Thanks to this new initiative, entrepreneurs will gain access to hubs in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester and Belfast, and will have the opportunity to unite with fellow entrepreneurs, specially trained bank staff, and experienced business mentors.
The hubs will be physical workspaces for up to 80 entrepreneurs selected to join the programme through a competitive application process, with each hub hosting two intakes every year. At the end of the programme each hub will host a ‘graduation’ event bringing together entrepreneurs, investors and business advisors for mentoring and networking sessions, giving the opportunity to the graduating businesses to pitch to potential investors. Growth awards of up to £50,000 will also be launched across the country offering cash injections to businesses when they need it most.
Alison Rose, CEO of Commercial and Private Banking, commented: “This is a step-change in how RBS and NatWest support entrepreneurial talent in the UK. By opening up our premises and providing them with support and a far reaching network of contacts, we are backing the businesses of tomorrow and helping ambitious entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level. This is good for them, good for us and ultimately good for the UK economy. We have a trusted partner in Entrepreneurial Spark and together we can really make a difference to those businesses at the start of their journey.”
The hubs will be rolled out over the next two years, beginning with Birmingham early in 2015. NatWest and RBS will look to situate hubs in existing banks premises where possible.
The initiative is in partnership with Entrepreneurial Spark, a business accelerator for early stage and growing ventures from all sectors. Entrepreneurial Spark provides a community that is completely free for the entrepreneur and takes no equity in supported businesses.
Leah Hutcheon, founder of online appointment booking software Appointed, participated in the second intake of Entrepreneurial Spark alumni in Glasgow and recently raised £160k in angel funding. She commented on her experience: “Entrepreneurial Spark helped me to take my business from an idea to an investible, scalable and credible position. Without doubt, the input from Entrepreneurial Spark’s enablement and mentor teams helped me to secure angel investment that will allow me to take my business to the next level. For anyone considering applying, whether you have an idea or an exciting new business that is already going places I’d say go for it! You’ll never look back.”
Building on the Entrepreneurial Spark model which has already proved very successful in Scotland, applicants will be welcomed from any sector and do not need to be NatWest or RBS or Ulster Bank customers. Applications are being accepted now for the Birmingham programme and entrepreneurs in other cities can also register their interest online.
The new business accelerator hubs are just one part of the bank’s new entrepreneur strategy. RBS and NatWest will also host ongoing competitions and events to bring together investors, entrepreneurs, advisors and relationship managers.