6 months on… by LAB Head of Operations, Chris Witterick
7 months ago, I took the (some might say strange) decision to move from a pretty secure and enjoyable role with one of the region’s leading business networking organisations to oversee the rebrand and subsequent re-emergence of one of Liverpool’s original co-working spaces, Launch22.
I have long held thoughts about there being a distinct lack of quality business support and mentoring in the region, and after talking with Chief Executive of Capacity, Chris Catterall, about their intention of taking over operations of Launch22 and their plans to offer a unique business support hub for social enterprises and third sector organisations, this seemed like the challenge for me!
My first day at Launch22 in February was definitely an eye opener. I realised that for all my ambitions about changing the way we support businesses and mentor them to success, I was going to face some considerable challenges. Launch22 had an existing mentor programme, but it wasn’t actually delivering results to either mentor or mentee.
There is definitely an appetite for business leaders to offer their services as a mentor, but there were several barriers to them doing so:
- Lack of coordination in matching a mentor’s skills with a mentee’s needs
- Lack of expectation management for both mentor and mentee
- Lack of genuine experience and training to mentor
- Lack of willingness to take advice from the mentor and implement it in practice.
With this in mind, we set about making some positive changes at Launch22.
1 Rebrand. In order to have maximum impact with our new business support/mentor programme, the space needed a new identity which would align it with the Capacity brand. After a number of awful suggestions (mainly by me) we decided on ‘LAB by Capacity’, and enlisted the help of Graphic Designer, Luke McConkey, to bring our ideas to life.
2 Refurb. While hosting events was a big part of the overall LAB offering, our events space wasn’t being used to its potential. Therefore we took the decision to transform the events space into three private offices now known as ‘LAB Base’, which will fit up to 6 or 10 people. They are being built this month, and we are really excited by the progress so far…
This refurb will not only give us a sustainable revenue stream, but most importantly will mean we are putting our money where our mouth is; what’s the point in helping businesses grow if you don’t have anywhere for them to grow into?
3 Events. Fortunately, the refurb will not signal the end of the LAB event calendar. We will still host a series of smaller, more targeted events to benefit our members. For example, we have partnered with global accounting firm BDO, who will deliver a series of workshops including: business process, financial planning, forecasting, profit and loss, tax, and payroll. These are all issues which affect small businesses and start-ups, and all valuable skills which would normally cost significant amounts in training.
4 Mentor network. After identifying the issues in the existing mentor programme, I decided to try and do things a bit differently. My previous role allowed me to develop a great network of business leaders across the North West, who I’ve been able to call upon to develop this extended network. As a result, LAB by Capacity has access to over 100 mentors, all of whom bring a variety of experience, specialisms and skills as well as profile, influence and cash to invest in the right enterprise. All new and existing members can access the LAB mentor network; we just need to chat about what makes you tick, decide what your business might need, and identify who could potentially help it grow. We rolled this mentor network out in July and already, two of our member businesses have secured nearly £100,000 of investment and two others are expanding their businesses at a far quicker rate than expected thanks to our introductions. We really believe we’re onto something here.
So 6 months on, LAB is motoring along really well: membership is higher than it’s ever been, the new mentor network is already showing signs of success and we have three fully-serviced private offices being constructed to offer to new and existing LAB members. We’ve also hosted a number of high-profile events, which you can read about on our blog.
It has been a great effort from the team here, and we are really looking forward to what the next 6 months has in store for us…
If you would like to come in and see what we’re up to, we have free trial days available. Just sign up here… Alternatively, pop down and see us at 12 Tithebarn Street or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.