Why I applied for Entrepreneurial Spark
Entrepreneurial Spark has played a part in the success of thousands of businesses. For those who haven't heard of it before, they're a national organisation providing free business acceleration programmes to start ups in a range of cities across the UK.
Their programmes are split into four stages, depending on how far along the start up is in their business journey - with the hope that they progress through the stages, if the business idea is as good as the entrepreneur thinks it is.
In the latest intake, one of the new entrepreneurs to be joining the thriving Brighton Hatchery (as it's referred to) community is yours truly.
Those who have seen me or followed my story online over the last few months already know this information. However, fellow entrepreneurs I've spoken to about this decision have all asked me the same question: why?
Whilst putting myself through one of the somewhat mentally challenging application process and enjoying the relief of actually getting in over the past few months, my response to this question has been fairly simple: I need help.
As I sat in the induction bootcamp on Monday 30th January, I realised that I could write an entire dissertation on why I'm incredibly grateful that Entrepreneurial Spark exists - but I figured a blog post would be sufficient.
About the Sprint programme
Before I go any further, it's important here to note that I'm on the 'Sprint' programme, which is the first stage of the E Spark journey.
The programme takes place over three months, with monthly group enablement sessions and monthly workshops. We're the first intake to be on this programme, so it's pretty new to everyone, but the idea is that the next three months are focused on us validating our idea and setting the foundations to ensure our businesses can be both sustainable and scalable.
The 'I'm so glad they're sharing this' content
Every chiclet (as they like to call the entrepreneurs) are at different stages in their careers - so I can't speak for everyone over the content. However, with only 3 years of marketing and PR experience under my belt and fairly little business training, finding out what the Sprint entailed lead to a sigh of relief.
Finally, all of those contradictory business books I've been reading can channel into one.
Overcoming Pitch Fright
I know my business. It's the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep. However, when it comes to condensing that baby into 60 seconds and saying it out loud, I freeze, freak out and question my existence.
However, E Spark gives you the training and opportunities to perfect your pitch - by threatening to make you pitch at any given moment.
Friends, prepare to hear my pitch practice a lot over the coming months.
Being part of the local entrepreneurial community
Whilst my support network is absolutely awesome - and getting even stronger through developing the City Girl Network, there are moments when I find myself having little (ok, quite big) business-leader-related freak outs.
Rumour has it, the E Spark community is pretty great at dealing with said freak outs - and I've already seen my own supportive chiclet crew develop in just a few days of being on the programme.
Having some direction and accountability
Every E Spark programme provides you with the essential opportunity to do something that most entrepreneurs forget to do: step back and look at their business.
When you're so caught up in keeping your business alive, it's difficult to see where it's actually going - you may think you do, but you probably don't. The enablement sessions force you to acknowledge that.
During our bootcamp session, one of the exercises was around goal setting and another kick started our journey to building a business model canvas - or, in the case of some, rebuilding their business model canvas.
Becoming a better business leader
The standout feature of Entrepreneurial Spark in comparison to other business accelerator organisations is that it focuses on developing the Entrepreneur.
I'm 24 years old and have had little business training, yet I've created a business that's growing fast. I've read several books, watched several videos, studied some free online courses and have been to as many free workshops as I can, but I've never had any real in-person coaching.
Calling myself an "Entrepreneurial Spark Chiclet" is not going to guarantee me a spot on the 'Forbes 30 Under 30', but with the tools, the community and the accountability that's now available to me, the City Girl Network could grow faster than you think.