Blog: Becoming truly enterprising – lessons from a local tech start-up

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Participants on Voscur's free Kick Start Course
Thursday, 15 February, 2018

Vicky Redding, Voscur’s Training and Development Officer, shares interesting learning from a pilot project connecting VCSE start-ups with local businesses.

 

As Voscur’s Training and Development Officer I have now led six ‘Kick Start your organisation’ training courses and I’m proud that I have helped more than 50 people to begin to make a real and lasting difference to their communities.

Kick start is a free 12 hour course, funded by ERDF and designed to offer start-up support to those with an idea for a new project, social enterprise or community business who need help to get it off the ground. It covers all of the essential areas to consider such as researching the demand for/potential of your idea, deciding on the right structure, fundraising, business planning, marketing and much more.

In the past year, Kick Start has evolved to become more focussed on social enterprise, partly in recognition of the fact that all voluntary and community organisations need to become more enterprising in order to survive.

Last week I had the pleasure of being part of an exciting pilot project, initiated by Jessie Langton, our Partnerships and Skills Coordinator. Jessie developed a link with local tech start-up Zenstores, with a view to offering follow-up business support to Kick Start ‘graduates’ (‘Kick Starters’).

As a young start-up tech company, Zenstores wanted to share their experience in marketing, fundraising and building a team to help other start-ups. As a new enterprise, they also felt that they had fresh insight to share around working backwards from your vision to create a roadmap that will take you there.

Last Friday three Kick Start groups each received 1 hour of pro-bono business mentoring with Zenstores, which I had the privilege of sitting in on. Some common themes emerged from the sessions that would be interesting to anyone embarking on new projects or services:

  • As social enterprises, the Kick Starters’ why’ was very strong but their ‘what’ and the ‘how’ were less clear.
  • Partly because Kick Starters are very motivated by the ‘why’, they are all trying to do too much at once, and Zenstore’s advice was to focus on doing one thing brilliantly and then build on that later.
  • All the Kick Starters were worried about choosing the best legal structure.  Zenstores encouraged them to put off this decision and to focus on making something happen first to test both the market and the product/service.

Lovewell, one of the Kick Start groups that took part said: “The session helped to challenge some of our assumptions, and I think enabled us to think a bit more outside the box – very apt for a start-up!”

The voluntary sector is always being told to work more closely with businesses and this pilot project has convinced me of the reward that awaits the groups who do.

Voscur is keen to hear from other businesses who feel they have skills to share, especially in the areas of digital literacy, finance, business planning and marketing. Please contact either Jessie Langton or me, Vicky Redding.

For groups interested in joining our Kick Start programme - our next course starts on Monday 19 February and another begins in April. It’s completely free and you can apply here. Who knows what it might lead to?

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