As part of Business News Wales’ ongoing series of interviews we had the opportunity to speak to Lucy-Rose Walker, CEO of Entrepreneurial Spark.
Entrepreneurial Spark works in collaboration with very special mentors, entrepreneurs and professional services businesses. From lawyers to accountants, from manufacturers to investors, they all add great real-time, real-life value to our entrepreneurs. This helps them break down barriers quicker, while joining up the dots in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Tell us about your business
Entrepreneurial Spark is a business accelerator, in fact the world’s biggest and we believe, the best. We are Powered by NatWest and have KPMG, Dell EMC and Pinsent Masons as partners.
Our mission is to encourage ‘entrepreneuring’ through the development of the right mindsets and behaviours. And we do what it says on that tin. We don’t help businesses grow, we build people who build businesses.
We have 12 hubs, which we call Hatcheries, across the UK. Our thirteenth will open next year in London. Cardiff is one of our newest, it opened in 1 Central Square, in the heart of the city this year and is already full of Entrepreneurs of all ages and from all backgrounds.
To date, across the UK the 660 ‘Chiclets’ who have been through our programme have turned over £85 million and 88% of them are still in business.
What are your plans for the next five years and where do you see your opportunities?
We normally have 70 businesses (Chiclets) in each Hatchery but London will have considerably more, so it’s a big flag in the sand for us next year.
In five years 400+ entrepreneurs will have been accelerated through the Cardiff Hatchery, helping develop growth and investment in Wales.
We want to remove the barriers to Entrepreneurship wherever we find them. We want to truly be the champion of UK Entrepreneurs, helping them grow the right mindset wherever they are.
We recognise that not everyone can come to a Hatchery so we are addressing that by developing virtual and remote offerings to end users.
We’ve also got exciting plans in terms of creating a robust programme for businesses in that next stage of growth, the ones who are ready to scale up.
What are the challenges
It’s interesting because most businessmen or investors would say that right now is a very uncertain time. But we believe that for entrepreneurs the challenges are all internal. Developing the right mindset, staying focused, creating pitches that sell yourself and your business are all things that can be learned.
Our challenge is more one of how we develop as a business giving our team the opportunity to co-create the future and take us towards our 2022 vision.
What do you think Cardiff’s strengths in business?
Cardiff is a capital city, which Brexit or not, gives it a certain cachet and relevance on the European and indeed, global stages. It also means that it can champion business in Wales as a whole.
Cardiff has everything a city needs to attract investment. Size, scale, well-run regeneration schemes, a thriving cultural and tourist offering.
Most importantly, as we have discovered, it has entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds with great ideas champing at the bit to learn and grow.
In what way is being a business accelerator different to a normal business?
As our entrepreneurs and alumni teach us all the time, we are entering a time when there is no such thing as a normal business.
I challenge my leadership team every day to make sure we are taking action, to make sure we are being disruptive and that we’re always having fun. We can’t have people who aren’t enjoying the journey, buy-in is crucial.
Living in a world where you are helping people accelerate means you also live by that mantra and therefore we work at warp speed, constantly challenging each other and our Chiclets. We are clear with each other that it’s OK to make mistakes as you can’t learn without doing that.
Post Brexit, what can Wales do to attract more inward investment?
In the Post-Brexit, President Trump world the markets are certainly very volatile. But we don’t believe that matters.
Every day people wake up with an idea or suddenly start scribbling a note that leads to creating a business. The opportunity for them to take the next step will always be there. It’s about the mindset.
Wales is as well-equipped as any country outside of the EU, it has a strong parliamentary voice. The Welsh politicians we have met believe in Entrepreneurship 100% and understand its growing, in fact unstoppable role in the modern business landscape.
Small industries are the big industries now so maybe Wales needs to act like an entrepreneur by acting with confidence and focusing on its strengths.