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It’s a two-way process. I give my knowledge and other support I can come up with. But at the same time, I’m also learning a lot. — John Marshall, Senior Business Manager, NatWest Bank

How it works

BizFizz provides free, confidential and professional advice to local entrepreneurs. It works by:

  • employing a BizFizz Coach who provides tailored one-to-one support to individuals who want to start or grow their business
  • establishing a Local Panel of people whose background, expertise and local know-how bring a second tier of support to BizFizz clients. The panel can include community activists, head teachers, faith group leaders, councillors, and local business people.

A BizFizz National Team supports the work of the Coaches by co-ordinating training, monitoring, promotion and recruitment.

The BizFizz Coach

Helping people pursue their passion is the first step for BizFizz. These are the hidden entrepreneurs who could be generating wealth for a community and removing the barriers that stand in their way is what BizFizz is all about.

BizFizz places a business coach in the heart of the community. We call them BizFizz Coaches since their role is not to do the legwork for local entrepreneurs, but to help people discover their own potential as entrepreneurs. The Coach will usually be an experienced entrepreneur, with some experience of giving advice and support to businesses and a strong commitment to our approach. The Coach gets to know the community thoroughly, through extensive personal introductions as well as visiting local clubs and pubs, societies, schools and faith groups to introduce them, and let everyone know that they are available to support local entrepreneurs.

We believe that every business needs an entrepreneur, someone who will drive the business forward. The Coach’s job is not to sit on committees, or provide money, training or premises but simply to support entrepreneurs. The Coach does this by helping people to follow their passions.

Nobody is good at everything. Some of us have no head for figures or flair for marketing. BizFizz Coaches encourage entrepreneurs to create a ‘virtual team’ of supporters to help them with those aspects of the business they feel less comfortable with. For example, if accountancy is a particular weak spot in an entrepreneur’s skill portfolio, an intensive training course may not be the best use of an entrepreneur’s time. Why not find a local professional who might be prepared to defer up-front payment? Or a local mum who is taking evening classes in book-keeping whose fees might be lower? Or even agree to share financial risk by profit sharing rather than paying set fees?

Our Coaches provide their services for free, but they are free in another sense. They are not constrained by having to ration the amount of time they give to the entrepreneurs or by notions of ‘professional distance’. Within reason, our Coaches can do whatever it takes to help the entrepreneur succeed.

The Local Panel

Key to the local BizFizz operation is a Panel of 20-30 people who act as a network for the entrepreneurs, helping them unblock problems and providing key information and contacts. It is not a management committee, but an advice and networking group. It consists of well-connected and experienced people from the community and the wider area who can make a practical contribution. Each panel member introduces the Coach to ten additional contacts, thus helping the Coach to widen their contact with potential entrepreneurs, and to gain an overview of local skills and resources available locally.

The Panel includes local peoples with different backgrounds: community leaders and activists, head teachers, faith group leaders, councillors, local entrepreneurs and business people from the wider area, people with expertise in key areas such as IT, marketing, book-keeping, premises, bankers and other finance providers, people from regulatory authorities such as planning, environmental health and the Inland Revenue. What brings them together is a mutual passion for the area where they live and work.

The ability to unleash local and expertise and resources is the main difference between BizFizz and other business support. That’s why Panel members are asked to contribute not only in their professional role but using all their personal experience and knowledge. For example Local Panels are very helpful with finding premises, identifying waste materials that can be used by other businesses, and linking entrepreneurs with common interests.

The Local Management Group

This is a group of 4 – 5 people, who will take responsibility for driving the local BizFizz project forward. Membership of the LMG should not be drawn from any one organisation. Suggested LMG composition, based upon our best practice experience, is:

  • One representative from the Local Host Organisation
  • One or two representatives from other local partners
  • One or two other panel members local to the project area

All members of the LMG are also members of the Local Panel.. with support from their National Co-ordinator, they will take key decisions about how the programme operates locally. The LMG provides hands-on support to the Coach, particularly in the areas of client referral, panel development, project promotion, and at a strategic level to address barriers affecting BizFizz clients. The National Co-ordinator will provide an induction for the initial members of the LMG, thereafter the BizFizz coaches and existing LMG members will induct new members of the LMG during the project.

The LMG provides a reference point for day-to-day issues for the Coach, including any employment issues that may arise during the course of the project, the National Co-ordinator and providers of funding The Local Facilitating Organisation will report on budgetary matters to the LMG. The LMG is responsible for the strategic direction of the programme within the framework of the model, and will address issues related to sustainability and performance with reference to the data the Coach collects. The LMG will evaluate the impact of the local project.. Although they will at times take advice from the Local Panel, the LMG will act to avoid the Local Panel becoming a ‘management committee’ and help it to focus on finding practical solutions for entrepreneurs.

The National Team

The National Team consist of staff who are experienced in harnessing community capacity, providing small business support, and project management.

The National Team helps the local projects with:

  • policy role
  • promoting the BizFizz idea to the community
  • recruiting and selecting the local panel
  • induction for the local panel to get them working effectively
  • recruitment and selection of the Coach
  • induction for the Coach
  • specialised residential training for the Coach
  • providing information for the Coach to help them support entrepreneurs
  • support for the Coach and the local partners throughout the project
  • organising regular meetings where Coaches from different projects can exchange good practice
  • supporting the panel meetings
  • monitoring and evaluation