Council boost for young Somerset businesses

Four Somerset District Councils have joined forces to fund and launch an exciting new scheme to give start-ups and early stage businesses the best chance of success. Called Somerset Catalyst, it is part of a wider business support programme that is rolling out across the county. Applications for the programme commencing in September 2020 are now invited.

Alex Parmley, Chief Executive of South Somerset District Council, explains, “It continues to be a challenging year for most as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it’s also been a year of reflection and, in many cases, changes of direction for individuals and businesses. It is often the case that unexpected crises lead to amazing creativity and incredible resourcefulness – just the qualities business owners need to succeed. We know there are a great many people out there that might not think of themselves as entrepreneurs yet but really, if you’ve ever considered starting or growing a business, there’s no time like the present to take the plunge and see where it leads.”

He continues, “Here in Somerset we know there’s enormous potential to create a vibrant business community and this is key to achieving economic growth throughout the region. This is why we are committed to putting the support in place to help businesses get off the ground and reach their potential here. Somerset Catalyst is a fundamental part of this work.

Somerset Catalyst will run annually, commencing in September for a six-month duration. The bespoke programme features one-to-one expert coaching for the ten chosen businesses and will be tailored to focus on the specific elements each business needs to succeed. There will also be workshops hosted on key aspects of running a business, a peer support group, business review panels with industry experts, help to access business finance and profile-raising marketing support. The 2020 programme has been adapted to a hybrid model, using virtual technologies as well as face-to-face interaction.

Peter Birkett is one of the mentors running Somerset Catalyst. Peter has been instrumental in similar business schemes, including launching Southampton Catalyst, helping start-up companies get a firm foothold and secure significant investment for growth. He says, “Following a successful pilot bootcamp last year, we know the people of Somerset have a lot to bring to the innovation map of the UK and we can’t wait to see the applications for our full programme come in!”

He continues, “No ideas are bad ones! All we are looking for is potential: potential to step into a market and shake it up with a new or more efficient way of doing things, potential to create a new market or plug a gap in one; potential for success. The highly experienced team running the programme and conducting the workshops and coaching has the necessary skills and contacts to really help get these ideas off paper and into the world with the best chance of success.”

InShare SMART Risk benefited from the initial Somerset Catalyst Bootcamp programme. Co-Founder Gareth Eggle says, “Participation in Catalyst forced me to reconsider how we communicate our business idea. This challenge proved to be exactly what we needed. We went on to win the programme and have since secured six figure investment in our business. We’re on the cusp of launching our first Risk Sharing Community and I’m really excited about our future prospects. I would wholeheartedly recommend anyone who’s vaguely interested in starting an innovative business to consider participating in the Somerset Catalyst programme to point them firmly in the right direction.”

Yumello was another participant in the pilot. Entering the programme with a really good product and some early ideas, the creators of sought-after nut butters Omar and Ester participated in coaching sessions to fine-tune their strategy, pricing and marketing. As a result, their company is now ripe for investment. Founder Omar Elhajji reflects, “Catalyst is unlike any other programme. It’s highly interactive and challenging too. Rather than just sitting listening, we really learned a great deal because it was us actually doing the work. There’s no doubt the Catalyst programme is a big part of our success story so far. We have grown every month for the last twelve months and we are now in a position to look for investment to accelerate our growth and build our team. I would 100% recommend it to anyone running an early stage business.”

So, if you’ve ever thought about setting up in business or you’re already running an early stage business and are ready to accelerate your growth, Somerset Catalyst could be the boost you need to realise your ambitions. Start your business journey today by applying online at www.somersetcatalyst.co.uk.