A PROJECT to help people with entrepreneurial spirit launch their own business has been launched.

The free scheme aims to create up to 15 new businesses and encourage 20 people into employment within a year.

Housing provider, Karbon Homes, and social enterprise company, Social Enterprise Strategies (SES) have teamed up to help residents living in Derwentside and Chester-le-Street become self-employed.

Helen Lolachie, of Greencroft, has been developing her business plan and finding out how to access grants and funds for a crèche she is setting up this September.

The 29-year-old said: “This is a really good initiative for people like me who are thinking of setting up their own business and need some free help and guidance.

“At the first appointment, we discussed my business plan and the steps I need to take to launch the business and I am already looking forward to my next appointment.

“I would encourage anyone who has a business idea or is thinking of going into self-employment to access this service.”

The project helps with business planning, market research, marketing and financial advice and exploring how to access small business grants and loans.

The service provides residents aged 16-65 years old, with access to experienced advisors to help them develop their ideas into sustainable businesses and extends Karbon Homes’ successful Brighter Futures employability service, which has already helped 600 clients.

A qualified member of staff from SES will be based at Karbon Homes’ Greengates House two and half days per week and will also organise appointments from the company’s Catchgate Learning Hive in Front Street, Stanley and remotely via their DigitAL (Stet) mobile unit.

Michelle Graham, employment initiatives officer at Karbon Homes, said: “Our aim is to engage and support as many residents as possible who are looking for help to get back into work, require training or have barriers to employment.

“Self-employment is an alternative route to work and we will support residents like Helen. This is a great opportunity which we hope will create new businesses and jobs within the Derwentside district.”

For more information, call Michelle Graham on 01207-524-205.