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ust in case anyone had any doubts about the importance of the new Entrepreneurial Spark hub in Brighton, they would immediately have been cast aside at the launch event in September. An accurate barometer of how influential an initiative is perceived to be is the guest list, or more importantly, who actually attends. So when the Chairman, CEO and assorted board members from RBS, the Chairman of KPMG, the leader of the council and a host of local business leaders gather together, you can be sure it is a special event. Jim Duffy, Founder of Entrepreneurial Spark, said: “We are delighted to be working with NatWest and KPMG to launch ten new Hatcheries across the UK over the coming two years. Starting and scaling a business

can be daunting, so we support budding entrepreneurs every step of the way in our Hatcheries, from hands-on training at our #GoDoBootcamps and one-to-one enablement to providing them with free desk space and IT.” The highlight of the launch was an elevator speech contest by five of the new ‘chiclets’: Dan Webb (Goodmoney CIC), Ruth Anslow (hiSbe), Steve Knight (Knightsbridge Recruitment), Hassan Rajwani (Double Six) and Aadam Patel (Halal Crackers). The prize of a £1000 investment was awarded to 14-yearold Aadam Patel by the new RBS chairman, Sir Howard Davies. Aadam’s idea is to supply

quality and quirky crackers, cards and wrap for all Islamic occasions. PBM took the opportunity to talk to Alison Rose of RBS and Simon Collins of KPMG about their support of Entrepreneurial Spark.

Alison Rose RBS CEO of Commercial, Corporate and Private Banking Why did NatWest partner with Entrepreneurial Spark (ES)? “We’ve been working with ES in Scotland for the last 2-3 years and they are running a very unique program in terms of the coaching and training they give to entrepreneurs. It makes a real difference. I met Jim Duffy about 15 months ago and asked him, ‘Why aren’t we doing that everywhere else?’ So Jim and I discussed how we could roll it out to roll it out to launch Entrepreneurial Spark business accelerator hubs everywhere. We knew there was a need and we have identified 13 centres in the UK which we think will benefit from ES.”

As the Head of Commercial, do you see some of these chiclets becoming your major clients in the future? “I really hope so, but I specifically went into this with the approach that we’re not going to charge, we’re not going to take equity, it has to be free, and you don’t even have to be a customer. If these businesses survive, then in two, three or four years they could be fantastic customers and we’ll be able to help them on to the next stage. Hopefully, they’ll remember it was us who helped them. “I was very clear when I went to the Board with the investment idea that we shouldn’t ask for equity in these businesses. We’re doing this because we want to support business. Doing the right thing for customers is how you build trust.”

Is it quite an unusual thing for a bank to get involved in companies that are so small? “Yes, it is, because a lot of these companies are not finance-ready. They don’t have a cash flow, they’re not generating profits and they can’t support debt. It’s more that we’re getting them investor-ready, so they’re not the type of companies we would normally be able to support. “One of the great things is that our bankers can come in and help them write a business plan and help them understand P&L and cash flow. The biggest pitfall for entrepreneurs is that they have a great idea, but they run out of cash - and that’s where you see high failure rates.” “The other great thing is we can open up our network. In Birmingham, there was a fantastic chap who said, ‘I’ve got this great product, but I really want to get a buyer at John Lewis.’ They are our corporate client, so we could make the introduction.” “Start-up failure rates are far too high. We have 80% survival rates in the hubs in Scotland because it is such a tough program we put them through. The chiclets have an enabler to challenge, support and mentor and to help them take their ideas forward.” “I’m putting my bankers through the Entrepreneurial Development Academy, so they really understand what businesses go through. It’s education for both sides.”

How long will RBS be investing in ES? “It’s ongoing, there’s no full stop. This is a long-term commitment to this and we have already allocated £25 to £30 million over five years. We’re committed to doing this. “It’s something I feel really passionate about, which is why I got behind it. But it’s for the bank as a whole. It’s just one of the things I picked up that I want to sponsor because I think it makes a real difference. And I think for us as a bank, this is how we can add value back into the business community.”


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The widest-read business publication in the South East. Covering International Trade, Legal Issues, Accountancy, Wealth Management, Business...


The widest-read business publication in the South East. Covering International Trade, Legal Issues, Accountancy, Wealth Management, Business...