High street bank NatWest has declared that its growing network of free business accelerator hubs in Britain will help support up to 7,000 entrepreneurs during the next five years.
Having seen an impact of £20m investment secured, 1,000 new jobs created and 400 businesses supported though its work in Scotland, Entrepreneurial Spark will unveil ten hubs, or as it calls “Hatcheries”, in its buildings throughout Britain in the next two years.
Beginning in Brighton, where the ribbon has been cut, Leeds and Bristol will follow in September – after which Manchester, Belfast and a new Edinburgh headquarters will open in February 2016.
The Entrepreneurial Spark programme lasts for six months, can continue for up to 18 months. Businesses involved can access a “collaborative office environment suitable for building teams”, receive free IT & WiFi and access business enablement and support from a pool of “over 50 business mentors”.
The accelerators news was welcomed by minister for small business Anna Soubry, who believes the new Brighton hub will play an “important role” in promoting enterprise in the region.
“The launch of the Entrepreneurial Spark hub in Brighton, along with initiatives like the government-backed Business Navigator Growth Hub, ensure businesses can access the support they need to succeed, when they need it,” she added.
“We will continue to back entrepreneurs across the country and promote schemes that drive innovation and create jobs for hard-working people.”
The beginning of Entrepreneurial Spark “Hatchery” openings comes at the same time that NatWest revealed the contents of its Entrepreneurship Monitor. The survey found that 46 per cent of British people would prefer to be self-employed, while 27 see now as a good time to set up their own company.
Despite this, fewer than five per cent of those who haven’t already done so are actually putting in place plans to do so.
Alison Rose, CEO of commercial and private banking at NatWest, commented: “Despite improving economic conditions and a widely held desire to be self employed, only a very small number of people are actually taking the plunge.
“These findings show we have a nation of potential entrepreneurs, but they are held back by a lack of knowledge. NatWest wants to fill that gap and, in partnership with Entrepreneurial Spark and KPMG, will be launching free business accelerator hubs across the UK over the coming two years. This will give thousands of entrepreneurs free facilities, free business advice and supporting networks to ensure they are given the best possible chance of success.”
In August, Business Advice profiled Spearhead Compliance, a business set up by ex-serviceman John Loveday to provide military personnel with the opportunity to gain qualifications. Loveday took advantage of the support on offer from Entrepreneurial Spark, which helped the company go from being based in his house to a situation where it has 125 trainers nationwide and backing from Poundland founder Steve Smith.
Jim Duffy, founder of Entrepreneurial Spark, said: “We are delighted to be working with NatWest and KPMG to launch ten new Hatcheries across the UK over the coming two years, the first of which launched in Birmingham in February.
“Starting and scaling a business can be daunting, so we support budding entrepreneurs every step of the way in our Hatcheries, from hands on training at our #GoDoBootcamps and one-to-one enablement to providing them with free desk space and IT. We’re delighted to be powered by NatWest and look forward to working together closely to open more Hatcheries across the country over the next two years.”
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.