An enterprise centre based in Caerphilly is aiming to help create 3,000 jobs within five years.
The Welsh Innovation Centre for Enterprise (ICE) marked its official opening recently with the bold statement.
Since opening its doors in late 2012, the centre, based on Caerphilly Business Park, has already become home to 50 fledgling businesses, set up by young people from across South Wales.
The pace of new enterprise creation at Welsh ICE has accelerated over recent months and is expected to shift up a gear thanks to a new Welsh Government contribution of £350,000.
Welsh ICE was set up to provide a creative shared workspace where entrepreneurs can ‘feed off’ each other’s energy and ideas and enjoy a high level of practical support from experienced business owners, who act as mentors.
Its official opening was marked by a visit from Economy Minister Edwina Hart, and a gathering of prominent business people.
Mrs Hart said: “Welsh ICE was established to provide a unique, inexpensive environment where anyone with a passion for enterprise could thrive under experienced mentors and access the resources start-ups so desperately need.
“More importantly it serves to make entrepreneurialism a real choice for school leavers, graduates and the unemployed, and is helping to drive rising levels of entrepreneurial activity certainly in Wales, and potentially the UK as a whole.
“The Welsh Government has introduced enterprise initiatives that support existing learning plans at all levels of primary, secondary and further education which is
complemented by dedicated start-up and business support services to help new and young businesses. Centres like Welsh ICE can crucially provide the next step.”
The project is the brainchild of international entrepreneur, Anthony Record, former chairman of National Britannia. He co-founded Welsh ICE with his son William and young South Wales entrepreneur Gareth Jones.
Mr Jones said: “As founders we are delighted that the talent and creativity we knew existed in Wales is becoming more apparent.
“Now we want to build on this and continue driving the wider conversation around small business creation which has been identified as vital to the future of the economy.”
He disclosed that Welsh ICE aims by 2018 to aid the creation of 500 new businesses employing a total of 3,000 people.
Sports tape and scarves – diversity key for Welsh ICE
Welsh ICE is home to a diverse range of businesses from magazine publishers to graphic designers.
Two such companies are Sporttape and Cup of Daisies.
Oana Balan, 25, from Hengoed, came up with the idea for Cup of Daisies when she started making silk scarves for charity whilst studying costume design at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Now she sells them online and is based at Welsh ICE where she has been supported in creating a business plan and identifying new markets.
Oana, who is originally from Romania, said: “To have people around you that appreciate and believe in your project is just amazing, they have already decided you are going to make it and that goes a long way when you are working alone. It’s such an inspiring place to be.”
Cup of Daisies donates 10% of each scarf sale to charities Adra UK, Tenovus, Shelter Cymru, Noah’s Ark and Merlin.
Oana’s business is a world away from another company based at Welsh ICE.
Last year British sport had the eyes of the world upon it as London hosted the Olympics. Eagle-eyed fans would have spotted a host of athletes with sticky tape on their bodies as they competed for gold.
What TV viewers and those in the stands didn’t realise is that the latest in sport technology innovation has its home in Caerphilly.
Sporttape is a flexible cotton tape which sticks to the skin and offers sportsmen and women extra support was established by Kate-ann Kelly from Machen.
The 33-year-old businesswoman, who is originally from Dublin, set up the business three years ago and launched the brand last year.
It was a mishap with BT that led the entreprenuer to the start-up hub.
She explained: “We moved to Machen a year ago and I thought I would just work from home, but BT never showed up to install the broadband. We joined ICE in October 2012 and we haven’t left.
“The access to information and the support here has been invaluable.
“Having the support of the different businesses and having that level of expertise has been fantastic.”
Kate-ann cites the mentoring side of Welsh ICE as the key to Sporttape’s growth and without it she would not be able to access the right information to allow her business to flourish.
This month Sporttape is taking on an employee through the Welsh Government’s Jobs Growth Wales fund and has been able to access new markets with help from ICE’s team of experts.
The company is already exporting to places such as Hong Kong, the Phillipines and the Republic of Ireland.