SPARK School, an inclusive programme to support people under-represented in Bristol’s tech sector to become founders, has graduated its second cohort.  Despite having on the UK’s leading startup communities the ecosystem remains characterised by male, white, entrepreneurs which the programme aims to change. 

SPARK School is an initiative from TechSPARK, Engine Shed and SETsquared was made possible thanks to a grant from Natwest’s Skills and opportunities fund. The programme brings together a comprehensive programme of events and an in-depth course for underrepresented people looking to start a business taking students from initial idea stage, through planning and finance management to pitching their ideas.

The SPARK School Course is  made up of a number of elements that be self reinforce and  build confidence for founders including:

  • 10 weeks of guided learning in 3-hour evening blocks from leading trainers and successful entrepreneurs and experts.
  • Online resources: the course is supported via access to online content where all material and resources live.
  • One-on-one mentoring: giving regular check-ins with your course leaders and mentors throughout the course.
  • Alumni Network: Ongoing support through an alumni network and TechSPARK’s wider community

Across the two cohorts of the programme, 23 diverse founders have started a business. SPARK School student Joyanne Boyce said “Very few courses offer the opportunity to interact with your tutor to the extent that SPARK School does. The course gave me a well-rounded understanding of what’s required to create, start and develop a tech idea, and company. During the 10 weeks, I was able to take my idea from a very early stage to building a pitch deck.”

Course leader and successful Entrepreneur Rick Chapman said “I am constantly surprised by the innovative new businesses here in Bristol and Bath. I’m looking forward to helping a new generation of exciting businesses and business leaders take their first steps.”

In addition to the in-depth course, the programme has delivered a series of events to help widen knowledge of enterprise and entrepreneurship. SPARK School supported events have had over 850 attendees over the course of the programme featuring interviews with well-known entrepreneurs and business leaders such as Nick Sturge MBE, Zara Nanu, Andrew Mulvenna & Becky Sage.