The latest 11 participants on the Famous Grouse Ideas Centre Creative Accelerator Programme took part in their Showcase event in December 2018, where they gave presentations on their businesses, the stories behind them and their plans for development. The 11 “founders” – who took part in the intensive 12-week Accelerator course – are all from the creative sector, covering diverse areas such as gaming, product design, fine art, well-being and animation.
Invest in Perth spoke to Caryn Gibson, Accelerator Manager at Elevator UK, to find out what the course comprises and how it helps the founders to develop and grow their businesses. “This showcase is the culmination of 12 weeks of hard work, with the 11 founders working through a really intensive programme of learning, developing, pivoting and creating. Some of the pitches at the showcase are a pitch for growth, some are pitching for investment and for some others it’s more about the personal journey.”
What does Accelerator do for the participants?
Caryn explains, “The programme gives them the right tools and the right connections to learn as much as they can, from as many people as possible. At the end they can go out and scale and grow their business. A lot of creative businesses are in isolation, and often [the owners] question themselves and they struggle. By bringing them together and forming a strong community where they support each other, that’s the special sauce. We also have Accelerator programs in Aberdeen and Dundee, so we don’t just connect the founders here, we connect the regions as well, bringing them together with people that they might never meet otherwise. It’s quite special.”
The contents of the programme
The Accelerator Programme is broadly split into three sections, Caryn says. “The first four weeks is about validation. Lots of people say they want to start or grow a business, but is there a business? Are there customers? Do you know exactly who your customers are? Can your business give you exactly what you want or need from it? We spend a lot of the first four weeks working on that. Then we move into a phase where they can move ahead with their business, or change their plans if necessary. That’s when we work on marketing, sales, creating customer personas, bringing it to life. The last four weeks is pulling it all together and creating a plan and a growth strategy.”
The Accelerator programme is part of a larger and wide-ranging programme of business support offered by the Famous Grouse Ideas Centre. The Incubator aims to support creative businesses in the early stages, or prior to formation. The Creative Pipeline aims to inspire young people not in education, employment or training to consider employment or self-employment in the creative sector. The Creative Exchange will house the Famous Grouse Ideas Centre, 26 artists’ studios, offices, workshop space, project space and a café.
What a previous founder said
Ian Potter is the owner of LightPress Media & Design, a design and multimedia production company in Perth. He explains why he joined the Accelerator programme in May 2018 as part of the first cohort. “My business had been ‘surviving’ for quite a while but with no real direction or long-term plan. It’s a scary thing being self-employed with nobody to bounce ideas off or to even just talk through plans you have in the pipeline. I hoped the course would give me tips and some idea of how others took the plunge into full-time self-employment.
“The reality is that, of all the things the course offered – mentoring, accounting help, risk-mitigation advice, tender-coaching – it was actually self-confidence that I gained the most. Not that the rest of the course wasn’t any good – it was brilliant – but I think every person that goes through the process takes away something individual to them. I went into the course with a five-year plan to get premises. Suddenly it became a five-week plan and I found myself collecting the keys to my new city-centre studio on the very last day of Accelerator.”
Moving onwards and upwards
How will the Accelerator programme develop and continue to provide value for the businesses and for Perthshire? Caryn says, “We are preparing for the move to the Creative Exchange, which will hopefully be open at the end of 2019. Also, although we are in the early stages, we have already built a community of over 30 supporters from the private and public sector, who are mentors from the local area and who have volunteered their time to come and work with the businesses. I think that speaks volumes for the city and how passionate the business community is to come together and give up time to support these businesses.”
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