Identified as the world’s largest free business accelerator for early stage and growing ventures, Entrepreneurial Spark, initiated in 2011, works closely with partners NatWest, RBS and KPMG to help businesses across the UK at all stages and from all sectors who want to grow, scale and succeed. Elaborating further, Entrepreneurial Spark CEO Jim Duffy stated:
The best way to encapsulate Entrepreneurial Spark is that we build people who build businesses. Unique to our approach is that we work with the individual on their mind sets and behaviours – through that the entrepreneurs, or ‘Chiclets’, can truly supercharge their business.
The Entrepreneurial Spark programme lasts for 6 months and can continue for up to 18 months. Among its varied benefits is access to a collaborative office environment suitable for building teams, which is called the ‘Hatchery’. Entrepreneurial Spark aspires to scale its operation throughout the UK with these hubs or ‘hatcheries’ in major cities across the country.
Founded in Scotland, the business accelerator’s first three Hatcheries were initiated in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Ayrshire. In February 2014 they opened in Birmingham and will be opening in Bristol and Leeds in August 2015. Their other locations include Belfast, Brighton, Cardiff and Manchester. Jim Duffy explained further:
We provide Chiclets in our locations, our Hatcheries, all the essential business resources – such as desk space, Wi-Fi, printing, meeting rooms. We take all of that concern and cost away. However, what makes us different is that we then work extensively with the Chiclet to ensure they are focussed on the challenge at hand and are on the road to success.
Under this programme a business will first go through an introductory two-day Bootcamp at the start of the six month accelerator, after which they are directed through to the Hatchery with critical office resources, from free office space, Wi-Fi, printing, meeting space and telephone access to business enablement and support from a pool of over 50 business mentors who work on a voluntary basis, offering their subject matter expertise. Then there is potential for a further 12 months in the Entrepreneurial Spark’s Nest programme. Depending on how advanced the business is in their journey, they may be fast tracked into the Nest programme.
As such, Entrepreneurial Spark works in collaboration with very special mentors, entrepreneurs as well as professional services businesses. From lawyers to accountants and manufacturers to investors, these experts all help add great real-time, real-life value to the entrepreneurs. What’s more, businesses are also provided with ample opportunities to network during compulsory events, workshops, pitch practice and other such proceedings. Jim Duffy said:
However, crucially and uniquely, we provide you with regular enablement – most easily described as having an executive coach. The Enabler explores your idea, the business model, looking for opportunities and also challenges you might not have seen. We get you focused, to challenge your progress, to give you a kick if required, to get you networked and to join the dots.
Since 2011 Entrepreneurial Spark has achieved steady success including the very recent decision to launch a series of Hatcheries in India to support the country’s emerging entrepreneurs. This would be its first expansion beyond the UK. Speaking about the impact Entrepreneurial Spark has so far made in in the UK as well as opening its Hatchery in Leeds, Jim Duffy concluded:
Our Impact Report stats at the end of last year showed that, since 2011, we have supported over 350 businesses, with a combined turnover of over £40m, creating over 1000 jobs. This equates to 386 awarded patents and over £18m in investment. This is the track record to know that it works. So launching in Yorkshire is very exciting. Leeds is a city with a growing entrepreneurial culture, and we want to help nurture that and allow start-up businesses to reach their full potential.
If you are based in Leeds and have a business which is in its start-up stage or your growing business needs a further boost, Entrepreneurial Spark’s Leeds Hatchery may be the place to be from this August. They are currently accepting applications across all Hatchery locations and in Leeds until 5th July, so apply now at Entrepreneurial Spark