A FREE service is offering help to small businesses in Leeds as they aim to bounce back from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Leeds MicroBusiness Support Service provides expert advice on everything from contingency planning and social media messaging to brand creation and gearing up for Christmas.Targeted at businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with fewer than ten employees, it has been offering one-to-one phone mentoring sessions since the middle of the summer.

Now the second element of the scheme – a wide-ranging virtual support programme – is up and running, with positive feedback already coming in from users.

Microbusiness owners who sign up to the support programme get access to weekly e-mails, online workshops and videos.Topics covered include owner wellbeing, finances, marketing, customer service excellence and taking a business online.

Organised by Leeds City Council and business transformation agency Insight with Passion, both elements of the scheme run until the end of November. Eligible businesses are being encouraged to move quickly to ensure they take advantage of the help on offer.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “Businesses large and small across Leeds have faced incredible challenges since the start of the pandemic and we have worked tirelessly throughout the crisis to support them."

He added: “If you think you can benefit from the expertise on offer, then please get in touch with ourselves and Insight with Passion as soon as possible. We’re here to help.”

The support service is being delivered this year for the second time. Jo McBeath, who owns Chirpy, a design-led gift shop and workshop space in Chapel Allerton, used the service in 2020 and and was so impressed she has signed up again this year.

She said: “It is very useful and I’d recommend it to anyone – it’s good to know there’s someone there looking out for you and that you can use them as a sounding board."