Dozens of business leaders visited Walsall College’s business start up centre in The Hub this week to gain an insight in to the range of exciting new businesses being launched by budding entrepreneurs in the borough.
The college launched its Connect programme in September to support budding entrepreneurs in Walsall gain the skills and confidence they need to set up and run their own successful business.
15 entrepreneurs are already part of the expanding network, which provides access to mentoring support as well as workshops led by experienced industry professionals covering a range of topics, including generating ideas, marketing, selling and pitching as well as advice on financial and legal issues.
The business ideas range from a gluten free food product to a virtual reality design service, and on Thursday 19th November, members were given the opportunity to showcase their plans to local business leaders.
Leaders included Heather Ridney, a Santander Business Manager, Jaimal Mistry, who has successfully set up his own international events management company, and Lee McKervey, founder of clothing brand, Bore Off, which has been received the back of Virgin and Richard Branson.
Also at the event, which was organised to coincide with Global Entrepreneurship Week (16-19 November 2015), were local representatives from national charities and organisations that provide practical support for entrepreneurs to help them get their business up and running, including Steven Houston, Enterprise Programme Executive at The Prince’s Trust, Glen Watts, Enterprise Coach at Virgin Start Up and Amanda Spratt, Senior Advisor at Access to Business.
Walsall College Community Development Officer, Jane De Weijer, said: “This was a great showcase event for members who are now a few months into the Connect programme, to gain some constructive feedback and guidance on their business plans from successful entrepreneurs and experts in the area, and also find out about some of the support services available to them.
“Our members range from 18 to 52 years in age and are all at different stages with their business. Following this event, many now have a clearer view on which sections of their business need further development or what their next steps are as they get closer to launching.”
Connect member, Ellisanna Hillcoat, said: “I received really positive feedback on my home made organic soap products, which was amazing. I also got some very useful advice from the experts on how to apply for funding and the marketing aspects I need to consider. The event has given me more confidence to keep going until I reach my goals.”
While another member, Lorna Fletcher, added: “I decided to start making my own gluten free cakes after being diagnosed with celiac disease. I bought some samples of my products today and they were very popular. I now need to work on developing the brand and finding producers.”
John Adams, Director of Commercial Projects at Walsall College, commented: “We are committed to providing an innovative and supportive network for entrepreneurs who looking for the confidence and help they need to turn their concepts in to a reality. If harnessed and supported in the right way, these ideas will hopefully lead to thriving companies being established and ultimately the creation of new jobs in our local economy.”