THE SME BUSINESS VOUCHER SCHEME
RIBEN Business Vouchers are aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who work in the retail sector who would like to take their first steps in engaging with University experts to address a business question. SME Business vouchers could be used for a short-term piece of market research, advice on business processes, or consultancy on branding and marketing. This expertise will come from academics working in the RIBEN cluster universities.
Each voucher is worth £3000 and can be used to fund roughly a week of effort, depending on the skills required.
The benefits to businesses include:
- ease of access and wide reach to academic institutions
- ability to resolve a business issue quickly and efficiently
- shared financial and technological risk during research and development activities
- new skills and knowledge retained in businesses
- improved business ability to exploit ideas
Examples of SMEs business vouchers completed by the RIBEN team:
Purely Plants/Country Secrets
The objective of the engagement was to improve the marketing strategy of this independent plant and garden supplies centre near Banbury, specifically to:
- understand customers better
- understand expectations & experience
- critique current marketing activity
This was undertaken over a period of six months and five contact days by the PI, Dr Jonathan Reynolds of Oxford University's Said Business School, through:
- Survey and focus group work
- Geodemographic analysis of customer data
- Analysis of sales data by origin and by category
- Work with a 3rd party marketing & design company to improve marketing materials
This work is now complete.
“We wholeheartedly support the RIBEN SME business voucher scheme. Dr Jonathan Reynolds has given us fresh, expert and independent ideas on developing our business and his meticulous research and feedback has made our discussion sessions really worthwhile.”
Following the engagement, Purely Plants made the decision to change their name to Country Secrets, making explicit the re-positioning of the business away from a traditional garden centre and more into gifts and services. The business now includes a dog training service (http://www.countrysecrets.co/ )
The Sweet Treat CO
The Sweet Treat Company is a successful ‘retro-styled’ independent sweetshop retailer, based in Winchester. The company approached the RIBEN group to seek advice on possible franchising of its concept.
“We have found the RIBEN scheme amazing. Working with people with expertise in the areas we need it most has been a revelation. Not only have we been offered expertise, but we have been supported throughout the journey”.
Dandy Doos Fun Family Salon
Dandy Doos is a hairdressers and beauty parlour which currently has two outlets, one in Loudwater and one in Chesham. The Dandy Doos concept is novel, as alongside traditional hai/beauty services the salon provides a range of children's parties. The owner of Dandy Doos accessed university expertise and advice from RIBEN academic partners (Prof Michelle Lowe and Prof Steve Wood) on aspects of marketing of her current locations and services and on potential expansion of her business into new markets in the medium term.
- A retail SME is considering introducing a simple customer loyalty scheme to improve customer patronage. Work funded through a business voucher could provide advice on cost-effective methods to enhance customer loyalty, based on insight into existing schemes, methods, and consumers’ reactions to them.
- A retailer trading association is seeking to understand how its SME members may cost-effectively introduce mechanisms to enhance sustainable consumption. An academic from the RIBEN consortium could kickstart the process with a review of the kinds of successful mechanisms which have been used elsewhere and an action plan.
- A small clothing retailer would like to use the Internet to sell its products more widely. A Business Voucher could provide funding for a study into the desirable objectives and the challenges of implementing such a strategy.
Applying for a SME Business Voucher Scheme
Before applying for an SME Business Voucher Scheme, please consider the following:
Types of projects which could be supported include:
SME Business Vouchers CANNOT be used for:
To apply for a Business Voucher please complete an application form
Completed applications can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or posted to:
RIBEN Business Vouchers (FAO Dionysia Lambiri)
Geography and Environment
University of Southampton - Highfield
Applications can be sent in at any time.
For Frequently Asked Questions about the SME Business Voucher Scheme, please click below: