A North Tyneside business owner has praised the quick and efficient response by the government to support small businesses in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown, as much-needed cash grants are released to small firms in the Borough.
Whitley Bay-based Seaweed & Co. supply seaweed ingredients to the food and nutrition industry, as well as their Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful products to consumers via high-street retail, online and TV shopping channels.
Set up in 2015 by marine biologist, Dr Craig Rose, the business has flourished in recent years, thanks to its award-winning consumer product range, in-demand business-to-business offering and continued help and support from TEDCO and Virgin StartUp.
As a business in the health and food industry, initial impact from the Covid-19 lockdown was limited and short-term concerns were focused on managing changes to ensure no interruption to service from the Seaweed & Co. team.
Longer-term, however, the outlook is changing rapidly.
Dr Craig Rose, managing director of Seaweed & Co. explains: “Much of what we do with our ingredients is with innovation and new product development teams – most of which has been halted during this period of uncertainty. Also, high street retail has dropped away as many shops focus on key lines to meet the consumer demand for essentials, or they are not operating at all.
“Furthermore, our partner factory in the Hebrides has recently had to limit operations due to risks related to maintaining social distancing in the workplace. Whilst we have sufficient stocks, we do not know how long restrictions may continue”
Dr Rose immediately looked at how the business could move forwards despite the challenges of a reduced supply chain and little output from business customers operating in food manufacturing and retail.
Dr Rose continues: “My view is that our only option is to make robust and clear plans for when the lockdown period ends, act positively, and make best use of the time. With that in mind, we have taken a range of positive steps.
“We applied for the small business cash grant of £10,000 via North Tyneside council. From application to receiving the grant it was less than a week. It was thankfully a very straightforward process much appreciated by myself and many other business owners who are facing similar concerns. This injection into our cash flow offered a great fall back to help navigate the potential loss in income during this period. I can’t thank North Tyneside Council enough for the speed in making this funding available to small businesses.
“We also immediately made some changes to our business processes to accommodate more people working remotely. Ordinarily, my job involves a great deal of travel to generate leads and interest in the products we have available so we have switched to an online system to engage still with customers and offer webinars and presentations remotely. We’ve also been proactive in asking our customers to challenge us to find solutions for them using our products so we are engaging in some R&D ourselves during this time to identify new opportunities where we can.
“It’s a difficult and challenging time for any business but the support from the government to help provide real short-term solutions in the form of a cash grant has been fantastic. The grant can help to keep our business running during something so unexpected and give us the confidence to come back stronger and able to capitalise on new opportunities once lockdown is lifted.”