A pioneering new scheme has been launched to help companies in Gwynedd go digital, stem the tide of rural depopulation and boost the county’s economy.

The contract to run the Dyfodol Digidol (Digital Future) project has been secured by the fast-growing consultancy firm, Lafan, who will be providing mentoring sessions and training.

The Gwynedd Council project has received funding from the Gwynedd Shared Prosperity Fund and is available free of charge to any businesses based in the county.

It’s building on the success of a similar project, working with firms in the hospitality, food and drink industries, but the new version has been expanded in its scope and is open to companies of any size, working in all sectors.

Companies that sign up will get three one-to-one mentoring sessions from a digital expert and will be able to choose from 30 different training workshops which will be mainly online.

The project is being delivered by Lafan in partnership with Anglesey-based innovation centre M-Sparc, website designers Gwe Cambrian and marketing company Marketshed.

Lafan consultant Jamie Hughes said: “We look forward to supporting businesses to grow digitally.

“The first step is to establish the business’s goals and then work out what they need, whether that’s e-marketing, social media, choosing the right software, websites, e-commerce or accounting systems for example.

“What I found with that the programme last year was that a lot of companies were not aware of what’s available.

“They might be spending two days on finance or admin tasks when, with a bit of support from a digital platform, they can cut that time down to a just a few hours and make the business a lot more efficient.

“Digital programmes can allow access for all staff so it’s much better in terms of co-ordination and sharing information.

“E-marketing has the ability to transform the fortunes of a business and selling online can open up new markets and increase the customer base.

“Harnessing the power of the digital platforms can really boost a business in a rural area like Gwynedd.

“Selling online enables a business to be located anywhere so you don’t necessarily need retail premises in densely populated area.

“That means businesses can continue to grow and prosper in Gwynedd, creating employment and helping to halt the tide of rural depopulation where previously young people would have to move away to find work.

“A lot of these businesses know what they need to do but are not sure how to get there and that’s where we come in.

“We can work with them and find the right solutions for them – it’s not a one-size-fits- all approach, the help is tailored to the needs of individual businesses.

“During the first project, we worked with companies and helped them transition to using the relevant software to assist with stock management.

“Accounting programmes and invoice reading saves a huge amount of time, while a regularly scheduled newsletter can be a great marketing tool.”

Among those who was helped during the first project last year was champion cheesemaker Carrie Rimes, from Bethesda, in Gwynedd.

Her Cosyn Cymru cheese, made with ewe’s milk, has won a host of awards and last year she was named as the Best Food Producer at the BBC Food and Farming Awards.

Although she’s brilliant at making cheese, technology wasn’t her strong point so Jamie helped Carrie to integrate her computer systems with file sharing and using accounting software to manage invoices.

She said: “Jamie has been a really big help because the digital side of things doesn’t come to me that easily.

“However, I understand that it’s absolutely essential and there are certain things that we have absolutely got to do, like the accounting side of things which has to be digital now.

“There’s a suite of other things that could definitely make our lives easier to reduce the number of hours I’m spending on the laptop.

“It’s a matter of finding bespoke things that will fit into our small scale business and that’s where the one-to-one sessions with Jamie have been so helpful, tailoring it to the needs of the business.

“Dyfodol Digidol is something I would absolutely recommend to other companies.”

For more information about the Dyfodol Digidol scheme contact Lafan by emailing them at post@lafan.cymru  or ringing them on 01248 665624.