Team Allia were delighted to come away with the Workspace of the Year award at the Hustle Awards last night, run by Startups magazine. The national awards recognise the outstanding achievements of individuals, companies, and innovation in the start-up ecosystem. Allia was up against some tough competition from an impressive array of workspace providers from across the UK – so were super excited to win the award and celebrate with a great bunch of peers from the sector.
David Broach, Director of Allia Future Business Centres was there on the night, along with colleagues, to pick up the award and reflect on what it meant to the organisation.
“After the challenge of the last two and a half years, to be shortlisted, let alone win this national award is a fantastic achievement! It is testament to the resilience, hard work and commitment of everyone across the Allia Future Business Centres and Impact teams and we are extremally proud to have been recognised amongst our peers in this way.”
The entry for the award focused on how our centres form an innovation community for our tenants and co-workers, who can network and collaborate – as well as benefit from free business support from our venture support teams. We believe the true strength of our offering is due to this focus on impact, and the fact that we’re a non-profit social enterprise – means that everything we do – from the business centres to our impact projects, is interwoven so that we’re more than just a desk, we truly support our network, and are focused on their growth and helping them to achieve greater positive impact. Our award entry is below:
The award entry
We’ve been at the forefront of impact innovation since 1999. In this time, we have helped hundreds of entrepreneurs, start-ups, small businesses and impact ventures to develop and grow, so that they can create employment opportunities and achieve greater positive impact.
We do this through running free business support programmes and innovative funded projects. Our programmes are delivered by our talented venture support team who work across Cambridge, Peterborough and East London. They are dedicated to help small businesses, start-ups and impact organisations build resilience, to thrive and grow, so that they can make a positive impact on their community, as well as addressing social and environmental global challenges.
Our Future Business Centres in Cambridge and Peterborough offer flexible workspace and a vibrant community for small businesses who are creating change.
We are delighted to say that the majority of our tenants are impact based and many started out on one of our business support programmes, moving to becoming a co-worker and then having an office in one of our centres as they have grown.
Some have grown further and moved out of our centre to their own premises – and we see this as a success story, as we are proud to have played a part in their impact journey. As a not-for-profit, our centre services create funds that we plough back into our impact work, enabling the support programmes to be free, creating a support ecosystem for small businesses.
We’ve supported over 2,000 ventures, which have gone on to create over 5,000 jobs, and our alumni have raised over £90 million through grants and investments.
Whether it’s a local social entrepreneur or the next tech-for-good start-up, every venture’s work we support goes towards our objectives of supporting a specific community or social and environmental issue. Traditional start-up ecosystems can be so focused on ROI and financial returns that the goals and values of the fledgling business can be overlooked, or worse, restricted. We prioritise positive impact, so we are able to help ventures create a path to commercial viability while changing the world for good.
Our Future Business Centres provide a supportive community where early stage start-ups can access free business support to help them understand if their idea is feasible and has a market; where established founders can meet weekly and meet with mentors to take their start-up to the next level; and where founders of impact businesses (such as tech for good or Cleantech start-ups and social innovation enterprises) can focus on growth and amplifying their impact.
From Grow Your Business for community micro businesses, to Impact Accelerator for environmental or social start-ups, our venture support team in East London alone helped over 200 businesses in its first year. We actively recruit underrepresented groups and are proud that across our programmes 50% of our founders are female. For every £1 investment in Grow Your Business, £8 is created in local boroughs, to benefit the local community.
From investment and funding opportunities, coaching and mentoring, to collaboration with global networks, the start-ups in our ecosystem benefit from our support and from introductions to our own strategic network of contacts.
When founders join our programmes or start-ups move into our centres, they join a friendly and vibrant community of like-minded people who are all working towards creating greater positive impact. They join an ecosystem of support – the founder journey can be a lonely one, so we help create lasting relationships with our cohorts and tenants so that they know they are not alone. We bring founders together in an environment where they can talk about their challenges, share real life experiences, and help each other build networks and collaborate. Cohorts receive 1-1 opportunities with skilled business advisors to tackle individual challenges and work through ways to overcome these hurdles.
“Allia Future Business Centre is home to like-minded businesses, and like-minded people run the centre. We’ve been connected to a wealth of useful information and networks that have supported our development, including mentoring, introductions to investors and potential customers” – Bios Health
Most importantly, Allia’s strategic partners that help us deliver our programmes can introduce start-ups to a global network of resources and support – such as Allia being the first UK organisation to work with leading European climate initiative EIT Climate-KIC on its Climate Accelerator. Part of the programme is enabling introductions to a global network of investors, supporters and partners. All of our Accelerators end in a pitch day, where experienced fund managers, business angels and corporate investors hear the ventures showcase their business cases and solutions.
Early stage start-ups on some of our programmes benefit from free workspace at our centres – taking them from their kitchen table or shed to an innovation community where they can step up, network and grow their business in a professional business environment. In addition to tenants in our centre receiving free business support, our programme cohorts benefit from the workspace too – and often are given free meeting room space (as well as lots of free coffee on the go!).
Most recently, we pivoted our own offerings to help struggling businesses to pivot theirs. When the Covid crisis hit and lockdown critically affected many local businesses we took our Grow Your Business programme online and altered the focus to building resilience and pivoting in response to the crisis. We’ve also worked with Tower Hamlets Borough Council targeting freelance creatives in the borough who’ve suffered through lockdown with grant funding and business support to help them build back stronger.
Finally, the impressive array of experienced mentors on Allia’s programmes come from a variety of professional backgrounds, have diverse skills and specialties offering valuable advice and coaching to the founders. This, together with the 1-2-1 business support from Allia’s advisors, the introductions to investors and funders, plus resources and workspace, means that the benefits to start-ups move with them from the start, through their impact journey, and help them to achieve real positive growth and change.
“The Future Business Centre provided us with the perfect working space solution for us to build our business. We’ve loved working alongside and getting to know other startups within the building, often helping each other with common problems that we’ve faced or sharing helpful contacts. Allia have created a great community and provided support that has helped us build FLIT to what it is today; from the early days of prototyping our ebike to our very successful launch campaign on Kickstarter.” – FLIT e-bikes