Kallum with a K: Acorn Enterprise wants more innovation in the Scottish entrepreneurial ecosystem

Kallum Russell (centre) with the 6th BAP Graduation group
Kallum Russell (centre) with the 6th BAP Graduation group

What do you get if you cross a magician, dog treats made from crickets and a unique loyalty app for golfers?

The “Acorns” on the tenth Acorn Enterprise Business Accelerator Programme!

Our organisation has helped more than 80 new businesses across Fife and Dundee through ten 20-week Programmes, since launching in 2013.

In Fife, the Programme is run in LibertySpace, Rosyth Business Centre, and in the Flour Mill, Dundee. They are also co-ordinating the Edinburgh Business School Incubator, based at Heriot-Watt University.

The new businesses on the 10th Programme will benefit from: co-working space in the Flour Mill, weekly seminars on topics such as marketing, law and finance, led by business leaders, and a business mentor, to provide an extra layer of accountability.

Unlike many other organisations in the Scottish entrepreneurial ecosystem, Acorn Enterprise receives no funding from the State.

They generate revenue through sponsorship and philanthropy, offering 3D printing services and providing entrepreneurship training activities to Colleges, Universities and other organisations. This money is used to provide the Business Accelerator Programme for free to new businesses, typically pre-trading up to three years old. Acorn Enterprise does not take any equity in the startups they help.

Acorn Enterprise was launched in Fife because we felt there was a real need for support for new business owners that was structured, intensive and entrepreneurial-led. It was really borne out of our own frustration so my business partner Jerry and I decided to tackle this head on.

A lot has changed since we launched more than 5 years ago. We constantly read stories about how great Scotland is to start a new business and this is true.

However, there are some real problems with the ecosystem, namely: there is a lot of overlap, there is no clear ‘map’ for business owners to determine the type of support available to them, and many of these organisation are run by the Government or at arm’s length.

Due to the way the system is structured, many of these agencies have to focus on ticking boxes or fluffing ‘impact reports’. Unfortunately, the problem is compounded because they are all vying for the same pot of money from the State!

Acorn Enterprise is on a mission to grow the UK’s entrepreneurial culture and in doing so, challenge the way the ecosystem works for the better.  We can do this because we are self-funded and can speak out against some of the bad practices many of the new businesses we accelerate have experienced. We can be truly disruptive in a positive way.

Isn’t it ironic that many of the organisations in Scotland that give new businesses advice on how to be entrepreneurial and innovative find it very difficult to be either of these themselves because of Government-led constraints?!

Craig McKay, owner of Bearded Basturds, was an Acorn on the sixth Business Accelerator Programme in Fife in 2016 and he explained the help he received: “There is nothing else like Acorn Enterprise. The support I received from the team, the seminar hosts, my mentor, and everyone else on the Programme was invaluable!

“The Programme allowed me to quit my job and scale up from making our beard products in my house to an office with a production facility. We have since exported to over 15 countries, secured several white labelling contract to supply salons from Edinburgh to London and we have also secured private investment.

It is the best thing I have ever done for my business and proves what they always say: ‘From little Acorns…mighty Oaks grow!’”.

To find out more about Acorn Enterprise, visit their website: www.acornenterprise.co.uk