SMALL businesses are being invited to tap into a £20,000 pot to help boost their post-lockdown revival.

Bus operator First York has launched the York Restart Fund to help small operators in retail, leisure and hospitality with their recovery.

The fund aims to support plans by independent business owners and small firms in consumer sectors to grow their customer base as non-essential retail and hospitality re-opens.

The York Restart Fund will make awards of £1,000 to 15 successful applicants with the remaining £5,000 to be shared between three businesses who come out on top in a people’s vote.

Applications will be open from today, Thursday, April 15, until Friday 30 April.

Entries should be submitted on a dedicated page of the First York website

First York, which is the largest bus operator in the region and operates the York Park & Ride scheme in conjunction with City of York Council, has teamed up with the Federation of Small Businesses to draw up the application criteria.

The FSB’s regional chair, Simon Williams, who runs Yorkshire Express Services in York, and FSB development manager Carolyn Frank will help in assessing and deciding successful entries in a panel including First York managing director, Marc Bichtemann.

Marc said: “Thriving, successful independent small businesses on the streets of the city and our outlying communities will be a vital and uplifting part of York’s recovery from lockdown. We want to help owners with ideas and plans as they re-open by giving them a financial boost to realise their ambitions.

“We are really pleased the FSB has joined us in launching the York Restart Fund. Its guidance in creating an easy application process to identify strong business ideas has been invaluable.”

He added: “I would encourage York’s small business owners to get thinking how the fund could help them and submit an entry quickly. There is not long to get applications in as we want to be able to make the awards in May to help businesses put their plans into action.”

Carolyn said: “We are very excited about this generous offer from First York to local small businesses now reopening in the city and know that it will make a big difference.

"York is packed with great small businesses and traders serving the community, who are the heart of the city and its economy. This fund will help them get off to a flying start now that restrictions have been lifted and help York bounce back quickly.”

She added: “Businesses should use the opportunity to think about their business plan for summer 2021 and beyond, whether that’s investing in new markets, digitisation, training, changing your business model or investing in new equipment, let us see your innovative plans to make the very best use of the funding on offer.”

The People’s Choice vote will be held after the 15 successful business to receive the £1k award have been announced in mid-May.

These 15 will be presented on First York's website and social media  with a voting button for the public to select the three businesses they would like to receive a share of the remaining £5k.

The three businesses with the most votes will share the fund with £1k, £1.5k and £2.5k.