From little Acorns, mighty Oaks grow: Acorn Enterprise looks forward to a sixth successful 20-week programme
Fife’s only Business Accelerator has started the sixth intake of its 20-week Business Accelerator Programme.
Acorn Enterprise, which was launched by Kallum Russell and Jerry Alexander of Liberty Business Centres in 2013, says it’s on a mission to grow Scotland’s entrepreneurial culture.
The not-for-profit organisation works with new businesses and student entrepreneurs across Scotland, from its base at Liberty Business Centres, Rosyth.
The organisation helps new businesses – aka ‘Acorns’ – to develop confidence, business skills and clarity of direction.
The programme offers successful applicants office space, weekly seminars, a mentor, access to 3D printing equipment and more.
The businesses are offered the places free of charge and Acorn Enterprise does not take an equity-stake in them.
Tackling challenges facing new businesses head-on
Chief enterprise officer Kallum Russell, who was recently selected as Virgin Media’s Pioneer of the Week and featured in SBNN’s 40UNDER40 list in Scotland, said: “We originally launched Acorn Enterprise to tackle the appalling start-up rate in Fife head on.
“In many lists, which compare entrepreneurship levels across UK regions, Fife is not performing well but instead of moaning about it or waiting for someone else to do something, we set out to do our bit to change this.
“Buoyed by the success of our previous five successful 20-week business accelerator programmes, we’re excited about the start of our sixth one.
“Word has got out about the programme and we have had applicants from Edinburgh, Glasgow and even Manchester apply for places.
“We are now looking to expand the reach of our proven model across Scotland and are having a number of exciting conversations with several local authorities and education institutions, about running our programme and other enterprise activities with them.
“There appears to be a real need for our activities up and down the country and many people are drawn to our energetic and relevant approach, which is different to some of the other organisations that operate in this space.”
Heart, determination and support
Since its inception in 2013, Acorn Enterprise has worked with more than 160 new and growing businesses and student entrepreneurs.
The organisation runs without any Government or public funding and generates revenue through enterprise training for Colleges, Universities and other organisations, and from its rapid prototyping service, Acorn 3D Printing.
Acorn Enterprise has also found some limited corporate sponsorship, from Liberty Business Centres and others, and hopes to develop a network of like-minded companies who want to help with its ambitious mission to grow Scotland’s entrepreneurial culture.
Russell explained: “Unlike the vast majority of the other players in the Scottish Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, Acorn Enterprise is not Government funded.
“In the last three years, we have operated on a shoestring budget, with heart, determination and the support of a lot of really awesome people! And we’re very proud of the achievements we’ve had so far.
“Traditionally, it can cost a large amount of money to do anything in this space, however, we are not here to protect our own jobs, we are here to deliver results. We are run by business owners, who want to give back to other aspiring business owners. Our model is truly low-cost, high impact”.
The Acorns on the sixth business accelerator programme include: a business which manufactures bespoke ski goggle covers (the Proggle), an organic beard care company (Bearded Basturds) and a recent Young EDGE winning business, which helps children learn to swim (Turtle Packs).
Previously, Acorn Enterprise has worked with a diverse range of new business, including: an innovative low-calorie spirits company (LoCa Bev), a multi-award winning company, which offers bespoke online 1-2-1 tuition, making people fluent in a language in around 3-6 months (Amolingua) and one of Scotland’s only full-time residential pilot-training schools (Pathway Pilot Training).
Of the Acorns to have graduated from the business accelerator programme, 70% are still trading and growing.
“Less sexy” but important start-ups have been left behind
Russell said: “Whilst there has never been a better time to launch a new business in Scotland, we feel there is a gap in the support for business owners in more rural locations, like Fife, where we’re based.
“Additionally, we also believe that there is a lot of support for new high-growth businesses, the high-tech industry and companies seeking investment, however, other ‘less sexy’, but equally important, start-up businesses, that do not fit into these categories, have been left behind.
“Therefore, our focus is on building sustainable new businesses, that may not employ thousands of people or have global aspirations, but are of paramount importance to the local communities they operate in and to the local staff they employ.
“As we always say, ‘from little Acorns… mighty Oaks grow.’”