Belfast Telegraph

Programme giving new businesses the best possible environment to help them prosper

By Lynsey Cunningham

Actions speak louder than words. Walk the walk, don't talk the talk. There are plenty of phrases that place more of a value on 'doing' than 'saying'. But while there's a real value in being able to 'go do', it's important that businesses don't get tongue-tied.

In a world of 'fake news', understanding whether people mean what they say, and how they choose to describe things to you, can tell you a lot about the values they hold. In early stage entrepreneurship, where the values and vision of the people behind businesses matter as much as their ideas, this is really important.

At Entrepreneurial Spark in Belfast, when we're welcoming new entrepreneurs into our programme, it's relatively easy to spot those who have the tenacity and grit to really grow a business from the way that they talk about their ideas - entrepreneurs like Niall from DoubleJump and Christine from Senergy, have these traits in abundance. The language that they use to describe their business gives you a lot of really clear indicators about what they stand for and how they intend to develop their plans. And teaching them how to refine how they talk about their business to people outside their industry is at the core of what we do. The 60-second pitch that we get them to polish isn't a sales technique - in part, it's a tool to help them understand their own business in a simple and fundamental way that is beneficial to many disciplines, not just communications.

So when we host pitching competitions, as we did during our recent Entrepreneuring Awards, which saw £24,000 distributed in prizes to winners including Niall and Christine, we're not just rewarding people for presenting well - we're rewarding the work that's gone into distilling down their market analysis and understanding of how what they do meets a real need.

And just as we challenge our entrepreneurs to keep things fresh and innovative, we also have to practice what we preach - and that's why, as we evolve and adapt our model to better meet the needs of the entrepreneurial community in Northern Ireland, our 'hatchery' is becoming a 'hub'. It will mean more people, sharper focus and greater streaming of the ideas that come through the doors so that they get the right level of support at the right time.

Because words are important, we've been very deliberate about what we call ourselves, and how we treat our entrepreneurs. A 'hatchery' is somewhere that is comfortable - but we want our space to be innovative and challenging to new people to do interesting and creative things in business.

By calling it a hub, we're recognising the collaborative environment that we're fostering, as well as our desire to make a mark on the ecosystem for local entrepreneurs - inviting the best people, agencies and supporters of business to come in and talk to our people about how they can articulate their business ideas.

Lynsey Cunningham is entrepreneurial development manager at Ulster Bank

Belfast Telegraph