A Rotherham start-up firm specialising in preventing surplus healthy, free-from, and dietary lifestyle food from being binned has wasted no time in getting a boost after accessing support from a regional programme of free expert advice, business development and mentoring.

Entrepreneurs James Barthorpe and Paul Simpson were inspired to set up their online business Food Circle Supermarket after working in the food and drink industry and witnessing huge amounts of unnecessary waste.

James said: “Our products – including organic, free-from, vegan, vegetarian, low fat/sugar, high in protein and healthy alternatives – are all still in-date, wholesome and healthy. We source directly from manufacturers or brand owners across the country, who have opted to join us in tackling food waste and protecting our environment.”

The business was given a healthy boost through the Y-Accelerator programme, which offers the city region’s next business leaders the opportunity to benefit from a three-month intensive business development support featuring expert advice, mentor support and specialist workshops.

James said: “We needed a third party to help us refine our business plan, so we could get off to a good start.

“The Y-Accelerator advisors really helped us to get under the skin of our business and gave us that realisation and direction of where we’re going. We got a lot of expert advice on areas like marketing, PR, finance and that really gives you the foundations to launch your business successfully and grow it from there.”

Paul said: “And we needed Y-Accelerator’s expertise to plan for the future, too, and the things we learnt from them will see us through the long term.

“We’d definitely recommend Y-Accelerator to other businesses whether it’s pre-start or a business that’s new, because you can really get off on the right foot in terms of targeting your customers and tapping into expert advice.”

The Y-Accelerator programme is delivered by a partnership of the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub, Rotherham Investment and Development Office (RiDO) and Sheffield Hallam University and run by a team of highly experienced business specialists from across the private sector.

Delivered through one-to-one and group sessions, tailored to meet the needs of every candidate, the Y-Accelerator programme’s network of advisors, mentors and businesses will provide insight and expertise, as well as the chance to pitch to a panel of high-profile investors including Mercia Technologies, Angels Group, Jenton Group and UK Steel Enterprise.

Having been involved with the Y-Accelerator for a number of years UK Steel Enterprise, a subsidiary of Tata Steel tasked with helping the economic regeneration of communities affected by changes in the steel industry, is offering a £1,000 prize for the winner of this year’s programme.

Regional Manager of UKSE, Keith Williams, added: “The Y Accelerator is a great programme supporting anyone with an innovative, aspirational business idea with growth potential.

“This year, we’re offering a cash prize for the winner which will allow them to kick-start their business model that will have been developed and nurtured throughout the 12-week programme. In addition, they will have the opportunity to pitch for investment. We look forward to welcoming the new entrepreneurs and supporting them as they strive to perfect their growth strategies.”

Amanda Parris, business growth manager for RiDO, said: “James and Paul have a genuine passion and belief in the need for protecting our environment, and living a healthy lifestyle and we are pleased Y-Accelerator was able to give them the support they needed to create a viable, scalable business.

“This is a programme like no other available. We have a highly experienced team, part of Rotherham’s network of business incubators, to support entrepreneurs.”

The Y-Accelerator programme is currently open to applicants from all industry sectors, although logistics, manufacturing, and automation are especially of interest.

The 12-week programme will run from November 2018 to February 2019 and include business modelling techniques, expert advice, mentors, specialist workshops, market research and individual support to help the ten chosen projects build a strong customer proposition and financial model as well as learn to effectively communicate the business value to customers and investors.

Y-Accelerator is a collaboration between private and public organisations, including Sheffield Hallam University, RiDO and entrepreneur in residence from Gripple Ltd.

The Y-Accelerator 2018/19 is inviting applications until 31 October 2018 through the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub portal. For more information, please email: growthhub@sheffieldcityregion.org.uk, visit www.scrgrowthhub.co.uk/y-accelerator, or call 03330 000039.

Pic caption: James Barthorpe (black t-shirt) and Paul Simpson of Food Circle Supermarket.