Social enterprise to get former armed forces into business opens Newcastle base
A social enterprise which helps former armed forces personnel to set up in business is expanding for the first time outside of London - with a Newcastle base.
X-Forces is responding to high demand in the North East from veterans who are raring to go with entrepreneurial ideas - and it has major cash support.
The organisation will be based out of the Beacon business centre on Newcastle’s Westgate Road, and has already held its first expert workshop for forces-leavers, veterans, reservists and their spouses.
The day-long workshop, provided advice on how to take those all-important first steps into entrepreneurship.
The free support session, attended by 14 veterans, was designed to offer a fast-track to business success via bespoke mentoring, planning and financial assistance.
Nationally, the organisation - launched last year by Lord Young and backed by partners including Barclays, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and CISCO - is the UK’s only provider of complete business support for the military community.
X-Forces’ North East venture has already won support from Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Conservative 2015 General Election candidate for Berwick, Byker Community Trust, and Armed Forces & Veterans Estates.
Ren Kapur, X-Forces founder and chief executive, said she hopes to repeat the success of the London hub, where uptake has been “rapid”, with more than £1m in start-up loans issued to 80 businesses and a dozen new registrations a day.
She added: “The North East was a natural choice for our first regional presence, given the strong number of former and serving armed forces personnel.
“We have received fantastic backing from Anne-Marie Treveylan, the Armed Forces & Veterans Estates, as well as Byker Community Trust.
“We are looking forward to extending our reach to prospective business-owners from our new hub at The Beacon over the coming months.”
The Beacon is the first in a number of planned regional bases as part of the long-term strategy of X-Forces to allow for greater one-to-one contact with clients and collaboration with associate services.
The Beacon’s unique variety of flexible units and facilities have proved a big attraction to new and established firms and entrepreneurs seeking a high-profile base backed by expert support.
A wide range of companies now operate from the flagship Westgate Road centre, benefiting from workshops to pay-as-you-go portals.
The centre also boasts a variety of conference facilities – including the 400-capacity Skylight Suite – and a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen which can be hired for training purposes.
Funded and managed by two charities, Centre West and Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle (STAN), it has been open almost two years and boasts a 95% occupancy rate.
Andrew Watts, executive director of ‘changing places, changing lives’ charity Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle, believes it is the venue’s unusual blend of community and business which makes it the perfect base for X-Forces.
He said: “X-Forces is a very exciting and important enterprise that provides a tremendous service to Britain’s armed forces community.
“Likewise, The Beacon is committed to working with community organisations to the benefit of all, and so we share a mutual desire to support those around us.
“As we are also an enterprise hub for thriving and fledgling businesses, we have a range of facilities and services that can support those taking their first entrepreneurial steps.
“I am looking forward to X-Forces making a very positive impact on former military personnel living in the North East with the support of our cutting-edge business centre.”
Ammar Mirza, chairman and founder of Newcastle-based Asian Business Connexions (ABC), which worked to bring X-Forces to the North East, said: “I was keen that this service started in the region and especially from The Beacon, as it is an incredible place to do business with great facilities.
“I was particularly impressed with the incredible passion, commitment and expertise that the X-Forces team have in place to support new businesses and feel that The Beacon is the ideal place in delivering these activities.
“ABC is also proud of being located in, and working with, The Beacon to connect, support and promote the whole community, and it will continue to help foster positive relationships.”
For more information on X-Forces email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.x-forces.com