SMALL businesses across the East of England are being given a helping hand by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) to find critical forms of funding and finance during the recession. EEDA's new 'Understanding Finance for Business' programme has been designed specifically to prepare companies for raising finance - whether through a bank, venture capitalist, business angel or even public-sector grant funding. The agency's chairman Richard Ellis said: "It remains a tough time for businesses, and raising finance is harder, taking longer than ever and can often be perceived as a complicated process. EEDA's new programme is about de-mystifying the subject, cutting through the jargon and really helping businesses to understand the finance options available to them, and more importantly, how to secure them." After an initial 'introduction to finance' workshop, experts will work with businesses to identify which form of finance is most appropriate for them and how they can improve their prospects of securing that funding. Following the workshops, and if appropriate, there will be more intensive one-to-one mentoring sessions and finally the chance to try out presentations before a mock panel of experts. EEDA is teaming-up with St John's Innovation Centre, in Cambridge, a globally-renowned business incubator, to deliver the programme. St John's has developed partnerships across the region to harness a wide range of experienced advisers, including representatives from the world of bank finance, equity groups and specialist funding streams. "Every business will be different," Mr Ellis added. "Some, for example, may need presentation training to perfect a pitch to an investor. Others may need mentoring to prime their business plan fully for the bank, or simply a push towards a form of finance that they have not considered before. The important factor is that, once they have gone through the programme, every business should know exactly what it needs and will be in a stronger position to get it." INFORMATION: Places on the 'Understanding Finance for Business' programme are limited. Businesses are urged to register now at www.eeda.org.uk\/finance.