ENTREPRENEURIAL Spark was launched in January by businessman Jim Duffy, with support from top Scottish business figures, Sir Tom Hunter and Sir William Haughey.

From its two "Hatcheries" in the Gorbals – where Sir Willie has given over a floor of his City Refrigeration headquarters – and a base in Dundonald, Ayrshire, entrepreneurs, or "chicklets", take part in an initial 16-week accelerator programme.

They can stay for up to one year, developing their business at a pace that suits them, while Hatchery managers and mentors provide support and advice.

Ideally, they then "fly the coop" to set up on their own.

Lucy-Rose Walker is manager of the Glasgow Hatchery, which currently has 50 chicklets in development.

She said: "My role is one of enablement, supporting the chicklets on a day-to-day basis. We link them with the right people, surround them with the right support, make the right phone calls and always drive them forward."

Entrepreneurial Spark was set up to provide people with the opportunity to pursue business projects without financial barriers, providing free facilities such as desks, computers, phone lines, printing and meeting rooms.

"I think, in the current economy, everyone is struggling," said Lucy-Rose. "There are not enough jobs available out there so a lot of people are thinking about doing it themselves

"This sort of facility allows someone to try something out. If they go on to be successful, it helps drive the economy for Scotland."

Chicklets benefit from the organisation's various supporters, such as Royal Bank of Scotland, the councils of Glasgow, East, North and South Ayrshire and Glasgow Caledonian University, as well as a bank of 30 mentors from various industries, who give up their time to volunteer at the Hatcheries.

Chicklet Geraldine Abrahams knows only too well how vital Entrepreneurial Spark is. It helped her get her business, Tummy with Mummy, off the ground.

The former journalist, from Newlands, designed a seat to help improve babies' physical, social and emotional development, through the practice of "tummy time" – allowing them to spend time on their tummies to help them develop motor and sensory skills which could prevent positional plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome).

"Starting a new business can be very lonely," said Geraldine. "Entrepreneurial Spark came along at the perfect time for us.

"The fantastic accommodation and services, the mentoring and idea sessions have all been very positive.

"It works because it was founded by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs."

Entrepreneurial Spark encouraged Geraldine to apply for a place on the Santander Breakthrough trade mission to New York and Boston in May. "I made several new contacts there, and since our US patent has now been awarded, that puts us in a very strong position," she said.

Fellow chicklet David Wong has received support for his start-up, Plantedd, an online marketplace on which nurseries sell their produce.

"We're like an eBay for things you want to grow," said David. "The UK market is worth £2 billion annually. We bring together 2000 nurseries and our aim is that, by the end of our first year, we'll be a one-stop shop for plants with the best range in the country."

David, 29, from Battlefield, is grateful for the facilities at Entrepreneurial Spark: "You don't have to worry about things. You can just get on with running your business," he said.

Lucy-Rose is sure that initiatives such as Entrepreneurial Spark will help to get business in Scotland booming again: "It's not necessarily about having a million-pound business. It's about changing mindsets. Hopefully Entrepreneurial Spark will show that setting up a business isn't daunting."

n Visit www.entrepreneurial- spark.com

It's only been up and running for six months, but Scotland's first business accelerator programme has already succeeded in helping dozens of budding entrepreneurs develop their start-up companies.

In the first of a three-day series LALITA AUGUSTINE discovers what makes Entrepreneurial Spark tick