Innovation Birmingham Campus-based Startup Direct is calling on West Midlands business people to join its family of mentors, following strong demand from entrepreneurs since its launch in the region this summer. The founding partner of the Government’s Start Up Loans scheme is on track to lend half a million pounds to West Midlands based start-up businesses by Christmas.
An initial pot of £1million was designated to fund around 200 new start-up businesses in the West Midlands during the 12 months from July 2014. Sixty-eight new start-up companies have already received £408,000 in funding and between them have created over 130 new jobs in the region, boosting the local economy and helping enhance its reputation as a start-up hotspot.
In response to the strong take up, Startup Direct is now looking to grow its community of business mentors and is calling for local business people to put their expertise to good use by helping guide new start-ups during their crucial first year. Anyone from business owners to all round professionals can be a business mentor and training is provided.
“It takes more than money alone to help start-ups succeed and we know that to give every business the best chance, they also need tailored mentoring and support”, said James Pattison, CEO of Startup Direct, which matches every new entrepreneur with a mentor. “This is a fantastic opportunity for local people with knowledge, experience and a passion for business to help those who are just starting out on their journey, while at the same time developing their own coaching skills and giving something back in a structured way.”
Volunteer mentors are a vital part of the support provided to entrepreneurs at this pivotal stage in their start up journey. They are required to give a minimum of just 15 hours of their time over the course of one year, offering general guidance and support as well as acting as a ‘sounding board’ on specific hurdles and stumbling blocks. Mentors receive formal mentor training and the opportunity to hone their skills, expand their own networks and gain valuable experience which can often lead to Non Executive Director roles.
Businesswoman Vikki Leffman became a mentor for Startup Direct earlier this year and has been working with entrepreneur Sharnette Jackson, who runs a mobile catering business in Birmingham city centre. Vikki has enjoyed a successful career in business, particularly in the food and catering sector, having run two restaurants and worked as a consultant advising restaurants and clubs.
Sharnette launched her first mobile catering van two months ago and Vikki’s help has been invaluable to her, particularly in areas such as product pricing. They speak every ten days or so over the phone or by text message and chat through any aspects of the business where Sharnette needs support.
“Sharnette has faced her share of obstacles in setting up her business, as does any entrepreneur, and she has been very resourceful in overcoming them. I’ve been able to guide Sharnette in prioritising her workload as well as encouraging her not to give up and congratulating her when things have gone well!” said Vikki. “Being a business mentor is also about growing my own network. I attend training days and business events where I meet a wide spectrum of people who I wouldn’t otherwise have come across. This is incredibly rewarding and has enabled me to continue my own professional development, while at the same time supporting a new generation of entrepreneurs.”
Based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus, Startup Direct targets talented individuals who wish to start a business in any sector but lack the capital and often the experience to make it happen. A founding partner of the Government Start Up Loans scheme, it offers loans of up to £15,000 at low interest rates (6.2% APR) over 1 – 5 years. As well as their own business mentor, entrepreneurs also have access to workshops and networking events and a business helpline.
To find out more about being a business mentor, visit www.startupdirect.org or call 0203 126 4957.