Berkshire entrepreneurs off to a flying start thanks to Pre-Accelerator Programme

Start-up business

A group of 10 budding entrepreneurs from across Berkshire are turning their business ideas into reality thanks to a new fully-funded support programme from the Thames Valley Berkshire Business Growth Hub. From vegan pizzas and an ethical fashion brand to fun coding clubs for kids, their business ideas were given a head start thanks to the Pre-Accelerator Programme. 

The ambitious individuals, who are looking to start up their own businesses in the next six to 12 months, have just completed a five-week intensive support programme to provide them with the knowledge they need to turn their ideas into viable businesses.

The Pre-Accelerator Programme, which was delivered by VitalSix on behalf of the Berkshire Business Growth Hub, included a mix of workshops, networking and mentoring sessions. Covering everything from creating a business plan and finding finance to developing sales and marketing strategies, the programme culminated in the entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas to a panel of experts in a Dragon’s Den style event.

Fashion designer Billie Lewis (from Cookham), was one of the 10 budding entrepreneurs to undertake the programme. With over 30 years of experience successfully designing clothes for leading High Street and online retailers, including Oasis and Long Tall Sally, Billie decided the time was right to start up her own brand, which uses natural and sustainable fabrics as far as possible.

“The course has helped me fast-forward my business plans and improved my understanding of how to make my business profitable. It has given me a great perspective on how everything works, from forecasting and finances to marketing and branding. They were even able to help me explore funding options and provide me with useful contacts, such as Finance South East.

“I still get a buzz from seeing people wearing my designs. I think there is a gap in the market for beautiful, affordable clothes, which are also sustainable and ethical. And what this programme has done, has given me structure and greater confidence in my plans. I am now working towards launching my brand at an industry show early next year, where I hope to secure my first retail orders.”

Nancy Mafico (from Langley), a qualified lawyer, decided she wanted a change of career after 20 years of working in the legal field. Having developed new waterless and preservative-free skin care products featuring only natural ingredients, she felt she needed help to get the business started and turn her dream into a reality.

Nancy explains: “The pre-accelerator course has been an incredible learning experience. It has taught me how to research and develop a business plan, how to find financial backing and how to pitch your business idea. Above all, it has given me more confidence and introduced me to a network of supportive people who already run successful businesses.

“The course has shown me how I can make my business idea a reality. Five years from now, I’d like to think I’ll be able to export my products and employ a small team.”

Elke Posenauer (from Bracknell), who plans to launch her own range of vegan pizzas, added: “The course gave me a good understanding of all the elements I needed to consider to start up my own business. It really helped me focus my ideas and actions. Plus, I’ve met some great people. I would definitely recommend it.”

Martin Hall, Manager of the Berkshire Business Growth Hub, explains: “It is hard work starting your own business, but with the practical knowledge of running businesses provided by VitalSix, our Pre-Accelerator Programme gives budding entrepreneurs the best possible start by providing them with expert advice from experienced business owners. It also provides them with a network of likeminded people who are all going through the same process.”

Thames Valley Berkshire Business Growth Hub offers fully funded, impartial support services and expert one-to-one advice to start-ups and established businesses in Berkshire. The service includes free clinics and masterclasses on a range of business issues, alongside a special High Growth programme to provide intensive tailored support to SMEs with high growth potential.

Delivered by Oxford Innovation Services, the service is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

For further details on the Pre-Accelerator Programme and to register your interest for the next one, click here or email

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