Pro­gramme giv­ing new busi­nesses the best pos­si­ble en­vi­ron­ment to help them pros per

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Small Business Can - By Lynsey Cun­ning­ham, Ul­ster Bank Lynsey Cun­ning­ham is en­tre­pre­neur­ial devel­op­ment man­ager at Ul­ster Bank

Ac­tions speak louder than words. Walk the walk, don’t talk the talk. There are plenty of phrases that place more of a value on ‘do­ing’ than ‘say­ing’. But while there’s a real value in be­ing able to ‘go do’, it’s im­por­tant that busi­nesses don’t get tongue-tied.

In a world of ‘fake news’, un­der­stand­ing whether peo­ple mean what they say, and how they choose to de­scribe things to you, can tell you a lot about the val­ues they hold. In early stage en­trepreneur­ship, where the val­ues and vision of the peo­ple be­hind busi­nesses mat­ter as much as their ideas, this is re­ally im­por­tant.

At En­tre­pre­neur­ial Spark in Belfast, when we’re wel­com­ing new en­trepreneurs into our pro­gramme, it’s rel­a­tively easy to spot those who have the tenac­ity and grit to re­ally grow a busi­ness from the way that they talk about their ideas — en­trepreneurs like Niall from Dou­blejump and Chris­tine from Sen­ergy, have these traits in abun­dance. The lan­guage that they use to de­scribe their busi­ness gives you a lot of re­ally clear in­di­ca­tors about what they stand for and how they in­tend to de­velop their plans. And teach­ing them how to re­fine how they talk about their busi­ness to peo­ple out­side their in­dus­try is at the core of what we do. The 60-se­cond pitch that we get them to pol­ish isn’t a sales tech­nique — in part, it’s a tool to help them un­der­stand their own busi­ness in a sim­ple and fun­da­men­tal way that is ben­e­fi­cial to many dis­ci­plines, not just com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

So when we host pitch­ing com­pe­ti­tions, as we did dur­ing our re­cent En­trepreneur­ing Awards, which saw £24,000 dis­trib­uted in prizes to win­ners in­clud­ing Niall and Chris­tine, we’re not just re­ward­ing peo­ple for pre­sent­ing well — we’re re­ward­ing the work that’s gone into dis­till­ing down their mar­ket anal­y­sis and un­der­stand­ing of how what they do meets a real need.

And just as we challenge our en­trepreneurs to keep things fresh and in­no­va­tive, we also have to prac­tice what we preach — and that’s why, as we evolve and adapt our model to bet­ter meet the needs of the en­tre­pre­neur­ial com­mu­nity in North­ern Ire­land, our ‘ hatch­ery’ is be­com­ing a ‘ hub’. It will mean more peo­ple, sharper fo­cus and greater stream­ing of the ideas that come through the doors so that they get the right level of sup­port at the right time.

Be­cause words are im­por­tant, we’ve been very de­lib­er­ate about what we call our­selves, and how we treat our en­trepreneurs. A ‘ hatch­ery’ is some­where that is com­fort­able — but we want our space to be in­no­va­tive and chal­leng­ing to new peo­ple to do in­ter­est­ing and cre­ative things in busi­ness.

By call­ing it a hub, we’re recog­nis­ing the col­lab­o­ra­tive en­vi­ron­ment that we’re fos­ter­ing, as well as our de­sire to make a mark on the ecosys­tem for lo­cal en­trepreneurs — invit­ing the best peo­ple, agen­cies and sup­port­ers of busi­ness to come in and talk to our peo­ple about how they can ar­tic­u­late their busi­ness ideas.

En­ter­preneurial Spark teaches peo­ple to de­liver a 60-se­cond pitch as a way of un­der­stand­ing their busi­ness bet­ter

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