Accelerator project sparks 230 jobs and £5m investment

Karen McCallion, left, and John Ferris, right, of Entrepreneurial Spark with Lynsey Cunningham of Ulster Bank and entrepreneur Jonathon Clarke who has participated in the accelerator programme in Belfast
Karen McCallion, left, and John Ferris, right, of Entrepreneurial Spark with Lynsey Cunningham of Ulster Bank and entrepreneur Jonathon Clarke who has participated in the accelerator programme in Belfast

More than 230 jobs have been created and £5.3 million secured in investment by businesses at the Ulster Bank-supported Entrepreneurial Spark Hub in the past year.

The Entrepreneurial Spark Impact Report, which showcases the scale of the effect that the world’s largest free business accelerator has had for entrepreneurs across the UK, details the success of the programme which provides support for start-up and scale-up businesses.

Belfast, which is host to one of 12 locations across the UK, recorded almost £12m in turnover for businesses based at the Hub, and over 110 businesses receiving support through the programme which provides mentoring, office space and business networking programmes to enable local entrepreneurs.

“This is a fantastic result that shows the strength of Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurial talent pool and the role Entrepreneurial Spark is playing in helping it realise its potential,” said Lynsey Cunningham, entrepreneur development manager at Ulster Bank.

“Every day I work with the exciting potential and people that we have to build and grow businesses of the future and impacts like these are really inspiring.

“As a bank we’re aiming to be the number one for customer service, trust and advocacy and to see the success of the Hub in its first year is a testament to how our partnership with Entrepreneurial Spark is making a practical difference and providing meaningful help for what matters.”

As part of its commitment to adapting to meet the needs of local entrepreneurs, the Hub is rolling out a new model to allow it to offer more specialised, bespoke support for businesses at all stages of their life cycle.

Karen McCallion, Belfast Enabler at Entrepreneurial Spark, commented on the report: “We’re aiming to create positive social change by building the people that build businesses. It is really rewarding to see the tangible impact that the Belfast Hub has had after just one year. It’s proof that our approach works and we’re excited about achieving even greater success with our next intake and new model.

“Collaboration and removing the stigma of failure are at the core of what we do – it’s not just building businesses, it’s contributing to a business environment where people really celebrate entrepreneurship.”

Jonathon Clarke, founder of Locate a Locum – an online platform for connecting pharmacists with employers across the UK – has been one of the businesses based as the Ulster Bank-backed hub

He said: ‘Starting out as an entrepreneur can be a lonely business - but the support of my enablers in Entrepreneurial Spark and people at Ulster Bank has helped connect me to a much wider network.”