Fashion entrepreneurs can from this week take part in a new programme to support start-ups, which will see former NatWest bank branches transformed into ‘business accelerator hubs’.
The scheme, launched this week, is an extension of the Entrepreneurial Spark programme, which has supported the setting up of several new fashion businesses in Scotland. As part of this, mentoring hubs were introduced in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Ayrshire in conjunction with RBS.
Entrepreneurial Spark has now teamed up with NatWest to rollout the programme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the first hub set to open in Birmingham early next year. Once it is fully in place, business hubs will be located in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester and Belfast.
Start-up businesses are now able to apply to be part of the initiative. Successful applicants will be granted free space in the new hubs for up to 18 months, backed up with business mentoring and support as they develop their concepts, with an opportunity to pitch their businesses to potential investors.
One of the businesses to go through the programme in Scotland, boxer short brand Dick Winters, has since been signed up by House of Fraser, which will begin selling the underwear online and in three of its department stores from October.
Dick Winters co-founders Claire Henderson and Emma Neilson were accepted into the programme last year and spent five months in the hub in Glasgow, leaving in December. In June they signed the deal with House of Fraser, which will see their products on the shelves in its Oxford Street store, in Glasgow and at the Lakeside shopping centre.
Henderson said: “It’s the kind of opportunity that money can’t buy; it was a great environment to be in with lots of like-minded people. We got great mentoring right from the get-go at a crucial time for us and it gave us all the right experience for future pitches.”
Entrepreneurial Spark chief executive Jim Duffy said: “Our work in Scotland has had a positive impact on the huge upsurge in the number of new business incorporations, and better still those who go through our programmes have an 80% survival rate, which is way above average.”