This year our summer accelerator cohort featured 16 businesses across various industries – from Marketing and Photography through to 3D printing and Shoe Fixing. As a result of the current climate our accelerator ran online, with one two-hour session per week over four weeks, supplemented by a bank of resources for participants to work through. Our business advisers also offered tailored appointments for our accelerator participants, offering in depth analysis of their businesses. Amongst the topics covered were leadership in entrepreneurship, marketing and branding, sales, and everyone’s ‘favourite’ – finance and accounting.
Unlike previous years, this time we challenged our participants to invest and grow £50 – all 16 businesses received this token sum at the beginning, and were tasked with investing it back into their business in a way that would create the greatest impact. At the end of the accelerator, we invited Bruce Walker from FutureX Innovation and Lindsey McArthur from Santander Universities, who had the difficult task of awarding a total of £6000. Our participants each had three minutes to tell us who they are, what they do, and why they deserve the money.
What we did differently
The challenge of engaging 16 businesses online and building a community with people who have essentially never met in person was tackled head on by the team here at BRT. Our two hour weekly sessions featured a mix of talks, breakout rooms and open Q&A. This way we encouraged peer learning and relationship building. This year we also trialled a summer accelerator Facebook group – this was a place where all the businesses could interact, as well as a platform to post interesting and relevant content.
Prior to the start of the accelerator, the team at BRT interviewed a range of entrepreneurs and academics – this substituted our usual guest lecture slots. It worked well – it allowed us to present our participants with over six different ‘faces’, rather than just one guest lecture. All the videos can be found on our YouTube channel here
Another challenge was setting tasks for the week and making sure that everyone remained engaged with the programme throughout the four week period. We used Moodle as a base for our resources, where each week the accelerator participants were given a list of tasks under the format ‘Read, Listen, Watch’. The feedback we had was great and we will be adding this element to our accelerator next year.
A glance at the future
As with all organisations, we at BRT had to move fast and adapt to the circumstances that arose due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In under two months, the team managed to digitalise all our accelerator content, create an online space to host resources and deliver a four week programme that, hopefully, had a positive impact on 16 emerging entrepreneurs. Looking ahead at the new trimester in September 2020, we are committed to providing the same quality service to our members – be it through our Freelance Academy and Start-up Visa workshops, our event offerings and drop in sessions.