New start up lab will give entrepreneurs in Suffolk something to shout about
- Credit: Archant
Three successful Suffolk businessmen who want to give back to their community are launching a start up lab to nurture the next generation of Suffolk entrepreneurs - and with a bit of luck, even to grow the county’s first ‘unicorn’.
The three-year programme, Shout About Suffolk, is being funded by Richard Croft, the chief executive of M7 Plus, a £7bn plus commercial property hedge fund who believes that with Brexit around the corner, the need to support fledgling start ups in his home county has never been greater.
Two accomplished Suffolk entrepreneurs - Paddy Bishopp, who is most well known for being the co-founder of Paddy & Scott’s, and Toby Durrant, who co-founded 3Power Energy Group, are giving up their time to manage the project.
“Our motives are not financial,” says Mr Bishopp, who sold his stake in Paddy & Scott’s, the coffee company based in Earl Soham, last year. “The aim is to provide support to entrepreneurs who have a Suffolk postcode - we are very passionate about supporting local people.”
Shout About Suffolk will initially bring on board six to seven start ups, who will move into new office space at Riduna Park in Melton and get on-hand mentorship, a suite of four desks if they need them, back office support and a £30,000 loan, in order to kick-start their new businesses.
Birketts is providing legal advice, Ensors accountancy advice, and Tech Alliance is offering technology support. “Credible names are lending their support and money to help support these businesses - we’re giving our start ups affordability,” Mr Bishopp explains. “Normally a loan for this kind of service would mean a personal guarantee on your house, and have to be paid back at 9-20%. But we’re not about cheap access to money, we want people who want to be nurtured.”
In return, the founders will take a 25% cut of the business grown there, and £500 a month in rent - “because we want our entrepreneurs to understand that there’s a cost to running a business,” explains Mr Durrant.
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He admits that the “champagne popper” moment would be to get a unicorn (a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion) out of the venture - but that’s not what drives them. “The whole point is that we all want to help enterprise, because we’ve all been there ourselves,” he explains. “We’ve struggled through our first businesses and we know that the journey can be lonely, you make mistakes, it’s really hard work. We want to be able to take away some of their mistakes, to buy them time and give them the initial leg up with the start up loan. We really hope it will help them to evolve.”
Mr Bishopp admits that by its very nature, some businesses will fail, and the pair have experienced failures as well as successes in their own careers. “As long as they’ve done everything they should do, and haven’t squandered the opportunity, there is no recourse, no personal guarantees,” he says. “It’s about trusting them, and them trusting us that we can help them.
“They can be confident to do what entrepreneurs do best, knowing they’ve got support around them.”
Mr Bishopp and Mr Durrant are asking anyone inspired to join their venture to send them a three minute video (to www.shoutaboutSuffolk.co.uk) about their idea. But they will cherry pick applicants based not so much on the idea, as the entrepreneurial mindset they hope will shine through in the video.
“We’re looking for hard working, dedicated individuals with a Suffolk postcode and that we think the time is right for whatever the project is, that’s the only entry requirements,” said Mr Bishopp.
In order to help to fund the venture, a wider community of businesses can sign up to Shout About Suffolk’s £30 a month membership programme, which offers communal hot-desking space and a weekly schedule of talks.
The open plan space was designed by Mr Durrant’s wife of Francie Readman Interiors with collaboration in mind, with blue-sky ceilings, Rendlesham Forest-themed prints, and beanbags aplenty. And if all goes well, there’s scope to expand to next-door offices.
“We could fill it tomorrow, but we’ve really got to balance it between being a social enterprise and needing to still be here in three years time, so it needs to be sustainable,” says Mr Durrant.
Although Suffolk already has various start up incubator programmes, such as the Ipswich Waterfront Innovation Centre (IWIC), Mr Durrant claims that what makes Shout About Suffolk special is that it’s run by veteran entrepreneurs. “We’re not here to run their business for them, it’s about giving them strength and support they need to run it themselves, he says. “There will be a one to three year incubation period, then they can fly the nest strong enough to fly out there in the big wide world as successful business in their own right - whatever success means.”
He adds that success doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a unicorn. “It could be a local business providing a service that might not make millions - we want to give people opportunities and a pathway in a landscape that I think they will find difficult, particularly in the next 12 months.”