Triple investment from BEF brings new Spark to York

A unique community project, Spark:York, which opened to the public on 4 May, will reinvent Piccadilly thanks to funding totalling £150,000 from the Business Enterprise Fund (BEF). This includes £50,000 from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF, BEF & FFE Microfinance).

York-born and bred Tom McKenzie (25) and Sam Leach (24) had a vision to establish affordable retail space in the city, add value to the community and create social change. 

When travelling around Europe they were inspired by box parks and
community and street food markets and just 18 months later, with support from
BEF, the retail and food hub made from shipping containers is making a huge
impact on the Piccadilly area of York.

The three £50k loans, of which one has already been paid back by the entrepreneurs, were used for building works and pulling the site together which is now home to 23 independent businesses. 

Tom McKenzie, co-founder and director at Spark:York, said: “We currently have two part-time employees working with Sam and I but after the first month of being open we’re planning to expand our team significantly. Alongside the other businesses and retailers here at Spark:York, we’re hoping to bring 100 new jobs to the area.   

“We’d like to say a huge thank you for all the support we’ve received from everyone involved in making Spark:York happen. Our investment manager from BEF, Andy Clough, has been brilliant. He took a very personable approach throughout the whole project and was always willing to pop down to offer his advice. Andy was so willing to get stuck in to the project, he was like another member of the team for us!” 

The Business Enterprise Fund has an office on Blake Street in York and provides funding for businesses across Yorkshire and the North East.

Andy Clough, investment manager at BEF, said: “What a fantastic and inspirational duo! Sam and Tom worked incredibly hard and I’m so proud to have played a part in helping make their dream come through. Spark:York is dedicated to bringing positive change to the area and it’s so encouraging to see – if all companies took a similar approach to business, think of the impact it could make!” 

Tom added: “We’re hoping this is just the first of many for us and we’d love to develop similar projects, that offer the same fantastic benefits to the community, in different cities all over the UK.”