Igniting Brighton's Entrepreneurial Spark

Describing Brighton as a town with an entrepreneurial mindset barely touches upon how much of a magnet it has become for people wanting to start their own business.

Wednesday, 21st December 2016, 2:58 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 3:12 pm
Fiona Anderson SUS-160902-104642001

The area has long been a breeding ground for entrepreneurs. In fact, the Brighton is the UK’s fourth biggest home to start ups despite barely sneaking into the list of the country’s top 20 most populated cities. However, 84% of all businesses started in Brighton fail within the first year of trading.

It’s against this backdrop that NatWest set up the first Entrepreneurial Spark business accelerator in the South East in our Preston Park office last summer. Entrepreneurial Spark is the world’s biggest free business accelerator and when the next hub opens in London in 2017, there will be 13 hubs - or Hatcheries, as we call them – based in our premises up and down the country.

For the first time ever, there are more than 5.2 million businesses in the UK and 99% are SMEs. As the UK’s biggest bank for supporting SMEs and start-ups, NatWest knows that there’s a huge desire by people to run their own business and become self-employed. According to a recent NatWest Regional Economic Tracker, the number of self-employed people has increased by 800,000 since the financial crisis began in 2008.

Getting back to that 84% failure rate, we knew that the demand and need is there for the Entrepreneurial Spark programme and the free facilities, free business advice, mentoring and access to our support networks that NatWest provides. Most entrepreneurs clearly have the desire to run their own business but didn’t know where to go to get the support and advice they need to make it a success. As the bank’s Entrepreneurial Development Manager one of my main roles is to create relationships between the entrepreneurs – or “Chiclets” – with the wider business ecosystem. This has given me the opportunity to work very closely with a lot of key people from around Sussex who have really engaged with what we are doing.

The entrepreneurs have really captured the imagination of the ecosystem and established themselves as part of the local business community. This is evident through the numerous enquiries we get from local entrepreneurs and business people wanting to know how they can get involved by offering to mentor and lend their expertise, knowledge and advice, and most importantly access to their networks for these fledgling start-ups. Watching the Chiclets develop as business men and women and as entrepreneurial leaders has been awe-inspiring.

But what’s been particularly exciting to watch is the collaboration that goes on amongst the Chiclets. It can be daunting and lonely starting your own business so providing the office space has eliminated some of that isolation while also providing an environment that’s created a community encouraging them to bounce ideas off each other and work together to overcome their challenges, many of which are common to any business regardless of the sector. To find out more about Entrepreneurial Spark and how you can apply to be part of the next cohort in early 2017, visit: www.entrepreneurial-spark.com/

Fiona Anderson from Entrepreneurial Spark, NatWest, is a member of the Business Support Action Group which is taking forward Objective 4 ‘supporting business growth and sustainability’ in the City Employment & Skills Plan. This Plan is led by Brighton and Hove City Council and key business support stakeholders in the city.