Spark Up investment levels fire up Liverpool and Sefton Chamber’s Year of the Entrepreneur

Founder of Liverpool’s biggest business accelerator programme has announced that just two years since launching Spark Up is attracting record levels of investment and helping drive scores of start-ups on to success.

Liverpool Chamber CEO, Jenny Stewart announced the news to a delegation of some of the city’s biggest business names, at a special pitching evening designed to celebrate the success of Spark Up’s diverse range of entrepreneurs.

The latest impact report shows that since its pilot programme in 2014, Spark Up has supported 94 businesses, helped create 124 new jobs in the city region and generate investment totalling £534,300 – a total which exceeds their half a million pounds target.

Spark Up is also bucking a national trend which suggests that 90% of new businesses fail within the first five years. 97.9% of businesses who have enrolled on the Spark Up programme are still in operation today. Collectively businesses on the programme have generated a turnover of more than £1million.

14 entrepreneurs from Spark Up’s third programme which finished in December 2015 took to the stage at Peel’s waterfront building to pitch for a chance to win an immediate £1,000 injection into their business.

A specially selected judging panel including Nigel Needham, NatWest, Iain White, DSG, Bill Addy, Liverpool BID Company and Cllr. Jim Noakes asked each entrepreneur questions about their business, before coming together to decide a winner.

Estelle Cartlidge, founder of Yoga Bears a children’s yoga and well-being programme and Michael Frackowiak owner of Men’s Finest Pocket Squares a bespoke men’s outfitter, each took home £500 as judges deemed both of worthy winners of the investment prize. Programme partner NatWest provided the competition prize.

Ms Stewart said:

“Each entrepreneur performed brilliantly and there were some fantastic pitches showing the diverse range of new businesses being created right here in Liverpool. Michael and Estelle were chosen because they demonstrated that their businesses had scalability, which is a key factor for success.

“Spark Up provides a springboard for our entrepreneurs to grow and access the support networks they need to do so. The figures from the latest impact report show the programme works – a success rate of nearly 98% speaks for itself! But more than this, I have witnessed each and every one of them undertake a personal journey, which has seen them grow and develop in ways some of them never thought possible.

“Having a great business idea and the business plans to back this is one thing, but having the drive and determination to turn your idea into a reality, is what will ultimately determine the success of your business.”

Bill Addy, CEO Liverpool BID Company, which has offered support for Spark Up since the start of its 2015 programme, said:

“It was wonderful to see so many aspiring entrepreneurs take to the stage and showcase their businesses. It took some debate and deliberation to choose the final winners, but Michael and Estelle demonstrated to the panel, that their businesses had scalability and growth potential, which made them stand out that little bit more.

“Liverpool has a rich business community and this community can only benefit from the creation of innovative start-ups businesses, like the ones we’ve seen come through Spark Up. Small businesses are a vital part of our city’s future, which is why it is important to support them in every way we can.

“We are always looking at ways in which BID can support the development of new businesses in Liverpool and are pleased to be able to help some of the businesses currently involved in the Spark Up programme.”

Michael Frackowiak, started Men’s Finest Pocket Squares, whilst working in his day job as a calibration consultant for a leading engineering firm. He sells luxury handmade pocket squares and bowties from his online retail store. Since joining Spark Up last year, Michael has seen his business grow quickly, thanks to the support of the programme’s mentors who have helped him develop a network of contacts.

He now sells his products to Liverpool-based retailers and has signed a contract with a leading online retailer to sell his products to a wider audience. Over the next two to five years, he hopes to expand the range of products offered to suits and even female apparel.

Michael said:

“Spark Up has opened so many doors for me and helped me realise that my business can be more than just a bit on the side, with real potential for growth. December last year was my busiest month for sales and no doubt Spark Up had something to do with this.

“The £500 from the pitching competition will provide a boost to my marketing materials, helping me spread the word about the products we offer. This year looks set to be an exciting year for the business, we have lots planned with local and national retailers, which will help us take our product to the masses.”

As part of its Year of the Entrepreneur, the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce plans to use the knowledge gained from Spark Up, to create a ‘Business Spark’ programme. This will help existing businesses grow and attract new businesses from outside into Liverpool.

Spark Up’s fourth programme is currently underway with 24 businesses enrolled. It is the first of three programmes this year and more information can be found at

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