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Blackpool business helps superfast Lancashire achieve major milestone

Press release   •   Feb 25, 2014 00:00 GMT

Family packing firm is boxing clever after completing innovative business support programme 

A Blackpool-based family firm is set to transform the way it does business thanks to
Superfast Lancashire.

Packaging business Direct Paper Agents Ltd is looking to expand into new
markets across the globe for the first time with an ambitious two to three year plan to
push its revenues through the one million pound barrier.

DPA is the latest business to go through a specially tailored programme –
run by the Superfast Lancashire project - offering free training on a variety of tech
based topics designed to help businesses harness the potential of high speed fibre
broadband.

Managing Director, Chris Maine, 39, says completing the programme marked
the beginning of a new chapter for the packaging company.

“We are a traditional business and have been going since my great
grandfather started trading here in Lancashire 80 years ago. The programme really
taught us how to challenge our traditional business model and instead think about
how we could use new technology to help reach a wider audience, as well as work
more efficiently.”

It also marks an important milestone for the Superfast Lancashire Business
Support Programme as DPA is the 100th small business to complete the training
since the scheme launched last summer. As the programme continues to gather
momentum, it aims to attract 355 businesses to the scheme by 2015.

Chris signed up to the scheme in January to learn more about social media
and digital marketing, customer relationship management and online security and
says that, already, the company is starting to reap the benefits.

“A real eye opener for us was how managing your business reputation online
can help to boost sales. They were able to show us effective ways of promoting the
business online - spending just 15 minutes a day – using different social media like
Facebook, Twitter and our own website. The end result is customers come looking
for you rather than you have to go looking for them,” he added.

Armed with more technical knowledge and knowhow, the business has now
invested in a new computerised sales ordering system which Chris reckons will save
the company around £10,000 a year in cost efficiencies.

He said: “When a customer phones up, the system recognises their number
and immediately brings up their buying history and all the correspondence history
we’ve had with them. Previously we had to pool all that data together manually –
having everything automated and instantly to hand will save around 25 hours a
week. It means we can spend less time processing orders and more time chasing
new ones. All this wouldn’t really work unless we were able to have high speed
broadband.”

“Having high-speed broadband definitely brings down the barriers to doing
business in the digital world like online trading and helps put you on an equal footing
with larger businesses. But you also need the skills to exploit these new virtual
markets, to sell new products and to try new models. That is the competitive edge
that the Business Support Programme was able to give us.”

Superfast Lancashire is the multi-million pound partnership between
Lancashire County Council and BT – which will extend high-speed broadband
to 97 per cent of Lancashire’s homes and businesses by the end of 2015 –
with additional funding from the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme,
as well as the European Regional Development Fund, Blackburn with Darwen
Council and Blackpool Council.

The man tasked with helping the county’s businesses benefit from the project
is Tony Morgan, Superfast Lancashire’s head of engagement.

Tony said: “The experience of DPA is typical of many of the local firms who go
through the programme and they are proof that even the most traditional of
companies can benefit.

“Also that the latest technology isn’t just for the creative industries, but that
new online ways of working can benefit everyone – and all of them are made better
and easier with the use of faster fibre broadband.”

Work on the Superfast Lancashire project is well underway across the county
with a total of around 17,000 homes and businesses expected to be connected to
fibre broadband by the end of this year.

Tony added: “As the rollout of fibre gathers pace the issue is becoming less
about whether or not a small business has access to the right technology and tools
and more about how best they can use them as they become more widely available.”

And Tony’s nine-strong team of business advisors, based at the Superfast
Lancashire Business Support Centre, in Leyland, were specifically set up to help
businesses do just that.

Eligible companies (based on size, primary activity, turnover etc) will receive a
wealth of support and advice aimed at helping their businesses to grow using new
technology.

A series of workshops, courses and one-to-one business advice is on offer –
and it’s free.

Tony urged other businesses to follow DPA’s example and get in touch with
the programme to find out how they could benefit.

He said: “People come in and wonder what the catch is. They wonder why it’s
free and whether we are trying to sell them something. There is no catch. By getting
in touch businesses have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

Figures show that over 70 per cent of SME’s have websites but only 27 per
cent use it to sell something.

Tony added: “It may come as a surprise to hear that only just over a quarter of
SME’s in Lancashire use the internet to sell products and services. Just as
interesting is the fact that nearly one in six have online customer-bases limited to
Lancashire – when the worldwide web is their oyster!

“2014 should be the year to challenge traditional business practices and
culture – the results could surprise you.”

Lancashire businesses wanting to find out more and whether they are eligible
for the Business Support Programme should log onto: www.superfastlancashire.com

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Notes to Editors

Superfast Lancashire’s Business Support Programme is governed by eligibility criteria defined by the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) based on size, primary activity, turnover etc. Businesses will be expected to complete an initial short self-certification form which will be validated by one of the advisors.

The programme will link with other key support initiatives across Lancashire. This will enable businesses to gain from the extended benefits of complementary programmes such as Regenerate Pennine Lancashire, subject to not having exceeded their ERDF allowance.

The Business Support Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in partnership with Superfast Lancashire.

BT is contributing £30 million to the project whilst £10.8 million will come from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), £16.5 million from the European Regional Development Fund and £5.2 million from local councils (£4.7m from LCC, £300,000 from Blackburn with Darwen Council and £230,000 from Blackpool Council.

This project is part financed by the North West European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007 to 2013.

The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information visit
https://www.gov.uk/erdf-programmes-and-resources#north-west

Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race. The portfolio is comprised of three elements:
• £780m to extend superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017
• £150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities
• £150m to improve quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services
Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life.

For further information: https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk