Branding and digital marketing expert Larisa Barker is urging entrepreneurs to take up the offer of six months’ free advice in a programme run by Leeds Beckett University.

The ACCELERATE programme brings together masterclasses, weekly webinars, one to one support and advice on grants and funding. It has been run nine times already and another cohort is due to start on the 28 September, with some content delivered face-to-face in Leeds and other parts being online.

Larisa, who has been on ACCELERATE, which is delivered in collaboration with AD:VENTURE, a support programme for businesses under three years old in North and West Yorkshire, says it has definitely helped her build the necessary foundations of her business.

Having worked in brand management and marketing for several high street names, Larisa wanted support to help her branch out on her own. She joined the scheme after a recommendation from a friend.

Larisa, who prides herself on a hands-on approach to brand and marketing consultancy under the name The Brand Map, said: “I think ACCELERATE is pivotal for any entrepreneur or business owner in the first three years. It allows you the time to think, joins the dots and understand the foundations, and the many hats you will wear running your own business.

“It helped me clarify my niche, where I could help SMEs build and grow brands online. I then repositioned my business model, rebranded and did it with confidence last year.

“Having come from a corporate background, it also helped to bring a network of support and made me feel I am not on my own. And it helped me experience the same learning curve as other new business owners. I quickly realised I am on the right track and will keep going, even though running a business can be a bit of a rollercoaster.”

Participants on ACCELERATE are offered up to 15 hours of mentoring and help with funding, as well as access to graduate talent via recruitment, internships, placements, and opportunities to collaborate on the university’s research projects.

The webinars cover topics including connecting with customers, developing your business model and value proposition. There is also access to a library of resources and the chance for participants to network with other entrepreneurs.

George Lancaster, SME programme manager at Leeds Beckett University, said: “ACCELERATE is all about giving entrepreneurs a strong foundation by providing them with the building blocks of business.

“If you have control of your business from the outset, it helps build resilience, which we know is particularly important right now. But beyond that, the aim is that we can share some vital tools and knowledge that help you take your business to the next level, whether that’s more efficient operations or using a more strategic approach to your marketing.

“We want businesses to succeed in our region, because not only does that help the entrepreneur, it also creates jobs and boosts the local economy.”
Although ACCELERATE is based in Leeds, it is open to eligible businesses from across the Leeds City Region.

AD:VENTURE is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). As well as the European Regional Development Fund and Leeds Beckett University, AD:VENTURE funding and delivery partners include the region’s nine local authorities, Leeds Trinity University, the Business Enterprise Fund, and West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.

To join the ACCELERATE programme, email