Friday 1 Jul 2016 07:00

New era for Entrepreneurial Spark

Having already opened 12 hatcheries across the UK and a business accelerator programme in India, the future looks bright for Entrepreneurial Spark and its new chief executive, Lucy-Rose Walker. BQ’s Bryce Wilcock reports.

Lucy-Rose Walker

Lucy-Rose Walker

With new hatcheries opening in Cardiff, Milton Keynes and Newcastle this year, Entrepreneurial Spark will be housing over 1,000 entrepreneurs at a time, each spending up to six months working on achieving their plans for growth.

This is quite a feat, for a company which was only launched four and a half years ago by Walker and fellow co-founder Jim Duffy. However, it doesn’t stop there.

“We currently have 12 locations across the UK housing around 1,000 entrepreneurs at any one time. But I want to challenge the team to find out how we reach 10,000’s of entrepreneurs every year.”

One of Entrepreneurial Spark’s key features is its proprietary ‘entrepreneurial enablement’ programme that takes entrepreneurs through a cognitive and action centred development process. 

Benefits of the programme include access to the Entrepreneurial Spark hatcheries, which provide small businesses with access to a collaborative office environment suitable for building businesses.

Startups in the hatchery also receive free IT and WiFi, and access to business enablement and support from a pool of over 50 experienced business mentors. 

But with growing demand for its services, and limited space in its hatcheries, Entrepreneurial Spark knows it must change the way it works to house more entrepreneurs if it is to continue growing. And Walker has a plan.

“I look at somewhere like India where we opened last year and we currently have two locations,” she added.

“Just because of the vast nature of that country its difficult for people to travel and come to a physical space so we have to address the issue of how do we support people from a remote perspective and that virtual element is key.

“The key is balancing the virtual element whilst still holding people accountable. One of the big things Entrepreneurial Spark does is focus on the mindset and behaviours of individuals which is done through accountability and checking in with people in person.

“We’re currently trialling a pilot model in Inverness in the highlands which is a mix of physical and digital support.

“This is our first venture into actually trying that face-to-face accountability element through mediums such as Skype so we’ll see how it goes.

“I see Entrepreneurial Spark in three years time as a programme having an impact globally on entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.

“It’s not just about people wanting to start their own business, but anyone who is in a work setting and wants to be entrepreneurial with a growth mindset.”

Former chief executive optimist Jim Duffy will now take on the role of head of #GoDo, travelling across the hatcheries and providing one-to-one enablement sessions with the most promising businesses on board the programme.

Walker said: “Jim created something revolutionary when he started Entrepreneurial Spark and I have been privileged to be a part of that for the last four and a half years.

"I am delighted to become CEO of this fantastic start-up and look forward to building and refining the current model, while also developing new opportunities and focusing on the growth of the business.

“From starting out with one space in Glasgow in 2012, donated by Lord Willie Haughey, we’ve rapidly expanded Entrepreneurial Spark, with 13 Hatcheries opening across the UK by 2017 and Entrepreneurial Spark Powered by Viridian which launched in India last summer.

“I want to take this momentum and expand on it even further, building the skills of our people by innovatively harnessing the collective power of the company to create Enablement 2.0 and offer an even greater accelerator programme to aspiring entrepreneurs across the world.”

Walker is also aware of the global headwinds facing the business world, especially in the wake of recent economic events, but remains confident about the future of UK business.

“I think for us it’s about saying, now we need startups more than we ever have before,” she added.

“They are the lifeblood of the economy when you look at the amount of companies that are in the 0-10 employment bracket. This makes up 98% of the businesses in Scotland alone.

“Our job is to see how we can inspire more people to start up businesses to ensure this continues to shift in the right direction.

“I think having Entrepreneurial Spark in more physical locations and our new online proposition will help us achieve that and will help us reach more entrepreneurs.

“I would love to be housing 5,000-10,000 people in physical locations across the world and reaching millions from a virtual prospective in five years time.”

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