to buy direct from you and/or you don’t have website, then ask them to message you to arrange payment or set up a payment link (such as PayPal) to take orders.

Instagram is first and foremost about good quality pictures, so do:

- Take pictures of your products, make them look appealing and ensure the lighting is good
- Add descriptions of your products and any discounts you are offering
- Include relevant hashtags in your post - use a hashtag generator via a search engine to see what’s trending  
- Keep to a maximum of 27 hashtags per post, as comment or under the description
- Avoid following too many other accounts, gone are the days where you had to follow anyone and everyone. Instead ensure that you are following the accounts you want to see on your news feed and to engage with. 
- Check your followers list periodically and remove any accounts which haven’t engaged with you for a while
- Make sure you tell customers how they can buy from you 
- Most importantly when customer do purchase from you, encourage them to leave a review.

The aim is to build a story and get customers to know you and feel as though they are as connected to your business as you are. 

Instagram stories and Reels are a great way to reach a wider audience and customers love to see a behind the scenes. The stories are useful to re-share the posts on your main page, and add in text and some fun emoji’s/GIFs to make them stand out. They appear at the top of your Instagram feed and often get more views and engagement, it’s a great way to build a following. You can tag individuals and businesses, which gives them a chance to share to their own pages to reach a bigger audience. 

Reels are Instagram’s version of 15/30/60 second videos that you can share either to your story or post on your main page. They can often reach thousands of accounts very quickly. If you make bespoke products, it’s a great way to record yourself making them behind the scenes. Audiences love to see how things are made. 

Utilise these and encourage your friends, family and customers to share their purchases by tagging you into their own stories/feed for you to re-share. 

If you use Instagram successfully for your business, please do share your story with us and we’d love to share as a case study to encourage more businesses to get on board. Send through your stories to


Explore Learning - Shirley High Street

Explore Learning, situated on Shirley High Street, is a tuition provider, and we nurture education for children aged 4-14. However, we think of ourselves more as a learning club. We aim to make education engaging and fun for our children and love to incorporate games and celebrations for every small win! Our aim with every child that walks through our doors is confidence building. Confidence is key in unlocking every child’s potential so that’s where we start and that’s where we see progress!

Back in January 2020, our offering was limited to centre-based tuition. We offered our standard Maths and English as well as our specialist 11+ tuition, Creative Writing course, and Succeed in Secondary course – all from the comfort of 140 Stratford Road!

Since 2020, as you can imagine, we faced the tricky challenge of moving our entire service online! We packed up our laptops and worked from home, as everyone else did. Our company developed specialist technology to deliver 1:1 sessions online. We learnt how to deliver group sessions online and how to nurture our membership, continuing to provide support through a virtual format. This was no easy feat!

Working throughout Covid, our motto was Keep Education Going as this was more important than ever! We, as a virtual centre, supported around 170 members throughout this time and continued their education as well as giving them an ear to listen; a virtual shoulder to place their worries onto; and something to look forward to! Seeing the positive impact, we were making, and continuing to make through the virtual world, was highly rewarding and kept us going throughout the lockdown!

We see the value in what we do so much more now, ironically thanks to Covid, as the impact we make reaches further and means so much more than before. We went from being a tuition provider to becoming a support network for our families.

Now, the centre is open once more! Our support network continues to thrive online, but we have been able to bring it back to our community! More than ever, families are reaching out as they know we can support them. Lockdown learning was tough as parents became teachers, people struggled to navigate virtual learning platforms and worries upon worries made it difficult to know when it was all going to end! Now we have re-opened, Explore Learning is still striving to support!

We help bridge gaps that formed over the lockdown period. We help your family to navigate online learning. We provide regular feedback, so you feel in-the-loop and up-to-date with your child’s progress. We also provide flexible sessions to cater for isolating children. Overall, our impact has grown massively, and we hope to keep it going!

If you are looking for a confidence building learning environment, then we are currently holding free trials and assessments to show how we can support your family. You can also enquire through our website. You can call or email us to find out more! Our number is 0121 647 4395 and our email is


Social Media Hints and Tips Series – Facebook

This week we focus on setting up a Facebook page. Facebook was one of the earlier social media platforms that most consumers will have an account on. It is still one of the biggest platforms for businesses to use, particularly for an older demographic.

You can also link it to your Instagram account, both owed by Facebook, so that you can share content across both channels.


Setting up a business Facebook page is incredibly easy and effective, but it must be linked to a personal account. Once you’ve set it up, you can invite friends and family to share and like your posts, which will help with engagement and reaching more customers.

Remember to add your business logo, address and contact details as well as a little about you on your business page. If you wish people to buy direct from you and/ or you don’t have website, then ask them to message you to arrange payment or set up a payment link (such as PayPal) to take orders.

Try to avoid just talking about products, prices and availability, add good quality pictures and descriptions of your products and any discounts you are offering with a call to action on how customers can buy from you and most importantly when they do, how to leave a review.

It’s good to balance posts between direct sales/product information with advice and guidance about how to use the products, trends in your retail area and other engaging copy.  Try and keep 80% of your posts about general information and mixed up with about 20% of direct ‘here’s a product’ or special offers.

Remember most people want to have a relationship with the retailers they use or those who supply services.  In a crowded online market place driven by price, it’s always good for customers to feel a little tug towards their local businesses.

Keep up to date with us at Visit Solihull and send in your good news stories!

Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
European Union Investing in Your Future
Telephone 0121 704 6151
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