I have never visited Northern Ireland but have been inspired this week by some of the great work that is going on supporting start up businesses. I have been lucky enough to being doing some research for a local authority on best practice to achieve high start up and low failure rates and was directed to look at Belfast.
The dimensions of good practice in business support must include:
- Supporting a culture of entrepreneurship – developing a visible presence – online and physically, local champions, developing multi-sector business growth based partnerships, working with education and training providers
- Training & information – utilising what is already available and co-ordinating it effectively, maximising online access, face to face groups and the 1:1 offer, recognising some groups may need different help e.g. social enterprises, women
- Finance – access to finance is key and may include a range of grants and loans of finances, terms, signposting, knowledge of finance, presentation skills in seeking finance – working with both supply (banks etc) and demand side (business)
- Space – business need office or work space, virtual and real incubators can have a supporting role and focus on a specific sector
Belfast City Council have an excellent online portal for advice and support http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/business/businessinformation/startabusiness.aspx
They offer a range of approaches including mentoring, workshops, visits, business plan development and networking events. It feels like there is something for everyone!
They have specific approaches for craft and food, high growth businesses and with Undergraduates aiming to become entrepreneurs. The website has a great case study of Lily Pink Bakery and how her business has grown from a hobby with support of the Market Start Up programme.
In the city centre, they have the City Business Hub open 5 days a week as a drop in point and also offering hot desking, advice and conference and meeting accommodation alongside a workshop programme.
Signposting to finance and business plan development is a part of the advice and information package.
It feels like such a “can do” and “business friendly” approach – I’m off to find a flight!
Have a great week!