The first ‘Chiclets’ joining the UK’s first free virtual business accelerator hub are meeting face to face in Inverness to begin their training journey.
More than 40 start-ups from across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland are spending two days at ‘Bootcamp’ to be put through their paces and begin the Entrepreneurial Spark journey – a programme which has already supported 660 companies helping them raise more than £45 million in investment and create more than 1,800 jobs.
Over the course of two days at Inverness’ Kingsmills Hotel, the Chiclets will meet key partners, the other entrepreneurs joining this first intake and take part in workshops focused on pitching, business model development and customer and market analysis.
The unique project is powered by Royal Bank of Scotland and supported by Highlands and Island Enterprise (HIE), the Scottish Government and Harper Macleod.
In the past it has not been practical to run Entrepreneurial Spark in the Highlands and Islands due to geographical challenges, as groups of participants need to work together. Now however, with massive improvements in the region’s digital connectivity and use of technology, HIE believes it can be provided in virtual form.
Donna Chisholm, HIE Regional Head of Sectors, Innovation and Programmes, said: “The Highlands and Islands region is built upon ambitious entrepreneurs and a virtual accelerator will unlock more of this potential. It’s great to see so many start-ups and young businesses from across the region taking part in this week’s Bootcamp. It means that more start-ups will get access to specialist knowledge and assistance no matter where they are based. HIE is delighted to support the programme and help our entrepreneurs and we look forward to them accelerateing their business growth in their business.”
Follow-up activity for the Chiclets will be carried out in this way following Bootcamp, with each entrepreneur assigned an Enabler who will work with them on a fortnightly basis to help them grow and develop their business.
Malcolm Buchanan, chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Scottish board, said: "Bootcamp is an exciting and key part of the Entrepreneurial Spark experience and this, the beginning of the first virtual accelerator, is especially important.
“Entrepreneurialism and entrepreneurship is key to the future success of business in Scotland and introducing services such as this which are not only free, but overcome the challenges of infrastructure and geography are extremely important in helping enterprise grow.
“Here at the Royal Bank of Scotland we are keen to help give new start-ups all the support they need to turn their idea into a reality. We are delighted to be working with Entrepreneurial Spark Harper Macleod and HIE in bringing this to life.”
Lucy-Rose Walker, Chief Entrepreneuring Officer (CEO) at Entrepreneurial Spark, said: “Central to the vision for Entrepreneurial Spark Powered by Royal Bank of Scotland is to enable positive social change through the action of Entrepreneuring. We do that currently via our twelve physical UK locations, however we’re constantly looking at ways in which we can enable people and businesses in all regions and geographies. We’re very excited at the level of interest in this pilot and look forward to learning from the results.
Pixel Spirits is one of the first batch of chiclets. The gin distillery, which is run by Craig Innes and his wife Noru, is based in Fort William.
He said: “Pixel is something my wife and I developed as a side project to our hotel business. Our location makes us an ideal holiday and hotel destination but it can make it a challenge for Pixel. That is why a virtual accelerator like Entrepreneurial Spark is so important for our development.”