Scotland’s national business advice service Business Gateway saw first time users of its services hit a record 33,237 last year, with first time approaches up by 26%.
A total of 58,860 enquiries were received from people seeking business support, the highest figure on record.
Additionally, throughout the 12 month period ending March 2017, 12,669 existing companies looked to expand and develop with support from Business Gateway, also a record number and 37% more than the previous year.
The service also helped support 10,629 new businesses start trading during the year.
It is estimated that these new starts created 11,600 jobs.
Meanwhile, 49% of new start businesses set up with support from Business Gateway during the period were owned or managed by women, significantly above official UK estimates of 21% for women-led businesses .
The number of business projecting significant growth, for example, by taking on new employees, increasing their sales or entering new international markets, is over 5,000.
These companies receive support from a Business Gateway Growth Adviser and are able to access some additional support from the Enterprise Agencies.
Kenneth Gibson said:
“Scotland’s small businesses are fundamental drivers in securing sustainable and inclusive economic growth. So it is extremely encouraging to see that record numbers are seeking out support to continue their growth.
“The success of the DigitalBoost programme, launched by the SNP Government at a conference attended by over 250 Scottish businesses last year, proves that Scotland’s business community is building its skills to respond to the boom in the digital economy.”
Skills training workshops to help businesses work more efficiently continued to see significant growth with an increase of 30% in the number of people attending. 31,953 people attended 3,551 workshops.
Also included in that figure are 5,037 people who attended 818 digital skills workshops. The programme also provided 707 businesses with specialist, digital consultancy support.
The objective of DigitalBoost is to provide businesses in Scotland with opportunities to improve their technical and digital capabilities and help them use digital technology to enter new markets, trade internationally, increase efficiency and potentially, employ more staff.
The Business Gateway service continued to see a significant rise 12.7%, in the use of its digital resources with a record 685,860 visitors to bgateway.com, up 13%.
Hugh Lightbody, Chief Officer of Business Gateway, added:
“Business Gateway is about making connections for Scotland’s SME community. That may be connecting them to the right people or it may be connecting them to the right advice and knowledge. Everything we do is geared towards helping them with their own business objectives.
“As local authorities delivering the Business Gateway service continue to develop support for businesses, we will look to work ever more closely with our partners, including Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and others, to ensure that businesses have access to a support package that meets their individual needs, wherever they are based.”