The new Incubator Programme offers University of Westminster, students and graduates the chance to accelerate the growth of a high-potential business. Incubator Programme entrants are those past the ideation stages, possessing resilient or significant growth concepts with the potential to disrupt markets and make real change. The 12- or 24-month-long programme seeks to dedicate the University’s full entrepreneurial expertise, facilities, connections and funding, to accelerate these ventures towards the best possible position from which to make a market impact and continue to seek further seed funding.  

Don’t be afraid to fail! 

“It offers a network of peers trying to establish themselves in similar areas, a space to work in, a variety of resources, 1-2-1 mentoring, competitions and opportunities to pitch for funding,” said MA Interior Design graduate Emily Eby, who is still completing the programme. “That’s the quick version, but it’s an incredible resource.” 

Despite having no previous experience in the industry, Emily set up her online interior design business, while still studying her MA, and she was accepted onto the Incubator Programme. Her business, NUAxDESIGN – short for New Beginnings by Design – showcases emerging designers and makes interior design advice more accessible to consumers. Though still only three years’ old it is on a rapid growth trajectory – in part due to the Incubator Programme.  

“Don't be afraid to fail! Some failure is inevitable,” Emily said, speaking to budding student and graduate entrepreneurs everywhere. “Whether on a project, or on a day-to-day basis. How you deal with those small failures determines how you deal with the bigger failures. I say this all with a smile! Iterate, and if it's not working, improve it and try again.” 

This is the mantra of all entrepreneurships – and initiatives like the Incubator Programme give entrepreneurs from all backgrounds the time, space and resources to do just that. 

Support, mentoring and funding 

This structured, intensive programme offers full cycle support, including free access to a dedicated co-working space and an exclusive community of peers, mentors and advisors. As well as promoting collaboration with fellow entrepreneurs, mentors and advisors also help participants to develop and validate their business models, form customer development strategies and finally launch and begin business operations.  

A crucial part of this process is gaining funding! Many promising businesses already making waves in their industries stumble at the first hurdle, due to lack of investors from the outset. This is particularly true for entrepreneurs who enter the market without money or connections. Like all we do, the University of Westminster’s Incubator Programme aims to level the playing field, empower talented and dedicated entrepreneurs, from all backgrounds, and boost our students’ and graduates’ future employability. 

How to engage with the Incubator Programme and Start-ups

There’s an array of opportunities for expertise sharing with corporate entities. As shown by Charles Nasser and Santander, there are chances for individual and corporate involvement in event panels and bootcamp sessions, as well as, more infrequently and flexibly, via one-to-one guidance of entrepreneurial students at any stage in their enterprise journey. 

In order to ensure that all founders have a sufficient budget to grow their start-ups, the Incubator Programme will provide £10,000 at the start of/during the programme based on ventures achieving pre-defined growth and/or product development milestones. The programme will start with 10 start-ups and grow its portfolio in the next few years. 

Prospective funders have considerable flexibility and choices as to how they can get involved. There is in-programme funding, post-programme funding, charitable funding, investment funding, even ringfencing funding for donors to give to a certain type of business such as Black-owned businesses, or a creative industries business concept. There are also opportunities for the funders to act as mentors, helping these outfits through their business connections and experience. 

Investors can also provide seed funding with share attachments within the business, the way an angel investor would. The University will support some of these investments – providing additional piece of mind for investors. 

To explore how you, as an entrepreneur or as an organisation can engage with future entrepreneur talents, please email [email protected]