An after-work programme designed to support people in rural communities into starting a business has helped 39 enterprises launch in its first year.
In twelve months The 5 to 9 Club™ visited Merthyr, Ebbw Vale, Pontypridd, Caerphilly, Treorchy and Aberdare where it supported 98 people, with almost half of those going on to found a business and start trading.
The 5 to 9 Club is a key part of theWelsh Innovation Centre for Enterprise’s (ICE) outreach programme, as it looks to connect with potential business founders across south east Wales.
The 5 to 9 Club aims to support individuals with an idea and help them turn it into a fully-fledged business by equipping them with the skills and knowledge they will need to launch and grow. The workshops are held once a week from 5pm to 9pm, to allow those who work full-time to gain the experience and support needed to grow their business idea without taking the risk of giving up full-time employment.
Outreach Engagement Manager at Welsh ICE, Lesley Williams said: “We’re delighted to be looking back at one year of 5 to 9 Club and the remarkable strides our members have made. Many people that joined the programme came with nothing more than an idea or simply a desire to work for themselves, so to see so many of them launch, or be in the final stages of launching, proves the necessity of a programme that reaches out to the more rural, valleys communities.”
The eight-week course is open to anyone and features a series of workshops where attendees can develop their idea into a business plan right through to launching and even seeking investment.
Each week is hosted by a different expert who guides participants through aspects of starting a business, culminating in a pitch night, where participants present their ideas to their fellow founders, talking through their business plan and their next steps.
One of the founders that launched her business through the 5 to 9 Club is Jen Harding, from Danger Doodles.
Danger Doodles creates illustrations that promote positive mental health and wellbeing. Since launching in July, the business has sold greetings cards, calendars and commissions across the world, and its founder Jen was invited to Facebook HQ in London, where she now has a regular stand selling her items.
Jen, who joined the programme in March, with nothing more than the idea that she wanted to work for herself, said the programme helped her turn her hobby into a business: “The 5 to 9 Club was fantastic and has had a huge impact on my life. Before joining the programme I was really struggling; I knew I wanted to explore using my creativity to carve out a career, but I just didn’t have the experience or the confidence to do so.
“The 5 to 9 programme gave me that confidence through the expert workshops, but also through the like-minded community that takes the journey with you. I’d recommend it to anyone looking to turn an idea into reality. It really does put you in an environment where you can grow, and who knows, it could change your life.”
Welsh ICE is one of five regional enterprise hubs across Wales, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government. The hubs will see over £4m invested to provide supportive spaces and mentoring for new and growing businesses, with the ICE Campus supporting the South East Wales Valleys region.