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Entrepreneur Accelerator – growing businesses and thriving communities.

As a purpose led organisation, we champion potential, helping people, families and businesses to thrive. When it comes to entrepreneurship, we believe that too many people face barriers to becoming their own boss and starting the business they’ve always dreamed of.

Helping businesses to start-up and grow is hugely important in helping the communities around us to thrive and prosper. Growing businesses create jobs and a supply chain that has a wide-ranging knock-on effect across many sectors. As well as the resources to deliver their products or services, businesses need premises, heat, light, equipment, facilities for their employees, and professional support for accountancy and legal matters. Every business needs a variety of suppliers and services to help them, whether they need a sandwich at lunchtime or a made-to-order component.

We want to help build a world where everyone can access the skills, expertise and guidance they need to be a successful entrepreneur, regardless of their identity or background. That’s why we’re one of the UK’s largest lenders to businesses – with a dedicated £1 billion fund to provide loans to female-led businesses – and it’s why we’re very proud of our Entrepreneur Accelerator, which support and mentor start-up, scaleup businesses and Fintechs.

The drive to succeed

We caught up with Paula Orr, one of our Entrepreneurship Partner Managers. Based in Glasgow, Paula has been with us for several years. We asked her to talk about the Entrepreneur Accelerator, her role, and the benefit to the wider community that the initiative helps to deliver.

‘I started working in business banking with the bank about five years ago, I started my banking career 16 years ago with a competitor bank as a cashier and then moving into mortgage advice and moved here. What I didn't realise was just how many avenues banking can take you down and how far-reaching it can be, and all the different opportunities that come up. I genuinely didn’t ever think I would be working with entrepreneurs in this industry.

‘I've got people in my family who are self-employed, and I think you see a different side of people when they can’t just rely on that paycheck coming every month. They've got a bit more drive, they’ve got a bit more “oomph” in them and they have an ‘always on’ work ethic. And that's what I love to see. Our Entrepreneur Accelerator was developed in partnership with a social enterprise a number of years ago and was created to offer support to those wanting to go into business for themselves. After a successful initial period, the bank had huge ambition to do more and help more entrepreneurs, so we brought the offering in-house just over two years ago and set about scaling it to take to thousands of customers.

‘As an Entrepreneur Partner Manager, I look after our six national partners Dell, Propel by Deloitte, Equifax, Pinsent Mason, FreeAgent and Hiscox. They provide us with a money can’t buy offering for our entrepreneurs and provide vital insights and support to them. Our partners have expertise in the areas that the bank doesn’t, and this brings access to knowhow, supply chain and networks, and they also bring credibility to the programme. We have a wide variety of support propositions for our entrepreneurs, and my role sits across all of them.’

A small team with a big remit

Paula is part of a team of around 70 people working in 12 entrepreneur hubs across the UK, and together they helped deliver support to around 22,000 entrepreneurs in the last two years. As she explains, entrepreneurship has many different propositions to it and the programme covers all entrepreneurs from pre-start and start-up, up to scaling and venture.

‘Business Builder is our fully digital programme bringing entrepreneurial tools and techniques to life online for businesses developing new ideas. Another key part of the proposition is our online peer to peer community where businesses share, connect and do businesses. Our accelerator hubs are for businesses looking to scale and they focus on three areas; the environment, coaching and network connectivity. Our Next Level proposition works with high impact, high-growth potential businesses that are customers of the bank, and our Fintech accelerator works with emerging financial technology firms. All of our propositions are built on similar principles of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs take part in coaching, networking, and a variety of skills workshops to develop their businesses and cover every eventuality. We’re a small team but with a huge heart and huge ambition and a passion for our customers’.

At the heart of the community

Paula is proud to see her work have a positive impact. ‘We play a pivotal role in every community. People used to think of banks as just a place to pay in money, but it’s the heart of everything, your community and everything you do. It's where our customers find support. It's where they can find help, and from an entrepreneur’s point of view, it's where they can gain knowledge and support. More than ever, now is a critical time for supporting entrepreneurs as we’re seeing a surge in start-ups and we know that accelerators can play a vital role in the development of businesses and ecosystems.

‘In the last two years, we’ve worked with 22,000 entrepreneurs who have in turn created over 1,700 jobs in the community. The total turnover of all the businesses that we've worked on is over £200 million and they've raised over £100 million in investment between them. 30% of them are BAME led and 44% of them are female led.

‘Our programme is noted for significantly increasing business survival rates when compared to the standard in the wider market. And it just shows the amount of support and coaching that comes from our team and our partners. It really shows that if there’s wraparound care for entrepreneurs, they have a much better chance of surviving. And that's exactly what the bank is trying to do.

‘The bank has evolved into every kind of role in the community that you can think of. We look at social change, we work with charities and we’re piloting a climate change accelerator programme. Who would have thought that a bank would be doing that? We support right across the community, and I ‘m proud that we help in every single aspect. Alison Rose our CEO has made a huge statement about her vision for the bank by making us a truly purpose led organisation. I truly believe the work we do is a perfect example of this’.

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