Entrepreneurial Spark is the world’s largest free business accelerator for early stage and growing ventures and is powered by NatWest. The overall programme is going from strength to strength and there are now centres, referred to as ‘Hatcheries’, in Edinburgh, Ayrshire, Glasgow, Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton and Leeds.
Each Hatchery has the capacity support up to 80 businesses every six months, with the option of follow-on growth space in ‘The Nest’ for a year after that. So, what do businesses at Entrepreneurial Spark get?
- Free office space in a collaborative open plan office environment (including IT and Wi-Fi) for between 6 and 18 months;
- Networking and pitching events, supported by workshops;
- Access to business enablement and support from a pool of mentors;
- Financial advice from KPMG;
- Award events at the midpoint and at the end of the 6 month Hatchery programme.
As the first intake of businesses move on from the programme or into The Nest, we talked to four of them working within the Enterprise Zone’s key sectors.
Creative and Digital: Saf Nazeer, helpfulpeeps
What does the business do? helpfulpeeps connects individuals and charities who want help with individuals and organisations willing to help free of charge. Each time you help you earn karma, which is your reputational equity on the network. We call it the karma economy!
Number of employees: Three
Key successes to date: Winning ‘best startup pitch’ at Apps World
What did you hope to gain from taking part in the Entrepreneurial Spark programme? Having graduated from the 6 month long hatchery programme we are thrilled to have been chosen to be part of the 12 month long Nest accelerator programme. We are hoping to use this time to build out our team, further develop the product and to grow our helpful community to over 50k users.
Describe your business in 3 words. Helpful, sharing, network.
Low Carbon: Samantha Mant, Halcyan
Number of employees: Three
Key successes to date: Winning a place on the RBS Innovation Gateway programme. Doubling turnover, this year on last.
What did you hope to gain from taking part in the Entrepreneurial Spark programme? No strings attached professional help, especially accounting (KPMG) and financial advice (Natwest) support and access to their network of businesses. Being surrounded by likeminded individuals to share thoughts and problems with, a wide variety of experience and in-house skills to sound out ideas. Access to knowledgeable mentors who can remove specific barriers and advise from experience. To be constantly challenged in a safe environment, feeling usefully uncomfortable.
Describe your business in 3 words: Sustainable/Green, problem-solving, ambitious.
Hi-tech: Harry Gee, Agilic
What does the business do? Agilic works in two key areas: one is running workshops to inspire children to have fun with programming and digital making. The other is creating educational kit robots and other related products..
Number of employees: Three.
Key successes to date: 2 successful Kickstarter campaigns and winning a number of tech-awards and opportunities. Survival until finding a regular income stream!.
What did you hope to gain from taking part in the Entrepreneurial Spark programme? Mainly I was looking for the guidance and space to grow and develop the business as well as myself. Being part of a supportive entrepreneurial community was a big draw as well as the brilliant office space.
Describe your business in 3 words. Innovative, agile, fun.
Professional Services: Mick Lindsay, Mocean
Number of employees: There are three people working in the business but we scale up with our pre
approved freelance crew when we need to. We’ve had over 20 people working for us at times.
Key successes to date: During our first year of business we’ve worked with some well-known companies like HP, Airbus and Morrisons. We are making great gains in the corporate world and are currently going through the process of becoming an approved supplier to RBS.
What did you hope to gain from taking part in the Entrepreneurial Spark programme? I was a ‘nomadic’ worker who based himself at different locations around town (home, cafes, business hubs, etc.) so the prospect of a free fully inclusive office space was a massive draw, as well as the business advice on offer. It seemed like a great package and I did wonder if it was too good to be true – so much for free! I just thought “Why not?!”
The E-spark programme has had a huge impact on my business in a very short period of time and I feel that we have laid the foundation for Mocean to grow and scale year on year. Mocean has developed from a ‘kitchen table’ business into an ambitious and focussed company with a clear vision and value proposition. It’s a very energetic environment and it’s inspirational to be surrounded by so many entrepreneurs in one place.
You’ve just secured a further 12 months on the programme. What are you hoping to achieve over the next year? The business is now in a really good place to push-on and deliver sustained growth and we’re delighted to have been selected as one of the companies to stay on for a further 12 months in the programme. We’re already having some very interesting conversations with large corporate organisations about becoming a preferred/approved supplier and there seems to be a real appetite for what we do. We have plans to employ two more members of staff in 2016 who will help us develop even more team building activities. I would thoroughly recommend the programme to all entrepreneurs wishing to develop and grow a business.
Describe your business in three words: Adventurous. Innovative. Exciting.