A HAIR salon that was a childhood dream for two sisters has become the 1,000th business to be launched under the Government’s New Enterprise Allowance in Birmingham and Solihull.

Shanelle Clifton and Johnare Furber set up the Nicer Hair Salon in Smethwick with the support of the scheme, which aims to provide business mentoring and funding for people who are unemployed but want to start up a company.

They are now joining public service provider A4e, which delivers the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) scheme in Birmingham and Solihull on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and carpenter Reuben Bradshaw, whose property maintenance company was the first to be set up, to celebrate the milestone.

The achievement has also received the support of Minister for Employment Esther McVey, who said: “It's great that Shanelle and Johnare were helped to achieve their childhood dream of setting up their own hair salon and that theirs has become the 1,000th business to be launched in Birmingham and Solihull under the Government’s New Enterprise Allowance.

"Starting your own business takes guts and passion and so far the New Enterprise Allowance has helped entrepreneurial jobseekers set up more than 32,000 new businesses across the country. With the economy growing, small businesses are vital to the continuing success of the country, so it’s great that the New Enterprise Allowance can help budding entrepreneurs achieve their dream of being their own boss.”

Under the NEA programme, participants receive access to a volunteer business mentor, who will provide them with guidance and support as they develop their business plan and through the first six months of trading. Once participants have demonstrated they have a viable business proposition, with the potential for growth in the future, they are able to access financial support.

In Birmingham and Solihull 89% of the 1,000 businesses launched were still running after 26 weeks.

Ms Clifton, 32, and Ms Furber, 36, approached the NEA after Ms Clifton's battle with cancer left her determined to make changes to her life. They had another setback when their newly-opened Cheshire Road salon was burgled but, together, the pair are turning the business into a success and have already taken on a nail technician.

Ms Furber, of Birmingham, said: “Self-employment has been the best decision my sister and I have made. It is challenging but gives you a sense of self-worth and we hope our kids will look up to us as role models. We have been extremely happy with the service we’ve received from A4e.”

Reuben Bradshaw, a self-employed carpenter who launched his property maintenance firm Cedar Group in August, 2011, said: “I always recommend the NEA to other people. If they have a good business idea, then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t give it a go. The NEA provided a solid foundation to support me when I was starting up and the advice I was given in that first six months in terms of branding and networking was invaluable.”

Susan Yates, head of A4e’s learning and education division, said: “We are delighted to have played a part in helping small businesses get on, creating employment for a great many people and boosting the local economy. It is particularly pleasing that many of those who have created thriving new businesses in this area are young people and those aged 50 and over, showing that if you have a good business idea, age is no barrier.”

“It is also extremely encouraging that 89% of the business set up under the NEA in Birmingham and Solihull were still running after 26 weeks. Our advisers work really hard to make sure that every client has a viable business plan and has all the support they need to create a successful new enterprise.”

Prime Minister David Cameron announced a £69 million package of support to help tens of thousands of new businesses last September. The New Enterprise Allowance, launched in April, 2011, was recently extended for new starters until the end of 2014, providing an additional 60,000 mentoring places for claimants.

Andy Richmond, acting district manager for DWP in Birmingham and Solihull, said: "It is a tremendous achievement that, by developing a strong partnership approach in the delivery of the New Enterprise Allowance programme, the DWP and A4e have been able to support the start of over 1,000 new businesses within Birmingham and Solihull district.

“The fact that Rueben's business continues to thrive and grow to the point that he is now employing other people is testament to the quality of the advice and guidance given on the NEA programme by committed and motivated advisers and mentors. DWP looks forward to the ongoing success of New Enterprise Allowance in the future".

Jobseekers aged 18 and over currently in receipt of unemployment benefits can talk to their Jobcentre Plus adviser about the New Enterprise Allowance scheme.