CocoaMo shares the taste of Business Gateway success

Melanie Neil has enjoyed success with CocoaMo

More than 100 new firms are in business in Argyll and Bute thanks to the help of Business Gateway.

And they include a former Army medic who formed her own chocolate business in Helensburgh.

Over the past year the scheme has helped 104 fledgling companies start-up, and it has supported nearly 1,000 existing businesses.

New figures from the organisation show that, from April 2016 to March 2017:

  • Business Gateway supported 104 new companies to set up in businesses – 4% above the annual target
  • It helped 979 existing businesses – the target is 200
  • The annual first-year turnover of the start-up companies helped is projected to be £3.7m
  • The number of full-time jobs created by the new firms is expected to be 109
  •  The one-year survival rate for businesses is 86%, more than the target of 77% and above the national benchmark of 80%
  • The three-year survival rate for businesses is 70%, beating the local target of 62% and national target of 67%
  • Over the 12 months Business Gateway held 154 workshops for businesses in Argyll and Bute, with more than 920 people attending

Melanie Neil, who is based in Helensburgh, launched CocoaMo in 2014 with support from Business Gateway, creating artisan chocolates using local and organic ingredients and single origin cocoa.

She said: “I was keen to make Business Gateway my first stop before I launched CocoaMo, as I had no previous business experience.

“My adviser was a wealth of information, providing me with details from accounting to food standards contacts.

“This help, along with everything I learned from attending the free courses Business Gateway host, has been invaluable to me and CocoaMo’s growth.”

Melanie has continued to benefit from support and in 2016 was a winner in the Business Gateway competition to secure a trade stand at the Best of the West festival.

A medical professional with the Army, when Melanie, a keen baker, took early retirement she wanted to master the techniques of a professional chocolatier.

She began working on her first collection after taking an intensive chocolate Master Chef course.

The Business Gateway also runs the Local Growth Accelerator Programme, which was launched last October and is supported by the European Regional Development Fund.

It has a total value of £544,200 and will run until the end of 2018, providing additional support to growing businesses via specialist advice, workshops and grants to eligible small and medium-sized enterprises.

You can register for support and grant funding at www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/bglgap

Council leader Aileen Morton, said: “These figures are a real success story for Business Gateway Argyll and Bute.

“We are proud to be one of Scotland’s most promising regions, and this hugely successful year is testament to that.

“Together with the council and our other partners, Business Gateway is helping build a prosperous future, boost the economy, and make Argyll and Bute an attractive place in which to invest, work and live.

“With results like this, a host of new businesses launching and existing firms growing, we’re going from strength to strength.

“If you are thinking of starting a new business, or are already operating and would like to take advantage of Business Gateway’s support, please get in touch and the advisers will be happy to help.”