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Taking the spark of an idea from kitchen to boardroom

By Lynsey Cunningham

Working for a bank, you'll be unsurprised to learn that you deal with a lot of numbers. So it's really important to learn the ones that matter. For me this week, they have been 5, 12, 110 and 231.

The reason that these are at the front of my mind is because of the Entrepreneurial Spark Impact Report, launched last week.

It showcased for the first time the full extent of the positive impact that our Belfast business accelerator is having on the local economy. Since opening the Hub last February, we have helped over 110 businesses, which have created 231 jobs, secured investment of over £5m and grown their turnover to almost £12m.

These figures are real testament to the talent and tenacity of the people who are building businesses in Northern Ireland. It's showing that being an entrepreneur doesn't just mean being a start-up - it also means scale and growth, in a truly significant way.

One of the biggest challenges I face in talking to our entrepreneurs is getting them to set out a sustainable vision for the growth of their business. Happiness is the pursuit of achievable goals, so we work with them to set out where they want to scale their businesses to and what is realistically achievable - so that success and failure can be set in their proper context to help build resilience.

Companies like Learning Pool and MEG Cards & Gifts are trailblazers and role models for our entrepreneurs and, as such, we encourage them to see that it is possible for local companies to achieve great things.

We have a tendency to talk down our ideas or plans, even relative to other parts of the UK, so having those business examples on our doorstep is a really useful way of encouraging practical positivity - contributing to a culture that celebrates entrepreneurship as a career choice and gives business-makers their proper place; as those who create jobs and opportunities right across Northern Ireland.

In that vein, I'm looking forward to the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards, which, for the first time, will provide a platform to highlight the success of emerging businesses on the same stage as Northern Ireland's biggest and best-known companies.

It's so easy to underestimate the impact that it has for someone who may have recently left their job and is working from their kitchen table or bedroom to share a stage with the best examples of corporate Northern Ireland, but it can have a really transformational impact on their motivation, confidence and even their competitive spirit.

So, if you know someone who is just starting out, or that doesn't get the recognition you think they deserve, I would recommend you download an entry form and get them to shout about their success.

  • Lynsey Cunningham is entrepreneur development manager at Ulster Bank

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