Forum Winter 22

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winter 22 emerging talent winner Chloë Clover of Wander Films centre stage with Absolute Collagen’s Maxine Laceby behind the boardroom with Brian Palmer at Tharsus

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winter 22 welcome

Welcome to latest edition of ‘forum’ which we have packed with entrepreneurial stories and insights designed to keep your energy levels topped up whatever the economic climate.

Entrepreneurs are a resilient bunch and in times of economic instability, this is more important than ever. That’s why we themed our recent conference, ‘Together We Can Take on the World’, around resilience. It was an absolutely brilliant day and I am delighted that we found time to interview our headline speaker Maxine Laceby of Absolute Collagen about her journey, from kitchen table product to ecommerce empire. At our conference, Maxine shared the pains she faced while growing Absolute Collagen into the multi-

million-pound business it is today, but credited her success by ensuring every employee, supplier or customer feels ‘SIR’ (Safe, Important and Respected). These values have led her to incredible success, but more details about her achievements, and her voluntary work with The Prince’s Trust, can be found on page six.

For this edition, our cover star is Forum member Chloë Clover from Wander Films. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Chloë as part of the judging panel for our Emerging Talent 2022 award which she won and I was impressed with her drive to take, not just Wander Films, but the North East film sector into the future. You can read her inspirational story on page eight, and learn all about our 2022 award finalists on page 10. Our mission at the Entrepreneurs’ Forum is to energise North East entrepreneurs and by reading this issue, I hope you’ll be inspired and ready to face 2023, whatever it may bring.

Forum is published by Allies Group Ltd Allies Group Ltd, Enterprise House, Kingsway, Team Valley Trading Estate, Gateshead, NE11 0SR

Editorial Amy Mason Johnathan Ramsay

Advertising Debi Coldwell Design

of Newcastle with the Malhotra Group

out of office Emma Gaudern's beekeeping journey

behind the boardroom go behind the boardroom at Tharsus

new members

forum favourites read watch listen

addressing the issue navigating the cost of living crisis 32 island in the sun a trip to Anantara's World Islands Dubai Resort

to be partnered with we're stronger together
inside All contents copyright ©2022 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, November 2022. ISSN 2753-796X 4 business
8 emerging
10 meet
16 mentoring
centre stage
chat with Maxine Laceby of Absolute Collagen
to know Wander Films co-founder Chloë Clover
the winners
of our 2022 North East Entrepreneurial Awards
to accelerate growth
business to the next level
grey street gems
the heart

winter 22 business bulletin

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

the significant growth trajectory of this business while further strengthening our position across Tyneside, Wearside, North Durham and Northumberland.

“I personally wish to reassure the clients of both Acorn Properties and KIS Lettings that they can expect the same high standards of service whilst continuing to benefit from that all-important local knowledge and expertise.”

Onyx Health introduces new Managing Directorr

Creative healthcare marketing communications agency, Onyx Health, has announced international growth plans following the appointment of Trevor Pill as the company's new Managing Director.

The Newcastle-based agency aims to expand its existing client base in the UK, Europe, New Zealand and the USA; which already includes some big industry names such as Bayer, Clinigen, Nova Laboratories and Foot Science International. Since joining the agency six years ago, Trevor has risen rapidly through the ranks to ultimately secure the top job. A Client Campaign Manager in 2016, he quickly became Associate Director in 2017 and Executive

Director in 2021, with oversight of the agency's overall creative and strategic digital direction and the delivery of international client projects.

Onyx Health Founder, Karen Winterhalter, said: "Since joining Onyx Health several years ago, Trevor has become one of the key driving forces behind the agency's commercial success. I couldn't hope to leave the business in better hands, and I am confident it will continue to grow and thrive under Trevor's leadership. We've grown from a humble North East start-up to an agency with a genuinely global reach. We have exciting plans for the agency's future to reach new commercial and creative heights, and Trevor is the man to make sure that happens."

My Property Box strengthens its position with two acquisitions Estate agency group, My Property Box, has further strengthened its presence in Tyneside, Wearside, and Northumberland, with the acquisitions of Acorn Properties and KIS Lettings. Newcastle-based estate agent, Acorn Properties, is a significant player in the lettings market and advertises more than 800 properties, including houses of multiple occupation, every year.

Meanwhile, KIS Lettings represents 130 properties across an area including South Shields, North Shields, Newcastle and Sunderland. My Property Box, currently celebrating its 10th anniversary, has now completed nine acquisitions within the last four years, including South Shields-based Westoe Lettings and Groves Residential in 2021, which serves an area from Berwick upon Tweed to south of the Tyne. Ben Quaintrell, Founder and Managing Director of My Property Box, said: “Both acquisitions highlight

Key Wellbeing bridges the employee-manager support gap with new training opportunity

Workplace wellbeing training and consultancy company, Key Wellbeing, has launched a new training opportunity to help organisations bridge the employee-manager gap when it comes to wellbeing support. Determined to create a tidal wave of wellbeing across workplaces in the North East and beyond, the award-winning firm has created a CPD accredited 'Wellbeing Champion' online training course. The 'all thriller, no filler' course has been designed based on the hybrid

working world of today; it’s available online via all devices and split into bite-size chunks of video, audio and interactive quizzes to maintain employee engagement.

Melissa Armstrong, Creative Director at Key Wellbeing, said: “We’re seeing a huge disconnection between decision makers and those on the ground in many organisations.

“Those at the top often don’t know how to support the wellbeing of their people and instead just guess, when really they could be communicating with those that have their ‘ear to the ground’ to identify the issues that really matter and find out what support would be most beneficial.

“Through our 'Wellbeing Champion' training course, we hope to help businesses open up those lines of communication and drive a lasting, cultural change in the workplace in 2023 and beyond.”

said, “Giving every single child in Middlesbrough an equal opportunity to be immersed in a digital world and have the tools needed is vital to make sure we fully unlock the potential of our next generation.

“It's simple, it's the right thing to do and we're already making huge steps towards this goal.”

Maker and Faber show their ‘metal’

The steel frames of two new buildings are piercing the Sunderland skyline, as work gathers pace on the Legal & General-backed developments.

Maker and Faber, two new offices on Riverside Sunderland, are taking shape, with the outline of both structures now visible.

The buildings, which together will create 150,000 sq ft of office space, are set to become the workplace of thousands of people working for businesses of all sizes and kinds, when they open their doors in 2024. Delivered by development manager Landid, Maker and Faber have been funded as part of Legal & General’s £100m commitment to the Riverside Sunderland site.

“The two biggest threats to that growth have been the national shortage of qualified drivers and the availability of new trucks. We solved the driver shortage by developing our own in-house driver apprentice scheme and overcame the challenges surrounding the supply of vehicles by planning well ahead.

“Normally, we order vehicles a few months before they are needed, but we have adopted a longer term view to ensure we can continue to update and expand our fleet.”

North East charity launches to boost digital equality in schools

Tech Equal, a charity backed by Teesside entrepreneur Dean Benson, has launched to stamp out digital inequality in schools by providing every child with an iPad.

The organisation which is currently working with 15 primary schools in Middlesbrough, has also teamed up with Spark Tees Valley to deliver training to teachers and school aides to ensure they are also fully equipped to be able to teach from a digital device.

Office of National Statistics data shows 1.7 million children don’t have access to a computer or device at home, leaving them reliant on schools to fill the void. Education settings, meanwhile, are also struggling to ensure they can supply devices on a one-to-one basis.

Dean Benson, founder of Tech Equal,

EMG Solicitors celebrates opening of third office in Cumbria

A fast growing North-East firm of solicitors is celebrating the opening of their third office in Penrith, Cumbria.

EMG Solicitors specialises in court of protection, wills, trusts and probate, family, employment, residential conveyancing and commercial property services as they continue to build a strong reputation in the legal sector.

The new office will support EMG Solicitors’ continued growth which has seen revenue increase in the last year by approximately 28% from £3.4 million to £4.3 million.

Total headcount has also grown in 12 months with a further 23 staff members, taking the total number of employees to 103. The opening of the new branch is testament to their ongoing growth and becomes a welcome addition to their existing Durham and Newcastle divisions.

Emma Gaudern, Managing Director of EMG Solicitors, said, “The opening of the Penrith office marks an incredibly exciting time for EMG Solicitors as we continue to grow and expand. I’m very proud of how far the business has come since our first office opened in Durham 2014, shortly followed by our Newcastle office in 2019 and now Penrith. We are one big family here at EMG and it’s wonderful to see it flourish.”

Sir Robert McAlpine has been contracted to build Maker and Faber, with Maker, a six-storey building that will deliver 80,000 sq ft of office space, set to be completed first.

The second building, Faber – which will stand five-storeys high, delivering 70,000 sq ft – will follow and will be home to 400 staff from RSA, who announced their plans to move into the city centre earlier this year.

Moody Logistics invests £1m in fleet expansion

Moody Logistics and Storage is investing £1m to expand its fleet and meet a growing demand for its services.

The new vehicles, which have increased the fleet to 34, together with further trucks on order, represent a total investment by the family-run firm of £1m.

Managing Director Caroline Moody said, “This represents a total investment of £1m, which underlines our confidence in the continued growth and success of the business.


closes 10th acquisition

Leading workplace technology provider Agilico has announced the acquisition of Capital Document Solutions, its biggest acquisition to-date by revenue, headcount and machines in the field. This latest acquisition significantly expands the group’s capabilities across the UK, increases MiF to over 40,000 and expands the customer base to 13,000 largely SME customers. Agilico’s Agile Print division is now the largest independent MPS business in the UK, a feat achieved over four years under CEO, Simon Davey.

To keep up to date with the latest news and exclusive insights from the Entrepreneurs' Forum, visit:

to support growth

winter 22 interview centre stage

When Maxine Laceby started Absolute Collagen from her kitchen table aged 50, she didn’t know the business would take off to such stratospheric heights in just a few short years. She had no idea she’d be recognised in the street as “the Collagen Lady” or win awards including the prestigious CEW Award (the Oscars of the beauty industry) and an Everywoman award, or create a brand beloved by thousands. She just knew her collagen supplement worked and could help people - and that was where it all began.

Fast forward to today, seven years after that initial breakthrough in her kitchen, and Maxine makes up the inspirational speaker line-up at the Entrepreneurs’ Forum Together We Can Take on the World 2022 conference.

As a result of growing Absolute Collagen from a kitchen table start-up into an ecommerce empire, Maxine has become a leading beauty entrepreneur known for trailblazing and empowering women everywhere, though she is the first to admit she struggles with identifying as an ‘entrepreneur’.

“There's absolutely nothing special about me whatsoever,” Maxine comments.

“I'm just little old me doing my thing. People say I'm an entrepreneur. I don't think you see it in yourself. I would definitely say I'm more of an inventor.

“If we go back to when I was 22, I invented the intercom answering machine without launching it! I was living in a flat in the centre of Bath and I never knew when people had been around when I was out. I thought why can’t I put an answer machine on my intercom? It was just logical!

“I even went to see a solicitor and they said it was brilliant but I just didn’t have the confidence or finance to take that idea any further. I’ve always had that inventor’s mindset I think. I just fell into the role of entrepreneur purely by accident by just being me I guess.”

Despite not having the ability to take this initial invention to market at the time, Maxine never lost that innovative spark that eventually led to her creating Absolute Collagen from her kitchen almost 30 years later. This need to problem solve and innovate was a skill Maxine developed as a child, more so out of necessity to help her family than anything else.

“I knew I would do something. I just never knew what that thing was,” Maxine explained.

“That sounds quite obscure but I've always had that belief within me. I think that comes from when I was a child.

Brought up on a poor estate, after

being adopted by a single mother who worked three jobs to try to make ends meet, Maxine credits her challenging upbringing with igniting that creative spark within her.

“We had nothing. I always had to provide. I always had to find solutions.

“I remember being about nine years old and our iron blew up. We couldn't afford a new one, so I literally unwired the iron and stripped the wires back, put it back together and it worked.”

Years later, when she started a family of her own, Maxine promised to devote all her time to her daughters, giving up her job in sales to become a stay-at-home mum.

Then, at 50 years old, when her daughters had flown the nest, she decided to do something for herself and enrolled in university.

“I'm not frightened to have a go. I am absolutely not frightened of failure.

“Due to my childhood, fear is an emotion I am used to and I’m comfortable with, in fact I rather like the adrenaline fear produces. The mixture of fear and adrenaline makes me operate from a place of being considered and present, two qualities that have made Absolute Collagen the success it is today.”

Whilst studying towards her fine art degree, Maxine started brewing bone broth which she drank to boost her hair and skin.

“I was back in the house with a bit more time on my hands so I started making and drinking bone broth because I’d heard it could be really beneficial to your health.

“The broth had an amazing effect on me. I later discovered it was the collagen in the broth that was making the difference. My point of reference has always been the product worked - I knew it worked because me and my friends were all taking it but I didn't know that collagen was going to be the next best thing!”

Since its initial inception Absolute Collagen has gone from strength to strength, leading the market with subscribers that get the product delivered to their door.

With success comes copycats and Absolute Collagen certainly has its fair share of businesses looking to take their crown. But Maxine’s commitment to being the industry

innovative leader, along with best in class customer service and top of the line quality is what’s kept her brand on top, not to mention her community of ‘Absoluters’.

According to Maxine, what has contributed to Absolute Collagen’s success, and distinguished it from its copycats and competitors, is the values on which it was founded upon - the power of ‘SIR’. Whether you’re an Absolute Collagen team member, or an Absoluter, Maxine believes every individual deserves to feel ‘Safe, Important and Respected’ – the very same values she raised her daughters with too. From product development to marketing to customer service, every part of Absolute Collagen operates with this message at its heart and the flourishing community of Absoluters is testament to the success of this mantra.

“What I say to people is it's not difficult to be great nowadays because so many brands aren't,” Maxine adds.

“Most customer service is rubbish and it really winds me up. It doesn't take a lot to be good nowadays. It’s really important to us to keep our customers at the forefront of everything we do.

“Creating the Absolute community is something that happened by accident. Somebody called themselves an Absoluter one day and I was like, oh we'll have that! “We’ve even got a private Facebook group filled with Absoluters who are just so positive about the brand. We were only just discussing recently how much of a great marketing tool the group could be but currently you can only get involved if you’re a part of the group.

“There was some talk about should we make this public? And for me it's an absolute no! Our Absoluters need to feel that their group is a safe space where they can be who they are. It's really important to maintain that for us.”

As we move into 2023, the Absolute Collagen movement shows no signs

For more information visit:

of slowing down and neither does Maxine Laceby!

“Next year for Absolute is about new product development, listening to our customers and really asking what are their needs and desires? Because it’s their brand, it's their investment and Absolute Collagen is all about investing back on to our community,” Maxine notes.

“It’s about how we can best serve our Absoluters. In terms of product development, it has to be the right product. Anyone could launch a product tomorrow but we’re not about that.

“It’s also about sustainability. We’re committed to becoming a more sustainable company in all aspects of the business.”

For Maxine, giving back in all areas is inherent to her both in a personal and professional capacity and is the reason why she became a patron of the Prince's Trust in 2021.

As an ambassador for the charity, and its 'Women Supporting Women' initiative and young enterprise in particular, Maxine is helping to transform the lives of young people across the country, providing them with the inspiration needed to get into work, self-employment, education or training.

By sharing her story with others, and giving talks within The Prince’s Trust Young Enterprise Programme, Maxine hopes to inspire confidence, selfesteem and inner strength in others.

“I love being the voice of underestimated women because I am the underestimated woman. No one believed in me. When I started Absolute Collagen, not only did I have no business experience, I'd created a category that didn't exist so I can understand why no one believed in me.

“But everything I do now is about spreading the word and empowering people, whether it's through Absolute, my role at the Prince’s Trust or my own personal journey. Empowerment is what I'm all about and encouraging everyone to feel confident in their own skin.”


winter 22 emerging talent award winner Chloë Clover

Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient and our 2022 Emerging Talent winner Chloë Clover, who goes by her surname Clover, is an entrepreneur that plays entirely by her own rules. The Wander Films co-founder is anything but corporate; letting creativity take the lead has allowed her business to stand-out in an extremely crowded market. We caught up with Clover to find out what makes Wander Films one of a kind…

Everyone is guilty of falling into the odd ‘scroll-hole’ now and again.

You know, when you’re sat endlessly swiping through LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram (other social media platforms are available!) and suddenly it’s 15 minutes later and your coffee is stone cold. The truth is, you’ve seen it all before and within seconds it’s all forgotten. However, there are exceptions. Those rare moments when something pops out from your timeline and really grabs your attention. The content you didn’t even know you were looking for suddenly becomes one of the most captivating and entertaining things you’ve seen all day. That’s the sort of content that Teesside’s Chloë Clover and her company Wander Films

specialises in creating for businesses.

A Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient, Clover and partner Lou Tonner launched Wander Films whilst travelling around Australia in 2017. They have since grown the company into a full-service video marketing agency that specialises in content that will #BeatTheScroll!!

“The inception of Wander happened when me and my partner Lou decided to jet off to Australia in an attempt to sort of figure our lives out,” explains Clover.

“We literally had no idea what we were going to do when we got there. We just worked our socks off to afford the tickets then took the plunge.

“I guess we knew we wanted to break into the creative industry

because that’s how me and Lou initially connected.

“Lou has a degree in television and film and she’s really passionate about that. I’m really passionate about photography, art and filmmakingI’m like a proper film nerd!

“So, when we got out to Australia we managed to get some work on a TV pilot and that’s when it kind of clicked for both of us. This is the sort of work we wanted to be doing!”

Taking their experience in the creative industry, Clover and Lou decided it was time to give it a crack on their own.

The pair piled together what dollars they had and invested in a ‘tiny’ camera and a modest laptop; unknowingly buying the first ever pieces of equipment for the enterprise that would soon be known as Wander Films.

But, before all of that, they still had to figure out what they could do to turn their passion into profit…

“At that time, in 2017, I think we were right at the start of businesses starting to value social media more,” comments Clover.

“With that in mind, we just started travelling and approaching businesses, offering to create content for their social pages. No one was really taking their content seriously at that level at the time, so we could make stuff that really made these businesses look mint!

“Obviously, we were starting from scratch. At first we’d do jobs for experience or somewhere to stay and even just for some food! Then we eventually started getting paid for it and it felt unreal.

“From there we started travelling and working all through South East Asia, we were up in the mountains and it was all a bit nuts. We did some incredible things. I remember we were sat on a beach one day and we decided to actually make a real plan. We wrote down some goals and decided it was time to move back to the North East and bring Wander to life!”

Clover and Lou moved back to the UK and started working out of her mum’s spare bedroom. They were building from square one back in the UK, but, having seen how reactive businesses were to their scroll beating content in Oz, Clover knew that she could carve out a niche for Wander in the British market. And she was right. However, it wasn’t plain sailing from the off.

“Initially it was tough because we never did any agency work or had any connections with businesses in the region at all,” Clover notes. “So, these two weird girls come back and they're like, ta-da let us shoot your business! People were like who the heck are these people? But we were just super persistent, we really wanted to be friends with people, we really wanted to learn and we just started connecting with as many people as possible.

“That really helped us grow fast. People started getting to grips with the content we made and why it could potentially be so valuable to their businesses.”

Soon enough Wander was building a name for itself in the region and beyond, growing exponentially over

five years, despite the challenge of the pandemic in between.

“I know no one wants to talk about the pandemic but I think it was our reaction to it that helped us grow so fast afterwards,” Clover explains. “There were five of us on the team at that point and we were all on our phones having to rearrange jobs and put on hold things we’d worked so hard for. We’d lost a bunch of clients.

But we decided rather than pulling out of everything we’d actually continue to support all of our clients throughout that time.

“We continued creating content, continued managing platforms and creating strategies, often without taking payment. We wanted to support our clients when they needed it most.

“I think doing this helped spread the word coming out of the pandemic and our business just exploded. Now we're a team of 18, we've got our own studio and it's just nuts. That was about two years ago and we’ve quadrupled in size since then! It’s been crazy.”

Having worked with giant companies like McDonalds, Riot Games and KPMG, as well as a whole host of exciting SMEs, Clover and Wander Films have truly made a name for themselves in the creative industry, so much so that in 2021 Clover was named on the renowned Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

“Finding out I was featured by Forbes was frickin’ nuts,” Clover adds. “It was a legit pinching myself moment, like how did that even

happen? Like, that's a global validation of, we see you, we see the work your business is doing. “It’s funny, sitting on that beach, me and Lou wrote ‘Make Forbes 30 Under 30’ list as a goal. So, it was mint and a bit surreal being able to give that a big tick!”

With the Forbes recognition came reels of press about Clover being a ‘high school drop-out’. Clover left school at 14 as the constraints of the education system just didn’t work for her, but not once did she ever regret her decision.

“It was strange that they focused on that narrative, but I think it’s an important message,” Clover said. “You do not have to be on the structured path that people tell you that you should be on. You can follow your passion. You can do something you love and you can do it your own way. It’s whatever route that works for you.

“Lou followed the path, got the degree, and we're in the same place. That proves there’s not one ‘correct’ path to success in life. Stay true to yourself.”

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winter 22 2022 award winners drumroll please…

Hosted by writer, comic, actor and radio presenter Alfie Joey, the 2022 North East Entrepreneurial Awards (one of the first events of our autumn/winter 2022 calendar) celebrated entrepreneurs who are leading dynamic, innovative businesses and making a genuine change to our region.

Emerging Talent

Chloë Clover, Wander Films

Co-founder and director of Wander Films, ‘Clover’ has led Wander from two girls with a broken GoPro to an award-winning video production and content marketing company made up of a talented team of 18. A school dropout, Clover made the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 list, is an enterprise advisor at Northern School of Art and is on the board of Power of Women.

Entrepreneur of the Year

Mike O’Brien, Opencast

Mike O’Brien, of Newcastle-based Opencast was named the 2022 Entrepreneur of the Year. Mike co-founded Opencast in 2012 and has grown the business into one of the largest tech companies in the North East with a team of over 400. Opencast has been named in the GP Bullhound Top 100 list no less than five times in the award's nine years and is on track to become a future FTSE 250 company.

Mentor of the Year Craig Huntingdon

The Mentor of the Year award was presented to Craig Huntingdon who, after being introduced to his mentees through his role as a Scaleup Partner at RTC North, is now giving back his time altruistically to help other North East business owners prosper. Those who have worked with Craig praised his ‘extensive knowledge and insight into a wide array of areas’ and for showing ‘genuine care and interest’ in those he works with.

Scale-up Entrepreneur of the Year


Tim Ward, founder of OPPORTUNI, was named Scale-up Entrepreneur of the Year. Through OPPORTUNI, Tim has rebuilt the procurement ecosystem, helping to create a level playing field for SMEs. Within five years, the business plans to redirect £225 billion per annum of government spend to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) across the UK, US and Europe.

Lifetime Achievement

Helen McArdle CBE

Founder of Helen McArdle Care and Kids 1st Day Nurseries, Helen was presented the Lifetime Achievement award for 2022 for her longstanding commitment to health and social care within the region and for her generous contributions to many worthy causes across the North East. Helen has donated more than £10 million to local and international charities throughout her career while also funding critical age-related research and healthcare education.

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winter 22 together we can take on the world 2022

Held at Hilton Newcastle Gateshead, and hosted by presenter Charlie Charlton, our autumn conference Together We Can Take on the World saw over 250 North East entrepreneurs come together for a day of inspiration, learning and making new connections.



We work with all of our customers to ensure the safest and most effective working environment A quality workspace design leads to a less stressful and more productive atmosphere. It’s essential that employers take the physical work environment of their employees into consideration Employees need to feel comfortable and calm in their physical work settings to produce their best work

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" W e e n g a g e d w i t h N B & M S t o h e l p u s r e f u r b i s h o u r t i r e d o f f i c e i n t o a s p a c e t h a t i n s p i r e d u s a n d a l l o w e d u s t o g r o w T h e n e w s p a c e h a s b e e n d e s i g n e d t o f u l f i l a b r i e f w e p r o v i d e d a n d h a s b e e n a m a j o r s t e p f o r w a r d f o r t h e b u s i n e s s i n p r o m o t i n g o u r i n t e r n a l c u l t u r e a n d a l l o w i n g p e o p l e t o w o r k p r o d u c t i v e l y T h e c o m m e n t s w e h a v e r e c e i v e d f r o m o u r p e o p l e a n d v i s i t o r s h a v e b e e n r e a l l y p o s i t i v e a n d w e n o w h a v e a s p a c e w e a r e p r o u d t o s h o w p e o p l e

I w o u l d h i g h l y r e c o m m e n d N B & M S i f y o u r a r e l o o k i n g f o r a c o m p a n y t o t a k e o w n e r s h i p o f t h e d e s i g n a n d d e l i v e r y o f y o u r p r o j e c t "

C h a r t e r e d A c c o u n t a n t s

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mentoring to accelerate growth

case study

Surge Marketing Solutions’ director David Porter recently reached out to the Entrepreneurs’ Forum mentoring programme for guidance on taking his company to the next level with an experienced hire. For this he was matched up with Julian Leighton, a businessman with experience in growing an extremely successful digital agency from the ground up with Orange Bus.

When it comes to growing a digital agency from nothing to something, Julian Leighton is one of the most experienced businessmen in the region. In 2004 he founded Orange Bus with a friend whilst working out of a small attic office in Jesmond. Over the course of 16 years, they built it up to become one of the most successful agencies in the country, with over 150 employees and countless top level clients, before his exit in 2020.

So, when Surge Marketing Solutions’ director David Porter was looking for advice on scaling his agency to the next level with investment in some tech-focused talent, Julian was the perfect mentor for the job.

“I reached out to the Forum’s mentoring programme for help and advice in terms of growing our business by investing in a really high end developer, at a Chief Technical Officer level,” says David.

“It was going to be a substantial investment for us to do that and I needed to weigh up the odds to see whether that was the right direction to go or not.

“So, I asked for someone who had built a tech business and Julian had done that. What was really good is that Julian is sort of similar to myself, in the sense that his knowledge is more in the business development side.

“He explained to me that he started with a really strong tech partner. His other director was really technical and I felt that might be what I’m missing.”

David and Julian connected for a short meeting in Newcastle. It was only a couple of hours, but they’d turn out to be an extremely valuable two hours as far as David and his business aspirations were concerned.

“The mentoring session was really about hearing the story of how Julian grew his business,” says David.

“It made me realise that the fundamental part that was missing in my business was someone at a senior level who understands technology

properly. I needed someone that could make the right technological decisions. Someone to help grow that team as well and bring the right people in.

“I own the business and I’ve got a good overview of things, but I don’t develop websites. So, it was difficult to grow that side when I couldn’t get into code and start looking at things.

"Julian helped me understand that having a senior member of staff that understands the technological side inside out meant that I could have conversations with them about what I want to achieve then they could carry that out. And that’s exactly what I was missing in that department.”

After the mentoring meeting, David felt that he had the knowledge and confidence needed to make the hire and take the leap of faith in scaling the technical side of his business to the next level.

“On the back of the conversation me and Julian had, I then went out and found the Chief Technical Offer and recruited him in January 2022,” David continues.

“And the impact of that has been ridiculously good. The skillset we now have at the organisation has gone up tenfold. We’re now able to tackle much larger projects and much more complex projects.

“It has added a whole new set of services in terms of being able to develop CRM systems, ERP software and really joining the dots between people and technology. Thanks to that we’ve won some major contracts.”

Further information

To find out more about Surge Marketing Solutions, visit:

The Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s peer-to-peer mentoring programme confidentially connects members in order to share knowledge and experience.

With more than 100 entrepreneurs to choose from - and over 15 years' experience connecting like-minded people - no matter what stage of business you're at, we can help you to make progress.

Whether it's overcoming a challenge, scaling-up, strategic planning, or putting the building blocks in place for your future, by 'speaking to people who’ve done it all before' you can benefit from the lessons already learned by your peers.

For more information visit: /mentoring

partner agilico evolves…

With the mandated closure of offices and businesses being encouraged to work remotely, during Covid the need for businesses to print documents significantly reduced. Just how much it impacted Agilico was highlighted in service income reduction where in April 2020 service revenue fell to 20% of pre-Covid levels. Never had there been a more important time to rethink strategy.

With a client base of over 10,000 nationally, they had to think differently and quickly upscaled their hosted telephony platform and diversified their acquisition targets to meet the needs of their client base.

To do this, in 2021, they acquired Diamond Business Group, a similar print focused business, but one with

the IT and telephony skills to help launch their enhanced hosted telephony offering. Then, a few months later, they acquired Invu, a well-respected software development business with years of experience in providing document management solutions. Both acquisitions provided Agilico with the springboard to design more innovative solutions to meet changing client requirements. More recently, earlier this year, Agilico launched Verify, a SMEfocused automated invoice processing software product designed to remove the manual input of supplier invoice data. Verify not only removes the need to increase headcount by reducing the time finance departments spend

entering, approving and matching invoices to purchase orders, it frees up valuable time for those employees to be utilised elsewhere in an organisation, as Warren Colby (Managing Director of Agilico) explains, “With working from home (WFH) and recruiting being two of the main challenges facing businesses right now, employees have the upper hand when it comes to selecting their employer, with many choosing to work remotely to suit their lifestyle.

“Recent research found that some of the north’s cities were amongst the UK’s top ‘Zoom hotspots’. The figures analysed by Zoom compared the job postings on that offered candidates the flexibility to work remotely, to reveal which areas had the greatest number of hybrid working or WFH vacancies.

“The data between February 2020 and March 2022 showed these vacancies more than tripled and grew at a faster pace than the local jobs market overall.

“Employers are therefore having to become more flexible, requiring effective solutions to ensure their business can work more efficiently with this new working model in mind.”

Agilico’s proprietary hosted

telephony and automated accounts payable solutions are providing simple and effective options for their customers.

“Never has it been easier to recruit new employees nationally, with improvements in technology ensuring employees can work from anywhere,” Warren comments, adding, “As we own our own platform it’s very competitive, in most instances we can reduce clients ongoing telephony costs whilst providing more flexibility for hybrid working. Hosted telephony enables employees to use their mobile phones as an extension from the main switchboard, while full MS Teams integration allows them to make and receive external calls directly through Microsoft’s platform. “As businesses struggle to recruit staff, the importance of employees working more efficiently has never been more critical. Verify removes the need to spend hours entering supplier invoice data, matching to a PO or chasing management to approve invoices. Verify it does it all, and so much more.

“Wherever your team may need to be, you can create a workplace that is robust, resilient and ready for anything.”

For more information visit:

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Agilico (previously known in the North East as United Carlton) feared the worst.
L-R: Warren Colby, Managing Director and Mark Bryce, Sales Director

winter 22 grey street gems

The family owned group have recently had plans approved to implement a £50M development in the city centre, including a large development on Grey Street incorporating Mosley Street and the Cloth Market.

A further two developments are planned at 1 Mosley and The Market Lane, which includes the city’s oldest banqueting hall. These £10M projects will complement the nearby Reuben Brothers redevelopment and are set to take Newcastle’s hospitality sector to a new level, featuring brand new hotels, apartments, nightclubs, bars and restaurants, as well as office space.  Malhotra Group clearly have lots of exciting plans for Newcastle in the next 3-5 years, however two of their most impressive venues already stand side by side on Grey Street.

Leila Lily’s and Grey Street Hotel are two jewels in the city’s crown that have established themselves as amazing venues catering for both corporate and family events.

If you haven’t visited already, then next time you are in Newcastle, why not make a reservation and find out what you’ve been missing? Both venues have recently undergone extensive renovations, so there’s no time like the present to see what these incredible settings are all about.

Following our recent visits, find out more about their latest investment in an ‘all you need to know’ guide before you book…

Leila Lily’s

The venue

Since opening in 2019, Leila Lily’s has become one of Newcastle’s go-to venues for those looking for a sophisticated drinking and dining experience without the stuffiness. Aesthetically, Leila Lily’s is a joy to the eyes, both inside and out. The exterior of the majestic Grade II Listed building ushers you in with an arch of colourful flowers, alluding to the opulent floral theme and tasteful splashes of colour that follow throughout. It is evident that the Malhotra Group have worked tirelessly to create a welcoming ambience inside the bar and restaurant, with theatrical interior design filled with personal touches and one-off moments that really capture the imagination. Named after the eldest daughter of Atul Malhotra (the Malhotra Group’s Chief Operations Officer), you can feel that Leila Lily’s has a huge amount of thought and attention put into every aspect of its design. This has been recognised with an international award for design and voted nationally as the best bar in the North East.

The food

After being blown away by the venue itself, the next pinch-yourself moment will, without a doubt, be when you’re biting into the award-winning food from the extensive menu. The Rosette-winning bar and restaurant serves up a sophisticated selection of plates for all occasions and palettes, including impressive vegan and vegetarian menus, a mouth-watering dessert offering and incredible cocktails. The restaurant's new Head Chef, Jim Hall, formerly of Ramside

Estates and Sir Charles Napier of Oxford, describes his food as seasonal, British and balanced.

Why we love it

There is lots to love about Leila Lily’s, but what we’ve really fallen head over heels for is the sparkling new private dining area, Eva Rose Garden, named after Atul’s youngest daughter. It is the result of a recent £100,000 refurbishment of the lower ground floor basement area. Continuing the delicate floral theme, this premium dining space, with its own private bar, is the perfect place for special celebrations and extraordinary

occasions getting lost in a floral wonderland. Eva Rose Garden really takes Leila Lily’s to the next level and continues to showcase this family-run group as an industry leader for Newcastle and the North East.

It goes without saying that Grey Street, home to some of the most beautiful buildings and architecture in the city, is the place to be if you’re looking for up market dining, drinks and accommodation. The Malhotra Group have had a passion for the historical buildings of Newcastle for years, bringing many back to life with award winning hospitality venues.

Grey Street Hotel

The venue

Occupying a stunning Grade II Listed building, Grey Street Hotel is a luxurious box-ticker when it comes to staying in the heart of Newcastle. The hotel has benefitted from a recent £2m renovation including updates to the rooms, corridors, hotel reception and conference areas. The boutique four-star hotel offers 49 contemporary en-suite rooms, all with their own unique look and signature style. A signature of Malhotra Group's venues, the rooms boast the original features of the grand Grade II Listed building, including high ceilings in the elegant bedrooms and large sash windows.

The stay

For the most premium experience at Grey Street Hotel, you can treat yourself to one of the venue’s five

exclusive junior suites, one of which is named after the famous Charles Grey, Prime Minister from 1830-1834, whom Grey Street is named after. Each suite features a unique style and decor, all of which have been individually designed to provide the most comfortable stay possible. The suites are spacious and offer additional luxuries to make your stay relaxing and enjoyable from start to finish, including mini fridges, fluffy robes and soft slippers to sink into at the end of a busy day exploring Newcastle.

Why we love it

Beautiful rooms and luxurious hospitality aside, another reason why we love Grey Street Hotel is the huge offerings all under one roof. It is the ideal location for business trips, with large premium meeting spaces

available for hire, City Retreat offering first class salon treatments for pamper days, and the stunning Leila Lily’s bar and restaurant next door. What’s more? Grey Street Hotel is

5 minutes with Atul Malhotra…

Could you give us an insight into the current development plans the Malhotra Group has in the pipeline?

We are working on our £50M development plan for venues throughout Newcastle City Centre that will include hotels, apartments, nightclubs, bars, restaurants, rooftops and office space. We've recently received planning permission from Newcastle City Council and strip-out works have already

commenced for a large development on Grey Street. We'll be going to tender next year, once our designs are finalised.  At the same time, we have two very large developments on Pilgrim Street with planning permission for 23 apartments, a bar and restaurant and rooftop area. Work should start on that in the first quarter of next year. These are the two largest and most exciting developments we are currently working on, however there is a lot more in the pipeline.

Are we right in saying you’re also planning on developing The Market Lane (aka The Monkey Bar) in the near future? Yes, it’s pretty exciting. We’ve got planning permission for an extension to the upper floor, the rear and the building next door. The rear is actually the city’s

oldest banqueting hall so we’re restoring that with a wonderful scheme that will complement the listed building’s original features.

It’s become a signature of the Malhotra Group to restore and bring listed buildings back to life in Newcastle, why are these historic buildings so important to the organisation? Our philosophy as a group has always been about bringing beautiful, listed, historical buildings of the city back for

working towards creating a state-ofthe-art gym in early 2023, alongside some of the city’s top personal trainers. The ultimate experience when it comes to leisure facilities.

the public to enjoy. We are proud of what we do. At the end of the day, we are custodians of the city, we believe it's our role and responsibility to ensure it thrives and remains looked after. We are constantly investing money in attractive buildings so that we can maintain what gives our city so much character. It's a huge responsibility to have, but it is one we take huge pride in and we are passionate about the city we live in.

We sat down with Malhotra Group Chief Operations Officer, Atul Malhotra, to find out more about their planned developments in Newcastle and ambitions for the future.
“Our philosophy as a group has always been about bringing beautiful, listed, historical buildings of the city back for the public to enjoy.”

out of office un-bee-lievable fun

summer, I did a beginners beekeeping course over Zoom. That went on for eight weeks and it was every weekend morning for about three hours. It was probably about 50 hours of learning in total across the course - and that was still only just enough to scratch the surface and cover the basics! - but it was enough to get me on my way.

How much time do you have to invest in looking after the bees?

systems of organisation and communication. They’ve got the capacity to give direction to each other and work together to find the best nectar. They have a hierarchy within the hive in terms of jobs too. The best example of this is the way that they organise the hive. Bees don’t just lay eggs randomly and put honey in cells, they organise the laying of the eggs in a central passage and they build honey around the outside. It’s all really fascinating!

How did you get into beekeeping?

When I was a kid, my great uncle kept bees so that kind of got me interested when I visited the hives with him when I was very small. Since then, I’ve just become a bit more interested in recent years, maybe because of the decline of the bee population and there being so much publicity about how we all have to do our bit to save the bees. They’re really sophisticated in so many ways and there’s so much more going on than what you realise on the surface. I’m lucky enough to live in a house with a garden and beekeeping is something that I’ve wanted to do for a number of years. I decided to take the leap in the summer of 2020; there was a gap in lockdown and I was able to get my first hive. I got a

kit, built a hive and bought a starter nucleus of bees. This year has been my second full summer of having them and it’s been fairly challenging. I think I’ve probably lost one set to a swarm and they’ve had to raise a new queen.

Did you have to do a lot of research prior to getting the bees?

It is a big responsibility. If you’re going to do it, you have to do your bit to look after them properly. There’s no point in getting them if you don’t really care if they live or die. I did a one-day taster beekeeping course before lockdown, probably about three years ago, and that piqued my interest a bit more. Then at the beginning of lockdown, before getting my bees the following

In the summer, by which I mean March to October, you’ve got to check them every week. Checking a hive can take 10 to 30 minutes, so it’s somewhere between half an hour and an hour to check a couple of hives a week. Although I’m sure dedicated beekeepers that know a lot more about it than me will probably tell you it takes much longer than that. Then there are times when you’ve got to act swifty, when your bees are getting ready to swarm and raise a new queen. That might take you a couple of hours to sort out. When winter comes around you don’t have to open your hive as much because the bees have to keep warm, but there are other things you need to be doing during the winter. You have to prep your hive, your frames and all of the bits and pieces that you’re going to need for next year.

What attracted you to beekeeping over any other hobby?

I think it was just how interesting they are. They’ve got these incredible

You mentioned the importance of saving the bees, is that a big reason for your passion for beekeeping?

It’s so important to look after our bee population - we’d die out without bees! Even when I’m making mistakes and learning on the job I know it’s all worthwhile. When I extracted my honey last summer, for example, things didn’t go quite right but it was still fun. I took out my honey frames and brushed the bees away, put them in a box and took them away to spin them. I read somewhere that you needed to be inside when spinning because the bees can smell their honey, but I thought if I just did it far enough away outside, with my house in between, that it’d be fine. It wasn’t. I started opening the frames up and spinning this honey off… a few bees arrived after a little while, then a few more and eventually there’s 10,000 bees crawling all over these frames wanting to reclaim their honey from me!

We all picked up some interesting hobbies when we couldn’t leave our houses during Covid, but how many of us can say we kept those lockdown pastimes up? Forum member, Managing Director of EMG and keen beekeeper, Emma Gaudern, can. Two years into her beekeeping journey, she gives us a little insight into what it takes to run her hives!

partner pilots in the storm

The last three years brought a rare period of change and uncertainty for businesses, and no one knows that better than Jamie Gamble, Head of Employment in Newcastle at Ward Hadaway.

businesses going full circle as they explore ways to attract their workers back into the workplace on a more permanent basis."

Jamie comments that such a seismic shift in the workplace would usually evolve over a long period of time, but every industry was forced to adapt overnight.

“Growing pains were inevitable and rolling back from such decisions has become incredibly challenging as employees have, in many cases, adapted their home lives to make a full-time office-based existence difficult.

was then proposed that this change be rolled back (though with no guidance to explain how). And at time of writing, the current Chancellor has said it will be left as is! How are businesses supposed to adapt in such a state of uncertainty and flux?

“Never before have businesses been so in need of a helping hand to guide them through this period of change.

For over two decades, Ward Hadaway have provided a service where subscribers receive unlimited employment law advice at a fixed annual fee.

"It is only three years ago that the UK officially stepped back from the European Union, but what a three years that has been," says Jamie Gamble, Head of Employment at Ward Hadaway.

“The impact of Brexit on businesses has, in some ways, been overshadowed by the events that immediately followed. The full scale of the UK's withdrawal will take many years to be felt, as legislation is adapted, rolled back, or rolled outbut whatever happens, further change is coming. And more than you might think is here already.

Did you know, for instance, that your European colleague coming into the country to do work for your UK company will probably need a work visa?

“Less than three months after Brexit on 1st January 2020, the first Covid

lockdown heralded a time where a number of businesses were frantically learning how to implement, manage and taper furlough schemes, as well as preparing for the potential cliff edge which was feared would follow. “As it happened, that cliff edge didn't look like many had expected, and instead a very high employment rate, skills shortages and an extremely hot recruitment market emerged as businesses tried to hit the ground running as we emerged from lockdowns."

Jamie notes that one of the most societal changes during this period was the enormous acceleration of the long-discussed move to agile working.

“Many potential candidates now demand such flexible working from their potential employer, but we are already seeing signs of some

“And to cap it off, throw into the mix the significant economic turmoil of late, in part fuelled by the Government's mini-budget. Inflationary pressures on cost of goods and salaries, interest rates impacting on the cost of borrowing, and a rise in industrial action, all make for an incredibly challenging environment for entrepreneurs."

Jamie provides one simple example: “The change in guidance around IR35 relating to the engagement of consultants through a personal service company was planned to come into force in 2020, but delayed until 2021. In September 2022, it

“This means when the Government announce a new legislative change, or when you are considering rolling out new working practices, or you need to manage a challenging employee, our team of experienced lawyers are on hand to guide you through the process without you needing to worry about the costs.

If you add insurance cover, you are covered against any tribunal claims.

“Change is the only constant in life. Charting a course through such stormy waters is a constant challenge for entrepreneurs, but you are not alone with proactive professional advisers, who are on hand to advise, encourage, reassure and guide.”

For more information visit:

A helping hand

Moved by the plight of people choosing between heating and eating, some of the region’s early adopters of B Corporation status are now choosing to invest in small, local charities with support from the County Durham Community Foundation. Child poverty rates in the region now stand at 38% while forecasts suggest that more than half of UK households will be in fuel poverty by the New Year.

CEO of the Foundation, Michelle Cooper, was awarded an MBE for

helping communities cope through the pandemic and says it’s time for everyone to wake up to the impact of the cost of living crisis.

Commenting on the issue, Dr Cooper says, “I am still meeting people who think this crisis is overhyped - yet in the space of 15 days, we awarded £400,000 in grants to fight poverty. We have terminally ill people living in freezing cold houses, pensioners with nothing left to cut from a threadbare ‘budget’ and children going to school with no proper winter coat. I am truly

Enriching lives

County Durham Community Foundation works with local communities to fund projects that enrich lives and fight poverty. In the past five years the Foundation has awarded £19 million in small grants to small, but vital, local charities and groups.

Founded 27 years ago, the Foundation connects people who love to give with local causes that really matter. Supporters have rallied to back this year’s Poverty Hurts Appeal, run by the Foundation, to a tune of more than £360,000. Philanthropists Jonathan and Jane Ruffer, known for transforming Bishop Auckland, donated £250,000 to encourage other businesses to give.

grateful to all of the businesses who are acknowledging the scale of the issue and stepping forward to help.” Walking their talk as a B Corp, North East accountants and business advisors, Robson Laidler, joined forces with the Foundation this year. Graham Purvis, Managing Director, adds, “B Corps are a new kind of business that are no longer purely driven by shareholder primacy. The five pillars of B Corp are showing excellence and value in terms of company governance, people, customers, the environment and supporting the community. You have to make a firm commitment to those priorities and you have to demonstrate your company is living up to them.”

As well as making grants from their fund, the Robson Laidler team are donating £2,000 to the Poverty Hurts Appeal and releasing a Christmas single to raise awareness of global poverty and child hunger.

EMG Solicitors teamed up with the Foundation back in 2019 and opened the EMG Solicitors Fund to make community grants. Pledging

5% of its net profits, the firm has now made a huge difference to various projects.

Emma Gaudern, Managing Director of EMG Solicitors, comments, “From day one we have built the business on supporting our local community. I think the fact that we do so much Court of Protection work means we really live and breathe the fact that people are at the heart of everything. Launching a fund with the Foundation was our way of making sure we had impactful giving built into our growth.”

Further strengthening the push back against poverty is North East business support group UMi, which achieved B Corp status in October 2022. From the founding of the fund, a raft of grants worth upwards of £83,000 have been made to community groups that combat loneliness and social isolation.

Nicki Clark OBE, Chief Executive of UMi adds, “Achieving B Corp status gives us the external validation that we are a business committed to our purpose and putting people and planet in equal importance with profit.”

Dawdon Youth and Community Centre is using its Poverty Hurts funding, from County Durham Community Foundation, to provide hot meals and emergency food packages to residents in need
As poverty bites in the region, businesses with a purpose are looking for ways of helping that promise results.
Advertorial For more information visit: or contact
L-R: Claire Hewitt from EMG Solicitors and Paula Nelson from Shildon Alive, which has been funded by County Durham Community Foundation

behind the boardroom

Take a look behind our members’ boardrooms and discover what makes their businesses tick. In this issue, we chat with Tharsus founder, Brian Palmer, about his market leading robotics and automated machine business and the importance of a valuable board…

The story of Tharsus is one of innovation and evolution. The Tharsus we know today began life in 2007, after originally being established as a sheet metal fabrication business in 1997 and diversifying 10 years later. The sheet metal arm of Tharsus still exists as a market leader under the name Universal Wolf, but 2022’s Tharsus is now worlds away from its humble sheet metal beginnings.

Founder Brian Palmer has led Tharsus through various stages of growth and development in order for it to become one of the most cutting edge robotics and engineering companies in the world. Working across sectors such as agritech and

food, energy and renewables, healthcare, logistics and warehousing, and transport, there’s no complex challenge too great for the Tharsus team.

With this exponential growth and diversification over the last two decades, came the need for a meaningful board to help Brian take the business to the next level. It was in 2012 that Brain set out to construct his first ‘proper’ board for Tharsus.

“About 10 years ago we realised there was an opportunity to grow the business beyond the scale that I had experience of,” says Brian.

“At first, I wanted somebody on board that had some practical experience of that growth journey. That was one

of the critical reasons for establishing a board. The other reason was, as an owner/manager, you’re only really accountable to yourself. I think bringing some accountability into the business was necessary too.

“I approached somebody to find me a chairman. I had some very specific experience I was looking for, I needed someone that had some knowledge in technology and engineering.

“I was motivated by somebody who could guide growth in the business. There’s a lot of different phases you go through when the business scales and you’ve got to change what you do and how you do things as things develop. You’ve got to delegate

more and have systems and processes in place; you can’t control everything and know everything that’s going on anymore.”

After finding the right man for the job in David Williams, a businessman with decades of experience in naval architecture and engineering, the pair went on to construct the board further.

Brian’s next aim was to bring on non-executive members to the board that actually brought real value to the business. Without the need for investment, Brian was free to prioritise skills over any need to tick boxes.

“Some people have boards because they’re told they need to have

winter 22

“You’re investing quite heavily in these board meetings, so you want an active debate around strategy, what situation the business is in now, what you should be doing, what the focus areas should be,

what is the right strategic direction. Things like that.”

Despite the Tharsus board featuring some amazing business brains, it’s far from set in stone. As far as Brian is concerned, you need to keep the board fresh and let it evolve alongside the business.

“You’ve got to refresh your board, it’s not a static thing,” Brain continues. “When we first created the board we were probably turning over around £15m - last year we turned over £90m. The types of people you need leading an organisation that’s six times the size of what it used to be, it’s a different beast. You need different skills, so the board can’t be stagnant - It’s constantly evolving with the business.

“At the end of the day, you need to use your board as a resource. Seek external input to your businesseither through mentors or nonexecutive board members. I think there's a huge opportunity for you and your business when you use your board to add value and not just to tick boxes.”

boards,” Brian explains. “We don’t have any external investment, so we don’t actually need non-execs. That’s where we’ve been quite unusual.

“So, we’re not trying to tick a box with investors. My aim is always about trying to get value from our board and use it to help drive growth to the business. It’s not about satisfying an investor that we’re well managed or anything like that.

“I think there are a lot of boards that have serial non-execs that turn up to get their homework marked - they nod and let the business get on with it. I think that’s a missed opportunity. “Every non-exec position on our board is there to add value.

Otherwise, what’s the point?”

For Brian, adding experience and knowledge to the business has

always been what the group board at Tharsus has been about. Many of their non-executive members are people who have achieved incredible things in their respective fields.

One of which had a hand in creating one of the biggest household brands the world has ever seen.

“Martin McCourt is one of our non-execs. He internationalised Dyson for James Dyson,” Brian says.

“He was the Chief Executive at Dyson for 15 years - a serious individual, UK Businessman of the Year and that sort of thing.

“We’ve got some very capable individuals with a huge amount of experience. To have them sitting and listening to people drone on about reports and what they’ve done without any insight, there’s no value in that. For more information visit:

“We're not trying to tick a box with investors. My aim is always about trying to get value from our board and use it to help drive growth to the business.”

members new

who’s joined recently

Jess Tucker, Social Allies

Sarah Bell, Hadrians Recruitment

Kirsty and Steve Lawrenson, EYPS

Michael Knowles, ROAR Digital Marketing

James Allison, Middleton Lodge Events

Paul Blight, Tier One Capital

Jay Wilson, Jaccountancy

Matthew Fannan and Matt Herrell, Atom Financial

Paul Sykes, The Unite Group

Henry Coggin and Ellen Hedley, Vida Creative

Helena Harford, Print Cakes

Chrissie Plunkett, Twist Group

Martin Hedley, Vision Achievement

Adam Woodhead

Ben Quaintrell, My Property Box

Chris Thompson, Media Borne

Karl Beckett, Care2Inspire

Paul Moore, Happiest at Home Ian Lambert, Q Interiors

Gareth Allen, Superior Recruitment

Ruth Plater, Radial Path

straight from leaving school and | had to get on two buses to get to the office!

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

As a young lad, I once bought an ice cream van on eBay after being influenced by Duncan Bannatyne’s autobiography.

Although a flawed decision, it was where my entrepreneurial aspirations were born.

What would your specialist subject be on Mastermind?

Tottenham Hotspur. I was brainwashed by my dad into supporting them instead of a local North East team.

Elon Musk. He is a fascinating but very divisive character. It would be interesting to chat about his business career, innovation, and what it’s like being the wealthiest person in the world.

What are you most proud of? Making the leap into starting a business and the progress that Atom Financial has made so far, including building our team and acquiring a number of fantastic long-term clients.

How do you unwind or deal with stress?

I like to unwind by going out for a meal with my family or going out for drinks with friends. Going to the gym is great for de-stressing, I just need to make more of an effort in finding the time to go!

If you had a time machine, where would you go and why?

I would go back to 1961 when Tottenham Hotspur last won the league. I would also like to go 50 years into the future to see what technological advances have been made and what the world looks like - and also see if Spurs have been able to finally win the league again.

What is your biggest fear?

I have a big fear of failure, that is what drives me forward and keeps me going through the tough times in business and life in general.

What was the attraction of joining the Forum?

The opportunity to share ideas and experiences with like-minded business owners as well as the access to learn from mentors and inspirational entrepreneurs.

What do you hope to achieve with the Forum?



My Property Box

What was your first job?

Trainee Accountant at a small accountancy practice in Sedgefield. I started as an apprentice

Who, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with?

I would like to have dinner with

I hope to build long-standing relationships with fellow business owners in the region, strengthen my network and increase brand awareness for my business. It will be great to associate ourselves with entrepreneurs who have experienced success in their business ventures.

What was your first job?

I had a car washing business in my street when I was 14.

What is something most people don't know about you? I love chess!

What would your specialist subject be on Mastermind?

Game of Thrones or property.

Who, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with?

Grant Cardone, Elon Musk, Prince William or Arnold Schwarzenegger.

What are you most proud of? My children and family.

How do you unwind or deal with stress?

Thai boxing and going to the gym.

If you had a time machine, where would you go and why?

The 1970s to meet my mum and dad as younger people, or maybe go back to the Egyptians and ask them how they built the Pyramids!

What is your biggest fear? Getting old.

What was the attraction of joining the Forum?

Mixing with like-minded peopleyou become the people you spend the most time with!

What do you hope to achieve with the Forum?

To learn as much as I can, help other people and make new business friends.

winter 22
Matthew Fannan Atom Financial

Helena Harford Print Cakes

Paul Sykes The Unite Group

What are you most proud of?

Setting up my businesses with a big push from my husband. It involved giving up on a career I had worked really hard for and moving completely out of my comfort zone.

How do you unwind or deal with stress?

Tell us about yourself…

I set up as a sole trader back in 2011, having left my job as a Graphic Designer. I hate quitting anything, but I was miserable and dreaded every day. I’ve always loved baking, so I started watching YouTube videos and learning how to decorate cakes. My first business started in my mam’s kitchen and now we have a bakery sending out thousands of cupcakes and biscuits each week. Between myself and my husband Brendan, we juggle three kids and Print Cakes. It makes for an interesting week!

What was your first job?

My first job was at 16 on the checkouts at Sainsbury’s. It worked out well, as in addition to the £3.60 an hour wage, I met my husband!

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

I don’t actually eat cake anymore. I crammed a lifetime’s worth of cake eating into the first few years of my business. It turns out cake for breakfast, dinner and tea isn’t the healthiest choice so I had to cut myself off.

What would your specialist subject be on Mastermind?

Paw Patrol. I’m the proud owner of every toy they have ever produced and I sing the theme tune at bedtime every night.

Who, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with?

Russell Brand - I think we could put the world to rights and he cracks me up.

I unwind when the kids are in bed and the emails have gone quiet. At the moment it’s getting the fire on and having a hot chocolate (or wine!), although we usually end up talking about the business or the kids.

If you had a time machine, where would you go and why?

Back to my honeymoon! We travelled around Asia for four months and it was the best thing we’ve ever done, plus the most delicious food I’ve ever had. It’s a shame China is a little too far to pop over for tea.

What is your biggest fear?

The world going even more crazy than it already appears to be. We’ve weathered a few storms already, so let’s see what they try to throw at us next!

What was the attraction of joining the Forum?

I love talking to other people in business, finding out about their struggles and successes. We don’t have much spare time at the moment, so I need to use it wisely. The Forum offers the perfect opportunity to meet some great North East entrepreneurs and steal a bit of baby-free time!

What do you hope to achieve with the Forum?

We want to continue to grow Print Cakes. We bake and deliver the tastiest logo cupcakes and biscuits anywhere in the UK, so the opportunity is huge. I’ll not rest until Print Cakes is the go-to place for quality edible branded products. We’ve got loads more tasty ideas and the support of a network of amazing people we can turn to for advice will be invaluable.

Tell us about yourself…

I have been involved in technology for over 30 years, starting my career as an apprentice in 1989. I worked in several technical and management roles until I made the jump to start my own business, Unite Communications, in 2009. The business is now The Unite Group and we have become a team of 20. The focus is much more on IT support and cyber security these days, so every day is still a school day.

What was your first job?

I started as an apprentice with Mercury Communications in 1989 as a telecoms engineer. I loved technology and meeting new people, so instantly knew this was the career for me.

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

I am a southerner and lived in London until the age of 24. I met my wife Lorraine in Greece on holiday and 25 years later we are still together and I have now spent longer in the North East than in the south. The question is, am I officially a 'northerner' now?

What would your specialist subject be on Mastermind?

I love the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child and have read them all more than once, so the life and times of Jack Reacher will have to be my specialist subject.

Who, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with?

Winston Churchill. He seemed a real character and I think it would definitely be a boozy dinner.

What are you most proud of?

Most people know I am a keen golfer, but not that I once had two holes in one within a week. Needless to say, I have not had another one since!

How do you unwind or deal with stress?

I like a game of golf, walking with my wife Lorraine, and drinking wine.

If you had a time machine, where would you go and why?

As an Englishman and football fan, it would have to be back to the 1966 World Cup Final so I can see them win something at least once!

What is your biggest fear?

Being bored. I am not great at switching off and I'm always looking for something to do. I think retirement could be a challenge for me!

What was the attraction of joining the Forum?

One of the main things, as business owners, is you never stop learning and you have a range of responsibilities that are not necessarily in your skillset.

Experience helps, but the opportunity to meet and discuss this with other businesses owners in the North East is fantastic. I also want to keep up to date with what’s happening in the local business world and I'm looking forward to working with other local organisations contributing to the success of the region.

What do you hope to achieve with the Forum?

The Forum seems a great resource for local businesses, offering mentoring and training is a great way for entrepreneurs to share knowledge. I hope I can contribute to this and be a part of the success of the Forum and the region.


winter 22 natural clinics

Can you tell us about your recent experience in Costa Rica and your motivation for the trip?

Well, me and my business partner at Duo Global Consulting, Laura Weaving, decided at the start of the year that we’d pre-plan some holidays in. We worked really hard during the two years of Covid and if we didn’t book in it then we’d not end up taking the time out. So, I decided to do a group trip. I went through a company called Intrepid Travel who organises group travel in unusual places. I wanted to go somewhere that would push me out of my comfort zone; an adventure that would fully immerse me in a totally different culture. I ended up choosing Costa Rica despite knowing nothing about the place. It was a total gamble! I took the leap of faith and booked with a good friend of mine. It was funnywhen we arrived we sat around a table with the 15 other people on the trip and everyone was saying how they wanted to see the rainforest or the wildlife, and when it came to us we just said we wanted an adventure!

What was the experience with Intrepid like?

It was really interesting because they put a lot of effort into taking you to areas that your regular tourist wouldn’t get a chance to see. That was one of the main reasons I chose them, alongside them being a Bcorp. The tour they planned took us across seven different locations. We stayed

at local hotels, at the edge of national parks, in the cloud forest Monteverde and even had nights staying with locals.

What is the culture like in Costa Rica?

It’s a really multicultural place. We started on the edge of a national park that we travelled to by boat. That area seemed to have quite a Caribbean influence in terms of the food and culture.

At that location we got to take a boat out early in the morning and take in all the incredible wildlife. We saw howler monkeys, spider monkeys, lots of wild birds, crocodiles and caymans. We were so lucky to see all of that so quickly! The people were so, so friendly. Like I said, we weren’t staying in touristy areas, so it was a real off-the-beaten-track experience. After that we moved through the rainforest and headed to another national park to stay in these lodges high in the hills. It overlooked a beautiful part of the park and we even had a sloth hanging about as our neighbour in a tree!

We got to trek further through the rainforest and see a beautiful waterfall - it was breathtaking.

The culture and food was slightly different again in this area, with a bit of Mexican influence - lots of chicken, fish, beans and rice dishes. Then we finished up in a little beach town up in the hills, which was again, totally different. The food was a bit

more European and maybe geared towards tourists, but the whole place was still really lovely. It was a trip of so many different experiences.

How was it staying with the locals?

It was amazing! We got split into groups of five and given the opportunity to stay and cook with the family; we’d even play games with the children and have a dance with them! Our homestay was in the middle of nowhere and when we arrived, the whole village came out to greet us. They cooked us an incredible meal and we all sat and ate it together under this huge community kitchen shelter outside. I don’t speak very good Spanish but the locals were so accommodating and it was easy to socialise through food, dance and games. It was a

really beautiful experience. I’m a behavioural expert, I love people - that’s my thing - so this opportunity to operate in a group of 15 was really interesting. Reading all of the different types of people from around the globe and their behaviours, cultures and values. It was such a learning experiencevery different from just going away with someone you know.

How did you find the change in pace compared to the rush of running a business?

It was absolutely a different pace. I took the opportunity to slow things down and really take it all in. I sat and listened to a lot of podcasts and calming music and I also read a lot of books as well. But, most of all I just watched the world go by and relaxed.

forum magazine caught up with Sarah Callender, Chief Operating Officer of Duo Global Consulting, to find out about her recent journey of self discovery in the Costa Rican jungles.

Could I do that full-time? Probably not. But I work really hard to get the balance right in normal life anyway. I make sure I create that space to switch off, we think that’s really important in our business.

What were your main takeaways from the experience?

On most of the trip we didn’t have the internet so we were virtually off-grid for 15 days. It was unusual but I came back to the business feeling totally recharged. We teach a lot about the importance of transitioning through your work role and your personal role. We focus on being able to have time to reset, recharge and think about what’s important and reflect on yourself. This trip was an incredible opportunity to do all of that at once. We’re great believers in the saying ‘you’re a product of your

environment’, and sometimes you need to switch that environment up a little.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be as drastic as a trip to Costa Rica, but it is important to keep that in mind. For example, this morning I went out for a sunrise walk before work because that just helps sort out the pace of the day - it gets me ready. Then at night-time I’ll do something else to bring that pace down.

I think that’s so important. I’ve spoken to a lot of business people and they’ll tell you they start a business because they want to take more time off. So you’ll ask them, ‘When was the last time you had a holiday?’ and they’ll say, ‘Oh, before I started the business!’.

You have to remember the importance of recharging and making time for yourself. That’s really what this trip reinforced for me.

For more information visit:

forum favourites


Atomic Habits by James Clear

Little changes can make a huge difference. People often think that when you want to change your life, you need to think big. But world-renowned habits expert James Clear has shared his opposite approach. His revolutionary book, Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, instils that real change comes from the compound effect of hundreds of small decisions. In this ground-breaking book, James Clear reveals exactly how these minuscule changes can grow into such life-altering outcomes. He uncovers a handful of simple life hacks and delves into cutting-edge psychology and neuroscience to explain why they matter. Packed with useful techniques, science-backed knowledge and inspiring stories of Olympic gold medalists, leading CEOs, and distinguished scientists, it’s a must-read.


Louis Theroux Interviews

Louis Theroux is renowned for his investigative questioning and insightful documentaries. Fans of his work will be pleased to hear he’s back on our screens with a brand-new ‘interviews’ series. Doing what he does best, Theroux gets up close and personal with the UK's biggest stars in the way only he can. With exclusive access to snoop about the lives of the likes of Stormzy, Dame Judi Dench, Bear Grylls and Katherine Ryan, you can expect anything and everything from this enticing new BBC Two show.


The Goal Digger by Jenna Kutcher

Success looks different for everyone and each individual has a different journey. Just as our goals, dreams and ambitions differ, so do our paths to getting there. The Goal Digger, hosted by digital marketing expert Jenna Kutcher, is an inspiring podcast bringing you business hacks, productivity tips, social media strategies, and inspirational stories that will help you design your dream career. Believing that work shouldn't feel like work, Jenna Kutcher’s podcast is a must-listen for those on their way to success, those who have been knocked down and are getting back up again, and even for those who are at the top of their game and looking to stay there.

From motivational reads, insightful documentaries and goal-grabbing podcasts, forum picks out a selection of inspiring media to see you through the winter months...

winter 22 addressing the issue dealing with the cost of living crisis

With inflation currently above 10% the cost of living crisis is truly putting a squeeze on all of us.

We spoke to Entrepreneurs' Forum members to find out how they’re supporting staff through what could be an extremely tough time financially and how they’re feeling heading into 2023.

From rent and mortgages, to energy and food, the increasing cost of everyday essentials means the battle to keep heads above choppy financial waters remains intense. While the cost of living has been increasing in the UK since early 2021, recent developments, from energy prices to supply-chain shortages, combined with many other external variables means inflation is now at its highest rate in 40 years.

But what does this mean for UK households? According to the Office for National Statistics, a staggering 93% of adults have reported an increase in the living costs compared to one year ago while 90% say that costs have become more expensive in the last month alone (OctoberNovember 2022).

Rising prices mean many have already had to make spending reductions with two thirds (66%) of Britons reporting they have had to make some form of financial cut.

For entrepreneurs, understanding how to not only support their employees through the crisis,

but how to keep their business afloat amid increased costs and reduced consumer/client spending will be an immediate challenge in the following months.

To get a greater understanding of how the cost of living crisis is affecting our members, this quarter we ran our pulse survey which focused on the issue.

With responses from 85 North East entrepreneurs, the data reveals that the cost of living crisis is having a real impact on businesses at all levels and many are implementing strategies that aim to support their employees through this period. Interestingly, only 25% of respondents reported that they had already increased pay in line with inflation for all of their employees. A further 25% had raised pay but at rates below current inflation while

28% of respondents said they were not currently considering pay rises with many looking at alternative ways of supporting their staff.

In regards to one off bonuses, even fewer had already taken action with 8% having implemented one off bonus payments for all staff, paying all staff the same fixed amount.

Inflationary pay rises or bonuses are not always affordable, so in their absence, members are actively introducing other practical support designed to help their employees manage the rising cost of living.

Implementing flexible working has been a big focus with employers recognising that daily travel costs can be reduced by removing the need to travel into the office every day. Some members are also offering their staff healthcare support and programmes including healthcare insurance, free flu jabs and mental health support.

Another strategy to help staff combat the cost of living crisis has been simply to encourage more discussion around the subject as well as offering free financial advice, tips to lower bills and in some cases, access to interest free loans. Meanwhile, some members have started to provide food at work or offer discounted

travel and supermarket vouchers. With so much uncertainty around the economy and the prospect of a challenging few months ahead, the survey also asked members to list the challenges they expect to face in the upcoming quarter.

One key challenge shared by members is customers/clients' reduced spending, especially in relation to their resistance or unwillingness to meet price increases – a factor that is directly linked with the cost of living crisis. Other wider economic factors such as rising inflation, cash flow and supply chain issues were also raised by members, with the added difficulty of how members can ensure their business continues to grow throughout an uncertain and unstable economic climate.

Yet despite the current financial challenges faced by our region’s businesses, we’re reassured that when asked about how they were feeling about their own business’s prospects, most Forum members had a positive outlook.

In fact, 73% reported that they were feeling optimistic or very optimistic about the year ahead. Only 7% of members said they felt pessimistic about the future, with some stating that projects are slowing down and the cost of living crisis is weighing heavier on their shoulders. The remaining 19% said they felt neither optimistic or pessimistic and there were no noticeable differences in the responses by industry.

It is undoubtedly a challenging time for employers and employees alike with so much uncertainty surrounding the stability of the economy. Yet despite this, Forum members not only remain optimistic about the future but are, in their nature, providing practical solutions and supporting their staff as best they can.

What do we mean by a “cost of living” crisis – other than a dramatic media headline, what is it? Prices are going up everywhere, it’s called inflation.

In recent years inflation (measured by the consumer prices index –“CPI”) has been historically low. Prior to the current spike, the last time inflation was above 3% was 2012 (10 years ago) and the last time it was above 6% was 1992 (30 years ago).

The 1970s frequently saw doubledigit inflation peaking at 24% in 1975. This was due to the rapid rise in oil prices, rising wages due to

powerful trade unions keeping up with living costs and a lack of independent monetary policy. Until recently, energy prices have been stable, whilst unions have been weaker and the Bank of England continues to maintain monetary policy (interest rates etc).

But what causes prices to increase? In economic terms it is the balance of supply and demand – restricted supply and increased demand leads to inflation.

Interest rates and exchange rates also play their part – interest rates have been at an ‘emergency’ low

level since 2009 when they fell from 5% to 0.5% - today they are currently back up to 3%. In 1979 they touched 17% and remained over 10% for most of the 1980’s.

We now have a global ‘perfect storm’ – energy prices and other commodities are rising due to the war in Ukraine. Also, we are coming out of covid which caused supply issues and cost increases particularly in the Far East. We also have pent up demand – we live in a society where we want things ‘now’ (on cheap credit) and during covid the government pumped huge amounts of money into the economy in the form of furlough. Add the two together and we now have high inflation.

So what do we do? Raise our prices, pay employees more, purchase more stock now before it goes up in price. All these depend upon specific circumstances, elasticity of demand, availability of working capital (at higher interest rates) so the need for a fully integrated business financial model to run revised assumptions and assess the impact is crucial.

And what about the impact of technology to improve productivity – pay more, make more but keep prices down – that will give a competitive advantage as well as help to bring inflation down and even help contribute to net zero targets.

This is a huge subject with complex interactions and the thoughts above have only scratched the surface. It changes daily, perhaps when this article is published the war in Ukraine is over – a nice thought but unlikely. What is for certain is that inflation is with us for some time to come – entrepreneurs are great at thinking outside the box – and now it is time to prove it! These are not extreme times, but they are times many of us have never experienced before.

“What is for certain is that inflation is with us for some time to come.”
Andy Briggs, IA Growth

winter 22 island in the sun

Dubai is a place I’ve always been drawn to. From the glitzy brunches and the bougie beach clubs, to the out-of-this-world water parks, spectacular skyscrapers and super stylish shopping scene, this exciting emirate quite literally has it all. You might visit Dubai for all of the above, you might visit for a beach break - but one thing you’re guaranteed to get here is a buzzy vibe and beautiful weather. It’s at the

top of its game when it comes to all things luxury, and that is evident as soon as you step off the plane - or indeed on the plane, with a fantastic service from start to finish on Emirates flights, direct from the North East.

We’re here to ‘do Dubai a little differently’ as we settle in for a sun-soaked weekender on the wonderful World Islands, just 4km into the Arabian Gulf. A unique

invitation to escape to a place where time stands still - a place where the turquoise blue waters and white sand beaches do all the talking. A guestonly resort where you feel worlds away from the city lights, but with panoramic views of the skyline. It’s the perfect spot for a dual-destination Dubai trip.

We have discovered something quite incredible in Anantara’s new World Islands Dubai Resort. Go here for a taste of secluded island paradise without hopping on and off multiple flights and travelling for days to destinations such as the Maldives. Dubai has been on my travel bucket list for some time now, but having recently grown into a family of three, I wondered if we would find it difficult to travel to this lively UAE haven with baby in tow.

The vision I had of the city, after getting snippets of Dubai living online, was this ultramodern, highend, busy metropolis in the beaming sunshine. All of that it is, but with clever new developments such as Anantara’s World Island Resort, we’re thrilled to hear that we can get the best of both worlds - tropical island bliss, just moments from that sparkling skyline.

The World Islands are an archipelago of artificial islands in the waters of the Persian Gulf, depicting the shape of a world map. Many of the islands are not yet developed, however we were lucky enough to revel in the luxury of one of the first developments taking shape on the replica ‘South America’ island.

After a smooth overnight Emirates flight direct from Newcastle, we arrive

Anantara’s stunning new private island resort is a ‘worlds away’ destination on Dubai’s sun-soaked World Islands. Elysia Fryer finds paradise just a stone’s throw from the buzz of city life.

at Anantara The Palm, where we are greeted with refreshments before a friendly porter in a golf buggy leads us to the hotel’s mini marina where we are whisked over to the island resort by speedboat. A short, 20-minute boat ride brings us to the island, lapped up by tranquil white sand beaches. Palm trees sway in the gentle breeze and gorgeous greenery greets us as we hop off onto our exotic isle for the weekend. We instantly feel like we’ve been whisked away to a faraway place; made to feel like we are checking into our very own private island. After a whistle-stop buggy ride tour around the island and a speedy in-room check-in, we’re left to enjoy our beautiful One Bedroom Garden Pool Villa, just footsteps from the sand. The room is effortlessly stylish. A chic beach shack feel with a five star, contemporary edge and all the luxury mod-cons you’d expect from an exclusive city pad. A stand-alone bath and huge rainfall shower are the key bathroom features, while a huge super-king bed and a spectacular high ceiling stands out in the main suite. Huge floor-to-ceiling windows and a patio door opens up to the decked terrace, complete with plunge pool and loungers for lazy days in the sun. The peaceful, white sand beach that wraps around the island is just a few steps from the suite, where you can bask on sunbeds, swim in the sea, or find thrill-seeking fun at the water sports centre.

We kickstart our getaway with a dip in the sea and a slurp of a cocktail as we gaze at Dubai’s astonishing archipelago, picking out iconic

landmarks from our spot on the sand. Those people looking for a little more adventure can find a whole host of activities - be it in the hotel’s state-ofthe-art fitness centre with views over the water towards Dubai, the thrilling water sports hub on the beach, or the kids club - where little people will live it up with crafts, games and waterfuelled fun.

If the beautiful uniqueness of the island isn’t enough to blow you away, the food on offer certainly will. Shortly after our arrival, we wander over to Helios - a Mediterranean inspired beachfront restaurant serving sumptuous seafood and colourful dishes that match the environment. Fresh fish and a couple of sundowners to settle us into our indulgent island getaway.

As the sun starts to sink into the horizon and Dubai’s bold buildings turn into silhouettes over the sea, we kick off our flip flops and enjoy light bites and cocktails at Lunaa relaxed space at the very heart of the island, and the perfect place to unwind before dinner. Our dinner reservation is at Quamar - a restaurant of Arabic and Indian influence. There is an intimate ambiance under the light of the moon, with incredible vistas over the World Islands. The menu is packed with regional dishes full of flair. We’re won over by the sound of the speciality sharing platters so opt for the Quamar Signature Mix Grilla vibrant selection of Arabic-style meats and fish cooked at the table on the stone. The fish tandoori is effortlessly flaky and packs a spicy punch, and the lamb chops are melt-in-the-mouth delicious. Our stay is topped off with a signature Island Lomi Lomi massage in the Anantara Spa - a soothing sanctuary surrounded by the

sounds of the ocean.

It’s the dreamiest treatment I’ve ever had as I drift away to find true balance and harmony in such a beautiful, serene spot by the sea. The combination of natural island infusions, therapist expertise and good-for-the-soul products packed with healing properties, is a recipe for pure bliss. Post-flight muscle tension melts away as I switch off to all but the sounds of the sea, finding inner calm along the way.

From the indulgent dining and the breathtaking interiors, to the creative ways in which this exclusive new Anantara resort replicates exotic island life, this World Islands haven has offered up a unique new take on a Dubai vacation; and we’re confident in saying it’s something everyone must experience as part of a UAE getaway, just minutes away from The Palm by speedboat.

A luxurious break where bustling city life meets sand-between-the-toes bliss. We can’t wait to return.

For more information visit:

winter 22 plan ahead

20th January 2023 12pm - 2.30pm


Member Lunch (Stockton) The Ship, Redmarshall PAY-ON-THE-DAY for entrepreneur members

26th January 2023 6pm - 11pm


Destination Net Zero? The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle £99 + VAT for entrepreneur members

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

7th February 2023 2pm - 4.30pm


Diversity and Inclusion, How to Ensure Both?

Ward Hadaway, Newcastle FREE for entrepreneur members

28th February 2023 9am - 12pm

ON-SITE VISIT Durham Distillery Durham City FREE for entrepreneur members

27th January 2023 9am - 11am


Digital Transformation Samuel Knight International, Newcastle FREE for all members, partners and non-members 14th March 2023 6pm - 10pm SOCIAL EVENT Middlesbrough F.C. v Stoke City F.C. Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough FREE for entrepreneur members

16th May 2023 2pm - 4.30pm


Does Your Business Need a Board?

Business Durham, Durham FREE for entrepreneur members

25th May 2023 8am - 5pm

ENTREPRENEURS’ CONFERENCE Fortune Favours the Brave Hardwick Hall Hotel, Sedgefield Tickets start at £99 + VAT for all members

27th June 2023 9.30am - 12pm ON-SITE VISIT Lanchester Wines Stanley, Durham FREE for entrepreneur members

We understand what it’s like to own your own business, we’ve been entrepreneurs ourselves for 17 years.

Our approach at Allies Group is to first understand your ambitions and then use our expertise to help you achieve them. Whether that’s a growth plan, an improved website, getting your name out there, or helping you develop your team’s digital skills, we can help.

Allies Group, we’re here to help you.

Email enquiries@allies-group or visit to arrange a chat about how we can help your business grow.

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We provide a flexible and socially distanced check-in, local area recommendations and key exchange.

We arrange cleaning and supply fresh linen and towels. We cater for team changes too. We follow strict Covid19

Please contact Claire and her team either via the website or call 0191 281 3129 or email

short and long-stay accommodation in
Protocol Housekeeping