When the first round of entrepreneurs left the NatWest and Entrepreneurial Spark hatchery in January, it was a truly bittersweet moment for all of us who have been working so closely with them. Although sad to see them go, we were watching their businesses grow and witnessing their amazing development as entrepreneurs.

This moment was also an opportunity to reflect back on everything that has been achieved in these 18 months. Together, NatWest and Entrepreneurial Spark, along with our other partners – KPMG, Dell EMC and Pinsent Masons - have been able to achieve some fantastic results.

In August 2015, NatWest opened the doors of its Preston Park office to 80 entrepreneurs. Of this original group, 12 stayed on for an additional 12 months following the completion of the core six month programme. Over this past year and half we’ve helped over 260 businesses in Sussex to grow and scale and created more than 200 jobs through our partnership with Brighton and Sussex University apprenticeship and intern programmes.

Through our relationship with valued mentors and investors, our businesses were able to raise over £5m in investment and their total turnover increased to around £10m.

We continue to be very proud supporters of not only start up businesses but also those who are growing and scaling and are looking for investment and support in different ways. To date we have given away over £100,000 worth of prize money to those who have shown real engagement and growth in their businesses.

The Entrepreneurial Spark powered by NatWest programme is designed to assist not only early stage and start up businesses but also those who have been in business for a few years and need help with getting to that next stage of growth and investment.

We are looking forward to welcoming another 40 businesses into the hatchery this month and hope to follow in the success of those who have left our programme after 18 months of support.