Applying a last-minute business model more frequently seen in the travel industry is helping an innovative web portal for workplace training courses secure a market-leading position in its industry.
Shildon-based Help Training Courses Ltd offer a simple online means for training providers with places to fill on their courses to find people who are looking to take a particular training course, for which they can sign up at heavily discounted prices.
Despite being launched less than 18 months ago, the www.helptrainingcourses.com portal already offers over 10,000 courses from more than 400 training providers right across the country, and attracts several thousand unique users every month.
And now, to assist with increasing with the company’s drive to bring more course providers onto the portal, Help has secured a £55,000 investment from regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers, from the Finance For Business North East Growth Fund that NEL manages.
The money will be used to strengthen the company’s on and off-line marketing efforts, which includes search engine optimisation campaigns that are managed by its own in-house team, the development of new website features and attendance at key trade shows.
Help Training Courses was set up by Craig Fantarrow and John Patrick at the beginning of 2010, and currently employs six people, a figure which is expected to grow organically as the business develops.
The courses offered through the portal cover every conceivable market sector, and the number of training providers has continued to steadily increase since the subscription was introduced, as the market began to recognise the benefits that it offered to all parties.
Craig Fantarrow says: “When training providers put on their courses, they have fixed costs for things like venue hire and catering which take a large chunk out of their profits if their courses don’t sell out.
“Our portal takes the last-minute discounting model that is more usually seen in the travel and leisure sectors, and gives training course providers the chance to sell empty places at discounted rates to an audience of several thousand unique users who are all actively looking for the services they provide.
“The concept provides a win/win outcome for both parties, with providers making more sales and buyers getting access to the training he’s looking for at a lower-than-usual price, and this then creates a virtuous business circle for us, with providers coming back to us on a regular basis.
“We already actively and successfully sell the courses we have available through social media, SEO and other online activities, but felt there would be more opportunities out there for us if we could enhance both the content we have available on the site and the scope of our marketing work.
“The NEL team was personally recommended to us by a close business contact, and working with them has been a very positive experience – they’ve been very active in helping us to distil how best we can use their investment and their backing is another boost for the commercial value of the services we provide.”
Jane Siddle, investment executive at NEL Fund Managers, adds: “Help has combined detailed knowledge of a niche market with an innovative use of proven technology to build a successful business in a very short time, and the continuing monthly increase in the portal’s user numbers indicates a strong ongoing demand for the services they provide.”
Aimed at regional businesses which are at a development and growth stage, the Growth Fund forms part of the wider Finance for Business North East Fund.
Managed by North East Finance, it will see £125m of investment capital injected into the region by the European Investment Bank, the European Regional Development Fund 2007-13 and the regional development agency over the next five years.
NEL is looking to make around 130 investments over the five-year life span of the Growth Fund, and is actively looking to speak to ambitious north east companies with robust business plans. For more information about NEL’s investment criteria, visit www.nel.co.uk or contact the investment team on 0845 111 1850.
The ERDF 2007-13 programme is bringing over £300m into North East England to support innovation, enterprise and business support. It will help create and safeguard 28,000 new jobs, start 3,000 new businesses and increase the region’s productivity by £1.1bn per annum.