Dale Sidebottom, the Entrepreneur Development Manager at the Leeds Hatchery.
Nick Hill

Interview: Entrepreneurial Spark’s Dale Sidebottom on "creating success stories" in the region

Entrepreneurial Spark, which runs alongside partners NatWest and KPMG, is the world’s largest free business accelerator for startup businesses and has provided free support, mentoring, networking and office accommodation for over 650 businesses across the UK.

Entrepreneurs who join the programme receive a wide range of support and specialist knowledge from business leaders in order to help them develop and grow their startups.

Headquartered in Glasgow, the business accelerator also has bases in Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds.

As Yorkshire is never short of producing budding entrepreneurs and new business owners, Bdaily wanted to find out more about Entrepreneurial Spark’s startup hub in Leeds, also known as the ‘Hatchery.’

Therefore I recently spoke with Dale Sidebottom, the Entrepreneur Development Manager at the Leeds Hatchery.

Firstly, Dale explained that an entrepreneur or business owner applies to be part of Entrepreneurial Spark “via an online application, and then they will get invited for an interview with myself and the Entrepreneurial-Spark Team.”

For any startup second guessing about joining Entrepreneurial Spark, Dale assured me that “no specifications” are required before joining.

He said: “We deal with any sector and any stage business from pre-start to many years of trading history. However, due to space restriction, we cannot facilitate businesses with 8 plus Directors.”

As for the qualities Dale and his team look out for when reviewing applicants, he revealed:

“We look for an individual who is open to challenge and support, adaptable and open minded, ambitious with a sparkle in their eye and fire in their belly.”

I then went on to ask Dale that, once an entrepreneur or business owner gets accepted onto Entrepreneurial Spark, what does the programme involve?

“The initial 6-month programme is where we work with the individuals to develop faster growth and scale businesses,” he said.

But within this, there are several compulsory elements that everyone must abide by. Dale explained: “The compulsory elements are as follows; fortnightly meeting with their in house business enabler, attendance at a fortnightly event night on a Wednesday where we deliver subject matter experts, boot camp and an acceler8 event.

“Some of the other aspects of the programme include registration events for the businesses that include subjects such as IP, social media, marketing and HR; links into partners - Natwest, KPMG, EMC, partners corner where we run drop in clinics, £50K in cash over 2 award evenings and a total of 55 active mentors to support the businesses.”

So what is Dale’s role at Entrepreneurial Spark? “I sit within the bank’s Entrepreneurship Team,” he said. “I work externally with the Eco -system such as the LEP, Chamber, Universities to identify businesses we can support. I work with the bank’s internal teams to identify where we can support these businesses. I host events and run tours and also sit on some of the enablement meetings. I have written award nominations for some of the businesses to get recognition.”

As for the types of individuals and businesses Dale has dealt with in Leeds’ Entrepreneurial Spark, he said: “The average age of individuals we deal with is 34 and we have 50-50 split between male and female.

Dale also provided a list that featured several of the programme’s success stories:

  • Maiden Voyage - Won Investment and specialises in Women’s Travel
  • Do You Punctuate - Challenging the Greetings Cards Markets and has had huge traction
  • Desi High Street - First Ethnic Goods E-Commerce Platform
  • Jig Talk - Blind Dating App
  • Krow - Bar Tender order app

Looking to the future, Dale revealed that Entrepreneurial Spark “will have 13 sites by 2017, however we may look to invest more but the priority would be to ensure that we continue creating success stories.”

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