Entrepreneurial Spark ‘hatchery’ opens its doors in Leeds

Inside the Entrepreneurial Spark 'hatchery', Leeds
Inside the Entrepreneurial Spark 'hatchery', Leeds
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A growth scheme backed by Entrepreneurial Spark and NatWest is set to welcome 75 businesses in Leeds for a six-month accelerator programme.

The city’s Entrepreneurial Spark Hatchery opens its doors on August 10, with dozens of ventures across a range of sectors taking part in the free programme.

Individuals and teams will spend six months on the programme, accessing flexible workspace as well as mentoring, development and training services.

The programme kicks off with a two-day “boot camp”, beginning today, to prepare the entrepreneurs for the months ahead.

Jim Duffy, founder and chief executive at Entrepreneurial Spark, said the accelerator is “all about building people who build businesses”.

He said: “Leeds is a city with a growing entrepreneurial culture, and we’re looking forward to helping nurture that and assisting start-up businesses in reaching their full potential.”

Entrepreneurial Spark was launched in Scotland in 2011, before partnering with Royal Bank of Scotland.

The Leeds site is one of 10 openings around the UK announced by the charity and bank partnership. It also marks the first in the North of England.

Hatcheries in Bristol and Brighton are also due to open next week. A second Northern site in Manchester is scheduled to open in February 2016.

Businesses and entrepreneurs are eligible to apply if they have traded for less than four years and have under £1m turnover.

Among the enterprises to be welcomed onto the scheme are Top Collar, a gourmet dog biscuit producer from Leeds; bespoke marketing agency Attacking Design; Huddersfield-based Isiko, which produces handmade jewellery; and body shapewear designer Fit Britches from Bradford.

Amy De-Balsi, founder of digital recruitment platform Herd, said it is exciting to be chosen to join the Hatchery.

She said: “It’s hard work starting a company and being around other entrepreneurs is exactly what’s needed. I can’t wait to hear from all the mentors’ who’ve been there and done it already.”

Dale Sidebottom, regional entrepreneur development manager at NatWest, told The Yorkshire Post that the initiative differs from other accelerator programmes in its focus.

He said: “Entrepreneurial Spark’s USP is they work on the entrepreneurs, rather than the business idea.

“We’re not sector-specific, we don’t focus on the business idea, or business plan, we work on the individuals.”

Following the initial six-month Hatchery phase, businesses can apply for a further 12 month programme - dubbed the “nesting” phase.

Between 25 and 30 per cent of businesses stay beyond six months, Mr Sidebottom said. A further intake of up to 80 entrepreneurs will join in February.

In addition to NatWest’s role in supporting the premises and providing mentors, 15 members of the bank’s staff are taking part in this week’s boot camps as part of its Entrepreneur Development Academy, to gain insight into the challenges facing start-ups Mr Sidebottom said.

He said: “Part of our vision is for our bank staff think a bit more like entrepreneurs. We want to step away from being the typical bank manager just wanting figures - we want to really understand these businesses better.”