Liz Earle and Levi Roots partner with BT and Google to encourage startup brand growth post pandemic

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Caribbean cuisine entrepreneur Levi Roots and beauty and wellness megabrand founder Liz Earle are leading a new campaign to encourage UK small businesses to unlock the benefits of digital skills training to help drive their post-pandemic growth and prosperity.

The ‘Get mentored, Get growing’ campaign highlights a partnership between BT and Google, that offers free one-to-one mentoring sessions for UK small businesses and charities covering a range of topics including digital marketing, e-commerce and business strategy. This comes as BT research shows almost half of all UK small firms (49 per cent) said they worried their business wouldn’t survive without external support. Meanwhile, 64 per cent said they’d be more likely to adopt new technologies if the IT and telecoms industry provided training. 

As an extension of their mentoring programme, BT and Google are offering small businesses the opportunity to win a one-to-one mentoring session with Levi and Liz, where they can learn from their experiences of building and scaling a brand as well as adapting to a digital-first world. To enter small businesses must enter at Sign Up: 1-to-1 Mentoring with BT and Google and they must meet the criteria. All entrants are subject to the terms and conditions.

Ronan Harris, Google’s UK MD, said: ”We’re proud to partner with BT and the participating business leaders on this inspirational program. Equipping small businesses with the digital tools needed to grow and succeed, is not only integral to future proofing the UK business landscape but it’s the next step in the UK’s journey to economic recovery. We’re committed to making sure shared knowledge and digital skills are as accessible as possible and make a lasting impact for the entrepreneurs of the future.”

Chris Sims, BT’s MD for its SoHo (Single/Small Office, Home Office) unit, said: “Our partnership with Google comes from a shared vision and commitment to help small businesses harness digital as a driver of growth and prosperity. Through our free mentoring programme and digital skills training, we’re aiming to equip small firms with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a digital world. BT initiatives, including one-to-one mentorships, have already boosted the digital literacy of almost 300,000 small business employees to date and our partnership with Google is helping us significantly extend our reach and impact within the small business community.” 

Following his success on BBC’s Dragons Den, Levi Roots is proof-positive of the power of business mentoring, which helped transform his kitchen table start-up into a £45M business.  Similarly, Liz Earle is one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs.  From a career starting as a health and beauty writer, she co-founded her eponymous beauty brand with her best friend, which was sold for a multi-million sum before returning to the wellness category with her own website, magazine, podcast series and YouTube channel and earning an MBE for services to the beauty industry. Both Levi and Liz are passionate about supporting the entrepreneur community.

Commenting on his involvement in the BT and Google campaign, Levi Roots said; “Running your own business can sometimes be overwhelming and lonely, so I know from my own Dragons Den experience how game-changing it was, both professionally and personally, to work with someone who could understand and appreciate my challenges and ambitions, and give me personalised, meaningful and actionable advice, as well as practical tools and training to help me build and grow my business.  I’m really delighted to get the chance to pay it forward and share my journey and insights with today’s small business community and help them unlock the power of digital to accelerate their growth.” 

Liz Earle added; “When my beauty brand was  launched more than twenty years ago, our mail order business was based around paper forms and payments by cheque. Today everything moves at a completely different pace. You have to act like a publisher on your social media channels and be super responsive to customers who want a real-time answer, not a letter in the post! With my later publishing brand, we had to learn a mass of digital skills super-fast and I encourage small businesses to grab all the available resources and training they can to help successfully navigate their way in the online world.”

Both BT and Google are jointly committed to helping small businesses across the UK get better positioned for growth by addressing the digital skills shortage. Since the launch of BT Skills for Tomorrow in 2019, BT has delivered free digital skills training to almost 300,000 UK small business owners and their employees, supported by webinars from Google Digital Garage, putting Google on course to achieve its target of enabling one million small British businesses remain open by helping them be found online. On top of this, Google has exceeded its target of helping train 100,000 UK SMBs. In total, over 700,000 business owners have been trained through the Google Digital Garage programme. 

Small business case study comments:

Khamisi McKenzie, who co-founded South London soul food business Drums & Flats with his best friend Daniel Opoku-Baah, is one of the thousands of small business founders and employees who’ve already benefited from BT and Google’s digital skills support and training scheme. Commenting on the experience, he said; “Lockdown forced us to take a step back and re-evaluate our business and we recognised that while our energy and effort went into perfecting our recipes and brand identity, we needed to get seen by more people. Thanks to the digital marketing mentoring sessions, we improved how we show up on Google and boosted our efforts in social media. We’ve definitely seen an increase in followers and better engagement rates, and it’s helped build our profile which resulted in us taking over the menu at The Smugglers Tavern in Central London.” 

Laurelle Darroux, founder of Sleepgoddess, a one-stop shop for vegan, ethical British-made beauty sleep products, launched her business in the middle of the pandemic in 2020 and BT and Google’s digital skills training was a key enabler in getting up and running and rapidly expanding her customer base. “Feeling lost and dejected when I was made redundant, I was inspired by my own struggles with sleep to start a business that would help people wake up feeling their best. While finding suppliers to create the prototypes for my satin pillowcases and beauty products, I started an Instagram page and built an email marketing list even before I officially launched! I watched on-demand digital skills webinars from Google and BT after I had put my children to bed and had one-to-one mentoring sessions to look at ways to optimise my website and social media, as well as build a digital marketing strategy.  Since then, business has exploded, with customers as far away as New Zealand, and a really loyal and supportive following on social media. I love the relationships and connections I have with the community I’ve built!”