Spencer Group funding is catalyst for CatZero network to produce young entrepreneurs

Youth development charity CatZero and leading employer Spencer Group have teamed up to create a pioneering support network to enable young unemployed people to launch their own businesses.

CatZero and Spencer launched the Catalyst Business Network dedicated to helping people aged 18-28 across the Humber to seize opportunities for self-employment as the region benefits from unprecedented investment.

Spencer is supporting the initiative with £30,000 of funding to employ a full-time Catalyst Officer and put together a package of support to give participants an outstanding opportunity to launch and sustain successful companies.

The initiative was launched at Spencer Group’s headquarters on Hull Marina at an event attended by aspiring young business people.

The event also brought together a network of organisations identified by CatZero as being able to provide a range of support, such as training, mentoring and, potentially, start-up funding, for young people who want to establish their own businesses. Partners in the network include the Princes Trust, Young Enterprise, the Youth Enterprise Partnership and the University of Hull’s Enterprise Centre.

Young people will be able to join the Catalyst Business Network between now and November this year, with the scheme run from CatZero “hubs” in Hull, Grimsby and Scunthorpe.

Three years ago Hull-based specialist engineering company Spencer supported two CatZero “Blue Sky” programmes aimed at equipping young people with the confidence and skills to set up their own business. A £25,000 donation from Spencer, matched by JobCentre Plus, enabled 25 unemployed people aged 18-24 to join the 10-week programmes.

Spencer Chief Executive and founder Charlie Spencer OBE said: “In contrast to Blue Sky, which was in place for just a short period of time, we are sponsoring the employment of a full-time officer to run the Catalyst Business Network and co-ordinate a support network for the young people involved.

“We recognised from the Blue Sky programme that it is more than a 12-week job to support some of these young people into self-employment.

“Catalyst will take the participants through the early, difficult period involving the development of ideas, market testing and getting to the point where they are ready to start. After that, there are other organisations and programmes that can help them.”

Mr Spencer added: “If you want to make the biggest difference to people’s lives, you engage with those who have the least. The people CatZero engages with are not in employment, education or training of any kind, but very often they have just as much potential as anyone else – they just don’t realise it.

“I left school with not a lot, but I was encouraged by people along the way and I appreciate how valuable that is at the right time in young people’s lives, so it’s nice to be in a position to offer encouragement and support to others.”

Hull-based CatZero tackles the huge problem of young people without a future across the Humber region. Over the past seven years it has engaged with more than 1,000 disaffected youngsters who are turned off by traditional learning environments and are hard for agencies to reach. CatZero’s programmes include hugely challenging sailing experiences on board a 72ft racing yacht which create fundamental changes in confidence, attitude and behaviour to enable young people to get their lives on track.

CatZero Chair of Trustees Jim Dick OBE, who is also currently High Sheriff of the East Riding of Yorkshire, said all participants in the Catalyst Business Network must have taken part previously in CatZero’s core programme, including the sailing experience.

He said: “We’ve worked with more than 1,000 young people now, so we have a back catalogue of people we can access, to feed into a network of support organisations to equip them to become self-employed.

“Everybody involved will have been on our core programme which addresses their underlying problems, so we will have helped to sort out their life issues and built up their confidence, self-esteem and capability, so they are in a position to move forward.”

He added: “The prospects for the Humber have never been so positive, not just because of the direct investments in the big renewables industries, but in all the knock-on effects and secondary spend. Spencer Group is very interested in supporting local young people to make the most of these developments, by helping them to build their skills and get connected into the right networks to be ready for the major economic boost we will see across the Humber.”

CatZero Catalyst Officer Leila Goring, who will manage the scheme, said: “My role is to carry out one-to-one mentoring and needs assessments and put the young people in touch with partner organisations who can meet those needs.

“This will be about bringing together an alliance of organisations that will support these young people to establish their own businesses and succeed in self-employment.”

To find out more about the CatZero Catalyst Business Network go to http://business.catzero.org


Spencer Group’s David McLoughlin, centre, with Leila Goring and Jim Dick of CatZero, at the launch of the Catalyst Business Network. Picture courtesy of the Hull Daily Mail.