MORE than 30 small businesses in York are vying for a share of a £20,000 fund set up to support the city's economic recovery as restrictions ease.

Applications have flooded in since First York launched the York Restart Fund last week to help small operators post lockdown.

Half of the entries so far have come from businesses in York city centre, while 45 per cent are from retailers, 25 per cent from hospitality and the rest from the leisure, health and beauty sectors.

Marc Bichtemann, the bus operator's managing director, said the 'fantastic' response so far had been heartening.

Stressing that the fund was open to businesses across the city, he added: "It is meant to be a catalyst to show that partnership can be a real driver behind recovery.

"Partnership has always been great in York; from a First York perspective, our business carries the customers to the shops, and the staff that work in the shops. This is a positive circle of supporting the economy of York.

"We have seen a huge bump in customers numbers just in the last week. I am really confident that this Restart Fund will play its role in what will be a strong recovery for York."

The fund will support plans by independent business owners to grow their customer base and, in turn, support the city's revival.

Funding pitches could be for a range of reasons, from investing in new markets to digitisation, training, changing a business model or investing in new equipment.

Fifteen successful applicants will each receive £1,000, with £5,000 to be shared between the top three businesses in a people’s vote.

Among the applications is a pitch from a bridal store which hopes to develop an own-brand label using upcycled wedding dresses and needs help to buy stock, sewing materials and a better machine.

Another applicant is a café owner who has secured an alcohol licence and hopes to create a new serving area and invest in more tables and chairs and cold storage.

Carolyn Frank, of the Federation of Small Businesses, who will help with the judging, urged others to apply before the deadline on Friday, April 30 via the First York website

Carolyn said collaborations, such as First York's efforts to support local businesses through the fund, put York in a good place to bounce back.

"First York is delivering customers to those businesses in the city. It is a natural partnership."

She said it was interesting to see how creative early applicants would be with the funding, if successful.

"People often start a small business because it is their dream and Covid has obviously put barriers in the way of their progress or aspirations for their business.

"This fund unlocks some of those financial barriers. It's really about getting back to that dream. What would they do if they had that money from First York? What can it help them to achieve?

"Small businesses are absolutely the biggest part of York's business stock. It is a city of independents so it is really important that that sector really gets involved with projects like this.

"Small businesses don't have spare cash. Money like this can help them and the city centre to reopen. £1,000 doesn't sound a large amount but for a small business it can be transformational."

First York is the largest bus operator in the region and operates the York Park & Ride scheme in conjunction with City of York Council.

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