The Importance of ICE 50 – A Member’s Perspective

Disclaimer: In addition to being a Welsh ICE member, they’re also a client of mine – albeit they came on-board after I joined them. So I was a member – who benefitted from the funding – first and foremost.

ICE 50 logoEarlier this week, Welsh ICE (my co-working space) announced ICE 50, which you can apply to here. In short, they’re giving away 50(!) fully funded spaces in order for entrepreneurs, startups, freelancers, etc. to be able to grow their businesses in their business centre in Caerphilly (just outside Cardiff), South Wales. Membership is usually £250 (+ VAT) per month, and these bursaries are for the first year of membership, so you’d effectively be getting c. £3,000’s worth of business support, desk space, etc. for free.

It’s a fantastic opportunity. I should know – I was fortunate enough to be on a similar funding scheme when I started my SEO consulting business 2+ years ago. I thought that talking about it was worthy of a blog post, as there’s a few things people don’t realise about places like ICE, plus I wanted to give my perspective on it in the process.

Why this funding is a big deal

One of the biggest problems with starting a business is all of the upfront costs. When I started mine, I invested in a website, branding, contracts, software and much more, while still building up a clientbase and therefore not exactly earning a large amount of income in those early days in order to counteract it. Getting office space is important – whether it’s for professional perception, or striking a better work-life balance by getting out of the house, or both – but it is yet another expense, which is why you find so many business owners inevitably working from home, in order to keep costs down.

The beauty of the ICE 50 funding is that by the 12-month mark, most businesses are in a much stronger position financially, and therefore able to keep up with the costs from that point forward. So it’s great that so many businesses can receive the benefits of operating from such a space but in a low-risk (perhaps even no-risk) way.

Why it’s more than just a desk

Co-Lab at ICE image
The misconception of setting up shop in a co-working space is that… well… it’s just a co-working space. It’s just a desk, WiFi and coffee, right? No, it’s not. It’s more than that:

  • It’s a networking opportunity – fellow co-workers might refer clients to you, or even become clients themselves,
  • It’s also a collaboration opportunity – you’ll never know who you’ll meet and work with on projects (e.g. I hired an ICE-based comic book company to provide illustrations for a guest blog post, which you can read about here),
  • ICE in particular offers mentorship, by partnering its members with mentors who can help them in areas where they’re struggling (e.g. I met with an experienced sales consultant who passed on some cracking advice),
  • Funding is also available (location-depending) – as Caerphilly is considered a deprived and struggling area economically, various funding options are available that mightn’t be available otherwise.

It’s not just for entrepreneurs/freelancers…

There’s also the misconception that it’s only for brand new businesses or early-stage startups. But in reality, two types of people/businesses are often forgotten about:

Remote workers/teams

We’ve had a few people pass through ICE’s doors who’ve come in on their own, but who worked on behalf of a large company. One guy works for a big architect firm; another was a remote graphic designer working for a company based in California (he’s since moved over there to join them).

I spoke to someone else recently who was interested in ICE membership but who was a remote worker, and his immediate thinking was that he wouldn’t be suitable for ICE simply because he didn’t run his own business. He couldn’t have been more wrong – remote workers are very much welcome.

International businesses who want to establish a base in Wales

Some businesses – whether already based elsewhere in the UK, or establishing themselves in the country for the very first time – want to set up a Welsh arm of their operations. Canadian company Apponvation are one such example, adding South Wales as an office location alongside London, Hong Kong and various locations in the US and Canada.

You often see a lot of global businesses setting up a base for themselves in Dublin (mainly due to tax reasons), but it’d be great to see businesses doing the same in Cardiff/Caerphilly/South Wales due to our quality of life, our happy residents, our low rent/wage costs, and our high growth potential in the future.

“What if I’m not worthy or what if it’s not for me?”

ICE's entrance imageA couple of people that I’ve spoken to who have considered applying for ICE 50 have all said the same thing: they’re not worthy. (Oh and as a complete aside, as a Wayne’s World fan, I have to link to this…)

I sure as hell didn’t feel worthy either – and they let me in. Hell, what does that say?! 😉 In all seriousness though, you have to give it a shot. And the guys and girls at ICE have said that they’ll try their best to help people no matter what, so you’ve seriously got nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain.

Don’t delay – apply!

The first phase of the ICE 50 applications is wrapping up on Sunday 15th November* – that’s only a week or so away. Be sure to express interest before then.

…Yes, yes, so this has turned into a bit of an ad for ICE, but you know what? I don’t care. I adore the place and I want to shout about it – it’s the least that I can do for everything it’s done for me. I want others to enjoy the benefits – especially given this great opportunity.

* Update – ICE are continuing to accept submissions phased out over a few months, so feel free to ignore the mid-November deadline. If you’re reading this in December or later, it’s still worth getting in touch with them to find out the situation…

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