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Voice for Locals
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Newtownards Chamber of Commerce

PRESS RELEASE

21 June 2022

Newtownards Chamber of Trade announces partnership with Voice For Locals

The Voice For Locals Initiative offers state of the art technology tools, marketing techniques and customer experience training for small firms, and it is set to digitise the marketplace and businesses in Newtownards.

Voice For Locals, a consortium launched in Northern Ireland to support businesses who want to level up their services after the challenges of the pandemic, has announced a partnership with Newtownards Chamber of Trade.

Voice For Locals, which was awarded £1.82m by the UK Community Renewal Fund, offers micro and small businesses a range of free skills, marketing, and other services to aid their business’ recovery.

The team has digitised over 230 local firms across Northern Ireland in the last 30 days and 71% of business owners have introduced new innovative processes to their ways of working.

Following the recent success of transforming St George’s Market in Belfast to online trading, Voice For Locals is all set to level up local businesses in high streets and markets in collaboration with local councils, town management, enterprise agencies and chambers of commerce.

Newtownards Chamber of Trade has a diverse range of members. It provides professional advice and gives a voice to the business sector in the local area. Recently regenerated, Newtownards town centre boasts a thriving marketplace for local independent retailers, artisans, and revellers in cafe culture. The main square and surrounding area have a cosmopolitan feel that is home to shops, bars, and restaurants amongst many well-established businesses.  In 2019, Newtownards was recognised at the Great British High Street Awards, winning the Champion Award category for Northern Ireland.

Welcoming the initiative Derek Wright, President of the Newtownards Chamber of Trade and a business owner in the town, said:

“The Chamber is delighted to welcome Voice For Locals to Newtownards to help micro and small businesses recover, rebuild, and rebound post pandemic. Newtownards is a thriving market town, and we are proud to be one of the high streets that is succeeding and influencing change across the UK, as reflected in our recent Great British High Street award win. However, our members are facing a perfect storm of challenges including energy hikes, labour shortages, National Insurance increases and Covid-19. 

“Newtownards boasts a wide variety of shops, many of them independently owned and I would encourage all local businesses to avail of this opportunity. As a local business owner, I have registered for the initiative, and it takes less than ten minutes to sign up.  I am confident Voice For Locals allows business owners to increase their visibility and credibility, and boost profitability to mitigate growing costs.”

Jay Thattai, Founder and Steering Authority at Voice For Locals, said:

“We are looking forward to working in partnership with Newtownards Chamber. There are so many synergies and collective efforts yield better results than individual efforts. The membership organisation is a priceless asset to the local business community, helping it navigate some of the hardest times the high street has ever faced. The Chamber’s objectives align perfectly with ours in that it wants to support local businesses and help them rebuild and recover.

“We provide the digital tools for data driven business decisions and enable business owners to go digital with mobile apps, get marketed locally, get certified with e-learning courses endorsed by City & Guilds, and avail of personalised business and technology advice, to build a self-reliant economy in the wake of the pandemic.

“It also has a busy market on a Saturday, and we will help traders, who typically rely on in-person footfall, to extend their services online and tap into the world of e-commerce through our ‘Times are Changing’ campaign.

“The levelling up initiative has been designed to address a number of challenges. At a local level, it allows engagement with a broader audience, on a more consistent basis, thanks to the Voice For Locals digital directory of all rated businesses across Northern Ireland, ni.voiceforlocals.co.uk. Meanwhile, with an expanded digital presence, local businesses can now tap into rest of the UK, Europe and world markets that would have otherwise been unattainable.”

Mr Thattai adds: “Each business will have a dedicated landing page with a business description, an enquiry button to generate leads, and pictures and videos featured in the Voice For Locals NI directory. Business owners will be given the tools to collect genuine customer ratings and reviews which will reflect online automatically, encouraging online shoppers to shop locally with confidence.

“This is a personalised small business success programme. A dedicated team is in place to provide mentoring until the business owners become self-reliant. It is completely free and fully funded by the UK Government. The consortium, which includes firms Unloc Limited and TieTa UK, hopes to support even more businesses in Newtownards as they navigate recovery post pandemic.”

The consortium’s tender win for the project makes it the recipient of the fifth largest grant in the UK and the largest in Northern Ireland. Unloc will provide the technology, marketing, and skills development element of the offering while TieTa will offer business and technical support. The team is working closely with City & Guilds to gain recognition for e-learning programs delivered to local businesses throughout the scheme’s duration.

This project is funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund. For further information log on to voiceforlocals.co.uk