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A “unique” e-mentoring programme designed exclusively for small and medium-sized businesses is to be introduced in the UK over the next six months.

The government-funded initiative is the first of its kind to offer help and advice to developing businesses, with the USA and Australia being the only other countries to currently have similar schemes.

The mentoring service enjoyed a successful pilot scheme in Surrey, where 50 businesses and mentors were involved in the support service.

The pilot, organised by Kevin Hunt, director of the Small Business Service (SBS) for the South East, was set up on the internet with help from the local Business Link, the SBS and the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA).

A massive 96 per cent of the businesses involved said the e-mentoring was very useful, with eight out of ten mentors describing the experience as positive.

Nine out of ten firms and 84 per cent of mentors said they would participate in a similar programme in the future.

Hunt said he was confident e-commerce would contribute positively to the success of small firms in the UK and abroad.

“It is vital that we move quickly and respond to the progress already made by the US and continue to lead Europe and potentially become the world’s leading authority in e-mentoring for business,” he said.

Nigel Griffiths, small business minister, also voiced his support for the programme.

“Running a small business can frequently be a lonely and foreboding experience.

“The e-mentoring scheme combines the immediacy of the internet with hands-on expertise to provide a helping hand for small business,” he said.

© Startups.co.uk is the biggest independent small business site in the UK. It has more than 2500 articles covering everything from taking on staff to dealing with VAT.

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