Richard is planning a finance initiative that will provide both debt and equity to new creative businesses that have been through his School for Creative Startups initiative, a social enterprise that provides subsidised training for fledgling entrepreneurs.
“Creative start-ups have been profoundly underserved by [early-stage investors],” Richard said, citing a “huge preoccupation in this country” with technology start-ups. He said the Government’s support for “Tech City”, a cluster of small web companies in east London, was an example.
More than 100 prominent creative industry entrepreneurs, including Sir Paul Smith, handbag designer Anya Hindmarch, restaurateur Oliver Peyton and Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet have joined Richard’s training scheme to offer teaching and guidance, and it is said that said some may be interested in investing in the start-ups.
“We’ll be a distinct offering with different values. People who are excited about theatre, visual arts, media or fashion now have the opportunity not just to buy the products of young protégés but also have an interest in their outcomes,” he said. “From an investor’s point of view, it’s a vetted group of companies with great prospects that are already trading.”
Creative Startup Alumni member Hannah Needham, co-founder of lifestyle website This Is Your Kingdom, has been mentored by Time Out founder Tony Elliott through the initiative. “He’s put us in contact with potential partners, events organisers, writers and designers of sites that cost millions to build,” she said. “It’s money-can’t-buy stuff.”
She’s also hoping to secure angel investment, and the programme gave her an insight into how to structure a pitch.
“Now we know the questions investors will ask – before it would have been a debacle.”
Richard said: “There’s this awkward tension that creative people think they can’t be business people. We have to encourage them to see business differently.”
However, he added: “Many people think you start a business by getting money. You don’t. Many things happen before you’re ready for anyone’s money and frequently you don’t need any. We’ll only involve ourselves in helping companies raise money at the end of the process.”
School for Creative Startups is currently looking for 100 businesses from around the UK to enter the second year of the scheme.
Applicants for the year-long programme – which costs up to £3,000, although bursaries are available, he said – can be pre-start or in the early stages of trading. “They need a creative activity they’re passionate about and competent at – we’re building the business around the creativity.”