New research from NatWest shows the appetite to become self-employed and set up new businesses is greater than ever – but fear of failure that is holding the majority back.
The latest edition of the NatWest Entrepreneurship Monitor – a quarterly survey of people across the UK – shows that a half of all residents in the West Midlands think now is a good time to set up in business, the highest proportion since the poll was launched three years ago.
Lee Currier, entrepreneur development manager at NatWest, said: "Despite improving economic conditions and a widely held desire to be self employed, only a very small number of people are actually taking the plunge.
"These findings show we have a region full of potential entrepreneurs, but they are held back by a lack of knowledge.
"NatWest wants to fill that gap and, in partnership with Entrepreneurial Spark and KPMG, will be launching free business accelerator hubs across the UK over the coming years.
"This will give thousands of entrepreneurs free facilities, free business advice and supporting networks to ensure they are given the best possible chance of success."
As part of this commitment, a new Entrepreneurial Spark powered by NatWest Hatchery opened at NatWest's offices in St Philips Place earlier this year.
It is one of seven ‘Hatcheries' to open across the UK so far, with 13 planned in total by 2017. Over the next five years NatWest aims to support around 7,000 entrepreneurs.
The Hatchery includes physical office space with high-speed internet, a start-up bootcamp, dedicated mentoring, regular events, workshops and training, all free of charge.
Working with partner KPMG, Chiclets are being put through a programme of events which include days to bring the whole entrepreneurial eco-system of investors, entrepreneurs, advisors and NatWest relationship managers together.
Crucially they will benefit from the unique Entrepreneurial Spark enablement process, working with their dedicated enabler to validate and potentially pivot their proposition.
They will also have the chance to win a share of a £50,000 prize pot thanks to NatWest and KPMG.
The Birmingham Hatchery welcomed its second cohort of Chiclets – more than 40 entrepreneurs who will go through a six-month programme aimed at enhancing their businesses and personal development - late this summer.
Mr Currier has been working with the Chiclets at the Birmingham Hatchery following its opening in February.
He said: "We have a duty to support start-up businesses. Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of the UK economy.
"Starting your own business is more popular than ever and there are more businesses registered with zero employees. Entrepreneurs are significant wealth creators and at the heart of the UK economy."
Last year was the first time there have been over five million businesses in the UK, of which, more than 99per cent are SMEs.
Mr Currier said: "The enthusiasm that programmes such as Entrepreneurial Spark generate highlights the appetite is there for people to set up on their own – it is just about creating the right network of support to help them do that."
Staff from NatWest are also participating in the hub as part of the bank's Entrepreneur Development Academy, which sees them working alongside the entrepreneurs.
Mr Currier added: "Internally we are developing programmes to help our staff think like entrepreneurs and help them understand the challenges they face.
"Externally we are hosting events which bring together our contacts, facilities and expertise to offer networking and learning opportunities, which will prove invaluable for start-ups and high growth businesses.
"We are also inviting our customers to become involved in the Hatcheries and share their skills and expertise, which has had a very positive response."
Launched in 2012, Entrepreneurial Spark has already made a significant impact in Scotland, with almost 400 companies supported so far, £20 million investment secured and over 1,000 new jobs created.
Jim Duffy, founder of Entrepreneurial Spark, said: "We are delighted to be working with NatWest and KPMG to launch new Hatcheries across the UK over the coming years, the first of which launched in Birmingham in February.
"Starting and scaling a business can be daunting, so we support budding entrepreneurs every step of the way in our Hatcheries, from hands on training at our #GoDoBootcamps and one-to-one enablement to providing them with free desk space and IT.
"We're delighted to be powered by NatWest and look forward to working together closely to open more Hatcheries across the country in the years ahead."
* For more information about the Entrepreneurial Spark programme, go to www.entrepreneurial-spark.com.