Established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the business start-up accelerator aims to develop a new generation of businesses rooted in Loughborough that are resilient to future challenges.
The two-year programme is being delivered by LU Inc. (Loughborough University’s incubator) and is part-funded by £314,000 from a COVID-19 Recovery Fund created using Enterprise Zone Business Rates. Charnwood Borough Council is backing the programme, which was approved by the Leicester & Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Limited (LLEP).
It will equip early-stage business founders with the skills, knowledge, resources, and networks to rapidly test, validate, set up, and grow their businesses, with the aim of helping to replenish the local economy with new businesses post-pandemic.
On offer is one-to-one and group coaching, training and meet-ups, connections to other business support networks, workspace, and the chance to apply for funding towards a follow-on workspace on completion of the programme.
“It is crucial we take action to help rebuild our economy and foster resilience within a post-pandemic recovery”, said Professor Chris Rielly, Dean of the School of Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering and lead for the University’s Town Deal initiatives, when asked about the need for the programme.
“Through the project, and recently launched Careers & Enterprise Hub, we aim to equip individuals with new skills, enabling them to build new businesses which are ‘fit for the future’, agile, focused on emerging markets, and committed to scaleup and growth.
“We look forward to supporting early-stage new businesses emerging in the area, working with local partners to drive growth, employment opportunities, and regeneration.”
Aspiring entrepreneurs interested in finding out more or applying to be part of the business accelerator programme can do so by visiting the dedicated webpage.
Councillor Jonathan Morgan, Leader of Charnwood Borough Council, said: “We are delighted to support a programme that will help a number of emerging businesses become stronger and more resilient for the future.
“One of our top priorities is to create a thriving economy and develop the borough’s reputation for growth and innovation.”
Andy Reed OBE, Deputy Chair of the LLEP Board, added: “We are pleased to support the project, as it fits with our longer-term Economic Growth Strategy perfectly.
“By helping highly skilled people who have lost their jobs, and talented University leavers, who have limited employment opportunities following the COVID-19 pandemic, the project presents a unique opportunity to drive recovery of our economy through the development of a new generation of sustainable businesses with the potential to establish, grow and scale quickly.”
A number of local entrepreneurs are already benefiting from LU Inc’s business start-up support.
Illustrator duo, Lauren Jefferis and Olivia Collins, are co-founders of Pickle Illustration, a design agency started in Loughborough which specialises in visual storytelling and collaborative community art engagement projects.
The pair said: “We’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of support we’ve been given including through roundtable workshops and one-to-one mentoring and coaching. We’re always being tested and pushed, and it helps us to be more ambitious.”
Louise Lennon, who chose to launch workplace fairness consultancy The People Deal after a nearly 20-year career in HR, has also had help to build her business.
She explained: “When you start your own business, you don’t have all the skills and experience that would be helpful, and when you’re working from home, it’s easy to lose focus. Being in the right workplace can mean you’re more productive and you can seek help when you get stuck, and when you spend time with other people that are experiencing the same journey, you can learn from their knowledge and expertise.”
Louise has now grown her team to five, earned recognition as a Top 50 Contributor at a CIPD Hackathon, and is an Innovation in Education and Training finalist in the LeicestershireLive Awards in September.