York’s budding entrepreneurs were given a boost on Saturday 11 March as they benefited from a packed day of activities to help them pursue their goals in business.
Attended by more than 60 ambitious local entrepreneurs, the StartUp Saturday event took place in the city’s historic Guildhall. This event included an address from Councillor Ashley Mason, in which he reflected on York’s rich entrepreneurial heritage and the role that small businesses play in the city’s success.
The event also included an opportunity for business leaders to pitch for funding, with 10 young founders securing grants of £1000 each.
StartUp Saturday is part of the nation-wide StartUp UK initiative, a partnership between Enterprise Nation and Monzo Business. The event in York was facilitated by City of York Council and Enterprise Nation to help support the diverse range of small and independent businesses in the city.
Emma Jones, CEO and founder of Enterprise Nation, guided attendees through every aspect of founding a start-up, from writing a business plan to navigating the world of finance.
After lunch and networking, attendees learned tips for successfully establishing an online presence for their business with social media strategist Amanda Perry, before hearing from a panel of York business founders, who shared lessons and advice from their experiences of starting a business.
The day’s events rounded off with ten York-based entrepreneurs aged under 30 being awarded grants of £1,000 each, having taken part in a pitching competition.
Cllr. Ashley Mason, Executive Member for Economy and Strategic Planning, said:
For centuries, York has been built on the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that was clear to see at this informative and inspiring event.
"It was fantastic to welcome Enterprise Nation to the city and to hear about the range of exciting business ideas on show. I’d like to congratulate the ten grant winners, whose ideas stood out as particularly innovative and promising.
“I’d encourage anyone with a new business in York, or who is looking for advice on starting one to take full advantage of the local support. This includes support from our Business Growth Managers, and our weekly business newsletter which will help you stay up to date with events, funding opportunities and the latest news from the council and beyond.”
The £10,000 grants were provided by local philanthropist Richard Harpin, co-founder and former CEO of home improvements and repairs firm HomeServe, via his York-based enterprise charity the Enterprise Trust.
Richard Harpin said:
I’m passionate about supporting young entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses.
"I was a keen self-starter in my youth and that early hands-on experience helped to shape the entrepreneurial career I’ve had ever since. That’s why I believe we should do everything we can to introduce and nurture enterprise in the next generation."
The 10 grants were awarded to:
- York-based Ruby Willow, Femme Cacao (food and drink)
- George Lewis (York University), Sailia (tech)
- Leeds-based Martin Sabucha, Stag Strat (tech)
- York-based Joly Black, Four Wheel Drive York Ltd (creative)
- York-based Olivia Heppell, Skintelligence (beauty)
- York-based Ryan Willis, Open World Quests (themed walks)
- York-based Jessica Riley, Mind Body Beauty (beauty)
- York-based Josh Fowler, Clean & Restore (furniture restoration)
- Harrogate-based Olivia Kitteridge, Real Time Stories (education)
- Pickering-based Lyes Berkache, Yorloos (portable toilets)
Ruby Willow, 26, is the founder of York-based Femme Cacao. A former journalist and chocolate addict, Ruby launched her cacao-based powdered drinks range earlier this year to support women’s health - but getting access to funding was a huge issue.
When you don't have savings or people to help you, it's really hard to put money into your business in the early days.
“I'd already spent everything I had on development and testing, and wasn’t sure how to pay for launching my first product. This grant will help me to pay for stock and make money that I'll reinvest and grow with. It came at exactly at the right time for me and it also made me feel more confident because the panel agreed that my idea was worth investing in. I know my business will make a difference to women and knowing that others believe in it too is very reassuring.”
Josh Fowler, 24, started his oven and upholstery cleaning and furniture restoration firm Clean & Restore in August last year from his home in York. He said since the cost-of-living crisis hit, people had cut back, but he planned to grow by increasing awareness of his services to a wider audience.
Winning the grant will have a direct impact on the success of Clean & Restore. The grant will help me afford advertising that has a further reach which I wouldn’t have been able to do without the grant.
York University Student George Willis, 19, who has developed a booking app for water sports clubs, said:
Winning this grant is an incredible milestone for me and my tech startup. Starting at the age of 17 with no business skills, I have dedicated the last 2.5 years of my life to building this venture. This grant will enable me to accelerate our growth and impact. I am truly grateful for this opportunity.
The event was facilitated by City of York Council, using funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
Emma Jones, CBE, Founder of Enterprise Nation, said:
There is no shortage of entrepreneurial ambition in York. The event highlighted a wealth of talented individuals who are driving forward their businesses with real passion.
“What we must do next is help the next generation of entrepreneurs to succeed with the business support, tools and funding they need to thrive and grow.”
To find out more about events such as the sign up to the council’s weekly business newsletter.