Agora opening new doors for start-up and small businesses in Mid and South-East Wales

31 January 2018
Start-up and existing small land-based businesses looking to diversify and generate a new income stream can get free expert advice under a newly-launched scheme.
Agora is a two-year project to help producers of goods grown, grazed or made across 11 local authority areas in mid and south-west Wales. 
Any kind of land-based business – whether a producer of food or drink, or items such as wood or wool, is eligible to apply to join the scheme. Support will be available to help 240 consumers over the next 18 months.
The collaborative project is led by Bridgend County Borough Council and delivered by Menter a Busnes, an independent company that helps individuals and organisations in Wales to contribute towards developing the economy.
Its overall aim is to encourage farmers and producers to work together to discover new business opportunities locally and beyond.  
Successful applicants will get five hours of 1-2-1 support from experts in starting income streams; a chance to meet and learn from mentors that have already diversified; and to attend meet the buyer events.   
Owners of rural businesses that have already benefited from support programmes including Cywain and Farming Connect will be among the mentors offering help to Agora participants.
Menter a Busnes has recruited four specialists, to be based between its Cardiff base and a new Welshpool office. Agora project manager, Rolant Tomos, himself set up a rural business, founding and running microbrewery, has also worked for Cywain supporting agri-food businesses for the past six years.
Agora’s services and support is available in the following counties: Powys, Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Monmouthshire, Neath Port Talbot, Vale of Glamorgan, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Bridgend, Caerphilly and Newport.
Agora project manager Rolant Tomos said: “If you or someone you know needs assistance to develop a business idea or to get the business on the right path then please get in touch. 
“We can help to develop a new product, scale up existing production, start direct selling, supplying regular contracts, working to improve distribution, or on business skills such as marketing as well as pointing the business in the right direction.    
“By encouraging businesses and individuals to collaborate and develop co-operative projects, this will no doubt create greater business opportunities. 
Pam Davies, Mayor of Bridgend County Council said: “The Agora project is aiming to establish an important legacy - to bring small businesses together, develop innovative schemes with confidence and work together to face any future economic uncertainties through collaboration and partnership.
“We have an untapped resource of capable, forward-thinking individuals in Wales with the drive and vision to succeed.
“When given the right support, I for one am really looking forward to see what those small businesses can achieve.”

Everyone signed up for Agora will also have direct access to valuable information on consumer demand for locally-grown products, locally-made brands; and quality marks in Wales.

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