Tag: Ad:venture

Business Woman Swaps Smart Suits For Smartphone

After a successful career as a Sales Director, travelling the world and enjoying a healthy package, a desire to try new things and push her personal boundaries led Michelle Cowan to review her priorities.

Putting her passport to one side, Michelle took the opportunity to spend time with friends, family and associates before deciding what to do next.

It was during these conversations she recognised that there were three simple things stopping smaller organisations and start-ups from using social media for business; time, the cost of hiring an agency and creativity.

Eighteen months later, with a business partner and thanks to lots of hard work, Michelle launched My SMART App, a downloadable app that based on a user’s preferences can create, schedule and post content to Twitter and Facebook business pages.

Available from Google and Apple App Stores, the product uses content that is based on days of the week, awareness days, weeks, months and key UK events making it ideal for businesses that target a consumer facing audience.

Furthermore, the device allows the user to customise the pre-prepared posts, to add personality and use the correct tone of voice for the business, while also accepting unique content too, supporting smaller organisations as they build their brand and presence online.

Michelle comments: “If someone had told me two years ago that I would be running my own organisation and that it would solve a problem and meet with the challenges that are faced by other small businesses I would have thought they were crackers!

“As it stands, that’s exactly what has happened. I’ve had a lot of help along the way, not least from business support services such as AD:VENTURE, and can see that taking the time to attend workshops, sessions and networking has all been worth it. Knowing that we have a product that is available for download is really exciting!”

The My SMART App is available for download with a 60-day free trial and then a monthly cost of just £8.49. For further details please visit www.mysmartapp.co.uk

Funding boost for Wakefield tech company helps turn a concept into reality

What started out as a first-year university project for students at Backstage Academy (Production Park) in Wakefield, has transformed into a commercial spin-out, Interactive Immersive Classroom Ltd. as a partnership with Enquire Learning Trust and Production Park.

Using £11,000 in match-funded grants from AD:VENTURE, the European Regional Development funded programme of practical and financial support for young businesses in the Leeds City Region, the start-up purchased projectors that would allow for the system to be perfectly optimised and integrated in initial feasibility testing.

Turning the concept of immersive spaces within learning environments into a reality, in its initial precommercial phase, the business created and installed three immersive classrooms in schools in Grimsby, Stockton-on-Tees and Manchester.

Using integrated advanced technologies from the Live Events industry, Interactive Immersive Classroom has installed projectors within each school to deliver a 360-degree socially immersive experience.

An evolution of virtual reality technology, these immersive classrooms improve the social engagement and comprehension among pupils and provide a suite of new tools and content sources to allow flexibility in teaching practice.

Working with pedagogical curriculum consultants and with the integration of streaming and casting tools means that a world of internet media and content can now be mapped into the room for a dynamic and engaging learning environment.

Project Manager for Interactive Immersive Classroom, Andy Delmaine, comments: “Children are growing up surrounded by technology, they know no different. Creating an environment where they are able to immerse themselves into a world that is built around them makes the learning experience all the more engaging.

L-R James Whitaker, Andy Delmaine and Charlie Cooper. Image by Northern Exposure

“We would like to thank AD:VENTURE for the support and encouragement they have given us. Using the funds to complete the viability tests meant that we could show the product as an installation and all the benefits it can deliver in support of our initial installations in partnership with ELT. The company is now exploring other sectors that could benefit from the technology including museums, retail, emergency services and other training providers.

Andy comments: “We are looking to extend our relationship with other schools that want to try new things and embrace innovative ways of teaching. We are now using these installations as case reference as we commercialise the system and to sell it to other institutions that could benefit from immersive content on their walls.”

Tom Stannard, Wakefield Council’s Corporate Director for Regeneration and Economic Growth, comments: “We are delighted that start-up businesses in Wakefield are developing market-leading digital technologies. This is a real success story and I’m encouraged to hear that the business is now working with the wider city region to transfer their knowledge and technology.

“Taking a concept that was developed from a university project and turning that into a viable business model that has secured commissions is real testament to the collaboration and commitment of all involved; Interactive Immersive Classroom, Backstage Academy, Production Park, Enquire Learning Trust and AD:VENTURE.”

For further details about the visual technologies and installations that can be delivered by Interactive Immersive Classroom please visit http://immersiveclassroom.one/ or for details about AD:VENTURE and the practical and funding support on offer please visit www.ad-venture.org.uk

Success for small businesses in Yorkshire in Leeds Beckett awards

A Leeds Beckett University student with a therapeutic horticulture social enterprise, an e-learning training business and an all-female multimedia production company are among the winning entries in the 2019 Business Advantage Awards.

Five early-stage businesses scooped the awards – run by Leeds Beckett University in partnership with solicitors Lupton Fawcett, WGN Accountants and Yorkshire Bank – with each of them receiving £5,000 worth of legal support and mentoring. £1,000 of accountancy advice and 36 months’ free business banking.

The awards were presented on 25th March at the Innovation Network event in Leeds. These quarterly events are held at each of the University Businesses Centres in Leeds, Halifax and Wakefield and bring together start-up and early stage businesses to explore key themes and make connections.

Candle Digital, set up by Andy Jack and Mark Langdale, were delighted to be rewarded with a prize just 2 years after starting up. Working with training providers and coaching professionals Candle Digital provides expertise to help create digital training products online. The business has recently taken office space in the Leeds Beckett University Business Centre in Halifax.

Andy Jack, Candle Digital said; “We’re thrilled to have been given this opportunity, the awards, expertise and support will make a real impact on our business and help us take the next step in our growth.” 

Other winners included Krishna Patel owner of Dilishque, a manufacturer of authentic curry paste pots, Sophie Mei Lan Hale from Evoke Media Group, a film and media production company, Lemonbalm a therapeutic horticulture social enterprise run by student Isabel Swift and Binary Forge Ltd, a new software consultancy business specialising in Internet of Things devices recently set up by Glenn Pugh and Matthew Roberts.

The Business Advantage Awards began in 2015 and are open to students and graduates of Leeds Beckett (within five years of graduation), clients of the University’s Business Centres in Leeds, Wakefield and Halifax and businesses receiving support from AD:VENTURE – a European, ERDF funded programme which helps early stage businesses in the Leeds City Region to grow.

Simon Baldwin, Head of Research & Enterprise at Leeds Beckett University said ‘We are delighted to work again with our partners Lupton Fawcett, WGN and Yorkshire Bank on our annual Business Advantage Awards which have now provided invaluable support to over 25 early stage businesses in the last 4 years. The number and standard of entries continues to grow each year and we look forward to working with this years cohort’

Pitch with Confidence, a story of Human Spirit

When people discuss business support programmes the hot topic is usually grant funding and finance. Well, we have some news for you. The experience of start-ups who have accessed business support products show we shouldn’t underestimate the value and positive impact that the practical services delivered by professionals can have at those crucial stages in the growth journey.

Helen Nothard had come to a crossroads in her professional journey. With an 18-year career and as a Chartered Fellow in HR and having been offered a promotion that would see her travel the world, she realised that despite the benefits package, salary and status, she wanted to take the step and become her own boss and so launched Human Spirit Ltd.

Helen is an expert in her industry and had enjoyed a successful career, but actually launching a business was a daunting task and Helen hadn’t considered all of the additional processes, procedures and skills she would need to know.

Helen says: “I’d worked for someone else for 20 years and just didn’t have a clue about the things I needed to consider outside of my role. It wasn’t just about being the best at what I was offering my clients, it was about understanding how to register a company, knowing what paperwork needed filing and when!”

That was when Helen met AD:VENTURE advisor, Alan Thompson, who was able to explain about the programme and the huge range of support that it could offer to start-ups and scale-ups. 

Helen adds: “I worked with Alan to look at my business plan and he was very good at getting me to hone my message. Suddenly it made sense to focus on one thing rather than trying so hard to be all things to all people, a trap that I now realise lots of start-ups fall into.”

She had a strong network around her that could give her the expert advice she needed, and Helen also found that she could call upon her advisors to give her the additional confidence she needed when looking to pitch for larger contracts.

Helen comments: “Although I had previously dismissed tenders, Alan had real confidence in me and made me look at these opportunities slightly differently. There was a voice in my head saying ‘I can’t do this’ but we worked together to change that mindset and decided that I would look at this as a live practice and so that’s what I did.”

The outcome? Not only did Helen submit her tender but was invited to present and subsequently won the contract with a leading public sector organisation. Well done Helen!!!

She continues: “It I hadn’t had the support from AD:VENTURE I wouldn’t have had the courage to go for a tender. It’s not about my self-belief or knowing that I can deliver for my customers, it’s about taking steps that are very much outside of my comfort zone.

“Having a business can be isolating, especially when you’re used to working for big corporations, but with the support from AD:VENTURE I’ve had access to professional training sessions, advisors and a network of trusted partners, I can’t recommend the programme enough!”

So when you are launching a business, don’t dismiss the value of programmes like AD:VENTURE – Whether it’s accessing networks, pitching your product, having that honest, experienced critical friend, finding those crucial connections or understanding how to plan for growth, there is lots of help and support in addition to funding and finance.

£6000 of Scale-Up support from Leeds Beckett University

Workspace offer for NEW AD:VENTURE clients at Leeds Beckett University Business Centre’s

Free office facilities & a chance to win over £6,000 of business support

Leeds Beckett University is offering businesses the chance to kick start their growth plans in 2019 with a package of free support worth over £6000!

Eligible businesses will be able to register their business address and enjoy access to hot desking space at one of the University Business Centres in Leeds, Wakefield and Halifax for 6 months completely free of charge as part of the fantastic Grow Your Business offer.

All businesses will also benefit from a one to one diagnostic to help tailor a package of support through the ERDF funded Ad:Venture programme which includes expert mentoring, masterclasses and consultancy. Each business can access a minimum of 12 hours support to help fuel growth, increase turnover, create jobs or develop new products and services.

Businesses can also enter the annual Business Advantage Awards where 5 businesses can win a year’s free accountancy and legal support and 3 years free business banking (worth in excess of £6,000) Free specialist support will be offered through corporate partners – Yorkshire Bank, Lupton Fawcett, WGN, Exa Networks, The Yorkshire Post, Calderdale Council, Wakefield Council and Wakefield College. The awards deadline is the 27th February 2019.

By signing up to the AD:VENTURE programme through Leeds Beckett University business can take advantage of this incredible offer, as well as benefiting from a whole range of support across the region including access to growth grants worth £25,000, mentoring, networks and business development events.

‘’Working with Leeds Beckett University and AD:VENTURE has given us the space and time to grow faster and in a more sustainable way. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support that we have received.

We have a stronger understanding of who we are, why we’re doing this and who we should target. Moving to our new offices at the University Business Centre is a huge step forward for us and we are looking forward to what the future holds.’’ (Andy Jack, Candle Digital, An AD:Venture supported business).

The offer is open to new and growing businesses less than 3 years old and located in the Leeds City Region and is available to eligible businesses until July 2019.

For information about the offer, our Centres, eligibility and the support that is offered by AD:VENTURE please contact us:

www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/universitybusinesscentres

e: ubc@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

t: 0333 555 8855

 

Get me started network launches in Wakefield

These FREE networking and support sessions will connect new and young businesses to people with the similar experiences and challenges, providing a valuable insight to help with their growth plans.

Innovative and resourceful business leaders from industries as diverse as web development, pet food & nutrition, health & well-being and snack food manufacturing attended the first event and  shared a wealth knowledge in this very first session, proving that it doesn’t have to be lonely starting a business!

Daniel Downs said it was “A valuable session for sure and will grow from strength to strength” as the weeks go on, relationships build and discussions become richer.

Some of the challenges business discussed included:

  • The science behind pricing
  • The misconceptions of FREE not being valuable
  • Finding the right talented team to suit your business
  • As the Business owner how do you make efficient use of your own time
  • Legal and Contractual obligations
  • How to -Sales techniques

Does this sound like something you need to be part of? It’s not too late to benefit from this start up network & peer to peer discussion as sessions will run every third Thursday of the month. Each session will be structured depending on topics covered previously and demand from the group.

The next session will take place on Thursday 21st February, from 8:30-10am will feature Alexis Bradbury focusing on Sales – Everything from cold calling and business development to e-commerce, interactive tools, digital content development and SEO/PPC.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR SPOT AT THE NEXT EVENT!

Get Me Started is part of the AD:VENTURE business Support Programme and receives funding from the 2014 – 2020 European Regional Development Fund.

AGENCY GETS ITS ‘WISH’ AS TURNOVER INCREASES 60% IN TWELVE MONTHS

Wish Digital, based just outside of Wetherby are celebrating after securing multiple account wins including Capita Customer Management, adding four new members to the team and increasing turnover by 60% in the last year.

Following an office move to a new Granary building, the business applied for a match-funded grant from AD:VENTURE, the ERDF programme supporting start-up and young businesses across the Leeds City Region, that would be used to put the infrastructure in place that would see its planned expansion become a reality.

Securing more than £7,000, the agency used the funds to fit out the office space and purchase equipment that would give digital marketers and developers access to the latest MAC computers and latest software, while older equipment was upgraded.

Wish Digital Ltd. Photography Bruce Fitzgerald

Director at Wish Digital, Chris Kell, comments: “It’s been a really strong year for us here at Wish and we have to attribute some of that to the funding we secured from AD:VENTURE. Having a professional office space, with leading equipment and facilities that give the right impression when you welcome clients should never be underestimated.

“Securing accounts, expanding the team and increasing our turnover has really set the foundations for the year ahead. As we consider our next three years we will be accessing the practical support and events that the AD:VENTURE programme offer and would encourage other young businesses with ambitious targets to do the same.”

Roger Marsh, OBE Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “Accelerating the growth of businesses across Leeds City Region is key to achieving a strong, successful economy and the support and funding businesses can access through AD:VENTURE is helping to achieve just this.

“I am delighted to hear that Wetherby-based Wish Digital is winning new customers, growing their team and increasing turn over and will continue to access the support available through AD:VENTURE as it continues to grow.”

With 16 staff working across the Wish Group, which provides specialist digital and marketing services to organisations of all sizes, the company has plans to extend its client portfolio to include more household names and blue-chip brands in the next twelve months.

For further details about Wish Digital, please visit: www.wishdigital.co.uk or call 0113 4684340 and for information about the AD:VENTURE programme and the practical and match-funded support it offers, please visit: www.ad-venture.org.uk.

Equal Care Co-op are Crowdfunding! – a new co-operative owned by care workers and the people they support

SME Funding

This is such a great story we had to share it – Ambitious and ethical start-up, Equal Care Co-op are crowdfunding to change the balance on of power in the provision of care services. Based at the University Business Centre in Halifax, this start-up is one to watch.

Read on to discover why……..

Imagine if Uber was owned by its drivers. Imagine if taskers got to make decisions about how TaskRabbit was run. This is exactly what Equal Care proposes to bring to social care with its exciting and radical new business model.

Equal Care Co-op is the UK’s first social care platform co-operative. The team are setting out to change the traditional homecare industry, refocusing the power, choice, and control onto the most important people involved: the people receiving the care and the people providing it – be they paid or unpaid, a family member or a professional carer.

This is a real gig economy alternative that pays equal attention to the rights of workers and the rights of those they support.

The gig economy has received a great deal of publicity in recent years – not all of it good. The formula has – inevitably – extended to the world of care work and there are now some established platforms offering a vetted labour pool and easy process for booking care workers of your choice.

However, the existing gig-economy platforms are vulnerable to the same criticisms levelled at nearly all companies operating such a business model. The worst-offending companies tell care workers that they have to offer a flat rate, that any bad review will knock them straight off the platform (one strike and you’re out) and that too many rejections of work opportunities will also push them off the platform.

On the other hand, some of the better platforms have gone on to become care providers in their right. Others remain as introductory agencies, avoiding the regulatory requirements involved in care provision, maintaining their status as technology services companies rather than providers of care.

All of these platforms are privately owned, and all of them retain a value-extraction based business model which charges a commission on every hour of care given. In most cases, these companies are angling for an exit from the market and a windfall for the founders and early-stage investors.

Equal Care Co-op has a different focus. By changing the balance of power that currently exists in services, some magical things can happen: people choose who supports them, workers get paid a decent wage, the huge levels of turnover in care services can stop. And people being supported get a chance to help others too.

Big ideals do not map well onto big profits, so Equal Care Co-op’s start-up route is a grant-dependent, CrowdFunder-led one. It will be making use of Community Shares – a recent investment vehicle only open to co-operative and community benefit societies. However, the equity-loaded finance that drives most ventures of this type is closed to them.

Founder Emma Back said: “We’re looking at strawberry patch principles, sociocracy based growth models and federated structures. There are many possibilities for growth that don’t entail becoming enormous and monolithic, but where you can still be large enough to offer a real alternative to the private companies taking UK care contracts.”

Equal Care Co-op recently participated in the world’s first platform co-operative accelerator, designed by Co-operatives UK and funded by the Co-operative Bank.

Ed Mayo, Secretary-General of Co-operatives UK, observed: In Equal Care we have a viable, alternative and pioneering model for social care as well as platform co-ops, and we’re incredibly excited to see what the future holds. Co-operatives UK has been delighted to support Equal Care in its development – through UnFound, an accelerator for platform co-op, and through The Hive, our support programme for co-operatives in partnership with The Co-operative Bank”

Fran Watson, Founder Member of Equal Care and an independent care worker herself, says: “The biggest issue for me was having the reassurance of getting enough work and having the right amount. It’s finding the work that takes the time and effort. I know of no independent care workers who do 15-minute slots. You just can’t do it. The options are either to go with an agency or go it alone.”

Equal Care has now launched the invitation-only, first iteration of their platform. They are a co-operative that prioritises power, money and decision-making truly sitting on the front line, thus offering potential for community-led scale.

Equal Care aren’t rolling in venture capital, they are bootstrapping with the best of them, but they need help. They have just released their Christmas CrowdFunder and are looking for support to help get the vision flying. Please visit https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/equal-care-co-op and help change social care.

BLOG SPOT: Digital Shift – Transforming Calderdale’s digital and creative landscape

start-up advice3

By Deborah Hetherington, Business Engagement Manager at Leeds Beckett University

The Ad:Venture programme aims to help businesses within the Leeds City Region reach their full potential. There are several partners involved in the project, each of whom offer their own set of specialist skills in order to assist startup and scaleup companies to grow.

Here at Leeds Beckett, we concentrate on the support we can offer to digital businesses. This can be made up of academic support in the areas of digital marketing, business planning, pitching techniques, the art of selling and so on. We also offer student research projects, access to our app studio, a wide range of masterclasses, events, funding, incubation space, and a variety of other business support. We have branded this arm of the Ad:venture project as Digital Shift.

When I was brought on to the project, I was tasked with increasing awareness of Ad:Venture specifically within Calderdale.

Leeds Beckett’s aim in Calderdale is two-fold; we want to play a valuable part in growing the expanding digital eco-system, and we want to have an impact on local startups’ bottom lines. We want to see more startups becoming scaleups and we believe our Digital Shift offering has a genuine and credible role to play in that journey. Within my first few months in Calderdale I have managed to meet with collaborators from local public, private and third sector partners who all share the same vision. We have a great relationship with the council and it’s rewarding to work with such a forward facing, innovative organisation.

I have been pleasantly surprised at just how much activity is already taking place throughout the Valley. There is a growing digital community made up of some fantastic co-working spaces filled with successful digital companies, a range of networking activities and strong local business support.

“We want to have a tangible impact on business outputs and productivity.”

Leeds Beckett wants to add to that business support by offering our vast range of academic and industry business knowledge and expertise to digital SMEs within the region. We want to have a tangible impact on business outputs and productivity. Through meeting with a range of startups already, the feedback we are getting around the programme is very positive. The spectrum of businesses I personally engage with is incredibly broad, ranging from a chatbot specialist whose company is one month old through to an e-commerce business who already have an impressive turnover and are looking to hire a management position imminently.

The type of guidance and support we give is bespoke to the company; from basic business planning and funding, right through to the more advanced industry coaching and assistance through the scaleup process. Andy Banks, Founder of Venture Forge, an e-commerce consultancy Firm, says about the Ad:venture programme: “The programme provides a good balance of knowing where I would need value input and equally where I don’t. It gives me confidence that the support we will receive will be right for us and not some kind of one size fits all approach.”

Andy goes on to comment on Calderdale’s potential as a digital centre: “We’ve got massive potential. Calderdale is full of great businesses looking to grow digitally. With the recruitment of digital people always being challenging, being located halfway between Leeds and Manchester puts Calderdale right in the middle of two pools of amazing digital talent.”

UBC mainThe University Business Centre, that officially opened at the end of September and already has an impressive array of tenants, is proving to be a successful catalyst for engagement.

We have started running monthly digital breakfast mornings allowing the digital community to come together and network whilst simultaneously providing knowledge transfer seminars from local industry experts on a plethora of sector specific topics. We are holding full day workshops specific to taking businesses to the next step of productivity, and not to forget the three-day Digital Shift Summit we held at the end of September.

The Summit saw a range of industry experts from the likes of marketing agency Woven, through to BJSS and Sky Betting and Gaming offering their expertise and knowledge to 40+ eligible businesses. The range of workshops from the event included ‘Practical Business Planning’, ‘Mentoring to Hire’, ‘Accessing Finance’ and ‘The Future of Video’ to name a few.

Feedback from the event was entirely positive, some of the delegates commented on the business planning workshop:

“The workshop was challenging but in a really good way.
Excellent and interactive, very useful exercises.”

“Really interesting, good session, highlighted gaps in what I’m doing and where I need to spend more time.”

As a university, we are very excited to play our part in growing the digital eco-system in Calderdale and we encourage all eligible businesses and intermediary organisations to get in touch to see if we can add value to your company and business relationships.

You can read more about how you can benefit from the project here

start-up advice1

Event for small businesses to boost their online brand

small business events

New and growing digital businesses in West Yorkshire are invited to attend a free event in Halifax around the importance of creating a strong online brand identity.

The networking event takes place on Friday 30 November at Leeds Beckett’s University Business Centre at Piece Mill in Halifax, from 8.30 to 10.30am. For more information, and to book a place, please visit www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/eiahub/events/digi-breakfast-seminar/

The event forms part of the University Business Centre’s monthly Digi Breakfast Seminar series. Speaking at this month’s breakfast will be LinkedIn trainer Nigel Cliffe, Principal Consultant at Value Exchange.

The Digi Breakfast Seminar series aims to provide a space for businesses to gain new knowledge and skills and network with other people working in the sector.

The series is delivered as part of the Digital Shift programme, within the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)-funded AD:VENTURE project, which supports young and growing businesses in the Leeds City Region, and delivered by Leeds Beckett University and Calderdale Council. The programme aims to promote the Calderdale region as a location to start and grow innovative digital and creative businesses in the UK.

Many of the activities are delivered from the University Business Centre at Piece Mill in Halifax. The Centre provides virtual office, co-working and private offices along with access to training, events and advice.

Katie Rigarlsford, Leeds Beckett University’s Business Centre and Regional Business Development Manager, said: “Since the opening of our Halifax University Business Centre we have seen a growing interest from digital and tech start-ups who are now choosing Halifax over more traditional locations such as Leeds or Manchester due to its great connectivity, transport links and the support available to help them achieve growth.”

An added benefit for businesses choosing to base themselves at the Centre is the installation of one of the fastest internet connections available in the Yorkshire region. ‘DarkLight’, provided by partners Exa Networks, is an ultrafast internet connectivity (multi-gigabit capable) which supports businesses to achieve high-level digital engagement, from video streaming to Cloud services through to large-scale data processing all along the Calderdale valley.

Exa Director, Mark Cowgill, said: “We’re proud to be at the forefront of developing the UK’s first ‘Gigabit Valley’ and to be working with Leeds Beckett University to help lay the groundwork for the next generation of digitally engaged businesses.”