A young Penarth entrepreneur has secured a coveted place on a new accelerator programme, designed to help people overcome the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic while championing diversity across the Welsh business start-up landscape.
24-year-old Catherine Williams beat entrepreneurs from across Wales to secure a place on the Excelerator Programme, which will see 23 people from under-represented groups take part in a Welsh Government-funded 12-week immersive accelerator programme. The aim is to help them launch and grow their business idea or scale an existing business.
The virtual programme will include a series of expert masterclasses for founders, as well as mentorship and professional coaching from business start-up and scaleup experts. It is being delivered as part of the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.
Catherine is the founder of O’Honni, a luxurious lingerie brand for women who have had mastectomies and lumpectomies as part of breast cancer treatment.
The Excelerator Programme will take Catherine and her fellow entrepreneurs on a step-by-step journey from business idea to paying customers and a sustainable business model. It will also support participants to develop their core business skills and a ‘success mindset’.
Catherine, whose business idea was inspired by her mother’s diagnosis with breast cancer, says she is looking forward to taking part in the Excelerator Programme:
“Being chosen to take part in the Excelerator Programme feels fantastic. I began my business of re-imagining the mastectomy bra after my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Inspired by her struggle, I saw a chance to reinvigorate her creativity after a long history in design. I was motivated to reinvent an industry that has never adequately met women’s needs.
“Having such a prestigious Programme back me this way is propelling me and my business far faster than I ever dreamed. After all my long nights working away at the plans, finances, manufacturing, building networks and developing new designs, I feel as if this has flipped a switch for me.
“Now my business plan has crystalised into a fully formed start-up that’s raring to go. The insight offered by workshops, mentors and lectures will provide me with a wide range of expert experience that I can apply to the challenges ahead, and I’ve never felt more excited to face them than I do now.”
Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates, said:
“I wish to congratulate Catherine for being selected to take part in the inaugural Excelerator Programme. We recognise that women, young people, those from a BAME background and people living with a disability are significantly under-represented when it comes to business start-ups in Wales, and we want to help change that.
“This Programme is part of our £40 million investment in delivering on our ‘Covid Commitment’. This funding is there to ensure anyone over 16 in Wales can access advice and support to find work or pursue self-employment. Encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship will a big part of this commitment, so this programme will help entrepreneurs with high-growth potential access the expertise they need to take their companies to the next level.
“This presents a fantastic opportunity for the 23 entrepreneurs taking part, who will receive expert support to develop a sustainable, robust business model. The programme will provide invaluable access to a network of experienced mentors and peers, who will work with them to develop a clear growth plan.”
For further information on the Excelerator Programme see www.businesswales.gov.wales/growth/agpexcelerator.