Just over four years ago Paula Skinner, a Partner in the Corporate department at Harper Macleod, met Jim Duffy … and she didn’t know what was about to happen. What followed was whirlwind of activity which has changed the landscape of entrepreneurialism and business start ups in Scotland and beyond forever. Here Paula, head of the firm’s Startup & Investment team, reflects on the journey as Entrepreneurial Spark - now the world’s largest free business accelerator for early stage and growing ventures - celebrates its 4th birthday.
The Harper Macleod team which works with Entrepreneurial Spark has grown significantly since its launch in 2011
Watching the original launch film of Entrepreneurial Spark (which featured a cameo from yours truly) this week, it was hard to believe that it has been four years since it all started - although the concept has been part of my life for even longer than that. Ever since Jim Duffy walked in to our Glasgow office unannounced to talk to someone about this great idea he had, Entrepreneurial Spark (or ‘ESpark’ as we always say at ‘Harpers’) has been a big part of my professional and personal world.
I’m so glad that Jim did choose to wing it by asking us to back his vision, because the last four years have been nothing short of fantastic for me and the rest of the team at Harper Macleod. Since those early days when Jim’s enthusiasm convinced us to become legal ambassadors for ESpark, every new achievement, new city and new landmark ESpark reaches has been a source of pride.
Seeing any client achieve their goals and being able to say you played a small part in that success is always rewarding, but when it’s an organisation with such an ambitious, pioneering and worthwhile plan that feeling is multiplied tenfold.
The Entrepreneurial Spark experience
We shared Jim’s vision (even if at that stage we didn’t exactly know what that would mean!) and, as a firm which considers itself entrepreneurial and innovative, rolled our sleeves up and pitched in. As with most of the businesses which have undergone the ESpark experience, there have been many twists, turns and pivots along the way - both in terms of the ESpark concept and also in terms of how we at HM work with ESpark. After every intake we learn from our experiences of the past six months and try to constantly improve the service that we offer.
It’s no exaggeration Hato say it’s been inspirational. We have met literally hundreds of chiclets at our legal clinics and masterclass events and get to learn a lot about their businesses, allowing us to guide them through the steps that they need to take to ensure that it is protected from a legal perspective and prepared for the challenges and opportunities which await. Since we started running legal clinics at the Scottish Hatcheries we have had countless enquiries from chiclets, many of whom we have continued to work with as they’ve taken flight post hatchery.
If you were to outline the model trajectory of a client of our Startup & Investment team, it would go something like this: we’d work with it from birth; help it grow and obtain investment; assist as it scaled up and exceeded its targets; and watch it become a model for others to follow or even buy into.
If that sounds like a description of Entrepreneurial Spark itself, that’s no coincidence. Under Jim and the team’s tireless direction, ESpark has practised what it has preached to conquer the UK (and the world will follow!) What better way to demonstrate to all budding businesses that it has the recipe for success?
Back in 2011 the Harper Macleod team working with ESpark numbered just two – now we have six backed up by lawyers throughout the firm assisting in areas such as intellectual property, retail & franchising, data protection, litigation, property and employment. The wide ranging experience that the HM team members get is second to none and allows them to develop their own commercial awareness, which in turn helps the next batch of chiclets.
We are genuinely grateful to have had the opportunity to work with ESpark for the past four years and know that the future looks bright.
Happy birthday, and GoDo!