An innovative support programme has helped a steady stream of Newport entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality in recent years.

And recently that spirit of enterprise in the city was underlined when three of the ventures were recognised in the 2020 Wales Startup Business Awards, scooping some of its top honours.

The Business Support Programme, run and funded jointly by Tata Steel subsidiary UKSE and Newport City Council, was set up to prevent good business ideas going to waste simply because of relatively small amounts of funding.

Working in tandem, Newport City Council and UKSE support the businesses they think will be able to prosper and thrive. Ideally these will create lasting jobs for their owners and work for others too, as well as adding to the ambience of the city and its spread of skills and services.

Since 2018 some 15 businesses have received the grants, creating around 30 direct jobs in the city and adding to the network of skills and services that Newport has to offer.

The new ventures cover a spectrum of activities including television and video production, sports training, corporate events, media solutions, a bakery, a retail outlet with craft workshop and many others.

UKSE, as part of Tata Steel, works hard to support local economies throughout the UK in various ways. The organisation’s work is concentrated on areas where the steel industry has been a staple of the economy, as in Wales, Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland.

Through its Corporate Social Responsibility programme, UKSE works with local authorities and other agencies to help new businesses get established and grow creating jobs and wealth to flow through the community.

Glyn Thomas, UKSE manager in Wales, said: “We don’t wish to take credit for the hard work which new firms put in, but it is important for them to get a measure of support in their early stages of development.

“Companies tell us that once they are part of the Business Support Programme, this can help when canvassing for further backing from financial institutions and other sources. The grants we provide, up to £1500, are very useful for essential equipment, such as IT and software.”

Councillor Jane Mudd, leader of Newport City Council, said: “We have some amazing entrepreneurs in the city and I’m proud that we and UKSE have been able to give them support through the Business Support programme.

“I’ve been delighted to meet many of the recipients of the grants and their enthusiasm, creativity and commitment to Newport is inspiring. I would like to congratulate the three companies on their well-deserved recognition in the Wales Startup Business Awards.”

In the recent awards, Bright Branch Media, set up by former BBC producer Jo Pearce, was voted Digital Start-up of the Year in the competition which highlights the best in new Welsh ventures. The firm received a £1,500 Business Support Grant which it used to buy audio-visual equipment.

Bright Branch has worked with broadcasters and drama producers such as BBC, Netflix, Hartswood Films and Bad Wolf with imaginative, sharable social media and behind the scenes content. The firm are experts in producing high-end, behind the scenes content as well as social and digital short form which helps promote the production companies programmes worldwide.

Jo Pearce, Bright Branch CEO, said: “I could not be prouder of our team. It is wonderful to win the Digital Startup of the year award especially as we had such tough competition in our category.”

Creative Startup of the Year went to a dynamic young business run by former RAF man Oli Williams.

Ollywood employs mainly ex-Forces staff who design and create imaginative, eye-catching installations and furniture for clients around the UK. Such is the demand that he plans to take on five full time staff in the next three years, employing ex-military and creative people where possible, and working with local colleges to create apprenticeships.

Fentrade, a third Newport business, which was also aided by the Business Support Programme, was shortlisted for the highly competitive Manufacturing Startup Category, to the delight of director Chris Reeks.

He said: "More and more people are having aluminium windows, inline patio doors and bi-fold doors in their homes and demand is increasing hugely. An increasing number of architects are specifying aluminium products these days and there seems to be a move away from Upvc. People are drawn to the modern and stylish appearance of aluminium and the fact that they offer high levels of security."

Glyn Thomas said: “We are obviously delighted that the scheme is helping the development of so many brilliant businesses in Newport, and especially pleased that this has been more than recognised in these prestigious awards.”