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In Store for Sidcup on road to regeneration

PUBLISHED: 14:50 07 March 2013 | UPDATED: 14:50 07 March 2013

Start-up enterprises team member Laura Billings

Start-up enterprises team member Laura Billings

Archant

Sidcup High Street is one of many across the country which is suffering from the economic pinch, exacerbated by sprawling Bluewater just 12 miles away.

Joost BeundermanJoost Beunderman

However, the town is due to benefit from £1.2 million funding from the Mayor’s Outer London Fund, topped up by £600,000 from Bexley Council.

The project is being spearheaded by the newly-formed In Store For Sidcup which has set up the intriguingly-named Discovery Incubator in the High Street.

It gives advice on starting small businesses as well as improving the ways that firms and the High Street can present themselves.

It is hoped this will bring some vibrancy back to Sidcup.

Laura Billings and Joost Beunderman outside the incubatorLaura Billings and Joost Beunderman outside the incubator

Joanna Clement, 26, who has lived in Sidcup all her life, paid a visit and is adamant it can improve the town’s economy.

“I have a part-time online business selling household accessories but actually renting a space is a daunting prospect – so many things can go wrong but getting a pop-up shop minimises the risk and helps me see if the demand is there,” she said.

“The guys at the Discovery Incubator suggested this and it wasn’t something I had thought of before.

“So many businesses have closed over the years, such as the cinema and antiques centre, but the expertise of the people running it, as well as the money, could be a godsend.”

Joost Beunderman, who has a decade of experience consulting businesses in his native Holland and the UK, has been working tirelessly to give advice to potential business owners.

He says that initiatives such as these are needed to save high streets in the current economic climate.

“The high street has to change and Sidcup is no different. Retail in Sidcup is suffering because of the recession, Bluewater and trading online.

“But entrepreneurial spirit is alive within the people of Sidcup. For the couple of months we’ve been open it’s clear people have ideas but they need advice about how to get started and everything that setting up a business entails such as cash-flow planning, social media and other marketing along with all the logistical problems that arise. This can be very daunting but this is where we step in.”

The Sidcup High Street Revival Programme, which was established after funding from the Outer London Fund was secured, runs until next March and Joost believes this is enough time to explore new opportunities with the help of local residents.

He is delighted with the response it has received from the people of Sidcup so far.

He said: “Every day 35 people or so come through the door with ideas, or maybe they’re just curious about us. Many of those have come back interested in getting started.

“This is still the first stage of research and there’s massive potential.

“When we hand over to the council we want to make sure it works – there will still be support once we’ve gone.”

The incubator is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10.30am to 8.30pm and holds regular events around different business aspects.

For more information, visit instoreforsidcup.org.

You can find the incubator at 9-11 High Street.

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