For free business support, just ASK

Clare Getty, Managing Director of Getty Cleaning Services, encourages small businesses to apply for specialist support offered through Newtownabbey Borough Council's ASK Programme. INNT 08-520CON
Clare Getty, Managing Director of Getty Cleaning Services, encourages small businesses to apply for specialist support offered through Newtownabbey Borough Council's ASK Programme. INNT 08-520CON

The ASK Programme is an initiative unique to Newtownabbey that is aimed at offering up to five hours specialist one-to-one support to local businesses free of charge.

ASK aims to help small businesses based in the borough reach their full potential by accessing the advice, skills and knowledge of a specialist adviser. The programme offers up to five hours of mentoring support with a specialist adviser free of charge, with the option of accessing a further five hours by paying a 50 per cent contribution towards the consultancy cost (£125).

The programme, launched in September 2013, has already engaged with 16 businesses. Support has been provided in a number of areas including: Legalities of running a business, Human Resources, IT/social/digital media, Marketing, Sales and Funding.

Two examples of businesses helped through the programme are Getty Cleaning Services and The Dunanney Centre in Rathcoole.

Clare Getty, Managing Director of Getty Cleaning Services, who received five hours support, commented: “When I launched Getty Cleaning Services in 2013, I was overwhelmed by the amount of work involved in setting up a new company. Whilst registering the business with Newtownabbey Borough Council, they advised that they were currently offering a mentoring programme - the ASK Programme, which was available to help small businesses in the area.

“I applied to the programme for HR mentoring support; this was the aspect of running a business I was the least confident with. Within a matter of days I was informed I had been accepted and that a specialist mentor would be in touch.

“My mentor, Lucy, telephoned later that day and we arranged to meet. Lucy listened to my requirements and concerns. She was able to guide me through the process of setting up the company’s HR systems, from the recruitment process through to contracts and appraisals. Lucy designed a complete contracts and policies pack tailored to my business.

“Having the support and assistance of a specialist was invaluable, not only in terms of the information and support received, but by allowing me to focus on the other aspects of the business where my strengths lay without trying to juggle all the balls.”

Vicky Moore, Manager of the Dunanney Centre in Rathcoole, added: “We received help from the ASK Programme to draft Terms of Reference to commission some business research. Although I knew what I wanted the research to consider I was unsure how best to word it in the Terms of Reference. It was really important that we commission something which was a practical, robust document which could help our organisation plan for the future. The support we received was invaluable. Our mentor, Darren, gave a fresh perspective. He was able to use his professional background and experience to advise on how the Terms of Reference should be structured, how to score the tenders received and what we should look for in a good tender submission. We will be able to use the advice we received again in the future and I would definitely recommend the programme to other potential users.”

Over fifty advisers/mentors are registered to provide support in a variety of specialisms from financial planning and management to tendering. Advisers are on hand now and will be matched to your specific business requirements therefore providing tailored support for your individual business. Work can be completed within three weeks of receipt of application.

ASK is currently calling for applications from new start-up or existing businesses with a registered business address in the Newtownabbey Borough Council area.

For further information, or to receive an application form, contact Michelle Pearson, Economic Development Project Officer, by emailing or log on to