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Entrepreneurial Spark for Leeds!

8 October 2015
Entrepreneurial Spark for Leeds!
Entrepreneurial Spark, powered by NatWest, is the world’s largest free business accelerator for early stage and growing businesses around the UK. They opened their latest hub - or ‘Hatchery’ – in Leeds for ambitious entrepreneurs with a drive for success. Leeds Living spoke to some of the programme’s partners and winning entrepreneurs to find out what’s in it for Leeds…

The chief motivation behind the Entrepreneurial Spark programme is the individual, developing entrepreneurial mind-sets and behaviours to enable acceleration and growth. Initiated in 2011, Entrepreneurial Spark works closely with partners NatWest, RBS and KPMG to help businesses across the UK at all stages and from all sectors with the resolve and potential to grow, scale and succeed. They aspire to support 7,000 entrepreneurs over the next five years.

“Opening up the accelerator hubs and working in partnership with Entrepreneurial Spark is something we’re really excited about at NatWest; and we’re in the process of opening hubs across the whole of the UK,” said Alison Rose, CEO of Commercial and Private Banking at NatWest.

We looked at hotspots around the country with a high level of entrepreneurial demand and many start-ups. Leeds is obviously a key centre in the North with increasing demand which we identified as an ideal opportunity to provide support; and as a bank this is also one of our major hubs where we support many businesses. So this programme will continue to stimulate growth and development in Leeds and the North which is really important.

Entrepreneurial Spark for Leeds - Article 1 Alison Rose, CEO of Commercial and Private Banking at NatWest addressing the gathering at the Leeds Hatchery opening

The new Leeds hub was officially opened on 11th September 2015. Located at NatWest’s office in The Headrow, it currently accommodates up to 80 businesses who beat off stiff competition to secure a place in the first intake of entrepreneurs or ‘Chiclets’ - as they are called - to take part in the programme. They will be based at The Headrow hub for up to six months, with potential to continue for another 12 if they are among the most promising. At the Leeds Hatchery, the entrepreneurs have access not only to physical office space with superfast internet but will also be part of a start-up Bootcamp, dedicated mentoring from KPMG, regular events, workshops and training, all free of charge. A new intake of ‘Chiclets’ will start at the Hatchery every six months.

Tina Kalantaridi is the Founder of Languages at Work which offers tailor-made language tuition for business people. Tina is one among the Chiclets of Leeds’ first batch of entrepreneurs already receiving support and advice from the programme to develop her business; and expressed her thoughts on the programme, saying “Entrepreneurial Spark has helped me by giving me not only office space, Wi-Fi and other similar facilities but also offering a fantastic space for a real buzz. Everyone here supports one another, giving each other help when needed. NatWest and all the enablers within the team have been absolutely fantastic and extremely supportive and can help accelerate any business at any stage.”

Entrepreneurial Spark for Leeds - Article 2

Gareth Craven is the creator of ‘Hire an Artist’ an online art commission platform for people and artists to meet and create art. Gareth is yet another successful applicant at the Entrepreneurial Spark Leeds hub and shared his thoughts on the programme, stating “It has been absolutely incredible for us from the moment we came in and had our first session. Entrepreneurial Spark has really given us the true direction we needed. Our biggest challenge for instance was customer research. We didn’t have an accurate profile of our target audience so they gave us a clear idea of what we should be doing. With the help of Entrepreneurial Spark I know I'll be able to work so much harder, in a more effective and efficient way.”

As a key partner KPMG is involved in the Entrepreneurial Spark programme by employing 1,000 hours a month of mentoring for various hubs across the UK. This includes providing anything from a sounding board from which entrepreneurs can bounce ideas, all the way through to more focused help with business plans, management information or accounting, the very activities that KPMG are famed to be good at. Expressing his views on the Leeds hub opening Iain Moffatt, head of National Markets at KPMG explained: “What the people in Leeds don’t lack is imagination, enthusiasm and a will to succeed. What they need therefore, is support in terms of finance, in terms of money; and that’s what a combination of Entrepreneurial Spark, NatWest and KPMG can provide. The raw materials already exist; they just need that extra bit of support and a push in the right direction.”

Jim Duffy, chief executive optimist at Entrepreneurial Spark said:

We’re delighted to have launched in Leeds and announce our plans for the next round of Hatcheries, which includes Manchester. There is real entrepreneurial talent coming forward in the northern powerhouse cities and we look forward to being part of the start-up community, helping entrepreneurs to develop winning mind-sets and behaviours in order to scale up their businesses.”

If you’re a budding entrepreneur from the region looking for advice and support, here’s your chance. For more information on the Leeds Hatchery and details of how to apply visit Entrepreneurial Spark

Kam is a Business Writer for Leeds Living. Having joined in April 2015 she writes for the Strictly Business section and specialises in business editorials.