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A “unique” new e-mentoring service has been launched for small businesses in South East England, following the success of similar schemes in the USA and Australia.

The South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) announced that the service will operate by pairing budding entrepreneurs with experienced mentors to help boost new companies.

Entrepreneurs will be able to ask advice on any issue, with mentors helping startups achieve both short-term and long-term objectives.

Mentors and their entrepreneurs will communicate online, with pairings spending 30 minutes a week sending and receiving emails.

The scheme, which is free to join, is the first of its kind in the UK, with similar programmes only existing up to now in the USA and Australia.

SEEDA said that 90 "mentees" and 70 mentors from the South East had already signed up to the scheme, with 30 pairs already formed.

Nigel Griffiths, the minister for small businesses, said that running a small firm 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 businesses,” he said.

Kevin Hunt, director of Circle Squared, which will manage the service, said: “I am confident that e-mentoring can positively contribute to the success of small businesses in this country and others.

“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.”

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