A firm of quantity surveyors is offering a helping hand to start-up businesses as part of a £500,000 expansion in to West Cumbria.
Solomons Europe is converting a warehouse in Papcastle, near Cockermouth, into a modern, renewable energy-powered office development, that will act as their new home in the region, and also offer incubation units for start-up companies.
The company – which already has an office at the junction 36 development at the M6 near Kendal – has been hunting for a new premises in West Cumbria so it can be at the heart of investments and projects taking place in the nuclear and related energy and infrastructure sectors.
It plans to make eight of the ten office spaces it will create in its new home, available to new enterprises from the area.
It is also taking its support for start-ups a step further by offering £5,000 interest-free loans.
Solomons Europe directors Dominic and Kerry Doig said they wanted to pass on the generosity they received from a former boss who gave them a £20,000 interest free loan when they started off in business.
“We really want to help give businesses starting out a helping hand, in the same way we were given a leg up at a time when the banks weren’t lending,” said Dominic.
“We’re going to give start-ups the chance to pitch Dragons’ Den-style for £5,000 interest-free loans to use on whatever they want.
"We’ll award a small number of loans and, once paid back, recycle it. It will become a self-funding pot to draw on.
"We’re hoping to bring a local business panel together who can also provide advice and support once loans are awarded, to help promote ongoing success.”
Kerry said the financial helping hand complemented their approach to creating a fully-serviced office space that would also help start-ups to network and collaborate.
“It was a challenge finding a space in which we could be creative – the options out there were either expensive or not particularly inspiring so in this building we can do what we want,” she said.
“We want to create an inspiring working environment where people want to work and feel relaxed and creative.
“We want to give the businesses based here the opportunity to mix, share ideas, expertise and help each other regardless of what sector or industry they work in.
“Hopefully, the link-ups and collaboration will help them to grow and they will eventually move out in to the wider world and flourish further. As with the funding pot, the space they leave can then be occupied by another start-up and so the cycle continues.”
Debate is now heating up about whether to call the development an “energy hive” – recognising the collaborative nature of the workspace and the fact it will be powered by renewable energy sources.
Inside, offices will be created inside 8ft by 6ft shipping containers placed around the perimeter of the warehouse building which was last used to store equipment by a landscape gardening firm.
The containers, which will be painted bright orange, will be provided by Steeles Removals in Barrow, while the high quality fit out of the inside space will be undertaken by local tradespeople.
“We are committed to the area,” said Kerry.
“We’re using local businesses and skills to bring an unused building back to life for the village.
By bringing people here to visit and work in an amazing workspace in a beautiful setting right in the centre of Cumbria, we want to ensure the impact is enjoyed by as many people as possible. These are really exciting times.”
The development is expected to be completed by late summer with tenants moving in early autumn.
Solomons Europe employ 50 people across offices in Cumbria, Newton-le- Willows and Hartlepool.
Members of the Choose Cumbria initiative – which promotes the county as a place to develop high quality career in high quality surroundings – the company, which specialises in the process and energy sectors, is looking to recruit a number of positions in 2018.
Over the last 12 months it has taken on six trainee quantity surveyors, three of which are based in Cumbria, representing 13 per cent of its total workforce.
In addition to various professional and personal benefits for staff, one notable perk for all Solomon Europe employees is an opportunity for them and their families to take a take a week’s holiday a year in the company lodge near Troutbeck, Windermere.
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