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Reflections on east London’s Future Business Incubator

Free desk space and business support for 9 months in east London? Access to a programme of workshops and expert advice from mentors with no cost at all?

Sounds too good to be true, right? – but it isn’t! Our Future Business Incubator, run from our centre in Hackney over the last 9 months, has supported a whole host of social impact businesses to help them develop and grow. As we face the final stages of the programme, we caught up with a few of the ventures from our most recent cohort to reflect on their time at Allia and find out what they’ve found most valuable.

It’s great when you have a problem, someone will say ‘I can help with that!

Jamie Palmer, Founder of Social Supermarket

“The programme has been really helpful in many ways. Firstly, being connected to a great network of other social impact businesses. Secondly, the practical support delivered by the workshops around issues to do with finance, and business strategy etc. And thirdly, being connected to a business mentor who has a lot of experience in marketing.”

Social Supermarket is like an ethical amazon – it is the largest e commence site for social enterprise products in the UK.

 

Paul Carse, CTO and Co-founder at Life Moments

 “The programme has been tremendous. What’s been great is working with people who have similar types of problems and the mentors and workshops have really helped us figure out how we can measure our social impact.”

Life Moment’s First Home Coach helps people get onto the housing ladder a lot faster, taking them right through from when they’re trying to figure out how much they can afford, all the way through to saving up, getting credit ready, to buying their property and moving in.

 

Comet Chukura, Founder of GLOW

“The most challenging thing is being a sole founder, but the programme has helped massively. As well as the workshops, the people around you are really helpful. Everyone’s at different stages, so it’s great that when you have a problem, you can just mention it and someone will say ‘I can help with that’.”

Glow make high visibility accessories for the active wear market. They are made from wool so it’s sustainable and are created by women from disadvantaged backgrounds.

 

Rene Perkins, CEO of CityMass

Having a good network around you and likeminded people is fantastic, because you can learn off each other, and the business challenges are often similar.”

CityMasS help people with limited mobility to save travel time by providing an AI driven travel platform with real time accessibility information

 

Dr Shama Rahman, CEO Neurocreate

 “The programme has helped me break down what I wanted to achieve. We’ve been helped with understanding customer feedback and putting it back into product development. The space has been an incredible support too, and the mentors have been really helpful.”

Neurocreate make digital tools and use the power of AI to help people to get into a more creative state of mind.

 

After graduating from the Future Business Incubator, each company will continue to be supported by Allia; many stay close within the Future Business Centre community by using the facilities such as co-working space or a virtual office. Many of the cohort will also be taking part in the Perfect Pitch competition in September – an initiative organised by J. P. Morgan, where each company has the opportunity to pitch to senior members of the J.P. Morgan team and stand the chance to win exclusive and dedicated office hours support from J.P. Morgan executives to tackle key business challenges.

Not only are we saying our goodbyes to the cohort, but we also wish all the best to the team behind the running of the programme, Andrea Gamson (Programme Manager) and Sorrel Carmichael (Programme Support Lead). We spoke to Andrea and Sorrel, who are both moving on to new adventure; they’ve given insight into what they enjoyed most about their time at Allia and told us what they’re going on to do next.

How many ventures have you supported in your time at Allia?

Andrea: I’ve worked at Allia for almost a year and a half, and in that time I’ve run two 9-month incubator programmes, with around 70 companies across the two.

Sorrel: I joined a few months after Andrea, and supported those two programmes. I also ran the ‘How to Hire’ programme which had about 18 companies on it, taking them through the hiring process.

What was the best thing about the programme?

Sorrel: The supportive environment, and the connections that are built between the incubatees and the wider networks.

Could you give one example of a venture that has the potential to make significant impact?

Andrea: I think Ferly has the potential to get more women building a better relationship with themselves and therefore demanding a more respectful relationship with others, which I think is a biggie.

Sorrel: I think Banjo Robinson are making significant impact by inspiring children to get reading and writing. Writing could become a lost art with so much technology around. It draws them away from screen time and lets them get curious about the world.

Andrea: There are so many, they’re all amazing!

What is your one piece of advice for new businesses?

Andrea: Build yourself a community of similar minded entrepreneurs and mentors because the process will make you go mad, and you have to know that you’re not the only one. And when you realise that, it changes everything. Get the help and support that you need, because you can’t do it on your own.

Sorrel: Try and enjoy it. It can be pretty tough, and to know when to give up is also valuable. To know that you are not your business, and its success does not define your success.

What are you going on to do next?

Sorrel: I’m moving to Bristol to do a practical course on permaculture, sustainable living and community building. I’m also going to be making a big change and will be living permanently in my van in order to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Andrea: While I’ve been working here for the last year and a half, I’ve also run my own business – which has been hard (but the best 18 months of my life!). So now I’m going back into working on my business full time and making money to reinvest the profits back into supporting social entrepreneurs in developing countries. I’m heading over to Sri Lanka soon to join the ecosystem of social entrepreneurs there, which should be really great.

To find out more about the different venture support programmes run by Allia Future Business Centre, visit: futurebusinesscentre.co.uk/our-programmes