Tag: Starting a business

Leeds professional dancer goes back to class

A professional dancer who has performed in the Lion King on Broadway has gone back to class in Leeds after re-assessing her own life. 

Leonora Stapleton now runs Be Body Aware, which encourages people to use dance and exercise for their own well-being. The company, which is being supported by AD:VENTURE, a programme for new businesses in West and North Yorkshire, was started in 2019, but its roots go back much further. 

Leonora was a successful contemporary dancer in New York when the 9/11 disaster happened. The tragedy, and a mugging a few weeks later, left her feeling dazed, but it was several years before she realised the full impact. Then in 2017, just a short time after her mother died, Leonora was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. 

In January 2018 I decided to have a mastectomy and went through a massive sense of shame and loss. The reality struck deep in my soul,” said Leonora. 

I had to come to terms with all the layers of the deep wounds I had suppressed. In addition, I recognised the resilience I had developed. Even though my life had changed from 2001, most of the time I had remained optimistic, despite my trauma. 

The breast cancer treatment left Leonora facing feelings of shame about her body and led her to thinking about how we feel about our own bodies. This experience set the seeds for Be Body Aware, which she started in October last year. 

Leonora runs classes and workshops on body image, dance and fitness for wellbeing, and body shaming. She took her work into schools across Leeds and was targeting colleges, universities and businesses before lockdown struck. She is now running dance classes on Zoom, but looking forward to returning to face-to-face work and building up her client base. 

But she admits the idea may not have got off the drawing board if it was not for the support from AD:VENTURE, which helps new businesses and those under three years old. 

“I came to them with literally one page of an idea and I wanted to run with that idea. But they helped me realise it is marathon not a sprint and I needed to plan properly, starting with a business plan,” said Leonora, who has had support from an AD:VENTURE business mentor and has attended several workshops, on topics like marketing and pitching. 

And despite being an experienced dancer, choreographer, speaker and a qualified teacher, who has a Masters degree in leadership and management, Leonora admits her confidence had been at rock bottom when she started the company. 

The breast cancer had really hit my self-confidence, but AD:VENTURE helped me create the foundations for the business and gave me the belief to do it, she said. 

AD:VENTURE is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and has funding and delivery partners across the Leeds City Region which include the region’s nine local authorities. 

Sarah Carling AD:VENTURE programme manager,  said: Leonora’s story is an inspiration. It shows that with the right encouragement and advice entrepreneurs can find the strength and resilience to start and grow a successful business, even after difficult times.  

“We know that having the right support means businesses are more likely to survive and grow, which is why particularly now in the challenging times we are all living through the help, advice and support AD:VENTURE can offer are so important.” 

Leonora agrees. “Having a business adviser is like having a guide every step of the way. They are along for the ride! As an artist my brain goes everywhere, but having someone there helps me focus on what actions I need to take. 

“Sometimes in business you stumble. So, it’s great knowing someone is only a phone call away as you embark on your own adventure, she said. 

For more information about Be Body Aware go to https://bebodyaware.co.uk/ 

To find out more about AD:VENTURE go to https://ad-venture.org.uk/ 

Yorkshire mum launches child-friendly holiday business

mother-of-two from West Yorkshire has used her own experiences to launch a child-friendly holiday business. 

Jo Addison’s website Kiddieholidays is designed to help families with pre-school children find suitable accommodation and activities in the UK and Europe. 

Jo, who lives in Gomersal and runs her business from a base at Hub 26 in Cleckheaton, said the idea first came to her when she was on maternity leave with her first child. 

“My son was only little and we wanted to go to Wales on holiday, but we found it difficult to book somewhere suitable that did not cost the earth,” said Jo. 

“It just got me thinking that there must be thousands of families in the same position who can’t afford a luxury place that works for them. They might just want to go camping or glamping or stay in a cottage, and it can be so hard to find somewhere. 

Jo, who was then working for Jet2 Holidays part-time, started the website as a hobby in her spare time, writing blogs and collaborating with holiday and activity providers. The business slowly evolved into a listings site until last September Jo decided to make the leap and quit her job. 

“I was 40 last year and I thought it is now or never to work for myself. But what is really great is that doesn’t feel like work because I am so passionate about it, said Jo. 

“I just want to give families more choice. They might want to go to Majorca or Cornwall. And they just need to know simple things like is there a baby monitor or cot or soft play area. And then the rest of the family might appreciate a baby-listening service or spa treatment for them.” 

She uses a team of freelancers to write the copy, and aims to become the go-to website for families with babies or toddlers.  

But Jo admits that her timing was unfortunate with the lockdown effectively putting the business into temporary hibernation. Despite this, her turnover has doubled since last year and the number  of visitors to her website has increased to 150,000 a month.  

She is working with more and more holiday property owners, holiday parks and leisure activity providers and getting plenty of enquiries already for 2021 as people look to book their staycations with a reputable holiday provider. 

The impact of COVID-19 has been challenging, but at the same time it has created an opportunity for the business, as it means parents are much more conscious of the need to find a high quality and safe place to take their children,” said Jo. 

The lockdown has also given Jo the time to develop the business and improve the website ahead of the official launch with help from AD:VENTURE, a  programme for new businesses in North and West Yorkshire, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).  

“Their help has been invaluable. They have helped with everything from actually running a business through to search engine optimisation and supporting me to focus on what exactly the business is all about,” said Jo. 

I have been on workshops and webinars covering everything from content creation to maximising the customer journey and taken so much from these. The quality of the presenters is excellent and all of them are industry experts who a new business might otherwise struggle to access in the early stages.”  

AD:VENTURE’s  funding and delivery partners are from across the Leeds City Region and include the regions nine local authorities. 

Councillor Peter McBride, Kirklees Council cabinet member for regenerationsaid: “It is great to see someone like Jo turn her passion and expertise into a thriving business. It just shows that with practical support it is possible to take that step and start your own successful enterprise. 

“Programmes like AD:VENTURE are all about helping new businesses of all shapes and sizes and that is so important particularly now when we are faced with massive economic challenges. 

“Success stories like this are exactly why we support this programme. In such difficult economic times, I’m sure it will give hope to many others who read about Jo’s achievements.” 

To find out more about AD:VENTURE go to https://ad-venture.org.uk/ 

To find out more about Kiddieholidays go to https://www.kiddieholidays.co.uk/ 


Yorkshire business support programme provides over £1m in grant funding

A Yorkshire business support programme has provided more than a million pounds in grant funding since its launch. 

AD:VENTURE, which helps ambitious new businesses trading for less than three years in North and West Yorkshire, has provided over £1.3m of funding to start-up firms and helped create 391 jobs. 

Since the programme started at the end of 2016, AD:VENTURE has helped more than 3000 businesses and individuals in the Leeds City Region, and approved 156 grants to help start-up businesses to grow, including support for purchasing vital equipment and moving to suitable premises.  

Partners of AD:VENTURE include the regionnine local authorities, the Business Enterprise Fund and the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, with businesses also able to access academic input through programmes delivered by higher education partners, Leeds Beckett University and Leeds Trinity University.  

The programme has also supported 826 people aged 18 to 30 through its Explore Enterprise Course, run in partnership with The Prince’s Trust. 

Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and NP11, said: “Programmes like AD:VENTURE help start-up businesses to speed up their growth, and that leads to a stronger economy. 

“We have some fantastic new businesses in this region and these figures show that with the right support provided at the right time, start-ups can go from strength to strength.” 

One of the businesses benefiting from the programme is Halifax-based Candle Digital, an online learning platform for training providers. The team worked with an AD:VENTURE advisor who helped them to target the right people that could benefit from their service. 

Mark Langdale, director of Candle Digital, said: “We can’t recommend AD:VENTURE enough. The business support we have received is far beyond anything we could ever have expected. 

“We would suggest to any start-up business that they investigate the advice, guidance and sessions that are on offer and make the most of them.” 

Power Sheds, a shed manufacturer based in Bradford, have also seen the benefits of accessing AD:VENTURE grant funding, which was used to help purchase an automated saw. The equipment measures the timber to the correct length allowing it to be cut very quickly and reduces waste.  

The new equipment means that Power Sheds are on target to triple their size within the next year, with plans to expand into Europe. Jack Sutcliffe, director of Power Sheds, says the support they have had from AD:VENTURE has played a big part in the company’s rapid growth. 

“They’ll happily come out and see you and are always available to give you advice on anything that you might need. They’ve also advised us on where to go for other funding and put us in contact with lots of different people who might be able to help us.” 

AD:VENTURE is a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) match funded programme which offers grant funding, mentoring and business development advice to pre-start, young and new firms with growth potential in the Leeds City Region. The programme also runs free events tailored to new businesses and offers support to young people who are keen to develop entrepreneurial skills 

For more information on AD:VENTURE go to https://ad-venture.org.uk/ 


We are delighted to share the following news about our programme!

AD:VENTURE, our ERDF part funded programme supporting start-ups and scale-ups with practical support and match-funded grants, has been awarded an extension by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Testament to the success of the programme, which has actively worked with over 1,513 businesses and 1,019 individuals, AD:VENTURE will now run to 2022, making it a six year programme with a value of £18.2m.

Engaging with 710 young people to explore enterprise or self-employment and delivering a schedule of more than 200 events, resulting in 287 additional jobs, the balance of both practical and grant assisted support delivered by professionals has provided significant benefits to business.

96 organisations have received match-funded grants since the programme launched in late 2016, with 125 approved projects representing a total combined worth of £2.3m, securing £665,849 from the AD:VENTURE programme.

Delivered by a consortium of public and private sector organisations, the programme offers tailored packages of support to start-up businesses throughout the Leeds City Region.

Access to workshops, seminars and specialist sessions is complemented by one-to-one assistance from professional Business Advisors, enabling personalised support tailored to the needs of each organisation and the challenges they are facing to growth and future success.

Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and NP11, Roger Marsh OBE, comments: “The success of the AD:VENTURE programme really does tell its own story. The business community throughout the Leeds City Region is vibrant, diverse and growing. Having ongoing access to the support, advice and guidance from experts, as well as funding provision, can only enhance this further.

“Knowing that start-ups and young organisations are attending workshops and accessing the bespoke help that they need is reassuring. It shows that we have in place the provision we need to nurture entrepreneurship across our region and to become an example of best practice for others.”

Working with partners across Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds, Selby, Wakefield and York, the extension means the AD:VENTURE programme will continue to deliver the same model of support across each town and city.

Michael Burnham of Hydro-Flux in Batley comments: “Without AD:VENTURE there is no way we could have put our idea into practice. Not only did we need some guidance and governance to make sure we were following the necessary processes, but we were also finding it difficult to raise the funds, as the equipment and tooling isn’t cheap.

Michael and Douglas Burnham, Hydro-Flux, Batley, Yorkshire

Securing the grant made all of the difference and we went from kitchen table to furnished offices almost overnight. It was great. Not only was the environment different but we were also able to approach the business with a different mindset”

Andy Jack and Mark Langdale, at Candle Digital, Leeds Beckett University Business Centre, Piece Mill, Halifax

Mark Langdale from Candle Digital, based in Halifax said: “We can’t recommend AD:VENTURE or Leeds Beckett University enough. The support we have received is far beyond anything we could ever have expected. We would suggest to any start-up or young business that they investigate the advice, guidance and sessions that are on offer and make the most of them”


Helen Northard, who recently launched Human Spirit Ltd said “If 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!”

Director of Crimson Bear based in Craven, Paul Johnson, comments: “When we launched the business we always intended to grow but by accessing the AD:VENTURE programme we were able to move our plans forward and put them into practice far sooner. Thanks to the grant and the practical support we were able to benefit from, we are now on track to turnover £2m, which is excellent news.”

For further details about AD:VENTURE please visit www.ad-venture.org.uk and for regular updates follow @ADVENTURE_LCR.


SME grants

It often takes people years to make the decision to start a company and even then, there is a lot of planning and preparation to make it a viable and profitable enterprise, however this shouldn’t put prospective business owners off, as there has never been a better time to start-up.

Focusing on the Leeds City Region, there is an abundance of support available to start-ups and young businesses including workshops, training sessions and seminars and many of them are free of charge!

Long gone are the days when people had to worry about how they would learn about finance, marketing, business planning and the necessary administrative skills that come with owning a business, a quick internet search will give you a lengthy list of professionals that you can turn to.

Practical help and advice from those that have a proven track record is incredibly useful when you start out and knowing that these sessions are often facilitated through universities or public sector funded bodies provides further credibility by association.

Launching a business should be exciting but it can often be surprisingly isolating too when you are working all of the hours to get your idea off the ground. Building on the practical support that is available locally, there are also strong networks which can be a real lifeline.

There are many networking groups throughout the Leeds City Region and so it is worthwhile trying them all at least once to see which suits you the best. There is no need to go along to something you don’t enjoy when you have an abundance to choose from, so consider your objectives and find the group that you feel will be of most use to you.

As well as accessing suppliers and possible customers, these organised gatherings can also give you the chance to meet with people that will become life-long friends, supporters and advocates of your business and this really can be invaluable.

Having the chance to develop trusted relationships and to speak to others that are likely to be in the same – or a similar position – will give you a platform to share your concerns, which can then be addressed in a group setting providing reassurance and advice.

Interestingly, in addition to practical support and strong networks, throughout the Leeds City Region there is also the opportunity to apply for grant funding. This can give young companies the chance to take their longer-term ideas and make them happen.

As well as focusing on short term goals, we all know it’s important to have a three or five-year plan in place and that is where grants can really come into play. Putting targets in place of what you hope to achieve is the first step and asking for funds to bring those forward is the next.

Some of the funding programmes that are available can be found in a previous article from Yorkshire Powerhouse here.

There is absolutely no reason why a business should struggle when there are programmes available that can offer professional support, networking and grants, it makes no sense what-so-ever. Taking advantage of the opportunities that are available will not only benefit your business but it’s what they are there for and the more people that use them, the more likely they are to continue.

If you want to make the most of the infrastructure that the Leeds City Region has to offer simply follow the suggestions below:

  1. Take five minutes to do a quick search on the internet to find local organisations that can provide you with practical support, for example AD:VENTURE is perfect for start ups with a growth focus!
  2. Think about the skills you are lacking and choose the course, sessions and seminars that will give you access to professionals that can help
  3. Look into networking groups and make it a priority to visit one a month – don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to do too much, it will be counter productive
  4. Write down what your short and longer-term plans are – if you haven’t already – and consider what you could achieve if funding was available
  5. Pick up the phone and speak to a dedicated business advisor about how you can get the best from the programmes in your local area

It is important to remember that unlike traditional businesses many of the organisations that are delivering support actually work together rather than competing so it’s fine to ask them if there are any other opportunities that you can capitalise upon.

They will put you in touch with other programmes that could take your business from standing start to success story.

So……what are you waiting for?