A Review of Entrepreneurial Spark: Inspiration and Support for London’s Start-ups

Do you dream of starting your own business? If you are London based and need some inspiration and guidance, you wouldn’t go far wrong enrolling with Entrepreneurial Spark. Founded in Glasgow in 2012, Entrepreneurial Spark was originally set up to provide start-up companies in Scotland with business support.

The formula worked. Offering specialist mentoring, access to internal and external events, and investment opportunities, Entrepreneurial Spark help start-ups to become backable, investable and credible businesses.

Entrepreneurial Spark - GoDo
photo credit: Entrepreneurial-Spark.com

Entrepreneurial Spark have expanded their services across the UK, with their latest hub in London. Backed by the RBS Group (NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank) Entrepreneurial Spark also has strong links with KPMG, DELL Technologies and Pinsent Masons.

What is Entrepreneurial Spark?

Entrepreneurial Spark is a people accelerator scheme offering 6 month programmes to any entrepreneur looking to start a business or expand an existing one. Accelerator groups known as ‘hatcheries’ offer mentoring and business advice. It’s a free service, but you have to go through an application process to be accepted on the programme.

Entrepreneurial Spark’s vision is “to inspire and enable positive social change through the action of Entrepreneuring.” Their vision is “to encourage Entrepreneuring through the development of entrepreneurial mindset and behaviours.”

Entrepreneurial Spark are a not-for-profit company. They receive both public and private funding. Registered in Scotland, the private company has centres based throughout the UK and India.

The whole project is about supporting the UK’s economy. The scheme helps entrepreneurs run better businesses, with the aim of facilitating economic growth.

Where is Entrepreneurial Spark located?

This social enterprise has proved a great success and has widened its remit in the UK with centres in Ayrshire, Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes and Newcastle.

Who can access the Entrepreneurial Spark programme?

Anyone can apply. They accept businesses at all stages and in all sectors, so you can be a single person start-up or an established business looking to grow. Both solo entrepreneurs and teams are welcome.

How can I access Entrepreneurial Spark?

There’s a two-step application process. You’ll need to register and then login to complete an application form. Someone from the Entrepreneurial Spark team will contact you within 15 days to let you know if you have been accepted onto the next stage of the application, in which case you will be invited for an interview.

At the interview, you’ll need to go over your business model, all aspects of your business and demonstrate that you know who your customers are. If you pass the interview phase, you’ll be offered a place.

You will only be able to access the programme from one of the designated hatchery locations. New businesses are accepted onto the programme twice per year in February and August.

How long can I stay on the programme?

The programme is designed for 6 months duration. You’ll be required to sign up to an occupancy agreement at one of the designated hatcheries. If suitable and deemed capable of further acceleration, you may be able to gain support for a further 12 months. So if you are a high impact start-up you could possibly gain from 18 months mentoring and support.

What does the programme involve?

You’ll be assigned an enabler. He or she will support and challenge you. This usually happens in a confidential space in your hatchery. You will find questions to be very robust and focussed to try and generate a new level of thought in you about your business. You will be required to set clear goals with definable outcomes. This is a highly challenging process and will require you to check you have thought about all aspects of your business and the ideas around it.

You will be required to step out of your comfort zone, but you’ll be in a friendly and creative environment. The team around you want you to succeed.

There are four different phases within the Entrepreneurial Spark model.

  1. Sprint – for early stage start-ups, this 3-month programme will focus on a specific outcome – either your business fails at low cost or you move onto the next phase.
  2. Enable – having passed through the ‘Sprint’ phase, over the next 3 months you’ll work further on your business model and develop the mindset of an entrepreneur.
  3. Grow – for businesses already generating revenue, but looking for growth. You’ll scope out and put in place everything you need to for your business to really grow.
  4. Scale – for businesses growing and looking for investment. You’ll be supported and mentored through all of the usual growth pain points and challenges to help you scale your business.

What is the cost?

None. It’s completely FREE. You’ll have access to computers, software, broadband, desks, phones and meeting rooms, as well as receiving mentoring and support without any cost to you and your business. Neither do Entrepreneurial Spark take any equity in your business (common in many start-up support schemes).

Can I get funding from Entrepreneurial Spark?

No. The project’s aim is to reduce your start-up costs and to get you and your business to a stage where you can pitch for investment. The scheme will help you to know your business inside out and teach you skills to pitch.

Do I have to commit to full-time?

Not necessarily. Entrepreneurial Spark will accept part-time businesses, but be prepared to work hard. The more you can engage with the support, the more likely you are to be successful.

Why Entrepreneurial Spark?

There are lots of great support companies out there, with many great London start-up consultants, so it’s really all about finding the one you feel fits you best. The connection you have with your support is important for your success, so you have to feel comfortable with what is on offer.

Entrepreneurial Spark are an established network and 88 per cent of the companies they have worked with are still trading today. That’s a pretty good record. They are the world’s largest free business accelerator, and they have a model that seems to be giving businesses what they need to succeed.

Think big, be brave and take the next step.