Most weekends, Richard Scutt goes to support his local rugby team, Camp Hill RFC. “I started playing for them in the late 1970s when I was a nipper,” he grins. “I’m a massive fan and it’s a great club – many of us are still mates 40 years after we started playing.”
It’s these kinds of long-term commitments and unbridled enthusiasm that Richard is hoping to replicate in his role – as Head of Growth and Incubation at STEAMhouse for STEAMhouse Business Incubator.
Part of the STEAMhouse family, the incubation space opened for business in March 2020 in Millennium Point. STEAMhouse Business incubator provides space, support and collaboration for a range of start-up businesses.
It’s this exciting venture that has returned Richard to the West Midlands after decades away, back to his beloved Birmingham and back to the rugby team of his youth.
Creating world-class companies
One thing that strikes Richard about present-day Birmingham is its business landscape. “The old city is hardly recognisable,” he says. “It’s certainly changed for the better. There is a real opportunity for global growth.”
After stints nearer to the sea – including selling mobile homes in the French peninsula of Brittany and working in business support at the University of Plymouth – Richard was persuaded to come back to Birmingham when he realised STEAMhouse Business Incubator’s massive potential.
“I am really impressed with the huge investment BCU has made in its estate and business portfolio,” Richard says. “I firmly believe that STEAMhouse Business incubator will become the leading business incubation facility in the UK’s university space.
We have a great opportunity to support students, graduates and local entrepreneurs to grow truly world-class businesses… right here in Birmingham.”
Making businesses commercially viable
Richard’s passion is unabated. As he walks around the incubator space – which can host up to 40 start-ups – he smiles broadly and discusses the “fantastic and crazy opening STEAMhouse Business incubator enjoyed and how the businesses already signed up are “settling in well.”
“After five months of hard work getting things ready, we welcomed a number of eager entrepreneurs during the first week of March 2020 but had to close due to Co-Vid after just two weeks,” Richard laments.
“Fortunately we were able to re-open at the end of July and have attracted a further four start-ups!”
Birmingham remains one of the world’s most creative and entrepreneurial cities. In 2019, Birmingham became the top city outside of the capital to start a new business.
The previous year saw the city enjoy a record year for start-up creation in the UK, with over 660,000 registered with Companies House.
With Birmingham City University’s students and graduates contributing to these numbers, Richard feels now is the perfect time for the STEAMhouse Business incubator. “Nearly 70 percent of our students and graduates live in the local area, so there’s a definite need for this,” he explains.
“We aim to give the students/graduates the best possible opportunity to build and grow a sustainable and successful business.”
Students and graduates can tap into valuable business expertise by signing up to the STEAMhouse Business incubator. The main aim, Richard says, is to make their products or services “commercially viable” and the range of support available is certainly impressive.
“We’ll be running lots of workshops on finance, business planning, innovation, marketing, social media and sales,” Richard explains. “We will also run monthly drop-in clinics with a legal and finance expert, where they can get valuable, one-to-one advice. They will then have use of the STEAMhouse facilities for prototyping.”
An appetite for collaboration
So what criteria do potential STEAMhouse Business incubator users have to meet?
“As a minimum, they need a viable business idea,” Richard explains. “They need to have the appetite for collaboration and the willingness to learn new things. Plus, the desire to act upon the business support they’ll be given.”
Another plus point STEAMhouse Business incubator will offer is diversity. Fifteen businesses employing 23 people are already signed up and cover the broad spectrum of industry.
“So far, we’ve got a digital marketing agency, an online fashion magazine, a shoe manufacturer, a digital skills educator, an intelligent automation company and a socio-creative organisation,” Richard says.
Building sustainable businesses
STEAMhouse Business incubator is part of the £50 million STEAMhouse programme that is set to move to Belmont Works in the near future. With such investment, a raft of clients and endless opportunities on the horizon, it’s no surprise Richard made the move from the coast to the Second City.
STEAMhouse Business incubator looks set to yield as many fruitful partnerships as Richard found on the rugby pitch so many years ago.
“In my view, it’s all about building sustainable businesses, which will grow over time and add value to the West Midlands economy and beyond,” he smiles. “It’s as simple as that to me.”
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