Forum - Autumn 23

Page 1

entrepreneur of the year

Mike O’Brien a journey pursuing her dreams

Dr Kanya King CBE power of sharing knowledge the importance of mentoring

autumn 23

Helping business owners prepare for sustainable high growth


autumn 23 welcome

Welcome to our Autumn edition of Forum, which is a celebration of entrepreneurship in the North East. Our cover story features our reigning Entrepreneur of the Year, Mike O’Brien from Opencast. He gives a candid interview about his life and motivations as an entrepreneur, from being given a ZX81 computer aged 15 to founding his technology consulting business in 2012 and employing over 500 people. Mike is a judge for this year’s Entrepreneurial Awards and you can read more about our finalists on pages 18 to 20.

Our Behind the Boardroom article on page 24 features Steven Rawlingson who is no stranger to our

Entrepreneurial Awards having won our Emerging Talent award in 2017 and our Scale-up Entrepreneur award in 2021. Read how he has built a board to help him scale Samuel Knight International. Sticking with the theme of awards, our Centre Stage interview features the inspirational Dr Kanya King CBE, founder of the MOBO Awards. Kanya was a standout speaker at our recent conference and is the epitome of an entrepreneur – visionary, opportunistic and resilient. You’ll be left inspired by reading her journey from adversity to global powerhouse. The Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s purpose is to bring together and inspire North East entrepreneurs. Our membership continues to grow and if you’d like to get involved or know someone who’d benefit from being part of our network please get in touch. Details of how to join are on page 34.

Editorial Sally Cowling

David Bootle

Contributors: Caroline Dask

Advertising Debi Coldwell


NEWCASTLE GATESHEAD proud to be partnered with we're stronger together
inside All contents copyright © Allies Group Ltd. All rights reserved. While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, no responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies, howsoever caused. No liability can be accepted for illustrations, photographs, artwork or advertising materials while in transmission or with the publisher or their agents. All content marked 'profile feature' is paid for advertising. All information is correct at time of going to print, September 2023. ISSN 2753-796X 4 plan ahead 6 business bulletin the latest news from our members 8 cover story Mike O'Brien on spotting the entrepreneurial spirit 10 mentoring for growth mentors discuss what they give and what they gain 14 centre stage Dr Kanya King CBE talks about daring to dream 18 awards finalists 22 addressing the issue Michaela Reaney on creating an inclusive culture 24 behind the boardroom Steven Rawlingson - the smart way to build a board 26 out of office 27 forum favourites read watch listen 28 new members 30 big apple adventures New York 34 how to join Forum is published by Allies Group Ltd Allies Group Ltd, Enterprise House, Kingsway, Team Valley Trading Estate, Gateshead, NE11 0SR

autumn 23 plan ahead

21 September 9am - 12noon


Clearly Drinks

Clearly Drinks, Sunderland FREE for Entrepreneur Members

26 September 5pm - 7.30pm


With Kevin Brown, Emma Gaudern and Luis McCarthy Flok, Middlesbrough FREE for Entrepreneur Members, Partners and Guests

To view all upcoming events, and to book, visit:

4 October 9am - 12noon



Ringtons, Newcastle FREE for Entrepreneur Members

6 October 12noon - 2pm


The Impeccable Pig, Sedgefield For Entrepreneur Members Costs payable on the day

29 September 6pm - Late


Hilton Newcastle Gateshead £990+VAT Table of 10 £99+VAT Individual Ticket

12 October 9am - 12noon


How to Capitalise on the Green Transition

Northumbria University, Newcastle FREE for Entrepreneur Members, Partners and Guests

19 October 5pm - 7.30pm


With Dan Martin and Danny Wade

RBC Brewin Dolphin, Newcastle FREE for Entrepreneur Members, Partners and Guests

10 October 2.30pm - 4.30pm


Defining Your Success

Business Central, Darlington FREE for Entrepreneur Members

24 October 5.30pm - 10pm


With Sophie Milliken MBE, MOJA

21, Newcastle £75+VAT for Entrepreneur Members

7 November 5.30pm - 10pm


With John Dawson, Alliance Pharma Cellar Door, Durham £75+VAT for Entrepreneur Members

8 November 9am - 12noon

WORKSHOP Talk Show Techniques Durham Cricket, Chester-le-Street FREE for Entrepreneur Members, Partners and Guests

23 November 8am - 5pm


Together We Can Take on the World Hilton Hotel Newcastle Gateshead

14 November 5pm - 7.30pm


With Kimberley Turner, Imran Anwar and Bob Makin

Flok, Middlesbrough FREE for Entrepreneur Members, Partners and Guests

7 December 12noon - 3pm


Bloom, Middlesbrough

For Entrepreneur Members

Costs payable on the day

Join us for a day packed with inspirational speakers and networking opportunities. Be the first to hear about the speaker line up by following us on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Secure your place now by preregistering for our early bird tickets.

Member early bird offer (for all tickets purchased by 6th October)

£195+VAT Member plus guest

£99+VAT Individual

10 November 12noon - 2.30pm


Full Circle Brew Co, Newcastle

For Entrepreneur Members. Costs payable on the day

30 November 12.30pm - 4pm


With James Allison, Middleton Lodge Estates

The Coach House, Middleton Lodge £50+VAT for Entrepreneur Members

8 December 12noon - 3pm, MEMBER CHRISTMAS LUNCH

The Broad Chare, Newcastle For Entrepreneur Members Costs payable on the day


autumn 23 business bulletin

Bringing you the latest developments, breaking news and exclusive updates from Entrepreneurs' Forum members.

Since its launch, leading IT solutions supplier Smart IT has been dedicated to providing employment opportunities to individuals across the North East. Now, the Gatesheadbased business is accelerating its approach thanks to a new, larger Head Office, resulting in 15 new staff in recent months with plans for further significant growth in the coming year.

Although economic challenges are placing significant pressure on employment across the country, Smart IT is a positive outlier. Over the past 12 months, the IT solutions supplier has grown by over 30%, necessitating a move into a new Head Office that is three times larger than its previous office.

In recent months, the Gateshead office has employed 15 new members of staff, covering multiple fields of the business, including IT support, sales, administration and accounts. Every employee at Smart IT is given the opportunity to grow and improve their skills, with senior management

placing a focus on career development, offering training and qualifications to anyone interested in expanding their horizon. With room for up to 150 members of staff in their new Head Office, the company is actively going to be recruiting even more team members over the coming year. However, Smart IT is not just focused on providing employment opportunities to experienced professionals within the world of IT. They also run a highly successful apprentice scheme, being voted second for technology apprentice employers in the UK in 2022. This unique scheme aims to provide the required tools and guidance to individuals, ensuring they receive an Official Microsoft Qualification upon the completion of the scheme. Many of these apprentices have gone on to become permanent members of the Smart IT team, and over the last six months, three such apprentices have been promoted to various roles within the organisation.

Global demand for offshore wind farms drives significant Osbit growth

Leading North East England engineering company Osbit has recruited 26 new employees to support its offshore wind projects. The company, which develops large-scale equipment used to construct offshore wind farms, has taken on new employees across the business. The intake consists of 11 Osbit engineers, three support staff, and one health, safety, security, environment, and quality (HSSEQ) team member, two draughting apprentices, a new commercial and contracts specialist, and a total of eight student placements, with more to be confirmed.

Osbit’s surge in recruitment is imperative to meet the growing needs of its projects, which are in turn driven by the global

acceleration in constructing offshore wind farms. Many of the new starters have already begun working at Osbit’s Riding Mill head office since the start of the year, supporting the delivery of technology to enable offshore wind turbine foundation installation and the lifting and handling of large-scale structures. The other new appointees are set to join over the next few months. These appointments are part of Osbit’s ongoing recruitment strategy, and the business is still actively looking to recruit more engineers. The company’s expansion, which includes setting up and operating US and Netherlands entities, is part of its overall growth strategy.

Smart IT offers even more employment opportunities to the North East

Tech start-up secures six-figure investment to fuel expansion

A marketing ed-tech company has secured a six-figure investment from six prominent North East entrepreneurs to accelerate the growth plans of its marketing education SaaS platform, both nationally and internationally.

Fabric Academy is poised to expand further with the support of a high-profile investment panel that includes Mike O'Brien, Founder and Co-chair of Opencast Software; Richard Lane, Co-Founder and CCO of durhamlane; Helen Whitfield, Board Level Executive; Raman Sehgal, Founder & Global President of ramarketing; Paul Dyson, CTO and Co-Founder at Singletrack and Michael Lavery, CEO of Brand and Reputation.

The company has secured the funds following some key client wins across multiple sectors that includes renowned brands such as Indeed, Boots, Revolution Beauty, 118118Money, Savills, itsu, and The Body Shop.

Launched by Lisa Eaton in 2021, Fabric Academy offers a CPDaccredited online programme for established and aspiring business professionals to level up their strategic knowledge and enhance their marketing skills in line with the latest industry standards. The investment will allow the company to secure key hires and expand the product range on its SaaS platform to further develop their partnerships both domestically and in the North American market.

Design agency to JUMP to next level with latest NEL Fund Managers investment

SEO specialists celebrating 200% increase in turnover within two-year period

ROAR Digital Marketing experienced a 100% increase in its turnover for 2022/23 when it recorded £282,000, and that figure is set to double again in 2023/24 as the business closes in on the £550,000 mark.

ROAR, which is based in Tyneside but has a client base throughout the UK and into Europe, specialises in Search Engine Marketing services particularly strategic SEO and PPC solutions.

The company has enjoyed rapid growth since being founded in 2016 by former Google Digital

Trainer and university lecturer Michael Knowles, with the number of clients it works with more than doubling in the past year alone.

ROAR’s clients are based throughout the UK, with a high proportion based in London, and it recently celebrated acquiring its first fully international client within the insurance industry.

As the company’s customer base has increased, the team has grown accordingly and the number of staff members jumped from two to six within a 12-month period.

Growing Tyneside digital agency JUMP is set to create jobs and build its European presence after securing a six-figure investment.

JUMP offers creative design, digital solutions and marketing services to a roster of regional, national and international clients, including NE1, the NHS and Newcastle University.

JUMP will use the investment to fuel expansion of both its North East team and its overall client base, with a view to reaching a £1.2m turnover target by 2025. The teams have seen some consistent growth over recent months and are supported by three new marketing and graphic design roles, with more planned to follow.

The agency works across all industries, with particular expertise in the education, food and beverages, and digital technology sectors, and is looking to target new markets in continental Europe.

This marks the third time the agency has worked with NEL Fund Managers to bring in growth capital, with previous investments being made in 2015 and 2020.


cover story Mike O'Brien

Mike O'Brien, co-founder of Opencast Software - a Tyneside headquartered tech consultancy with an international customer base - recalls the excitement of being named ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ at the 2022 Entrepreneurial Awards. His enthusiasm for exploring new possibilities as a business innovator ensures he is perfectly placed to understand the traits that embody the spirit of entrepreneurship, as a judge for this year's finals.

Mike finds it hard to pin-point one thing that encapsulates the makeup of the entrepreneur. He attributes his own success to a degree of fearlessness and spirit of adventure: perhaps something that derives from his love as a youngster of adrenaline pursuits, such as skateboarding and snowboarding.

Growing up in the seaside town of Whitley Bay, Mike always possessed an inquisitive mind, loving to explore and create. Excelling in art and

autumn 23

design, it seems strangely at odds with the path he took, becoming a leading innovator in the world of digital technology and consultancy. He explains: “I loved art and creativity, but when personal computers arrived on the scene, they opened up a whole new world.”

At 15, his father bought him a £99 ZX81 computer. He explains: “There was a fascinating sort of jump when I got this computer, which you built yourself!

“Being interested in computers in the 1980s was for so-called ‘geeks’ - a far cry from today. But I wasn't afraid to be different.”

It was a defining moment. Mike fused his love of art with a love of science. He adds: “Computers were a route into science fiction. You could make your own motion graphics, music and you could build things like the games cabinets in our local arcades.”

During his youth, Mike loved skateboarding, spending countless hours with friends building skateboards and ramps in their parents' garages. They learned to play guitars and even printed their own skateboard and music fanzines using the local chemist's Xerox machine. There was a DIY mentality - you could make your own world.

After studying Computer Studies at Newcastle Polytechnic, Mike contemplated pursuing an MSc degree, but his desire to travel needed funding so he got a job at the Prescription Pricing Authority (now the NHS BSA).

In the mid-90s Mike ventured to Indonesia, Sumatra, New Zealand and California, doing all the things he loved: mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, and skateboarding, spending time on friend's floors along the journey. This was about him exploring himself as much as far-flung destinations.

He explains: “My dad, who was pretty senior at Northern Electric, was very supportive of me travelling. He wrote to me when I was away saying, ‘this is a good way of broadening your mind son, but by the way, your credit card looks a disaster. So, you need to make some money when you return’.”

Sadly, almost immediately after Mike’s return home and to his NHS-based

job, his father unexpectedly passed away. He explains: “This sad event created a sort of germ in my head about the possibility of doing something different. I’m not sure my Dad ever saw himself as working in a standard office environment … I recall telling him I would never do that as a child.

“On our travels we met a bunch of self-made people; people who built designer houses in New Zealand with no previous experience and people who built tech companies and retired to ski resorts. All of this was super inspiring.”

This experience broadened Mike’s world, both physically and mentally. He left the health service to work for a startup with just 30 employees - Strategic Systems Solutions. This provided him with practical insights into starting, growing, and running a business.

He recalls: “The business rapidly grew. I pitched the idea to the founders to let me develop an internet technology business within the company in 1999. I had to build it from nothing and it ultimately led to us developing huge web technology systems for banks. The company asked me to join the board and eventually head up all of their client relationships.”

Mike’s love of building relationships is a theme that runs through his journey. He was equally comfortable on a friend’s floor travelling as he was sat in a boardroom with the most senior corporate banking CEOs.

In 2010, Capgemini (a global leader in consulting technology services) saw huge promise in Strategic Systems Solutions and bought it.

Mike explains: “What Capgemini taught me was how global companies are really run and why they operate in particular ways that our clients didn’t always like. It allowed me to really understand why a different approach would work and have a place in the

complex Enterprise Technology world. The chief exec pretty much told me I should go and set up my own business, and to keep in touch!”

By 2012 Mike had built up both the confidence and contacts to do it himself… or at least with one other person. Alongside Charlie Hoult, who he met at the school gates dropping off their respective twins, a new tech services innovation was bornOpencast Software. Both were driven by their collective vision for a tech consultancy that could be an independent alternative to traditional models. Mike started with a shared office in Hoults Yard and, very quickly, a team of four ex-Capgemini colleagues. It experienced rapid growth, with their client list growing to include prestigious names like Royal Bank of Scotland, NHS BSA, Barclays Bank, HMRC, DWP, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan and many others. Mike adds: “We funded it ourselves and focussed on organically growing with huge organisations - which people told me couldn’t be done! “Relationships were crucial. We knew the pay-off wouldn’t be immediate. But if you build great relationships and a nurturing and creative environment for people, then financial rewards WILL come. But it’s important to get these things in the right order! Colleagues got sick of me saying ‘it’s all about the people’.” The company's commitment to this culture distinguished them, helping set the business apart and leading to impressive customer acquisition and growth.

Mike adds: “Turnover this year will reach £54m, we have 500 people and offices in Newcastle, London,

Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow. We are still privately owned and fiercely proud of being from Newcastle and independent!

“When Opencast started, the services provided were in the Cloud Computing space. I discovered quickly that even though this was a massive market, a lot of the big enterprises weren’t ready for it for a variety of reasons - compliance, security and more. So, a pivot was needed to address different problems people were having. I think entrepreneurs know when to pivot and where to head next … listening to the market and clients.”

So how does Mike bring this experience to the table with the other judges for this year’s awards? He explains: What’s really come out of it for me is identifying someone doing something they really love. I could have worked in a bank in the city, but I didn’t really want to do that. “You’ve got to love what you’re doing. You can’t just be doing it to make money. I‘m looking for business ideas from innovative people positioning themselves for the next big step.

“Some people really thrive being in control of their destiny versus working for someone. I'm not sure you know if you are that person until you try it ... It's really right for some people.

“Things go wrong and it's how you deal with this that matters. Resilience and thinking on your feet really become important. Things can often look easy from the outside - you lose contracts, key people, run out of money, markets change, your key client sponsor leaves, you either love the challenges or not!”

As Mike prepares to select the 2023 Entrepreneur of the Year, it is these qualities he is looking for - a love of their work and industry, and a mindset that believes in relationships, and shows a determination to deal with the challenges owning their own business brings.

For more information visit:

Things go wrong and it's how you deal with this that matters. Resilience and thinking on your feet really become important.

mentoring for growth autumn 23

“Interestingly enough, I worked as a supply teacher at her company for a few days, so that brought a sense of familiarity."

Kelly continues: “During our session we discussed maximising on things that are going well and areas which need improvement. Recruitment and how to make sure we get the best talent out there was something I needed mentoring on. Kirsty has been great at giving me a fresh perspective and guidance on how to achieve this through small manageable steps.”

someone to tell her she is taking the right steps in her journey.

“She reminded me a lot of myself. Young and doing it on her own. I was glad I could be there to support and guide her.

Our mentoring programme aims to support entrepreneurs, equipping them with the tools and insights to navigate challenges, seize opportunities and thrive in their business pursuits.

One of these entrepreneurs is Kelly Maxwell, founder of Kelly’s Heroes Private Tuition, a business passionate about helping children reach their full potential through private online and face-to-face tuition and workshops.

Started in 2021, Kelly reached out recently to the Entrepreneurs’ Forum to be paired with a mentor to help take her business to new heights. She said: “My goal was to talk to someone about scaling up and recruitment of staff. When I found out that I was paired with Kirsty Lawrenson, I couldn’t think of a better person to help us get there.”

After seeing a gap in the market, Kirsty Lawrenson founded EYPS Teaching Supply, later renamed Exact Teaching, back in 2004. What started off as a small recruitment agency for teachers soon escalated into a full-scale business, eventually expanding into overseas territory. Eventually being bought out by a Swedish tech company, Kirsty was

left with a vast amount of knowledge and experience which she was eager to share with other entrepreneurs.

Kirsty said: “I’m no stranger to being a mentor. At Exact Teaching we introduced a mentoring scheme for support teachers called Virtual Coffee Mornings, which have proved to be extremely useful.

“I have been a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum for quite some time, so I knew they had a similar programme. This encouraged me to take part in it as I felt I could sympathise with young entrepreneurs and understand the challenges that could occur in the journey of starting a business.”

With Kirsty’s knowledge and Kelly’s wish to gain an external perspective on her new venture, it was a match made in heaven.

Kelly adds: “Kirsty was the perfect mentor. We are both in similar businesses and could understand one another perfectly. We share similarities in the fact that we both were teachers first, not business owners, so I am going through a very similar journey to the one Kirsty has already been on. Her insights were very valuable to me.

The meeting proved to be highly productive, fostering meaningful discussions, ones that will lead to regular mentoring sessions according to both entrepreneurs.

Kirsty added: “Kelly was very honest about the mistakes she has made and her future plans for the business. She has great ideas and I think she just needed that reassurance,

“From our very first meeting, we built such a strong connection that I extended the offer of having more regular sessions rather than monthly based ones. Sometimes there is no use in waiting the entire month to get some mentoring, so I assured Kelly that she was more than welcome to come to me for guidance on an online ad hoc basis too”, explains Kirsty.

As far as Kelly is concerned, mentoring is the most important thing a business owner could do.

“It’s a chance to get fresh ideas, reflect on your own ones and create a strategy on how to implement them. Mentoring is crucial to any entrepreneur.”

The Entrepreneurs’ Forum understand the importance of mentoring. As part of our mentoring programme, Kelly Maxwell, founder of Kelly’s Heroes Private Tuition, has been paired with a successful businesswoman, Kirsty Lawrenson, and Ellen Hedley of Vida Creative gained business insight from Richard Bradley, CEO of Dyer Engineering.
Kirsty Lawrenson Kelly Maxwell
From our very first meeting, we built such a strong connection that I extended the offer of having more regular sessions.

Our second pair in the Entrepreneurs’ Forum mentoring programme is Ellen Hedley, founder of Vida Creative digital agency, who wanted to get guidance on managing company growth and engaging staff on this journey, for which she was paired with an experienced member of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, Richard Bradley, CEO of Dyer Engineering. Richard's business specialises in high integrity metal components and has a rich history that goes back to 1977. However, it was in 2013 that Richard Bradley, together with Graeme Parkins, took over the company. A decade of success and a varied background in engineering, finance and manufacturing has equipped Richard with expertise not only within the manufacturing sector but also within the realm of what it means to be an entrepreneur.

So, when Vida Creative’s co-founder Ellen Hedley, together with her partner Henry, were looking for advice on the next steps in her journey of owning a business, Richard Bradley was a great source of inspiration.

Ellen said: “When I first set up a meeting with Richard, I was looking for someone to point me in the right direction, in terms of growth. It was also a chance to speak to someone that could give us a different perspective, bounce off some fresh ideas and learn from the success of Dyer Engineering.

“Although Richard is in the manufacturing business, and Vida Creative is a digital agency, I think, as

business owners we go through similar challenges and experiences, so his insight was extremely beneficial and thought-provoking,” she adds.

Contrary to popular belief, seeking business advice from entrepreneurs in different sectors can be powerful and transformational. Embracing diverse perspectives offers invaluable insights and innovative solutions. By tapping into the wisdom of successful individuals from different industries, businesses can gain fresh ideas, identify untapped opportunities, and navigate challenges with greater adaptability.

“Ellen and I have had one session, but I think we were a good match for each other. I offered her a chance to talk through the challenges that she and her business partner were facing, the future ahead and give reassurance that they are heading in the right direction,” explains Richard.

“Being a business owner can be a lonely place because ultimately you are the one making decisions that affect everyone, so that puts a great amount of pressure on the individual. It’s not something that could be talked through with your employees, and this is where mentors come in,” he adds.

"Although a one-off session, it has proved to be extremely productive, in terms of insight on how to engage staff, how to expand the business in the future and, ultimately, how to get to a place where the business practically runs itself."

Ellen added: “As we were talking

about leadership, Richard gave me a book to read, called “The Leader Who Had No Title” by Robin Sharma. We discussed the stigma around what success means and how it’s usually wrongfully defined by numbers in terms of staff. This is what the book is about and I very much look forward to reading it, as that conversation alone encouraged me to re-evaluate how I look at things.”

The benefit of our mentoring programme has proven very useful to business owners, as it helps them map out the next future steps,

however entrepreneurs like Richard Bradley ensure the benefit of the sessions is a two-way street. Richard said: “The mentoring programme is the reason I have joined the Entrepreneurs’ Forum. It’s easy to get stuck in the never-ending cycle of running a business, and if I can offer some help and guidance on how to get unstuck, if I can lend an ear to listen to their ideas and provide advice on business, something that is a big passion of mine, then I get as much out of it as the mentee does.”

Mentoring Drop-In Sessions

Our mentoring drop-in sessions are confidential one-to-one sessions, giving you a rare chance to talk through business challenges with other experienced entrepreneurs. For details of the mentors for each session and to book a space, check out our website.

27 September 1pm – 4pm

Flok, Middlesbrough

17 November 1pm – 4pm

RBC Brewin Dolphin, Newcastle

For Entrepreneur Members only.

Ellen Hedley Richard Bradley
Although Richard is in the manufacturing business, and Vida Creative is a digital agency, I think, as business owners we go through similar challenges and experiences.
Think we just build websites? We supported a FTSE 100 company to exceed its eight-figure target for a new service by providing Digital Consultancy and Data Visualisation services. 0191 511 1014 Forum Magazine.indd 4 11/08/2023 11:14

forum partner Guerilla

Navigating the storms.

As the Managing Director of Guerilla Communications, I have the privilege of leading a team that uses brand creation, strategy, and communications to help our international client base excel. I will share how we are tackling some of the most pressing business challenges of 2023.

In the current era of economic uncertainty, businesses need to be agile and adaptable. At Guerilla, we help our clients optimise their marketing spend, ensuring a greater return on investment. We work closely with our clients as an extension of their businesses to understand their unique needs and tailor strategies that deliver real results, even in the face of economic downturns.

As technology continues to evolve rapidly, we help businesses stay

ahead of the curve by integrating digital strategies into their brand narrative. We leverage the latest technologies (including AI) to create innovative marketing campaigns that resonate with the digital-savvy audience, ensuring our clients' brands remain relevant and engaging. Our communication strategies involve creating impactful online and offline marketing campaigns that leverage the latest technologies, helping our clients stay ahead of the curve.

In today's digital age, customers are demanding ever more immersive experiences. We help businesses meet these expectations by creating engaging, authentic brand narratives that resonate with their audience. Whether it's through immersive in-store experiences or engaging digital content, we help businesses

turn interactions into memorable experiences. Consumers have access to a wealth of digital information, so building brand trust is crucial. We help our clients build and maintain trust by ensuring transparency and authenticity in their brand communication. We assist businesses in communicating their values, commitments, and achievements honestly and openly, fostering trust and loyalty among their customers. In the face of ever-increasing competition for talent, we help businesses position their brand as an employer of choice. We assist in communicating our clients' commitment to employee development, diversity, and inclusion, helping them attract and retain top talent. Sustainability and eco-friendly practises are now also nonnegotiable for consumers, and we help businesses communicate their green initiatives effectively. We help shape honest and clear brand narrative that highlights our clients' commitment to sustainable practices, helping them connect with environmentally conscious consumers.

As businesses grow and expand into new markets or channels, maintaining brand consistency across the plethora of media channels can become challenging. We help overcome this challenge by developing comprehensive brand guidelines that ensures consistency across all touchpoints. We ensure

that the brand message, visual identity, and tone of voice remain consistent, creating a cohesive brand experience for customers.

Markets are evolving faster than ever, driven by technological advancements, and changing consumer behaviours. Guerilla helps businesses stay ahead of these changes by ensuring their brand strategy is flexible and adaptable. We continuously monitor market trends and consumer insights, adjusting the brand strategy as needed to keep it relevant and effective. Such insights are important for businesses trading in crowded markets, when standing out from the competition can also be a significant challenge. We support our clients in clearly defining their unique selling proposition (USP) and communicating it effectively through their brand. We help businesses create a distinctive brand identity and narrative that sets them apart from their competitors and resonates with their target audience. In conclusion, a solid brand strategy can help businesses overcome many challenges and prosper.

Guerilla is an award-winning agency, serving, local, national, and international clients. Formed in 2002 and celebrating 21 years, Guerilla specialises in brand creation and strategy, digital, advertising branding, and creative design as well as social media development across a variety of sectors. Guerilla’s brand proposition is Creative Thinking. Real Results.

In the face of mounting global challenges, businesses are seeking innovative solutions to not just survive, but thrive, as James Allen tells us.
At Guerilla Communications, we believe that the key to overcoming these hurdles lies in a robust brand strategy.

centre stage Dr Kanya King CBE

The visionary behind the hugely successful MOBO (which she created in 1996), Kanya’s journey is an inspiring tale of triumph over adversity. From her early years, marked by financial struggles, sharing a council house with nine older siblings, to becoming a single parent at 16, Kanya never lost faith in her ability to realise her dreams. We catch up with her and explore the challenges she faced, the sacrifices she made, and the driving force behind her success.

From an early age in north west London, Kanya was determined to make a difference, embodying a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit and a reluctance to accept the life one might have expected of her.

Reflecting on her early years, Kanya recalls: “My family struggled financially. I didn’t have the opportunities of others. But I knew that I was going to be financially independent.”

Fuelled by this desire for financial independence, Kanya seized every opportunity. She collected bottles left in the local park, returning them for a few pence. She recalls as a teenager creating a business venture at Notting Hill carnival – buying whistles and string for 35p and selling them for £1 to carnival visitors to use at the festival. A wilful resourcefulness defined her early years. This early taste of success only further ignited Kanya’s ambition to break free from the cycle of financial

struggle. At school, a careers adviser told her she might, at best, work up to be a store manager at Sainsburys. She had very different ideas: “Any dreams were not encouraged, but that put a fire in my belly.”

Her parents had a big influence on her. She adds: “My mum was Irish and my dad, Ghanaian. They came to the UK at a young age to pursue their dreams. It was a time when there were signs on the doors saying ‘No blacks, no Irish, no dogs’.” Sadly her Ghanaian father passed away when she was 13, not getting to see his daughter’s huge success.

At 16, life took an unexpected turn when Kanya became a single parent, dropping out of school. Society's expectations were that her life would no longer turn out as she wanted, but Kanya refused to let anyone write her off. She worked tirelessly, juggling jobs and parenting responsibilities, her supportive mother being there for her as often as she could. Despite the challenges, Kanya remained committed to being a positive role model to her son. She recalls: "When I became a single parent, people felt that was the end of my life. People thought, 'you've wasted it’. My view was, 'Don't write me off’."

Kanya found inspiration in the resilience of her mother and the sacrifices she made. Her mother's entrepreneurial spirit, exemplified by starting a B&B business late in life, left an indelible mark on Kanya. She credits her mother as a driving force

behind her own belief in the power of support networks and sharing love in the entrepreneurial journey. Kanya explains: "Recently, I went to an event and this woman said to me, 'I met your mother 15 years ago. I was broke. Your mother gave me a place to stay for three months in her B&B’. This is when you realise the importance of building a strong support system.”

The essence of sharing support is deeply ingrained in Kanya’s belief system. For her, true success lies not in material possessions but in the ability to change lives. This is partly the context for MOBO, which very much defines Kanya’s entrepreneurial journey. Her love of creativity and creative people is clearly crucial. She explains: “I've always loved theatre and art. But I didn't feel I had any background or connection with the creative industry. The world of television for instance

was very much based on who you knew. If you didn't come from a wealthy background or have the contacts, how on earth were you expected to get into television?”

Kanya knew she would have to do it herself. Despite her efforts to create a platform for talent, she was repeatedly turned away by people who claimed there was no audience for ‘music of black origin’ (MOBO). She was prepared to risk everything. She explains: “After saving the deposit on my first home, I took a huge risk in ‘96 and remortgaged my house to secure funds after convincing a TV executive there was a gap in the market for the MOBO Awards. I subsequently remortgaged my home several times when MOBO was threatened or faced challenges.” At the heart of the MOBO Awards was the idea that creativity is a powerful expression of identity, capable of transcending racial and

Speaking with conviction at the Forum's Fortune Favours the Brave conference earlier this year, Dr Kanya King CBE truly embodies the spirit of bravery and resilience.
I've overcome many obstacles to support others. I've learned and gained from great mentors too. There is an African proverb: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

cultural divides. And despite being repeatedly turned away, there was clearly a market - as the MOBO Awards’ rich history proves. MOBO has played an instrumental role in the careers of numerous UK artists such as Stormzy, Craig David and Rita Ora. As the annual MOBO Awards grew, Kanya went on to launch MOBOLISE to help black people make it to the top in the creative industries, connecting talent with careers. Again, supporting people was integral to her vision.

To keep MOBO relevant, she emphasises the need for continuous evolution. Recognising the power of digital platforms, she has partnered with TikTok, curating content for today's audience. MOBO is always ahead of the curve with new creative initiatives all the time, such as with their talent platform, MOBO UnSung. They are now partnering with TikTok to promote the ten UnSung finalists. This opportunity will allow new and independent artists to share their music with a global community. It hasn’t all been plain sailing though, Kanya adds: “I’ve been naive at times. You learn lessons, working out what support you need. Mentorship is crucial to that."

As Kanya looks to the future, she envisions a MOBO Awards that will continue to grow, supporting emerging talent. Kanya intends to pass on the lessons she has learned; none of which is more important than helping others to realise their dreams. She says: "I've overcome many obstacles to support others. I've learned and gained from great mentors too. There is an African proverb: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

She has also used her innovative spirit to diversify the MOBO brand creating a Trust which helps with performing arts funding, advice and education.

What does the future hold? Kanya talks about the possibility of stepping back, but she isn’t “going away”! She even talks about potentially writing a book.

This is an inspiring woman - and any book based on her life would have a great story to tell…


forum partner Agilico autumn 23

This move is a significant part of the innovative business’ wider net zero agenda. The urgent need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100 has spurred Agilico to proactively embrace sustainability, recognising its pivotal role in combating the climate emergency. Its mission is to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Agilico, a prominent leader in the workplace technology sector, has secured new premises in Team Valley, Gateshead, consolidating its previous two sites in the area, bringing its people together into one new, sustainable premises; enhancing operational efficiency, fostering collaboration, and driving regional job creation.

Agilico's core expertise encompasses

managed print, accounts payable automation, information and document management, hosted VoIP telephony, and agile working solutions. As a provider of workspace, IT, and telecom solutions, Agilico has evolved over the decades, expanding its operations and footprint. And this summer, in August, the business marked a new chapter by investing £1 million in its new north east office and plant facility.

This major investment is very much part of Agilico’s wider sustainability commitments and aspirations to be

net zero by 2030. Other UK Agilico sites are also due to either be upgraded and retrofitted with renewable solutions or newly developed over the coming years, as the business scales its operations and consolidates its position nationally as a leading IT tech innovator.

The consolidation of Agilico's new energy-efficient office in Team Valley is a testament to the company's commitment to sustainability, its people and regional growth. This very much fits into its wider ESG philosophy.

Sam Saunders, the company’s Head of Marketing, explains: “This new office and facility setup is more akin to our ambitious vision, as we further reinforce our position as a leading national IT tech firm. It is a statement which helps to further separate us, through the scale and quality of our new premises.”

In terms of Agilico understanding its own carbon footprint, the new office design incorporates cutting-edge technologies for monitoring and managing energy usage, aligning with the company's dedication to ISO 14001 standards and the journey

Agilico is building a greener future for its people and the planet.
Moving to its new site increases its ability to provide more sustainable solutions for its people and also its customers, with a new facility at the premises focused on refurbishing its multi functional devices.
From left, Warren Colby, Regional Managing Director and Mark Bryce, Sales Director

towards net-zero emissions. Also, the new facility will have a dedicated space for the refurbishment of IT devices, catering to customers not only in the local area but also extending to neighbouring regions across the north of England. What this means is that there will be far less need to deliver devices and printers long distances - costing time and money and also having a negative environmental impact. This is a key facet of the company’s net zero aspiration.

Agilico's vision very much fits into the circular economy concept and is a cornerstone of its net zero strategy. By refurbishing and repurposing multifunctional print devices (MFDs), the company contributes to emissions reduction. Approximately 57% of emissions savings are achieved through the use of remanufactured technology, a testament to the company's circular economy commitment. This approach also aligns with Agilico's commitment to the reduction of electronic waste and the promotion of sustainability.

In addition, Agilico's proactive approach to sustainability extends to initiatives that effectively reduce carbon emissions. For instance, the company has embraced electric and hybrid vehicles, with 10% of its car

fleet being electric and 50% hybrid, promoting cleaner transportation options for employees.

Charging infrastructure for electric vehicles has been installed at its sites nationwide, further facilitating the transition to electric mobility.

Agilico has harnessed solar energy through the installation of solar panels at its premises, aligning with its commitment to renewable energy sources.

In people terms, Agilico's investment signals its commitment to job creation and community growth. The move to the new office fosters collaboration and communication among diverse teams, with a shared space accommodating various departments. This consolidation enhances efficiency and cohesion, aligning with Agilico's commitment to fostering a united workforce.

"The new office provides a more collaborative and cleaner space for those who didn't have enough room before," explains the head of the Team Valley operation - Warren Colby. He adds: "This new exciting office complex is also a step towards fostering a more united, efficient and cohesive workforce."

Agilico's investment in the region signals their dedication to creating job opportunities and contributing to the local community's growth. The

company is actively seeking talent to fill roles in business development, finance, account management, and support engineering. Up to 15 roles will be recruited over the coming 6-12 months as the group aims to increase headcount and build its operations. The North East Chamber of Commerce are very supportive of the move, emphasising the importance of such investments in driving economic progress and job creation in the region. Their CEO, John McCabe said: “Agilico’s commitment to net zero, exemplified in their 2030 strategy, emphasises how they are sustainably growing their business and bringing jobs to the region.”

Warren Colby added: "We're looking for individuals who share our passion for technology and sustainability.

"This move opens up exciting possibilities for career growth and development in the North East."

With around 500 colleagues across its UK operations, Agilico serves over 14,000 customers striving to build resilient organisations in an era of rapid business and economic changes.

Agilico's vision of sustainability extends beyond its own operations. The company actively supports its customers and suppliers in adopting environmentally friendly practices. Through innovative technology solutions and consultancy services, Agilico empowers clients to optimise operations, reduce waste, and lower their carbon footprint.

As Agilico paves the way to net zero and consolidates its presence with a new energy-efficient office, the company's journey serves as an inspiration for businesses aiming to adopt sustainable practices. By prioritising sustainability and actively contributing to the fight against climate change, Agilico sets a benchmark for a more resilient and eco-conscious future. As businesses face the challenges of an evolving climate, Agilico's proactive stance highlights the potential for growth, efficiency, and positive environmental impact in today's rapidly changing landscape.

The company is unapologetically proud of its approach and innovation in sustainability and people. It is inviting partners, prospects and future collaborators to its new facility to see the operation in action. The company would welcome discussion about how they could help future clients develop their net zero strategies.

We invite you to join us at Agilico’s new North East headquarters on our upcoming open days. To find out more visit

17 Advertorial

autumn 23 awards finalists

Meet the nine finalists who are fighting it out in the 2023 Entrepreneurial Awards, this year supported by Week2Week Serviced Apartments.

Entrepreneur of the Year, supported by Ward Hadaway

An experienced entrepreneur who has shown incredible resilience and strength to lead their business to outstanding success through innovation, teamwork and leadership.

What is your biggest business achievement?

What does your business do?

We provide an ecosystem of solutions for Estate Agents which frees them up to do what they do best, accelerate their own success. Our solutions bring speed and security to the market improving the buying and selling process. In 2009 we pioneered the Modern Method of Auction (MMoA), becoming the UK’s largest residential auctioneer through our online auction solution, iamsold. As leaders in property technology we are one of the largest providers of digital solutions to Estate Agents, working with more than 6,000 UK branches.

In 2022 we celebrated some exciting milestones, including 46% YOY revenue growth and milestone acquisitions, adding new solutions to our ecosystem. MMoA sales have continued to grow at record levels, with consumer confidence at an all-time high.

What next?

We are committed to leading transformation in the industry, offering more choice to consumers, bringing speed and security to the market. The rollout of our latest phase of innovation will create an exciting future for agents with an integrated ecosystem of solutions where they can manage everything under one roof.

What does your business do?

Our foundation is to bring a premium edge to the bowling experience. Whilst we anchor on bowling, Lane7 offers many different gaming options, a fantastic bar and food offer giving you all your best nights in one.

What is your biggest business achievement?

Lane7 remains fiercely independent. Unlike the majority of the operators in

the industry, Lane7’s business model self-funds the growth of the business with no private equity investment despite being approached on numerous occasions by wealthy individuals and very wellrespected private equity funds.

What does 2024 look like for you and your company?

2024 will be a huge year. We’ve been trading for over a decade and geographically we cover the entire country therefore we are looking to widen our trading area starting with Dublin. We are also looking for sites beyond the UK.

Emerging Talent, supported by Kinnery

What does your business do?

Mother Mercy currently operates four premium cocktail bars in and around Newcastle. Our venues specialise in delivering unique, intimate table service and highquality cocktails for those looking to escape the chaos of Newcastle's famously lively nightlife.

What was the spark that inspired you to found the business?

We always felt that there was space

in the market for a different type of bar offering in Newcastle. Having worked previously in Michelin Star restaurants and 5* hotels, we wanted to offer the premium service and approach to quality that you would find in the world’s best restaurants and hotels in a more relaxed and approachable setting.

What does 2024 look like for you and your company?

We have ambitious plans to expand the Mother Mercy offer with several new venues outside of Newcastle city centre and into more suburban areas of Northumberland and North Tyneside. Watch this space!

What does your business do?

We are a construction management company aligned to the pharmaceutical and life science industries. We accelerate the delivery of medicines around the world using our collaborative delivery models.

What was the spark that inspired you to found the business?

It wasn’t so much a spark that inspired me, it was more a small fire. I built Wade on the foundations of

robust and collaborative delivery models (please talk to me about the Empire State Building!), great relationships and ultimately delivering on what we promise.

What does 2024 look like for you and your company?

It’s all about growth and helping deliver medicine faster. We’re expanding within the pharmaceutical, life sciences and process industry sectors but we’re growing our team and partners too. I’m incredibly proud of how Wade has developed in such a short time, so these next steps are incredibly exciting for us all.  We’re also underway with plans for the Wade Academy – helping raise standards and aspirations within the industry.

My Healthcare Recruit

What does your business do?

My Healthcare Recruit supports healthcare employers to source and relocate international healthcare talent. We provide an end-to-end service from finding candidates with the right skills fit, to supporting with the immigration and arrival process, to facilitating clinical skills training and providing new recruits with accommodation.

What was the spark that inspired you to found the business?

A friend of mine worked for the NHS

in international recruitment and was frustrated with the process they were following with their existing agency and the poor ROI the Trust were getting. My background is in management consultancy which is really all about problem-solving, and the problem-solving part of me thought (possibly a little naively) “I can do better!” A few years on, I like to think we are – and our customer testimonials would support that.

What does 2024 look like for you and your company?

We have spent the last couple of years honing our operational model and have optimised a lot of our processes, so we are in a great place to scale to meet increasing demand. We also have some exciting projects in the pipeline to help us offer more value to our clients and candidates (and have some fun on the way!).

What does your business do?

In a nutshell we're a company that has invented and patented a system to build many types of buildings from waste plastic. To expand a bit on that we are now using the technology to manufacture and assemble single storey buildings.

What was the spark that inspired you to found the business?

A eureka moment on Wednesday 4th February 2015 at 3.45pm! This was when an old boss of mine

asked the question ’there must be a better way of building flood defences?’ It started me on an incredible journey, having no formal knowledge of plastic manufacture or construction, to invent a new way of building walls and roofs and floors.

What does 2024 look like for you and your company?

Having introduced the product to the market and effectively 'real world’ tested OGEL over the last 18 months, 2024 is very much about scaling the sales of OGEL pods in a series of key markets. The cost-of-living crisis has the potential to seriously impact us but as we are able to offer a series of products over a variety of sectors and customer types we can hopefully 'ride the storm’.

An entrepreneur who is building a business of outstanding potential who has been trading for six years or less.
Neil Donachie Mother Mercy Sarah Grant Gary Giles OGEL Daniel Wade Wade Construction Management Consultants

autumn 23 awards finalists

Scale-up Entrepreneur of the Year,

An entrepreneur who is leading

in either turnover, profit or

three years.

Jonny Catto

Luis McCarthy

What does your business do?

iPac manufactures recycled and recyclable thermoformed packaging for the food and pharmaceutical sectors. We focus on innovation and design as well as sustainable sourcing to tackle a number of sustainability challenges around plastic packaging whilst delivering market leading product development, customer service and quality standards.

Tell us your ambition to scale?

We set the business up with a clear ambition to be the leading independent supplier of thermoformed packaging in the UK. Since setting up in 2017 we have grown at an average of 68% per year, and from a day-one team of five, we are now a team of almost 80, with production across two sites manufacturing around 400 million units per year. Within six years, we are now the third largest independent in the UK and our ambition remains the same as it was on day one.

What does the future hold?

We recently completed works on our second site in Co. Durham and we are continuing to invest in additional capacity to support our continued growth trajectory. Our new product development will continue to focus significantly on bringing sustainability benefits to the UK food packaging sector in order to support new and existing customers on their sustainability journeys and we intend to diversify our product range to broaden our offering in the sector whilst continuing to grow and develop our team.

What does your business do?

We are a Teesside-based company specialising in access and multi-discipline industrial services. The JMAC Group includes JMAC Scaffolding, JMAC Industrial Services, JMAC Hire & Sales, and JMAC Contracting Services. Each of our brands contribute unique expertise, collectively serving the industry with innovative and forward-thinking solutions, defining our reputation. We take pride in consistently raising the bar in our field, setting new standards, and always ensuring our people are at the heart of everything we do.

What was the spark that inspired you to found the business?

My Grandad founded JMAC in 1981 and I proudly took the reigns informally in 2011 and then formally in 2015. Since then, my passion for my family business and our industry has helped us evolve and grow the turnover from £85k per annum to over £13m. JMAC and business as a whole gives me a spark. I truly love business, and all of the challenges that come with it.

What does 2024 look like for you and your company?

2024 Is the first full year of us trading with a new structure and Group Board of Directors. This will be, as per all years previous, full of innovation and investment in our people and assets to enable growth and increase in our market share. We’ve come a long way since I took over as MD in 2015 but believe me when I say we’re just getting started!

What does your business do?

The SDDE Smith Group are a family business forming multiple brands that provide end-to-end client services for the real estate sector. The group has been built around listening to clients’ desires and providing solutions to those needs with creativity, innovation and an entrepreneurial mindset. Brands within the group include: property management, construction, interior design, legal, conveyancing, estate agency, property sourcing, housekeeping and maintenance.

Tell us your ambition to scale?

I have developed a business that is passionate about its colleagues, its clients, and the communities in which we operate, culminating in our true group purpose, pushing boundaries to create better places to live work and stay. I intend to play an increasing role in the economic development of the region whilst actively continuing to grow the group portfolio of brands organically and through acquisition, that further complement our real estate offering.

What does the future hold?

We are creating a single platform of real estate services, developing a convenient and efficient solution for our clients. Whilst actively giving back to the communities in which we operate, helping contribute to the economic success, nurture talent, and provide opportunity. I've pledged 10% of our Group’s profits to support charitable organisations as part of the group’s new ESG strategy, and we are committed to supporting people, protecting our places, and pioneering change.

iPac Packaging Innovations Dale Smith The SDDE Smith Group JMAC Group
supported by RTC North
a scaling company achieving 20%+ annualised growth
employee numbers for any (but ideally all) of the past


delivering a more precise candidate and selection practice – which should make that final job offer decision easier.

And that’s Talentheads’ main objective – to ensure a job is filled by the right candidate.

Firms frequently state that they ‘can’t get the staff’ but too often, it is because they’ve not taken the time, have a process or the training.

The foundation of every good business is quality people. However, finding the best applicants is a skill, and having the right hiring team can save you time, money –and potential problems down the line. There’s a common misconception that recruitment is a role anyone can do and often it is shared across multiple departments – particularly in small companies, where line managers and directors are tasked with filling vacancies, despite lacking formal training or experience.

Recruitment is so much more than advertising a vacancy on Indeed and picking from an often tiny candidate pool.

Skilled recruiters seek a range of

qualities and experience to find your business's ideal employee first time. However, if the team don’t have those skills, they can easily be trained into talented recruiters. This benefits your business and staff, who will gain career-boosting skills and development opportunities. And the upside of having your own skilled recruiting team is huge for both successful recruitment and retention.

Currently, it’s a job seeker’s market and it is up to the employer to stand out in a crowded market. A skilled hiring team can assess what your business needs and will know how to attract the perfect candidates who want to work with you.

When advertising your role and sourcing candidates, a job advert can be a potential employee’s first look at your business, and a competent, engaged hiring team will go above and beyond to attract the best candidates – something you won’t get from an unskilled group of talent hunters.

And remember – modern-day job seekers know their worth. The employer no longer holds all the cards, so your recruitment process serves as an integral factor behind their decision on whether they join you.

Plus ensuring your hiring team is trained means you won’t need to micromanage the process, allowing you more time for your business. However, if you do want some oversight, having trained staff will only make the process smoother by

At Talentheads, our approach is different and, we’d say, more successful. Our holistic recruitment approach means we embed ourselves within our clients’ businesses to shape and define their hiring practices. We don’t just want bums on seats – we want our clients to end up recruiting for the long term, so much so that we’ve now expanded that approach by offering a wealth of recruitment and retention training sessions.

Our Newcastle-based practical workshops will run throughout 2023 and can equip anyone involved in the recruitment process with the skills, knowledge and confidence to navigate the challenges it brings. You can learn to plan your recruitment strategy for long-term growth and retention or source the right candidates and best practice for shortlisting.

Our talented team run each session and will be on hand to answer any questions you have along with practical skills to put into practice in a real-life business setting.

For more information, call our Learning Team on 0191 300 8688

email, visit or register by visiting

Why training your team should be the ultimate long-term recruitment goal Sam Spoors, founder and managing director of talent acquisition consultancy Talentheads, explains how recruitment is a skill that can be taught – and how it is vital to ensure those tasked with hiring your people are up to the job.

autumn 23 addressing the issue

better stock price performance. Despite the rhetoric about the value of diversity, people of colour, women, disabled people, and LGBTQIA+ remain seriously underrepresented in many industries and in most senior leadership teams. This lack of progress suggests leaders don’t find the business case that compelling. The truth is that adding diversity while business continues as usual will not create big leaps in your organisation’s financial performance or productivity. What really moves the dial is how an organisation harnesses diversity and the leadership team’s willingness to reconfigure its power structures, redefine who gets a seat at the table, and their appetite to challenge the status quo.

Focus on the everyday actions and behaviours of your team, that is what makes the difference.

In the ever-evolving landscape of entrepreneurship, it is imperative for visionary leaders to go beyond mere representation and superficial diversity initiatives.

The path to true belonging and thriving communities lies in taking bold steps and engaging in honest, sometimes difficult conversations about Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I). In this article, I will share practical advice and guidance for entrepreneurs to create environments where people can genuinely belong and thrive. It’s time for entrepreneurs to embrace ED&I as an essential pillar of success, moving through fear and complacency to build a future where

every voice is heard, valued, and supported.

In 2020, McKinsey published a report, Diversity Wins, that analysed the financial performance of more than 1,000 companies in 15 countries. The study found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity in their executive teams were 36% more likely to have above-average profitability compared to companies in the bottom quartile. Credit Suisse in 2021 analysed the performance of over 3,000 companies and found that organisations with a higher proportion of women in senior management positions had higher returns on equity and

Unconscious bias training has its place, but organisations must go beyond these tick box exercises to build a culture of trust and belonging. Entrepreneurs have the ability to throw out the rulebook and focus on operating from a place of service and inclusion. As Devi Bhattarai said in a recent Lean In article: “Women and underrepresented groups aren’t suffering entirely from imposter syndrome; they are suffering in a system that wasn’t designed with their success in mind.”

So, what can you do to be more intentional in how you build a culture of inclusion and belonging?

Encourage people to talk to each other from a position of growth. If they get something wrong, help them to get it right next time. Help your team move beyond the fear of ‘getting it wrong’ and create an environment where people can learn and do better together. Keep saying the things that need to change out loud, rather than keeping quiet. Use your voice and platform, recognise your privilege, and use it to support others.

Leaders – lean in and act. Too often the responsibility for ED&I is given to someone else in the team. Often this person is from an underrepresented group, taking on ED&I as an addition to their day job… this only compounds the problem. Change must start at the top. Not only role modelling behaviours but acting when inclusive behaviours are not demonstrated. Reach harder and smarter to attract underrepresented groups to your organisation. Assess your hiring practices, are they fit for purpose? Are you providing the conditions for your teams to thrive? Are your assessment processes inclusive? Learn with other North East entrepreneurs and those around you who are working hard to create an inclusive culture. Gill Hunter at Square One Law is changing the system in the legal sector: “If you want meaningful change, it must be led from the top. If it isn’t authentic, it won’t work. We want to create a place where all are not only included but have a real sense of belonging. You can’t achieve that by tick boxes and policies, it needs real leadership, acknowledgement of weaknesses and a genuine desire to change. However, if you do embrace the journey then you will reap the benefits – diversity leads to happier teams, better communities and more robust decision making. Business leaders I talk to are worried about the cost of ED&I, but it’s not about initiatives, it’s about culture and we have seen financial benefits rather than downsides since we embarked on our wholesale cultural change programme 18 months ago.” Locardia Chidanyika shares her experience and how the system must change to ensure there is inclusivity for all

In this article, Forum member Michaela Reaney, co-founder of Opportunity Global, explores the true potential of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and how having honest conversations in the workplace is essential.

entrepreneurs. “The UK’s investment landscape lacks inclusivity for black entrepreneurs, hindering progress and perpetuating systemic disparities.

Despite a thriving entrepreneurial spirit within the black community, limited investment opportunities reflect a deeper issue: racial bias. Change requires intentional action. Investors should actively seek and support black entrepreneurs, granting them equitable access to resources. Diverse perspectives lead to better solutions and a stronger economy. The more diverse founders that are fully supported, the more inclusivity we will foster in the workplace.”

Sarat Pediredla added: “At hedgehog lab, we are committed to fostering an inclusive culture where everyone feels they belong. One example is our effort to diversify hiring practices by removing unconscious bias in job descriptions and interviews. We also provide flexible working and part-time options for full-time roles. This enables working parents and caregivers to maintain their careers while meeting responsibilities outside work. Our formal menopause policy demonstrates care for our employees’ health and well-being. When people feel respected and cared for, they

contribute wholeheartedly. The sense of belonging this creates has boosted creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving.”

As Emily Chang commented in her book Brotopia: ‘There are a lot of people with bystander syndrome, people seeing it happen and doing nothing about it.’ Emily was referring to the ‘bro culture’ in tech but the comment is relevant to any sector. We must stay curious, learn, and take action together to make the workplace more equitable for all. This is one of the reasons I am organising the first TEDxWomen in Teesside this autumn, to create an event that is open to everyone, not just the business community, to share ideas through TEDx Talks about how we can create change for women and girls. Middlesbrough and now Hartlepool have been named the worst places to be born a girl in the UK by Plan UK, we must work together to change this narrative. By leveraging events like TEDxTeessideWomen, we have an opportunity to shift perspectives, challenge stereotypes, and take meaningful steps toward a more inclusive and equitable future for everyone.

Follow on LinkedIn:

Professor Dr. Funke Abimbola MBE

Katie Neeves

Lee Chambers

Beth Kume-Holland and Patchwork Hub

Joanne Lockwood

Shereen Daniels blog posts and e-commerce

Read or listen to:

Rethink Work Podcast

Access All: Disability News and Mental Health Podcast

The Disability Visibility Podcast

Brotopia by Emily Chang

The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice by Shon Faye

“The world is too fragile to have businesses that are purely about profit. They just cannot exist.”

Making a Positive Difference to People’s Lives

Businesses are increasingly expected to consider purpose as well as profit, and the future of our planet and its people. These are collectively referred to as environmental, social and governance (ESG).

With so many aspects of ESG to consider, guidance from experienced professionals can help you to build a business that meets today’s expectations and is ready for the future. We can help you with:

• ESG strategy creation Sustainability workshops

• Carbon accounting and green tax incentives

• B Corp consulting

• ESG measurement and reporting ESG focused pension options

• Financial Planning for directors with ESG considerations

Complete your free ESG assessment tool to see what areas you need to focus on to make ESG improvements:

Tel: 0191 281 8191 Email:
Sarat Pediredla Michaela Reaney Gill Hunter Locardia Chidanyika
Here are some ideas on how you can stay curious and learn:

autumn 23 behind the boardroom

In the ever-evolving landscape of global industries, the pursuit of exceptional talent remains a constant challenge for businesses seeking to thrive and innovate. At the heart of this quest for excellence lies Samuel Knight International, a prominent and dynamic force in the realm of global recruitment and talent acquisition since 2014. With a reputation firmly built upon relentless commitment, integrity, and expertise, Samuel Knight International has emerged as a leading light, revolutionising the way organisations connect with top-tier talent across the globe in sectors such as technology, rail, energy and renewable energy solutions.

Founder Steven Rawlingson is an accomplished executive with extensive experience leading global corporations. Possessing a remarkable track record spanning over 20 years, he has demonstrated exceptional proficiency in establishing and nurturing rapidly growing specialist international project solution firms in the renewable energy field. Having led Samuel Knight International through different stages of progress, Steven reminisces on the journey it has been and his proudest achievements.

“In 2018 we finally raised institutional investment, which allowed us to capitalise on our growth across the international market sectors.

“Another great milestone was launching Samuel Knight USA in the midst of the Covid pandemic. Despite the challenging times, we have been able to launch an international office and within its first seven months of trade it generated over $10 million of sales.”

With the rapid growth since the very beginning, eventually came the need

for a board of directors, to help take the business to new heights. After years of networking and building valuable business connections, Steven finally felt he was in the right place to gather the connections and the knowledge he has gained over the course of four years, take a leap, and form a highly professional and vastly experienced board.

At the moment, Samuel Knight International has a good two thirds ratio mix between executive and non-executive board members.

Steven explains: “The current board is myself, group CFO, two managing directors, group finance director and a chairman. We’ve also just made an offer to a COO who will join in November. Collectively the board has around 40 years of industry experience of taking high growth businesses to the next level.

“My first line of the executive board was my priority, and the nonexecutive board members joined later. At the moment we’ve got three non-executives that work with individuals, including myself, across the business in terms of mentoring, as well as building and scaling different regions.”

In the corporate world, the composition of a company's board of directors plays a pivotal role in its strategic direction and overall success. Traditionally, boards have been composed of executive and non-executive members. While some entrepreneurs question the need for non-executive board members, Steven expands on the value and insight they have brought to his company.

“At Samuel Knight International the executive board members are the statutory directors of the business, so they have a few fiduciary responsibilities within the

organisation, and they are held accountable for operational practices.

“The non-executive board members are operational board members. They each overlook a different business region, as we have offices in the United Kingdom, Europe, and USA,” Steven explains.

“While some might claim that non-execs are non-essential, I say they bring a mixture of dynamics within the organisation. These are people with experience and skill, that bring a lot of valuable insight, in terms of mechanics behind scaling, hiring the right people, having the right finances in place, as well as creating and delivering a high growth strategy.”

“Of course, each business is different and the usefulness of non-executive board members really depends on the organisation,” Steven adds. 2021 was a remarkable year for Samuel Knight International as this is the year they launched their USA office. A major move on its own, it has proven to be exceptionally successful.

Steven embellishes: “I launched Samuel Knight International USA remotely from Dallas in 2019 and within the first three weeks of trading we secured a major contract worth around $5.5 million. From there we expanded on our offering across the renewable energy sector.”

“At the end of the pandemic, I went over there and we started hiring local individuals from Dallas who were inspired by what we were trying to

achieve in terms of zero carbon emissions.”

At Samuel Knight International their unwavering commitment is to foster a greener and more environmentally friendly world. Through robust partnerships within the global community, they are dedicated to achieving the ambitious goal of Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050, a move that, like everything else in the business, is going rather smoothly.

“At the moment the business has around 5 offices and approximately 260 contractors. The plan ahead is to get to a business that employs around 150 people before 2024. I have no doubt we will achieve that as it’s one of the fastest areas of our business.”

Steven finds it essential to visit the USA office every three months since establishing an international presence is crucial for growing the business in overseas territories. He highlights the importance of understanding the buying behaviours of local individuals and having regular board meetings, as these are a key to the success of any international company.

“If I could give two pieces of advice to entrepreneurs, in terms of setting up a board, I would say make sure you have the right people behind you. Build a board of people with expertise, rely on recommendations from the industry, and look out for relevant skills from the business connections you have made in the past to help you upscale and grow.

“As for setting up an international business, it’s crucial to understand the market you’re trying to penetrate. Have a strategic marketing plan in place, as well as finances and, most importantly, have the right people to support you. As long as you have all of these things covered, you will have no issues in growing your organisation.”

For more information visit:

Take a peek behind one of our members' boardrooms and discover their story and what makes their business tick. In this issue, we talk to Steven Rawlingson, founder of Samuel Knight International, about his business, the journey of setting up a board of directors and the bright future ahead…

out of office line of duty autumn 23

In this part of the magazine we take a look at what our Forum members get up to when they clock out of the business world and into a passion that occupies their out of office hours! In this issue we spoke to Ummar Hanif, founder and director of United Kingdom Development Corporation, to find out more about his role as a Special Constable (SC) at Northumbria Police.

children with disabilities. I used to keep a couple of nights a week free to do activities with large groups of young people. I did that for a few years, coupled with quite a bit of charity work, and really enjoyed it. I then had about six years where I hadn't done much, primarily because of work. During that time I was a Senior Advisor to the government through my company and that took up a lot of my time. However, I then came across an opportunity to join Northumbria Police as a Special Constable working on the frontline as a response officer.

What does the role of Special Police Constable involve?

How do you fit your role as a Special Constable around your business life?

Since joining in 2020, Ummar has volunteered countless hours to his SC role, working on the front line responding to 999 calls and emergencies across Gateshead and Newcastle. SCs have the same uniform and powers as regular police officers and find themselves tackling the same types of situations as regular officers. It’s a challenging role, but one that Ummar is incredibly passionate about.

Why did you decide to become a Special Constable?

I've always had an interest in the police force. My wife has been a serving police officer in Cleveland for 14 years and my dad was the Vice Chair of Cleveland Police and went on to become the Chair. So, policing has always been a part of my life in a way. But equally, I’ve always been a keen volunteer. Earlier in my career I was a volunteer youth worker for

It’s predominantly dealing with 999 calls and no one shift is the same as the last. I did my initial training for three months before going operational in 2021. I’m usually based in Gateshead, responding to emergency calls. I was fortunate enough in 2022 to be awarded the ‘Ferrers Special ConstabularyIndividual Award’. It was presented to me by the Minister for Policing in London and that was a really proud moment for me. The award was given to me for my services to policing and encouraging people from different backgrounds to join the police. I’ve done a lot of work around positive action. So, I was really overwhelmed receiving that award, it’s one of the highest accolades you can receive as a Special Police Constable!

It’s quite hard! I have a three year old son and seven year old daughter too, so trying to fit everything in is a challenge. I try my best to balance my work with the SC role. The minimum requirement is 16 hours a month and I typically do between 20-70 hours depending on my schedule. I do well over what I'm expected to do because I honestly enjoy it. It's such a rewarding experience. But it’s challenging too. It’s tested me in areas I didn’t think I would ever be tested in. You’re never knocking on someone’s door to tell them they’ve won the lottery. You’re entering into challenging situations. You’re dealing with the nasty parts of society whilst supporting vulnerable victims and communities. That's the motivation that keeps me doing it I guess. I try to make sure I do at least one or two shifts a week, typically night shift. I'll do a day's work, go home, get my gear on, do a night shift, come back for a few hours of sleep and start my day again. And my body's sort of got used to that.

How do you switch your mindset from high adrenaline police work to office work and meetings?

It’s something that a lot of people overlook. I could deal with a really horrific situation at 2am then put my suit on and go into the office only 6 hours later. Things can play on your

mind at times but the Force are very, good with support. They've got some of the best support mechanisms in the country both on and off shift.

What skills have you learnt from your role as a Special Constable that translate to the business world?

I think it’s made me a more rounded person in general. I got into this later, in my mid-thirties. Most people start in their twenties. I thought I was well developed and rounded but I’ve learnt so many skills from this role that I didn’t have before. For example, you’re dealing with incredibly challenging situations, sometimes life and death, and you’ve got to learn to be calm and logical in the face of it all. I feel like some of the worries I had before doing this job were quite

forum favourites

From motivational reads, insightful documentaries and goal-grabbing podcasts, Forum picks out a selection of inspiring media…

read Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of our life, health and longevity and yet it is increasingly neglected in twenty-first-century society. Matthew Walker explores twenty years of cutting-edge research to solve the mystery of why sleep matters.

‘Why We Sleep’ delves into everything from what really happens during REM sleep to how caffeine and alcohol affect sleep and why our sleep patterns change across a lifetime.

trivial compared to the challenges of the policing world.

Finally, many people may not have even heard of the Special Constable role, how can people get involved? We usually have several cohorts a year. So, we're looking for people who are business owners, people that are students, people that work full-time, people that may even be unemployed. We're looking for people that believe they've got the right skill-set to be able to deal with these very challenging situations and give back to the community. I'm a frontline response officer, but there’s other roles that Special Constables can do. There’s potentially a role to suit everyone! It’s worth taking a look because it’s such a rewarding role.

Throughout, Walker empowers readers to use sleep to reach their potential. ‘Why We Sleep’ will transform your appreciation of the vital role of sleep in all aspects of our lives, help improve your sleep, and culminate in a better, more productive you.


Amol Rajan Interviews (BBC iPlayer)

Amol Rajan interviews the global, era-defining pioneers, leaders and maverick thinkers who are shaping a rapidly changing 21st-century world. Interviewees include tennis star Billie Jean-King, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and Watergate journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Join Amol as he delves deep into the lives and careers of these leading figures.

Listen High Performance

Hosted by sports presenter Jake Humphrey and organisational psychologist Professor Damian Hughes

The High Performance podcast finds out what non-negotiable behaviours their guests have used to get them to the top and keep them there.

With diverse guests from sport, music, business, arts and entertainment the conversations unpack their methods for success and how they approach the pressure of life while at the top of their various games.

Hear from a whole host of guests including Steve Parish, co-owner and chair of Crystal Palace F.C., journalist Emily Maitlis and Simon Sinek, author and speaker.


autumn 23

new members

love with the region. I live in Northumberland with my partner and two lovely Labradors. I spend any spare time out walking the dogs –they keep me fit and sane (mostly).

Why did you decide to join the Forum?

Stuart Bramley Mira Marketing

Tell us about yourself

I am a seasoned marketing professional with 10 years of experience. My journey commenced when I earned a business and marketing degree in America. Upon returning home, I took the entrepreneurial plunge at the tender age of 21, establishing a sportswear business that swiftly became fast-growing, gracing the shelves of more than 50 stores nationwide. I also proudly supported the Boxing Scotland national team on their quest to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games. After four and a half rewarding years, I ventured into a new chapter of my life, focused on aiding brands in scaling their ventures. My skills lie in envisioning businesses' paths to success via digital marketing. I have a passion for analysing data to uncover the best strategy to invest in their marketing efforts.

Following a positive freelance career with global entities like Hornby Hobbies, Scalextric, and

fast-growing pet brands, I established my marketing agency. Over the past four years, this agency has blossomed into a fantastic team of eleven, servicing esteemed brands like Harringtons dog food, NHS, and JT Atkinson. I take immense pride in running an agency that prioritises client satisfaction and fosters trust, steering them towards growth and success.

Why did you decide to join the Forum?

Whilst I have known about the Entrepreneurs’ Forum for some time, I recently made the decision to join as I have expanded the team and helped upskill and train to allow for my responsibilities within the business to be passed on. This permits me to focus on refining the business and actively attending more networking events.

What do you enjoy most about running your own business?

Waking up with a sense of purpose, knowing that we are truly impacting our client's businesses.

Julia Smith People Science Consulting

Tell us about yourself

I am a Business Psychologist and Team Coach. I set up People Science Consulting in 2019 having spent over 25 years in global leadership roles in HR, Organisational Development and Business Change. My fascination with behavioural science and psychology led me to train in Business Psychology. From Leeds originally, I moved to the North East in 2001 and I fell in

Two things I have found to be crucial to business success are continuous learning and collaborating with others. Having attended the ‘Fortune Favours the Brave’ conference in May, it occurred to me that the Forum presents incredible opportunities to do both of those things.

What do you enjoy most about running your own business?

I enjoy the building and nurturing of client relationships. I am fortunate that over 90% of my work comes through my network and so having the opportunity to spend time and work with brilliant people is a joy. I love the diversity of the businesses and teams I work with too. I learn something new every day.

Deborah and Martha Wylie Little Angels Fun Club and Nursery

Tell us about yourselves

We’re Martha (21) and Debbie (55) Wylie and we are now both involved in key roles leading Little Angels Fun Club and Nurseries, a small, family group of childcare settings with around 350 places across five sites in Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle.

Why did you decide to join the Forum?

We first joined in 2004 just after the Forum started (when Martha was only

two!). It was a great way to meet others and learn. I loved the way that we got to hear so many success stories specific to the North East. After a 10 year break (where I worked as a founding principal in the region’s first free school) I returned to Little Angels and decided to refocus my energies on upscaling and supporting the post-Covid recovery. It’s great now with Martha on board to be able to take advantage of the family membership option.

What prompted you to join the family business (Martha)?

After having attended the nursery myself, I loved helping out with the children at the nurseries. I joined the family business during the Covid pandemic to support with some of the difficulties and juggled this with my university studies. Now that I’ve graduated, I’m able to work full time and focus on some really exciting projects! Although I appreciate it can be difficult to work with family (as there’s really no escape!), the majority of the time I love working with my Mum and think we collaborate really well (most of the time!).

Michelle Grogan

Tell us about yourself

My name is Michelle Grogan and I am the founder of Sereniti Health, a wellness business specialising in alternative wellness therapies and biohacking modalities.

Why did you decide to join the Forum?

I heard about the Forum from a couple of existing members and it sounded like a great place to join as a sole business owner. After speaking to Michael in the Forum team I knew it was what I needed to elevate my business and connect with other business owners in the North East.

What was your first job?

My first job was a paper round when I was 14 and then a Saturday girl in the local library (great if you have a love of books/reading).

What are you most proud of?

I’m really proud of my business and what I have achieved in the last five years especially in turbulent times. Helping people enhance their health and wellness and seeing improvements really makes me proud that I started the business and knowing that we make a difference.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I have an ambition to visit/trek all the wonders of the world. I’ve managed 4 up to now and hopefully get to see The Taj Mahal next year!

What do you hope to achieve with the Forum?

I hope to make some great connections and guidance from the Forum. It can be quite isolating when you work for yourself and have all the decisions to make (although in some instances that can be good as well). I’m hoping to learn from some great entrepreneurs and take my business to the next level!

If you weren't running your own business, what would you be doing now?

I would be away travelling the world. I would be learning more about health and wellness in various countries to bring those treatments/modalities back to the North East.

with over a decade of experience doing what I love most.

Why did you decide to join the Forum?

I was looking for a space where I could share experiences and build relationships with other like-minded business owners.

What sparked your decision to start your own business?

Jo Carter Concept Personnel

Tell us about yourself

Hi I’m Jo. I’m the MD of Concept Personnel and I’ve been running my recruitment business for 20 years. I’m a puppy mum to two dogs. I’m a sister and an aunty to four teenage nieces and about 20-odd of their friends who all call me Aunty Jo. I live in Cullercoats and I spend my weekends dog walking, gardening, cooking and baking, or catching up with my friends. I’m always the one

called in to make emergency birthday cakes. Oh and apparently I always say yes whenever anyone asks if I want to go anywhere or do anything fun!

Why did you decide to join the Forum?

My business is on a trajectory for growth so I’m hoping for support from like-minded entrepreneurs who are going through or have gone through similar experiences. Other benefits include networking amongst the good and the great of North East business, knowledge sharing and the learning opportunities; all resources and information that will help me to grow as a business leader.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I own a pub in Bedfordshire. My sister and I own it together. It’s my sister’s business so I don’t get involved in the day to day. I’m just there for her to lean on when she needs support. The pandemic was interesting for a hospitality sector business!

Tell us about yourself

Serial and cereal entrepreneur with a master’s degree from Durham University. From farmer to leading company founder in the bioeconomy creating plastic replacement materials from sugar.

Why did you decide to join the Forum?

I have watched the Entrepreneurs’ Forum for decades and supported it as a board member of the RDA (ONE North East) in the early days. Now it's my turn to share my knowledge and winning the ScaleUp Award at the Start-up Awards North East allowed me to join, as my business is at first raise stage.

What are you most proud of?

Tell us about yourself

I’m a Digital Marketing professional

I have always found it exciting being pushed out of my comfort zone and trying something new while doing what I’m passionate about.

My legacy is planting 60 acres of woodland and doing carbon footprinting 30 years ago. I have spotted some big trends well ahead of time … good job I started young!!

Joaquin Morales New Horizon Marketing and Advertising Sereniti Salt Retreat

autumn 23 travel big apple adventures

oranges, and yellows as crunchy leaves adorn the streets and a crisp breeze fills the air. Bundling up in cosy layers with a pumpkin spiced latte in hand is essential. When it comes to finding the perfect place to lay your head, it can be tempting to opt for a big name brand sitting in the centre of Times Square with the bright lights and Broadway at your fingertips, but finding smaller chains like 1 Hotels has made this break our best one yet.

curtains open. And when we’re woken by orange hues bouncing off the bridge, we’re totally won over by this beautiful Brooklyn bolthole. From here, you’ve got Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn at your fingertips. Time Out Market New York is just moments from the hotel, a curated dining destination housing some of the best food, drink and culture NYC has to offer.

Our recent adventure to the Big Apple was actually our fourth visit, and we can confirm that this place gets better the more you uncover. It’s a playground for cultured citybreakers, creative makers and fascinating people from all walks of life. It’s a paradise for people watching if you find the time to slow down and take it all in.

All of the usual tourist attractions are totally irresistible. You can’t help but climb the tallest buildings and take in those on-top-of-the-world views of the city skyline, enjoy the corn dogs at Madison Square Garden and browse the designer stores of 5th Avenue. None of those things lose their magic touch. But this trip is

about exploring new neighbourhoods, finding hidden gems and living like a local.

NYC is filled with magic at every turn, not just in the captivating tourist attractions, the busy streets of Times Square and the avenues off Central Park, but also in the neighbourhoods that locals call home.

One of our biggest pieces of advice when it comes to hitting up NYC is: don’t use the Subway to get from A to B - take to the streets, get lost in the crowds and stumble upon something by surprise.

Autumn is without a doubt one of the most impressive seasons to visit New York. The city comes alive with a vibrant kaleidoscope of reds,

For our accommodation, we’re heading across the East River to Manhattan’s beautiful and boisterous friend, Brooklyn. The trendy, waterfront wonderland of Dumbo, (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), just over Brooklyn Bridge, is packed with bars, restaurants and pop-up markets, transforming its working class roots into a thing of beauty. Brooklyn is a far cry from the swanky streets of modern Midtown Manhattan, but its impressive architecture and edgy charm is a spectacle of its own. The 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge benefits from more space than other New York hotels, overlooking the treetops at Pier 1, across the water to the Financial District skyline.

The stunning rooms are of rustic decor. Think concrete walls, slate tiles, leather headboards and marine-inspired touches. The interiors are effortlessly cool, but the farreaching views do the talking here, particularly from our ‘Bridge Suite’. With Brooklyn Bridge as our neighbour, and the city skyline flickering as day turns to dusk, it’s impossible not to sleep with the

Fed and watered, there’s plenty to be inspired by as you stroll around Dumbo - from artsy concept stores and coffee shops, to pop-up markets and exhibition spaces, this chic neighbourhood will steal your heart - and if, after a little while, you’re craving the buzz of Manhattan, a quick hop over Brooklyn Bridge will take you there. From the Upper East Side down to Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea and Soho, there’s so much to explore. One of our favourite areas being East Village, home to the famous Katz’s Delicatessen (a must visit for legendary pastrami!) but also Una Pizza Napoletana - the best in the biz when it comes to wood-fired treats. The menu is simple, a handful of appetisers, homemade ice cream, Italian wines and beer, all centred around the main event - Anthony Mangieri’s doughy delights. We are won over by ‘The Special’ - a buffalo mozzarella base with extra virgin olive oil, Scullion sea salt, garlic, Californian walnuts and chilli. Another foodie must in and around that neighbourhood is Soho’s Jack’s Wife Freda - a lively, all-day bistro serving up lip-smackingly good American-Mediterranean inspired

New York is always a good idea - especially in Autumn. It’s a city that sparkles day and night, and offers up something new and exciting at every corner. Entrepreneurs’ Forum jets off to explore the concrete jungle…

brunch dishes and cocktails. As soon as the door swings open, you’re drawn in by the buzzy vibe as you’re seated and left to take it all in as you browse the colourful menu. In the city that never sleeps, you will always find something to do. From a leisurely stroll through Central Park and exhilarating helicopter rides over the Manhattan skyline, to visiting must-see attractions such as the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building and catching a show on Broadway, there's plenty to keep your agenda busy come rain or shine. But if, like us, you’re ready for a bit of wind-down after a pavement pounding trip, relaxing at 1 Hotels Bamford Wellness Spa is an absolute treat. Indulge in holistic treatments, nurture the mind and body in relaxation spaces, or head up to the hotel’s breathtaking

rooftop pool. There are many rooftop bars and high-rise buildings that top the NYC bucket lists, but these views are some of the best we’ve seen.

If you’re planning a 2023 trip to the ‘Empire City’, then keep this Big Apple guide on hand for a bounty of hip happenings and a cool place to lay your head. Whether you’re seeking out skyscraping views or brunch spots, shopping the designer districts, or exploring those lesser-known neighbourhoods we have learnt to love, there’s something for everyone. Grab your New York CityPASS for Empire State escapades and sightseeing city cruises and find hidden gems on foot as you explore the eclectic areas surrounding New York’s wonderful 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge location.


Our festive decor services are perfect for everything from shopping centres and restaurants to bars, hotels, and even local authorities. We decorate homes too including trees, garlands, staircases and much more! We can truly make your venue or home stand out this holiday season.

Our team of experts will work closely with you to create a personalised package that fits your unique needs and style. Everything from stunning holiday displays to tasteful decorations, we've got you covered.

Email enquiries@allies-group or visit to arrange a chat about how we can help your business grow. 4.8 out of 5 Our approach at Allies Group is to first understand your
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forum partner North East Growth Hub

Csikszentmihalyi demonstrated that the state of flow can be controlled. By following these steps, you can help yourself and your people to move into the flow zone.

Set the optimum balance of challenge and skill: Getting into the flow zone requires the optimum balance of challenge and skill. If the challenge is high but the skills level low then the most likely result is stress and anxiety, whilst if the challenge is low and skill level high then it’s likely that people will become bored or even apathetic. The level of challenge should stretch the person enough to stimulate improvement but not enough to cause stress and anxiety. To remain in the flow zone the level of challenge should be continuously increased as the level of skill grows overtime.

Set clear goals: Clarity of purpose helps people to focus. Focusing on the things that support the achievement of goals also helps to build momentum and allows people to recognise that progress is being made which raises levels of energy and motivation.

Eliminate distractions: Be present in the moment and in what you’re doing, don’t scroll your phone every 30 seconds, or react to every email that lands and if you find your mind wandering then bring it back to the present and on what you’re trying to achieve. As you start your day don’t set out to do everything, prioritise the two or three most important and urgent things and focus your attention on achieving them. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to hone in on the present!

It’s fascinating to work with high performance businesses; you know they are different as soon as you walk through the door – why? Because you can feel the buzz of energy and excitement all around, everyone is cheerfully busy, people go out of their way to make you feel welcome, are totally engaged in what they are doing and locked in a continuous state of adaptation and innovation. What’s interesting about such businesses is that they often don’t consider themselves to be high performers – it’s just the way they are and what they do!

Being in this state of high performance is what sports people often refer to as being in a state of ‘flow’, where they are completely

absorbed, immersed, energised and receiving a strong sense of enjoyment from what they are doing. I’m sure that we’ve all experienced the ‘flow state’, when we are totally focused, lose all sense of time, when we are present in the moment, and everything just seems to come together and work. Flow is a wellstudied area of psychology, the University of Southern California found that when in a state of flow levels of creativity can be up to 40% higher and McKinsey reported that performance could be accelerated by up to 500%!

Imagine if we and our people could consistently achieve this state of high performance. The great news is that we can! Psychologist Mihaly

Success leaves clues: It’s perhaps no surprise that people tend to perform at their best when doing the things that they enjoy and are good at. To figure out where you should be concentrating your time and energy, write down (and ask your team to do the same) what you like doing, what you don’t like doing, what you’re good at and what you’re not so good at, and I’m sure that a pattern will begin to emerge.

Identify when you’re at your best: Some people are night owls, and some are up at the crack of dawn, figure out when you’re at your best and create the space to focus your efforts during that time.

Entering a state of consistent flow is achievable, it’s in your control and can help you to take your productivity through the roof, it’s not about how many hours you work but how productive you are when you work.

To find out what support is available to help you, your team and your business to achieve high performance visit

Want to achieve high performance? Then ‘find your flow’!
Colin Bell, Business and Sector Growth Director at the North East LEP, talks about high performing businesses and how entrepreneurs can achieve higher levels of productivity.

autumn 23 join us

Become a member of the Entrepreneurs' Forum and you'll be joining the largest network of entrepreneurs in the North East. We're here to inspire and energise and give you that boost to drive your business forward.

The benefits

How to join

If you’d like to discuss the different options in more detail or for any other membership enquiries, please contact Michael Dixon:

The Entrepreneurs’ Forum has enabled me to not only meet, but to actively engage in meaningful discussions with some of the North East’s leading business figures and access their wealth of experience. This in my opinion is a game changer!

Since joining the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, I have seen Talentheads really push on with our quest to scale. The access to mentors, speakers, events, and initiatives and not to mention the Scale-up Leaders’ Academy is phenomenal. I feel fully supported and part of a highly successful and inclusive community. I highly recommend it!

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Continuous learning opportunities for you and your leadership team. 1-1 support from experienced entrepreneurs via our mentoring programme.

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