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SPECIAL REPORT: ENTERPRISING THE REGION BACKING BUSINESS The BIC 20 years on DROP THE HARD SELL Scheme simplifies sales IDEAS WITH WINGS Angels assist growth


b u s i n e s s northumberland

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Do you have ambitious growth plans for your business? Oxford Innovation supports high growth businesses across Northumberland with a unique coaching programme to help improve business performance and success.

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To find out more contact us now on: T: 01670 528403 E: northumberland@oxin.co.uk W: www.oxin-northumberland.co.uk Oxford Innovation, Ashington Workspace, Lintonville Parkway, Ashington, Northumberland, NE63 9JZ

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CONTENTS

CONTACTS

05 NEWS

ROOM501 LTD Christopher March Managing Director e: chris@room501.co.uk Bryan Hoare Director e: bryan@room501.co.uk

A round-up of enterprising endeavour from across the region

14 BACKING BUSINESS

EDITORIAL Peter Jackson e: p.jackson77@btinternet.com

BIC reflects on 20 years of business support... and looks to the future

26 MAKING IDEAS PAY Help is at hand for those seeking to take their big ideas to the next level

32 LIVE DEBATE How can SMEs work smarter, grow and boost the regional economy?

40 NO MORE HARD SELL A new scheme helps firms do what many are poor at... selling!

44 POSITIVE THINKING Meet the man championing the cause of Sunderland city traders

48 IDEAS WITH WINGS The business angels who find funders to help ambitions take flight

GROUP WORKS FOR REGIONS GROWTH

20 ENTERPRISING THE REGION

SPECIAL REPORT:

ENTERPRISING THE REGION

WELCOME

Welcome to this latest issue of BQ2 in which we look at entrepreneurship in the North East. As part of that we have included a report on the most recent of our live debates. Here we brought together some of the region’s most authoritative and influential voices, from the public and private sectors, from academia and business and from large and small organisations. We asked them how SMEs can work smarter, be more innovative and look to new markets. It was clear from the participants that skills shortage and recruitment remain key areas of concern and they also stressed the importance of collaboration and informal networking. The event was hosted by the North East Business and Innovation Centre, BIC, which, over its 20-year history, has become expert on fostering collaboration and in assisting to build links between the businesses it has helped. We interview the BIC’s chief executive Paul McEldon who looks back over those 20 years and, more importantly, at the BIC’s current activities and plans for the future, with some reflections on entrepreneurship in the North East. We profile some of the BIC’s programmes putting the spotlight on some of the businesses which have taken advantage of them. We also take a look at other successful entrepreneurs around the region and the independent businesses services group, the BE Group, which works to help grow businesses and SMEs in the region and across the UK.

DESIGN & PRODUCTION room501 e: studio@room501.co.uk PHOTOGRAPHY KG Photography e: info@kgphotography.co.uk SALES Heather Spacey Business Development e: heather@room501.co.uk Richard Binney Business Development e: richard@room501.co.uk or call 0191 426 6300

room501 Publishing Ltd, Spectrum 6, Spectrum Business Park, Seaham, SR7 7TT www.room501.co.uk room501 was formed from a partnership of directors who, combined, have many years of experience in contract publishing, print, marketing, sales and advertising and distribution. We are a passionate, dedicated company that strives to help you to meet your overall business needs and requirements. All contents copyright © 2014 room501 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 information is correct at time of going to print, May 2014. room501 Publishing Ltd is part of BE Group, the UK’s market leading business improvement specialists. www.be-group.co.uk

in association with

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BQ Magazine is published quarterly by room501 Ltd.

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14


NEWS

SPRING 14

Specialist brewer launches craft beer club, food enthusiast lands fourstar deal, purpose-built hotel to cater for offshore workers, shoe retailer steps into new territory, lifesaving app creators in link up with Honda >> A decade of success AS it celebrates its 10th Anniversary DigitalCity has revealed the digital economy is now worth £174m annually to the Tees Valley – and £62m to Middlesbrough alone. DigitalCity, Teesside’s digital cluster, was set up in 2004 and currently Middlesbrough and Stockton are ranked at number 16 in a list of the UK’s digital hotspots by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the only hotspot north of Birmingham. Teesside University led the DigitalCity initiative to harness the ability of students, encouraging them to turn their skills into businesses. DigitalCity launched its fellowships to support fledgling businesses offering support and access to mentors. Also, the Boho One building in Middlesbrough was established to offer start-ups a social space, affordable rents and a package of support to aid their transition into the successful business world. Digital City has seen the emergence of companies such as games studios Double Eleven and Coatsink Software and digital companies such as Sound Training for Reading that can improve a child’s reading age by two years in six weeks and Transfer Go, which last year had a £12m turnover. Other companies such as Spearhead Interactive are using gaming technology and virtual reality equipment to help train off shore engineers and military personnel. David Jeffries, head of DigitalCity, said: “DigitalCity was created to capitalise on Teesside University’s expertise in the technology sector 10 years ago by giving a framework of support for digital start-ups and entrepreneurs. “Long before boot camps and accelerators were well-known DigitalCity fellowships gave enterprising graduates access to world-class mentors and facilities. “We’ve seen over the past 10 years DigitalCity grow from an idea into a project that is making a massive difference to the economy of the Tees Valley and the North East region as a whole.

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14

John Gilfillan, of Delavals (left), with Simon Johnson, of NEL

>> Good news brewing for craft beer club as cash pours in A North East brewer behind the launch of a club which is capitalising on the growing demand for craft beers and real ales has pulled outside investment into the business. Last September Delavals Brewers launched The National Trust Beer Club, a membership organisation through which beers from smaller regional brewers across the UK could be sold. The Beer Club was an extension of Delavals’ relationship with the National Trust, for which it is an official licensee and with which it had previously launched four beers named after Trust properties across the North East, including the site that inspired the firm’s name, Seaton Delaval Hall. To help them fund the next stage of the business’s development, Delavals has worked with regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers to secure a six-figure investment from the Finance For Business North East Growth Fund that NEL administers. More than 150 beers produced by over 50 brewers from around the UK are currently available through the www.nationaltrustbeerclub.co.uk website, with further beers from additional breweries scheduled to follow as negotiations with potential new suppliers are finalised. The new investment will allow for the full commercialisation of the business and the development of its warehouse facilities, with upgraded marketing and website and a smartphone app. The first National Trust Beer Club Festival is scheduled for August at another of the National Trust’s North East locations after which Delavals named a beer, Washington Old Hall. John Gilfillan, managing director at Delavals Brewers, who runs the company with his brother David, said: “In the same way that wine clubs have become very popular, we believe there’s a real market for a high quality beer club that’s run along similar lines, and the National Trust brand provides tremendous momentum towards realising this goal. “Our point of difference is the high quality products that we supply that would ordinarily only be available to beer connoisseurs living near where they are made. With over 1,000 breweries in the UK, we have a wide range of products from which to select those we think members will enjoy. “The demographic for people who enjoy carefully-crafted beers is changing, with the majority of our members so far being female and either buying for themselves or as a gift, and this creates an exciting opportunity that we’re now fully resourced and ready to address.”

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ENTERPRISING THE REGION


SPRING 14

NEWS

>> Movie masterclass Wannabe film makers in the region can take advantage of Hollywood expertise next month. Intense Productions in association with UK Trade & Investment NE are bringing to the UK the critically acclaimed and award winning actor and Hollywood producer Carlos Gallardo for a series of exclusive one day film masterclasses focusing on ‘How to Make a Micro Budget Film & Sell It’. He will be in Newcastle on Thursday 1 May at the Tyneside Cinema. Gallardo co-wrote, starred in and produced the acclaimed independent feature film El Mariachi shot for a budget of US$7,000 in his home town of Ciudad Acuña, Mexico which marked the feature directorial debut of his long time friend, Robert Rodriguez. Acquired by the US Studio Columbia Pictures, El Mariachi went on to win the Audience Award at Sundance in 1993 and launched the careers of both Gallardo and Rodriguez in Hollywood. Together Gallardo and Rodriguez went on to produce the successful box office hits Desperado starring Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek and Once upon a time in Mexico starring Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke, Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek. Now North East filmmakers will have the opportunity to hear and learn from Gallardo. The intensive one day film masterclass will cover screen writing, raising finance, casting, production, post production, sales and distribution and is designed to equip filmmakers with information to launch a successful feature film through chaired panel discussions and Q&A sessions, case studies of commercially successful independent productions that have raised finance, secured talent, as well as securing international sales and worldwide distribution. Filmmakers can gain industry secrets on how to develop, produce, market and promote their work. Speaking alongside Gallardo will be writer/ director/producer and managing director of Intense Productions and Intense Distribution, Chee Keong Cheung. Cheung has worked with some of the industry’s most established names, including legendary two time Academy Award Winning Cinematographer, Jack

ENTERPRISING THE REGION

Executive Head Chef Chris Wells and Liz Harding-Massey (Eliza Pepperpot)

>> Food enthusiast Liz lands four-star deal An artisan food producer from Blaydon has won its first supply contract with a North East four-star hotel. The Newcastle Gateshead Marriott Hotel MetroCentre will be serving locally produced jams, preserves, chutneys and chocolates after selecting Eliza Pepperpot, in Blaydon, as a new supplier. Liz Harding-Massey, 55, from Blaydon, launched her own food business based on her passion for cooking and uses the traditional family recipes she learned from her mother. “I am absolutely thrilled that a hotel brand as prestigious and established as Marriott wants to use my products,” said Harding-Massey. “I am very keen to use local and seasonal products whenever possible and am really happy that the Marriott has the same ethos. The chef has given me incredible feedback from his diners already which is giving me great confidence in my new business and hopefully will be the first of many new contracts.” At Newcastle Gateshead Marriott Hotel Metrocentre guests can enjoy Eliza Pepperpot’s: Lemon Curd, which will be a guest preserve on breakfast and also in the lemon sponge pudding on the local dinner menu • Whisky marmalade as a glaze on the baked British gammon joint • Afternoon tea with Raspberry and strawberry jam • Piccalilli will be used in ham hock peas pudding terrine • Handmade salted caramel chocolates used at culinary events “We were introduced to Eliza Pepperpot products and straight away we knew they would make a great addition to not only our special North East menu but also to our food offering in general,’’ said Raoul Lemmerling, general manager. “The fact that Eliza Pepperpot Fine Foods products are made just a few miles away in Blaydon is a real bonus.”

Cardiff and the late British film producer and former vice president of 20th century Fox, Tim Hampton. Also guest speaking will be Mark Strange who produced the independent film Displaced. Cheung said: “It’s an incredible honour for us to be able to bring Carlos over to the UK.

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I’m very excited filmmakers both established and up and coming will have the chance to hear and learn from Carlos’ vast experience in the industry. It is an incredibly competitive business we are in and I believe it is important to share knowledge and to help filmmakers coming into the industry.”

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14


NEWS

SPRING 14

>> Offshore home from home Offshore trainer AIS is developing a project on North Tyneside to create specialist hotel accommodation for offshore workers. The £1m three-storey hotel, which will be on the Tyne Tunnel Industrial Estate in North Shields, will sit alongside AIS Training’s offshore training complex and offer accommodation for £20-£25 a night. It will initially cater for up to 28 people, with a second phase planned to add another 12 rooms in the next year. The hotel will be styled to simulate offshore life and will offer Wi-Fi and en-suite facilities, a fully-equipped gym and areas for relaxing and socialising. Guests will also have access to AIS Training’s nearby restaurant in its new offshore survival centre, offering sea survival training for the offshore, wind and maritime industries. The hotel has received planning approval and construction work is now underway with the first guests expected later this summer. Managing director of AIS, Paul Stonebanks said: “We currently train thousands of delegates every year in mandatory and optional industry-approved qualifications and competencies for the booming offshore energy market. “Many of these offshore workers live outside the region and require accommodation and, although there are lots of great local hotels, we recognised that offering a more affordable option, which also mirrors real offshore life, complements and enriches our offer. “This project is the latest in a very exciting and successful year for AIS. In the next few weeks, we’ll launch a brand new offshore survival centre to train workers from the offshore oil and gas, wind and maritime sectors how to cope in the event of an emergency, which means we can provide one of the world’s largest training portfolios for the offshore sector.”

The hotel mirrors real offshore life, complements and enriches our offer

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14

CY team to continue to manage its roster of national clients from a North East base. Younger added: “Having outgrown our current offices, we have been very fortunate to find suitable accommodation right next door. The extra space will allow us to increase our staff numbers and win new business whilst also maintaining our existing client and candidate relationships.”

CY Partners directors Probier Chatterjee and Daniel Younger

>> Recruitment firm upsizes Recruitment firm CY Partners is moving again thanks to continued company growth and a buoyant jobs market. The independently-owned consultancy, which moved to new offices at Newcastle’s Newburn Riverside Business Centre 18 months ago, is moving to a larger unit and also plans to recruit a further four members of staff this year. Daniel Younger, director at CY Partners, said: “The last few years have been difficult with regards to the economy, business and the jobs market. In spite of this we have won several new contracts and strengthened existing relationships with both local and national companies such as The Specials Laboratory and Johnson Matthey. “We have had a fantastic start to 2014, with our first quarter figures showing a 136% increase in permanent jobs alone, and fully expect this trend to continue following the Office for Budget Responsibility’s prediction that 1.5 million jobs are set to be injected into Britain over the next five years. “Couple that with George Osborne’s intention to establish Britain as a global leader in specialist technology and science sectors and we feel very confident in expanding onto our already solid foundation.” The new office, which is double the size of the firm’s current space, will allow the

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>> Shoe firm’s footprint grows Shoe retailer Charles Clinkard is expanding with the opening of a branch in Shrewsbury – the company’s 33rd store. The family-run Teesside firm has opened in a historic property on the site of the former Dyers store and is now looking at other potential retail sites around the UK to continue its expansion. It has other retail units in the region at Warwick, Stratford-upon-Avon and Banbury. Managing director Charles Clinkard said: “We are delighted to be opening our new branch in Shrewsbury, which is a busy and attractive town that provides excellent opportunities to grow our business. “We are also delighted to have been able to keep some of the former Dyers’ team, including our new store manager, Carole Croft, who worked for Dyers previously. “Their expertise and local knowledge will be a huge asset.” The Grade II Listed High Street building in Shrewsbury was given a £160,000 make-over. Clinkard added: “The Shrewsbury store has 12 staff, selling footwear for men, women and children, and we expect to have an annual turnover of around £800,000.” Charles Clinkard is the third generation of his family to run the company, which is based in Stockton on Tees, Teesside, and employs more than 550 staff. He added: “Our exclusive brand offering is continuing to prove a huge success as we spread around the country from our North East base, and I look forward to identifying further opportunities for expansion in the future.” The Shrewsbury property is part of ‘Ireland’s Mansion’ and is one of the oldest surviving timber framed buildings in the town, having been built by Shrewsbury MP Robert Ireland in the 16th Century.

ENTERPRISING THE REGION


NEWS

SPRING 14

>> Orchid blossoms Gateshead-based intranet software provider Orchid Software has secured a £600,000 investment to support its growth plans and create jobs. The cash was provided from the Finance for Business North East Accelerator Fund, managed by Northstar Ventures. Orchid Software was started in 1994 by local computer science graduate Ajay Sood, and the company’s Orchidnet intranet software originated as part of a development project for Vickers Defence Systems (now BAe). Since then Orchidnet has been developed into a fully-featured suite of intranet applications with recent developments including businessfocused social networking facilities and smartphone-specific access. Now Orchidnet intranet software is used daily by more than 100,000 people across more than 100 companies and is used by some of the UK’s biggest brands, including Comic Relief, Pizza Express, Ford Retail, Go Compare and Nissan. Sood said: “We approached Northstar Ventures for investment, as our plan is to expand the business and start a recruitment drive. Orchid Software is already a highly successful and profitable business but we decided that venture capital funding was the best way to realise our growth strategy.” As well as receiving investment, the company has brought on board two experienced nonexecutive Directors: former Newcastle Falcons owner David Thompson, and Neil Francis, co-founder of Company Net. Thompson said: “As a Geordie, being invited to help Orchid Software in its growth is extremely exciting. The software being developed is as exciting as anything I have seen in the last 10 years and focuses on areas where true cost savings can still be made.”

>> Leading the way on safety A family-run Teesside engineering business is setting up a new company to help meet demand for its specialist services. Stokesley-based ProSalus is an independent technical safety consultancy, specialising in the implementation and compliance of safety standards working in sectors such as oil and gas, petrochemicals,

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14

pharmaceutical, fine chemicals, power, waste management and foodstuffs. Now it has established EFSTAS – Easton Functional Safety Training and Services. It will provide internationally-accredited technical and functional safety training all over the world working with individuals, major blue chip companies and industrial organisations. Over 15 years ProSalus has worked with multinationals such as Shell, BP, GlaxoSmithKline, Scottish Power, National Grid, Marathon Oil, Ineos, British Gas and Total and has developed a range of software tools designed to help companies comply with functional safety and process safety legislation.

ProSalus was established by husband and wife team, Colin and Carol Easton, from Stokesley, and now employs a team of six technical consultants and two support staff at its headquarters at the Springboard Business Centre at Stokesley Business Park as well as a number of associates who deliver the courses in countries including the USA, Australia and Singapore as well as throughout the UK, Europe and the Middle and Far East. Managing director, Colin Easton, said: “What we offer is incredibly niche but it is in huge demand as accreditations and regulations become ever more necessary in the process industry in order to demonstrate competency.”

Andrew Richardson Founder & Commercial Director at REALRIDER, with Rachael Clark, Clothing Manager at Newcastle Motorcycles

>> Lifesaving app creators strike landmark deal with Honda A new motorcycling app is on the road to success after its creators signed a deal with Honda dealership Newcastle Motorcycles. The app, REALRIDER, which is being piloted by the North East Ambulance Service, is aimed at reducing the number of motorcycling fatalities on the UK’s roads. The new technology, which works by downloading an app to a smartphone, was devised by entrepreneurs and motorcycling enthusiasts Zoe Farrington and Andrew Richardson. The deal will see the app handed out free of charge with every new Honda bike sold by Newcastle Motorcycles, reaching a potential 50,000 bikers across the North East. The device which was developed with support from Newcastle Science City and Rivers Capital, automatically detects if a rider has been involved in a crash by using motion sensors which send an alert to the rider’s phone. Unless the alert is cancelled, the app automatically contacts the ambulance service with the location and pre-programmed medical details of the rider. Former Pride Valley Foods entrepreneur and chairman of the company Hossain Rezaei said: “REALRIDER is an extremely exciting business concept with genuinely unique features and innovation which also has significant commercial potential.” Craig Smith, dealer principal at Newcastle Motorcycles, said: “The system is now reaching a level of maturity where we really feel we can get behind it.” The app also records routes and synchronises with realrider.com where subscribers can view, edit and share their favourite rides.

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ENTERPRISING THE REGION


SPRING 14

COMPANY PROFILE

The benefits of equity investments for growing North East businesses

Building Successful High Growth Businesses

Northstar Ventures highlights advantages for start-ups and expanding enterprises The success of TV programme Dragons’ Den has highlighted the benefits of equity funding for growth, but many North East entrepreneurs are reluctant to let go of part of their business despite the proven success of the approach. Regional venture capital company Northstar Ventures, which is currently investing in high growth businesses through the £25m Finance for Business North East (FBNE) Accelerator and £15m FBNE Proof of Concept Funds, is concerned a lack of understanding may be causing this reluctance. Alasdair Greig, Director of Northstar Ventures, commented: “Many entrepreneurs are reluctant to accept an equity investment and would much rather raise funds by way of loan. This

appears to be driven largely by a fear of losing control of their businesses, something that was confirmed recently by research published by the CBI. However what entrepreneurs need to realise is that by raising equity investment, they are then able to concentrate on what really matters, such as product development and sales without having to worry about the short-term pressures of servicing and repaying debt.” Raising capital by selling shares in an enterprise is a tried and tested method to start or indeed scale an enterprise with strong potential. As a form of investment, it has major benefits: not only does it provide a funding platform to develop the business, but it also brings with it investors with a vested interest

in the company’s success. The investors need to be chosen carefully, but could bring significant benefits in terms of expertise, experience and networks, as well as the ability to invest further funds as the business progresses.

Over £80m Under Management in theSuccessful North East Building HighFinance Growth Businesses for Business North East Proof of Concept Fund

For more information about Northstar Ventures, please visit www.northstarventures.co.uk or call 0191 229 2770. The FBNE Funds are backed by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Investment Bank.

Finance for Business North East Accelerator Fund

Over £80m Under Management in the North East

Building Successful To access these funds or find out more, please call 0191 229 2770 or visit www.northstarventures.co.uk High Growth Businesses Finance for Business North East Proof of Concept Fund Finance for Business North East Accelerator Fund

Building Successful

To access these funds or find out more, please call 0191 229 2770 Over £80m or visit www.northstarventures.co.uk High Growth Businesses under Management in the North East Over £80m Under Management • Finance for Business North East in the North East Proof of Concept Fund

• Finance for Business North East Finance for Business North East Proof of Concept Fund Accelerator Fund Finance for Business North East Accelerator Fund To out access theseplease funds or find out more, please call 0191 229 2770 To access these funds or find more, call or visit www.northstarventures.co.uk 0191 229 2770 or visit www.northstarventures.co.uk Northstar Ventures Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

ENTERPRISING THE REGION

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Northstar Ventures Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14


NEWS

SPRING 14

>> Capital gain for sofa firm Simon Johnson (left) of NEL and Gordon Mockett of Smiles

>> Investment success leads to expansion and jobs A specialist North East engine repowering firm is gearing up to expand and create jobs after securing a second tranche of investment. Last year Newcastle based Smiles Engineering received a six-figure investment from the Finance for Business North East Growth Fund administered by NEL Fund Managers. It used the cash to invest in a range of new equipment, staff training, software and systems requirements. It has now secured a second similar sum to provide the working capital to implement the latest phase of its development plans, which include upgrading its design capabilities and enhancing its diagnostic software. An independent engine reconditioning and repowering firm, it works with leading transport industry names to re-engineer buses’ existing power systems. Based on the Brunswick Industrial Estate and led by engineer Gordon Mockett, Smiles also plans to develop its relationship with Cummins, the world’s largest designer and manufacturer of diesel engines, and aims to achieve Cummins Service Level Dealership status, which will open up a range of new commercial opportunities with customers both within and outside the North East. Smiles is looking to bring more of its engineering and analytical activities in-house and it aims to build on the six new jobs it has created over the last year, which has taken the total workforce to 29. Mockett said: “Our relationship with Cummins is already strong, but strengthening it further with the new dealership and strategic bus engine repower agreement that we’re aiming for will give us the opportunity and credibility needed to target a wider range of operators that use their equipment, including several based within the North East. “Widening the range of work we undertake ourselves and improving our in-house skills set through strategic recruitment and training will also mean we’re able to keep more revenue within the business, and will give us even more control over the detail and quality of the work we do.”

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14

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A high society London location is to be home to bespoke furniture made in the North East as the company behind it expands thanks to a £100,000 loan. Gateshead-based The Original Sofa Company specialises in using traditional methods to manufacture Chesterfield furniture by hand, and also stocks one of the UK’s largest collections of second-hand, antique and vintage Chesterfields. A new showroom off Sloane Square in London is intended to increase visibility in what is already its most important UK market, with plans for in-store concessions at leading department stores and a New York showroom. To help fund the development, The Original Sofa Company has worked with regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers to secure a £100,000 investment from the Finance For Business North East Growth Fund that NEL administers. Further capital has also being provided by The Funding Circle, HSBC and the firm’s management team. Based on Team Valley, the 13 year-old firm’s sales are evenly split between trade clients and individuals, with orders coming in from across the UK and a range of overseas markets, including China, North America, mainland Europe and Scandinavia. Seven people are employed at the firm’s Team Valley premises, which serve as manufacturing facility and showroom, with at least four further jobs expected to be created. David Robinson, founder and managing director of The Original Sofa Company, said: “We’ve got a strong online presence which is serving us very well, but for purchases of this type, people want to get a tangible experience of the products that they’re considering, so a ‘bricks and clicks’ business model enables us to meet this need. “We have customers travelling great distances to see us, from as far afield as Italy, Germany and even South Korea. The new London showroom will give us greater access to a market in which we’re already finding great demand for our products. “The North East will remain our base as the company develops, with plans already in place to recruit a further two upholsterers.”

ENTERPRISING THE REGION


up to

What type of businesses can apply? EUROPEAN UNION Investing in Your Future

European Regional Development Fund 2007-13

• Actively trading small or medium sized businesses (less than 250 staff) based in the North East • Turnover generated predominately from business to business trading • Planning to grow the business

Apply now www.nbsl.org.uk/nebsf-application Enquiries

fundingsupport@nbsl.org.uk Call: 01670 813322

What is on offer? • Up to 40% support to a maximum of £1,400 • Assistance to find the right provider if required • Links to other complementary funding in the North East


NEWS

SPRING 14

Mark Sherwood

>> New contracts strengthen team A County Durham specialist building repair company has added to its team of lightning protection engineers after winning more contracts. STS Lightning Protection division, part of Darlington-based Stone Technical Services Group, has secured several new contracts including designing and installing systems for York Park and Ride, on the outskirts of the city, and for the Bonding Warehouse development in York, which has undergone a multi-million re-development to turn the 19th century listed building into executive apartments. In addition, following the completion of a range of restoration works at Todmorden Town Hall for Calderdale Council, STS is returning to the grade I-listed building to install a suitable lightning protection network. To help with the increased workload, STS has recruited another specialist, Mark Sherwood, to add to its 15-strong team. Managing director Dave Stone, said: “Lightning protection installation is so niche and the industry is desperate for not only new recruits but also highly-skilled experts. Our team has a combined experience of more than 100 years in this field and it’s great to be able to train new apprentices whilst attracting such incredible experience.” The company, based in Kellaw Road in Darlington, provides specialist lightning protection installation to help prevent damage to buildings caused by lightning strikes and also to ensure that systems are compliant for insurance purposes. The company employs a team of 40 and has offices in Edinburgh, Middlesex, Central London and Cheshire.

>> Synergi aims high North East businessman Peter Joynson has set up a new company to drive the next generation of IT business technology tools. He and a team of technology specialists have established Synergi Software Solutions in Gateshead to introduce regional and national companies to the full range of new specially designed business applications (apps) and Microsoft technologies, such as SharePoint

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14

East. Before that he and his brother Mark ran Team Valley based financial software business, Joynson, which was acquired by TSG more than 10 years ago. “The timing felt right for a change,” he said. “Changes in IT and an evolution in business focussed technology solutions coincided with a desire to do things myself again – to rebuild a culture where we all enjoy being part of a smaller family-style business. “We want an agility that a fresh and focussed business gives us. We want to establish a culture that’s a great place to work and where we are regarded by others as great to deal with; easier to deal with; where there is a real can-do attitude.” Joynson is joined at Synergi by director David Kaye, who was also a former director at TSG where he held the posts of regional sales director and managing director of ERP. David Charlton has also joined the team as a senior consultant. He was previously at TSG and was a director at Joynson more than 10 years ago. Another Synergi director is Martyn Cuthbert who, through his own Tyneside business Ontrac, holds a stake in the company. Ontrac designs, builds and maintains information management systems for a national range of clients from local SMEs to international bluechip groups, such as Network Rail.

We want an agility that a fresh and focused business gives us >> New IoD head revealed

and Office 365. By promoting Microsoft business technologies, Synergi also aims to exploit the growing opportunity for SMEs to use cloud based software solutions. Synergi, which aims for an annual turnover of £2m in under three years, is currently recruiting skilled technical and sales people. Joynson was a director and former managing director of IT support companies TSG North

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Graham Robb has been appointed chairman of the Institute of Directors North East. Robb, owner of Recognition Marketing and PR, succeeds Alastair Thomson, Dean of the Business School at Teesside University, who has completed his four-year term as chairman. Robb has served on the board of the IoD North East for several years and is on the board of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum. He founded his company in 1990 after

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working for the BBC and commercial radio. Today his business employs 14 staff and has a portfolio of more than 70 clients, employing more than 40,000 people, and based throughout the UK. He said: “I am passionate about the North East and being involved in projects that help promote and drive the economic wellbeing of the region forward. “Running my own company for nearly 25 years has given me real insight into the needs of business and I look forward to using this experience for the benefit of the IoD North East and its members. “Part of my new role will be representing local businesses at regional and national level and helping encourage the powers-that-be to create the environment needed for North East companies to grow and develop.” Alastair Thomson said: “I have greatly enjoyed my time at the helm of the IoD North East and will continue to support its work in the region. “I wish Graham well as the new chairman. Through his company he has acquired an indepth knowledge of a wide range of sectors, which will prove invaluable to the IoD North East and its membership.“

>> Specialist knowledge A team of financial specialists have launched Opencast Financial, OCF, in Newcastle to offer advice on mortgages, insurance and investments. Joel Marks, who previously managed £17bn of funds for Scottish Widows, Laura Sykes, former partner of London commercial property consultancy DE&J Levy, Mike O’Brien, who runs Opencast Software and local investor and entrepreneur Charlie Hoult have cofounded the business. The firm plans to use experience in investment, marketing, software and property to drive growth. Opencast’s aim is to provide advice on mortgage finance selecting products and tracking mortgages and re-mortgages. It has opened an office on Clayton Road in Jesmond and also has a new website. “We believe it’s all about understanding our customers,’’ says Joel Marks, OCF’s managing director.

ENTERPRISING THE REGION

NEWS

Bill and Helen Logan

>> Every little helps as supermarket backs local tea blenders Less than a month after celebrating the roll-out of their tea into North East Tesco stores, Northumberland couple Bill and Helen Logan are savouring further sales to the supermarket giant. Their Northumberland Tea, backed by Ashington-born 1966 World Cup winner Jack Charlton, is to go onto shelves in 38 of Tesco’s North West outlets. It takes the number of Tesco branches across Northern England now selling the brew to 104. It means the special triple blend of Assam, Kenyan and Sri Lankan (Ceylonese) teas launched to honour England’s Border County by the pair in May last year, is now available to buy from nearly 250 major high street and smaller independent retail outlets. Helen Logan said: “We were delighted to get into 66 North East Tesco stores in mid-February and hadn’t anticipated seeing the tea rolled out across Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Cheshire less than a month later. “But it has, which shows not just the strength of the Northumberland Tea brand but the quality of the product too. We want to see Northumberland Tea become as big as Yorkshire Tea here in the UK and the Tesco tie-in is a fantastic start to achieving that dream. “We are exceptionally pleased that Tesco has chosen to work with us and to stock our tea.” Helen, 45, and Bill, 56, who live just outside Corbridge, Northumberland, and who used to run a chain of coffee shops across the North of England, have also added a number of new independent outlets to their growing portfolio of stockists in the last few weeks, including Allendale Co-operative, The Lavender Tearooms at Etal Village, New Market Nibbles and The CurlyFarmer, both of Morpeth, and The Old Stables, Alnwick. It takes the number of stand-alone shops, cafes and restaurants between Berwick and Harrogate now carrying the tea to 141, with more expected to come on board in the coming weeks. But the Tesco link-up marks the biggest deal yet for the Logans’ beverage, which is marketed under the taglines ‘The best cup since 1966,’ alluding to the part Jack Charlton played in England’s famous World Cup win, and ‘Made for Northumbrians…and tea lovers everywhere.’ The couple are now working on perfecting a new Early Grey blend – the great British reformer’s ancestral seat was at Howick Hall near Alnwick, Northumberland – with a view to launching it onto the market this summer.

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INTERVIEW

SPRING 14

TWO DECADES OF BUSINESS SUPPORT Sunderland’s North East BIC is 20 years old this year. Chief executive Paul McEldon talks to Peter Jackson about the centre’s success and future plans

Anniversaries are times for taking stock and for celebration, but also for looking to the future. Paul McEldon who heads up North East BIC, the 14-acre business support centre on the north bank of the Wear, which provides incubator space to businesses and also support to businesses on and off site, hardly has time for celebration or reflection. The BIC, which is home to more than 130 businesses, is busy with various initiatives and programmes to support enterprise in the North East. It provides a portfolio of services including innovation support, marketing and ICT expertise. It recently announced a merger with the South Shields based business support organisation Tedco which delivers business support contracts throughout the North East via outreach facilities. In aggregate the two agencies helped to create more than 2,000 businesses last year. Eight staff have transferred to the BIC and will operate out of it. McEldon explains: “We have two big organisations merging together to deliver

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14

across a wider geographical area. Sunderland and South Tyneside councils are co-operating more closely together politically and this reflects that.’’ For the first time in its history the BIC has also extended its physical presence beyond Sunderland. It will operate Darlington’s new Business Growth Hub on the town’s Central Park Enterprise Zone near the railway station. The Hub, which will open next year, will house up to 64 businesses. “We have worked very closely with the council on the design,’’ says McEldon. “It’s a big thing for us to move out of just delivering in Sunderland. We’ll need new

staff, we’ll need to expand.’’ If Darlington is a success, is it something the BIC would like to repeat? McEldon doesn’t hesitate. “We definitely would, it’s what we feel comfortable doing.’’ The BIC was set up in 1994. It followed a business trip by Jules Preston, then chief executive of Sunderland Tec to Barcelona where he was shown a business incubator site. “The shipyards had just shut in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear Development Corporation were reclaiming the land down here and the environment for business start-up or small business was challenging to say the least,’’ says McEldon. “The Tec board decided that >>

When we started helping businesses 20 years ago, the number of female start-ups was about 26%, it’s now 44%. The rise of female entrepreneurship has been definitely one of the trends over the last 20 years

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We are conscious that we have helped a lot of businesses set up and we’ve obviously got physical space for the bigger companies but we know there are a whole load of businesses out there that can feel quite lonely and exposed we needed to try to do something to support the entrepreneurial culture.’’ The BIC was set up as a Tec not-for-profit spin-out company. It also received some initial investment from Nissan and Northern Electric and some ERDF funding. So, work started on the first phase and now, 20 years later, eight phases have been completed and all the land is occupied. Over that time there have clearly been many changes. About 60% of the people the BIC helps to set up in business are unemployed, which McEldon doubts has changed much over the period. However, there has been a significant shift in the gender of those starting out. “When we started helping businesses 20 years ago, the number of female start-ups was about 26%, it’s now 44%,’’ he says. “The rise of female entrepreneurship has been definitely one of the trends over the last 20 years.’’ Unsurprisingly, there are now far more digital and IT businesses. “When we set off 20 years ago, if the heating went off it created chaos, now, if we turned the heating off, nobody would notice, as long as the internet was still going. It’s different priorities for business and things have changed dramatically. The internet is massive now, both for the types of business that are coming on site and for the reliability of IT. “We have got the new software centre, which was the second development of the Sunderland Software City and we have eight companies in there now.’’ By the end of August the BIC Cloud should also be up and running. “We know what small businesses go through,’’ says McEldon. “Having to buy a server and not to be able to do back-ups and

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have mobility is a big thing. We have decided to invest in a BIC cloud, so that any business on site can buy into the cloud at a competitive price. Rather than buy their own servers, we are going to have a batch of servers and we’ll have a bespoke pic’n’mix menu of software they can buy as they use it - software as a service.’’ Microsoft and various other software products will sit on the BIC server and any business can pay for them per user without needing licences. “Businesses don’t have to buy licences and servers and have a big capital input up front where they still don’t have back-ups and mobility,’’ he says. “We are investing about £75,000 in a cloud which will allow them to buy into that and pay as they use it. If you’ve got 10 staff all needing Microsoft Excel, if somebody’s off for three weeks sick, you only pay for nine for that month or if you shut down over Christmas, you only pay for what you use.’’ The BIC has also set up the Centre for Digital Business to get non digital businesses to understand the benefits of the digital world and it is talking to various local authorities and enterprise agencies about getting SMEs to use the digital world to enhance their business. The growth of IT has also meant an expansion in the numbers of people able to run businesses from their own homes and this has prompted another BIC initiative. “We are setting up something called BIC Open Space, which is a co-working/homeworking/ space,’’ he says. “We help a lot of people set up in business off-site. We help about 150 or so people per annum set up in business, who are not based here. A lot of them work from home, a lot of them don’t have any interaction

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with other businesses and a lot of them don’t have any access to business support. Daft things happen like the computer going wrong and suddenly the business is up the Swanee because they have to take it to PC World. “We are conscious that we have helped a lot of businesses set up and we’ve obviously got physical space for the bigger companies but we know there are a whole load of businesses out there that can feel quite lonely and exposed. We are trying to create a space where they can come in and use it, it’s hotdesking plus business support. If they want, they can use it as a virtual address and they can use it as a facility to either meet people, customers or just other businesses. We are just trying to create that environment where they can come back and hopefully create a better environment for them to survive and grow.’’ The BIC has also launched the Innovation Programme, an ERDF funded programme by which the BIC works with SMEs in the North East which have an innovation - a product or a process - teaming them up with innovation specialists to help them project manage the integration of that innovation into their business or to commercialise it. It can also provide 40% of any externally bought in support that the company needs to bring that innovation to fruition. “We have gathered together a batch of innovation providers and innovation specialists in the North East and we are matching them up with innovative companies to help them bring that innovation to the marketplace,’’ says McEldon. “It has been going for nearly two years. We have 40 businesses that have either been there and done it or are in the process of going through it. They will create or have created more than 100 jobs - well above the targets we were set by government.’’ Under another programme, the BIC is working with a local training provider. “When they are trying to get 16 to 17 year olds out into businesses for apprenticeships and jobs, it’s quite hard, even if they are relatively cheap,’’ he explains. Most businesses would rather take an 18 to 19-year-old. “We came to a deal whereby we would take a batch of 16 to 17 year-olds on and employ them in the BIC for eight weeks and give >>

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them proper work experience. They went round with our IT department, our marketing department, one at a time. “We made sure they came in on time, made sure they dressed correctly and made sure they put their mobile phones away. One 16-year old lad did a test answering the phone and was really good and then said, `You know what, that’s only the second time I’ve picked up a phone in my life. We’ve got a phone in the house but it hardly every goes off and if it does my mum and dad answer it.’ You just assume kids learn things at home that they bring to work but they don’t always. “Once they have gone through the eight weeks, we put them out into tenants if tenants want them for a period of time. Of the 10 or 12 that we have put into tenants, eight of them have got permanent jobs. We have taken on one of the apprentices ourselves because she was so good.’’ A key issue for all businesses is sales and it is one which the BIC has moved to address with its interim sales director programme. Done in collaboration with a consultant, David Anderson, the scheme provides a sales specialist to a business which could not afford a full time sales director. The business only pays on results and the BIC is paid a percentage of any increase in turnover after the first year. “If we don’t have an effect, we don’t get paid, which is quite risky for us,’’ says McEldon.“ We know what small businesses are like. They just can’t afford the cost without knowing there are going to be some benefits to them. When you look at the different stages of businesses growing - and they do grow in a quite defined way - the vast majority of businesses grow in stages. Once they set off with their business, they usually then get admin in some shape or form to answer the phone while they are out doing whatever they are doing, then they usually try to get a sales person in. “Everybody wants more sales and if you are not that way inclined and have set your business up because you are interested in the product, getting some good sales advice is vital but generally quite risky and generally quite expensive. It’s an interim way of trying to prove the benefit of sales input.’’

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After 20 years the BIC is attracting interest from the rest of the UK and around the world. “We’ve had visitors from Iraq, Lebanon and all over the UK. We are part of the European BIC network. We have been out to help people set up incubators in Turkey and the Ukraine.’’ It is hardly surprising – the BIC has a good story to tell. Since 1994, the complex has accommodated more than 500 businesses and has helped to create 7,000 jobs. The complex now includes executive offices and incubator units, as well as bio-science labs and large industrial facilities. The BIC has helped more than 2,500 businesses to start up in the Tyne and Wear area and has achieved a survival rate which outstrips the national average, with more than 75% of businesses continuing to trade into their third year. In the years the BIC has been operating tenant companies have generated a turnover of £400m. Many of the businesses nurtured by the BIC are life-style businesses – those which provide a living for the owner but with no great growth ambitions and little prospect of taking on staff. But this does not worry McEldon. He says: “They are usually the businesses that give a lot of satisfaction because it’s usually somebody doing something they really want to do. Most lifestyle businesses are people doing stuff they are really skilled in or that they are really enthusiastic about and they make a lifestyle choice about moving into that particular sector. And they tend to be happier – when it works. I think it’s a really good thing and shouldn’t be underestimated.’’ At the other end of the scale, the BIC has been – and still is – home to big businesses which have become important players in the regional economy, such as Leighton and Onyx Scientific.

Many more of the BIC’s businesses are making an impression, not just beyond the region, but outside the UK. McEldon says: “A high percentage of our tenants have exported. That doesn’t mean that all of their stuff is exports but more than 50% of our tenants have exported. You suddenly realise how many times DHL or FedEx are coming onto the site and you can’t get parked for their vans.’’ There is no great secret about the BIC’s success. “We do believe it’s because of the exposure to business support that we give those companies both from our own staff and making sure that they get absolutely everything that’s available to them from other bodies,’’ says McEldon. “We don’t profess to be advising every business on site on everything but we make sure they are exposed to absolutely everything that’s available from other bodies. If somebody needs to speak to UKTI or Mas or Growth Accelerator or whatever, we just make sure that they get it. We’ve got great relationships with the local authority, so if there’s any support from the local authority we can give to the businesses we make sure they get that. We have good links with the university as well, we have graduate internships promoted throughout all the businesses to make sure they take advantage of that.’’ He adds: “We try to take away as much of the hassle of running a business from the businesses so that they can get on with the bits that got them into setting up the business which is usually about the product or the service or the customers. “So if we can take away as much of the hassle as possible it helps them to become more successful.’’ n

We don’t profess to be advising every business on site on everything but we make sure they are exposed to absolutely everything that’s available from other bodies

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ENTERPRISING THE REGION


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INTERVIEW

SPRING 14

BE GROUP WORKS FOR REGIONS GROWTH Independent business services group BE Group is driving entrepreneurial growth across the region and beyond, as Peter Jackson discovers talking to Suzanne McCreedy North East businesses recently secured another £30m of government money to expand and create jobs as part of the highly successful Let’s Grow initiative. The government approved a second tranche of finance from the Regional Growth Fund (RGF), to provide grant support for capital investment and R&D projects creating or safeguarding jobs in the region. The first fund was launched 18 months ago and so far £25m has been awarded to more than 60 businesses across the North East, creating or safeguarding 3,000 jobs. The latest grant extends the life of the scheme until the end of 2016. It is expected that the programme, which is supported by the two Local Enterprise Partnerships, the region’s 12 local authorities and Northumbria and Teesside universities will also attract a further £150m of private sector funding. This was cause for great celebration at County Durham based independent business services group BE Group, which

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is responsible for the administration of Let’s Grow, working with business advisers and chartered accountants UNW who provide the technical support and appraise applications, and The Journal and Evening Gazette. “It’s great that we’ve got another £30m,’’ says BE Group national services director Suzanne McCreedy. “It’s a grant based support programme but it’s aimed primarily at larger projects where people are looking at growth. We are offering grants from £50,000 and up to £1m and a level of support of between 10% and 25%.’’ Let’s Grow represents a significant success for the North East, but it is only one of the many initiatives and programmes being handled by BE Group. McCreedy provides an impressive list. BUSINESS NORTHUMBERLAND BE Group delivers Business Northumberland on behalf of >>

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We’ve got one-to-one business advisers on the ground and a workshop programme to supplement that coming up on different topics around starting a business

Northumberland County Council and Arch, the Northumberland Development Company. It’s a business support service for people who are thinking about starting a business or want to grow a business in the county. “Our primary focus is on South East Northumberland to support start-ups in that area, in accordance with Northumberland County Council’s strategic plan’’ explains McCreedy. “We’ve got one-to-one business advisers on the ground and a workshop programme to supplement that coming up on different topics around starting a business. To support the rest of Northumberland we have a telephone based advice service and a website plus a mentoring service to match them up with mentors on their start-up journey. It’s a comprehensive service. It’s also flexible to provide what the business needs, whether that’s help in sourcing suppliers or just to write a business plan or on setting up social media.’’ At the end of April BE Group is organising a Start your Business Exhibition at Woodhorn Museum near Ashington, featuring seminars from key speakers and successful Northumbrian entrepreneurs. It is expecting to attract 200 people.

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INVESTMENT FOR GROWTH Investment for Growth, backed by the European Regional Development Fund, offers a direct route to financial assistance, access to an experienced business adviser and investment for projects that create or safeguard jobs. Also managed by the BE Group, it is available to SMEs actively trading and based in the North East which plan to improve their business through investing in growth projects and it provides grants of up to 40% of the total project value. More than 800 businesses have been assisted through the fund for a range of projects. “It’s for established businesses only which want to undertake some sort of development project within the business for business improvement. We can provide a grant of up to 40% towards the cost,’’ says McCreedy. “That has been running for a couple of years and has been very successful.’’ It covers areas such as business planning, website design and development, process improvement, quality management standards, accessing new markets and software development. GO DIGITAL Funded by Newcastle City Council and backed by the European Regional Development Fund, Go Digital Newcastle aims to make superfast, super-reliable broadband available to 97% of homes and businesses in Newcastle. The business support programme is delivered by the BE Group on behalf of Newcastle City Council, and provides businesses in Newcastle with the following free services: • One-to-one business support from specialist business advisers, including strategic business planning, marketing, website support and advice on the best use of technology for their business. • Workshops and skilled masterclasses delivered by expert advisers. Topics include website development, social media for business and search engine optimisation. • Up to 50% funding is available for related equipment and consultancy projects to a maximum of £2,000. “The main driver of the service is the one-toone support,’’ explains McCreedy.

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INNVISAGE Innvisage is a BE Group programme to supply business intelligence experts who provide development, deployment, management and ongoing support of business intelligence solutions using the QlikView business information platform. Solutions offered, combined with BE Group’s business consulting service, enable organisations to use critical information to aid decision making and improving business processes. BQ BE Group’s publishing arm is responsible for the BQ magazine series published regionally throughout the UK and now in the Baltic region. It is also responsible for the free morning business news bulletin BQ breakfast and for organizing a number of events. BQ is hosting a BQ Emerging Entrepreneur Dinner at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead on Friday 6 June to bring together entrepreneurs from across the North East. The magazine will be inviting entrepreneurs it has featured, along with others, challenging them to bring along an “up and coming’’ entrepreneur, who could be someone they have mentored, guided or who has simply caught their eye. The dinner will primarily be a celebration of entrepreneurship but will also provide an opportunity to formally recognise two entrepreneurs from the region who will be judged – based on a short written submission – by a small select panel. The North East event will be one of a series of four held in each region where BQ magazine is published. Sister events are being held in Scotland, Yorkshire and the West Midlands. The eight finalists will then be invited to attend the MADE 2014 Festival Gala Dinner on 22 to 26 September in Sheffield – a £450,000 business extravaganza is expected to attract 4,500 business owners and managers from all over the UK. The week-long series of events will be operated by The BE Group. The eight short-listed entrepreneurs will attend the Gala Dinner as VIP guests, where one will be recognised as the BQ Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year. >>

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INTERVIEW

SPRING 14

SPACE CATAPULT BE Group is also part of a consortium including Business Durham, the regional LEPs and universities and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership supporting the North East Satellite Applications Catapult Centre of Excellence. This is one of three regional centres of excellence across the UK, operating with support from the Satellite Applications Catapult, part of the UK’s network of technology and innovation companies, set up by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), to drive economic growth in key sectors. It provides SMEs and large companies in the North East with the opportunity to tap into the UK’s multibillion pound space sector through direct access to a programme of industry and technical events, world class academic expertise and business development tools and support. It engages with all businesses including those operating within key North East industries which can use satellite applications (technology and data) to gain a competitive advantage such as: offshore oil, gas and renewable technologies; transport and logistics; and software and applications development. n

The eight short-listed entrepreneurs will attend the Gala Dinner as VIP guests, where one will be recognised as the BQ Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14

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COMPANY PROFILE

Need a head start? Growth Vouchers could help your business to stay ahead of the competition How much are you able to invest in strategic and professional advice? For many small businesses this is a tough decision as other costs take over. The Government identified that the cost of advice can often act as a barrier to small businesses – those for whom the investment in advice may in fact provide the greatest results. In January 2014 the Growth Vouchers programme launched a £30m fund aimed at encouraging small businesses to seek professional advice to help address key business issues such as raising finance, managing staffing costs and implementing company pension schemes in line with new Auto Enrolment rules. WHY GROWTH VOUCHERS? It’s well recognised that statistically businesses are more likely to grow and succeed if they have a ‘financial business plan’ in place. However, there are many areas where an equivalent business plan will also help to generate growth and help to focus the direction of the business. The Growth Vouchers programme recognises this and provides the ability to seek financial support for advice across a range of key business areas, not just the financial aspects. Growth Vouchers can provide a small business with a contribution of up to £2,000 towards the cost of obtaining advice in the following areas of business strategy: • Finance and cash flow • Recruitment and staff development • Improving leadership and management skills • Marketing, attracting and keeping customers • Making the most of digital technology The funding is for up to 50% of the cost of strategic advice, up to a limit of £4,000 in fees. WHO CAN APPLY? The Growth Vouchers scheme is open to any business based in England that has been running for over one year, has fewer than 49 employees and has not sought “strategic advice” in the last three years. Strategic advice has been defined as ‘counsel such as developing a financial, marketing

ENTERPRISING THE REGION

Apply now to stay ahead of the game!

or growth strategy, exploring how digital technologies can be used to improve productivity, and undertaking a skills audit, to name but a few’. A company will not be precluded from receiving a Growth Voucher simply because it has received “day to day” legal or accountancy advice such as accounting or bookkeeping services. WHERE CAN YOU USE THEM? Growth Vouchers have to be used to obtain advice from an accredited Growth Voucher adviser. The list of advisers who are registered with the scheme can be found on the Enterprise Nation Marketplace website https://marketplace.enterprisenation. com/about The types of projects which we’ve been able to advise clients on, which can benefit from the Growth Vouchers programme, include: • Business planning and forecasting • Raising finance • Staff remuneration

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• Retention planning • Pensions strategies (including compliance with Auto Enrolment). Tait Walker is an accredited Growth Vouchers adviser and our Growth Vouchers profile can be viewed on the Enterprise Nation Marketplace. HOW TO APPLY? The Growth Voucher application process is online and can be accessed from https://marketplace. enterprisenation.com/about Following submission you will be contacted and advised on the next steps (if successful)

For further information contact Alastair Wilson on 0191 285 0321, he can talk you through the process and advise on areas where your business could benefit from the vouchers.

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14


CASE STUDY

SPRING 14

HELPING TO MAKE GREAT IDEAS PAY

Many firms are good at innovating but need help to make it work for the business. Fortunately that help is now at hand

Innovation is one thing, but getting it to work and to pay is something else. The Innovation Programme is designed to help businesses do just that. It is an ERDF funded programme by which the North East BIC works with SMEs in the North East that are looking at innovating, either a product or a process. The BIC partners them with innovation specialists who can help the company to bring that integration into their business and commercialise it. The programme also pays for 40% of any support that the company needs to buy in to make the innovation work. The Innovation Programme uses £724,000 of ERDF investment and is part financed by the European Union’s ERDF Competitiveness Programme 2007 – 2013. FIRM HAS ITS FINGER ON THE PULSE A North East biometric manufacturer iEvo is launching new products and breaking into new markets, thanks to the North East SME Innovation Programme. Founded in 2009, the company designs and manufactures biometric fingerprint scanners for the security and access control market. Identifying a clear gap in the security industry for a product that could function in a number

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of different environments but remain reliable, the team created the iEvo ultimate fingerprint reader, which can scan a user’s fingerprint even while submerged in water, in temperatures as low as -20°C and with certain substances such as oil, dirt, grease and cream present on the skin. With the iEvo ultimate reader gaining popularity in the industry, the team developed the iEvo micro which suits internal applications while retaining some of the original iEvo ultimate features. The company claims that these two products have now become the benchmark of biometric innovation in terms of technology, reliability and integration. Shaun Oakes, managing director of iEvo, says: “Both products are now well established within the security industry and have generated quite a loyal following from security installers in the UK and overseas. We’re always listening to our customers and we felt like the next step was offering them the opportunity to customise our products to suit their project or specification. “We were able to fund this particular research for product updates through the Innovation Programme where they gave us the support to finance the prototypes for our new technology requirements to allow for testing and development. The simplicity of working within

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the programme really helped us move our plans forward and having secured the funds in February 2013 we are working towards launching several new additions to help accelerate our business and enter new markets that previously would have been inaccessible to us.” Chris Hylton, business and technical consultant for the Innovation Programme at the North East BIC, says: “It has been fantastic to work with iEvo on the programme. Their fingerprint scanners operate to military security standards and with the support of the North East SME Innovation Programme they can now offer this level of reliable robust operation to civilian, commercial, academic and public-sector applications with a large number of users without loss of security and with increased functionality covering these increasingly varied sectors.” STAYING ON TRACK A company specialising in renewable energy products has developed a solar device, with support from the Innovation Programme, to plug a gap in the market created by planning regulation changes. Hadrian Electrical Engineering, a Hexham based company established in 2010 to >>

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CASE STUDY

We’re always listening to our customers and we felt like the next step was offering them the opportunity to customise our products to suit their project or specification

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CASE STUDY install and service wind turbines and solar products, spotted a market opportunity for an innovative solar tracking system that would enable the company to expand its client base nationally. The company directors had previously operated in the dairy and refrigeration services industry before diversifying in response to the changing needs of the farming community. The idea for the small ground-mounted Solar PV Tracker, the first of its kind to be developed in the UK, was born out of changes to planning regulations which allowed tracking units of 3m sq and smaller to be installed in homes and businesses, without the need for planning permission. Working in partnership with Ron Jamieson, a former chief executive of the Resource Centre for Innovation and Design (RCID) at Newcastle University and a specialist in product development, Hadrian Electrical Engineering approached the North East BIC’s Innovation Programme for support in accessing funds to design and develop their product idea. Doug Martin from Hadrian Electrical Engineering, says: “We picked up on the changes in planning legislation and saw a real opportunity to develop a small solar tracking product here in the UK which could be accessible to both domestic and commercial users. With an already established network of distributors and a clear gap in the market for our product, we were confident that there would be a real opportunity for our Solar PV Tracker.” Through the Innovation Programme Hadrian Electrical Engineering was able to win funding towards product design and prototype development using Jamieson’s expertise. The company continues to access support and guidance through the Innovation Programme as it prepares to go into production. Martin adds: “The support we had from the Innovation Programme was really helpful. We were able to access valuable funds through the scheme that enabled us to kickstart our product development plans and to capitalise on the market opportunity which I believe has huge potential.” As a result of the success of this project a new company - Tracksun - was formed by Martin and Malcolm Archer of Hadrian Electrical

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Ron Jamieson, of Tracksun Ltd with BIC business and technical consultant Chris Hylton

With an already established network of distributors and a clear gap in the market for our product, we were confident that there would be a real opportunity for our Solar PV Tracker Engineering and Jamieson specialising in solar tracker sales and development. Tracksun is now operating from the same site as Hadrian Electrical Engineering. The BIC’s Chris Hylton says: “Hadrian Electrical Engineering is a perfect example of how a business can unlock its potential by embracing innovation. The company did this successfully the first time around when it diversified from its agricultural services operation and moved into the renewables sector, and we’re delighted that with the support of the

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Innovation Programme, the company has been able to build on this success by bringing to market their unique solar tracking product, fully developed here in North East England. “I hope even more businesses tap into the support available through the Innovation Programme to help them to do something new, different or operate more smartly; making a positive difference that could ultimately result in the business being more competitive or even experiencing a growth in profits.” n

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Coaching programme drives economic growth There’s still time for businesses in Northumberland to benefit from a fully-funded support programme that has already delivered new jobs and economic growth in the county The Business Northumberland High Growth Programme is being delivered by the UK’s leading specialist coaching company, Oxford Innovation. At the halfway stage of the programme, 55 client companies have been supported by Oxford Innovation’s team of expert coaches, recording between them a £5.3m increase in turnover and more than 60 jobs created or protected. Oxford Innovation’s work with high growth businesses forms part of the £1.35m Business Northumberland Programme which is funded by the North East European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is being delivered on behalf of Arch, The Northumberland Development Company and Northumberland County Council. Business Northumberland is a free service that provides support to start-ups and established companies with growth potential. Oxford Innovation’s programme manager, Mike Jobson, is delighted with what has been achieved so far: “We were always very ambitious about what could be achieved but the progress in the first 12 months is really quite startling. To see a combined increase in turnover almost four times the original investment is a clear signal of the effectiveness of the programme.” Clients to have participated to date include Ashington-based Aartoft, Solar Capture Technologies from Blyth, Amble’s Quest UAV and Morpeth’s Anarchy Brew Co. “For most clients, this has been their first experience of coaching,” said Mike. “Some have required very specific, practical support on business planning, sales forecasting or marketing while for others, we have provided mentoring for individuals or teams. I’ve been hugely impressed by the ingenuity and dedication of the businesses participating in the programme and by the receptive manner in which they have embraced

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Oxford Innovation’s Mike Jobson (left) and Steve Caseley from Solar Capture Technologies

As well as coaching me and my team, Mike has challenged all of us to review the way we worked individually and collectively and we’re already seeing the benefits with a much healthier looking order book and increased sales revenues the concept of coaching. “We concentrate on high growth businesses because these are the engine of the economy. They come from all sectors but commonly use innovation as the driver for growth. We work with them to develop their inherent potential and because no two businesses are the same our approach is unique in every instance.” Mike has been coaching businesses for 15 years, having previously held senior management roles with Alcan, Colgate Palmolive, Guinness and Diageo. One of the first Northumberland businesses to benefit from Mike’s expertise was

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Solar Capture Technologies. Mike worked with chief executive Steve Caseley to align Solar Capture Technologies more closely with its target markets. “We’ve long been regarded as world leaders in R&D but we spent too much time and effort looking inwardly towards our own sector and not reaching out to our potential customers,” said Steve. “As well as coaching me and my team, Mike has challenged all of us to review the way we worked individually and collectively and we’re already seeing the benefits with a much healthier looking order book and increased sales revenues.”

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Gill Hall is another of Oxford Innovation’s business coaches. With more than 20 years’ experience in senior corporate roles, Gill specialises in businessto-business marketing. Pre-fabricated bathroom manufacturer Aartoft is targeting an emerging UK market after Gill worked with owner, Niels Sandahl. “Our concept has been a feature of the Scandinavian construction industry for many years but we have recently seen an increase in UK demand due to the flexibility and durability of our pre-fabricated bathroom pods,” explained Niels. “For Aartoft to become the supplier of choice in this country, I knew we needed a permanent manufacturing facility here and a very specific UK marketing strategy. In 2013 we started production at our site in Northumberland and having worked with Gill and Oxford Innovation I am confident we are now well-placed to achieve growth in the UK.” For Chartered Marketer Gill, Aartoft was a perfect assignment: “The strategy we developed takes advantage of Niels’ experience and combines it with the creation of a corporate identity, message and set of core values that will resonate in the UK construction sector,” explained Gill. “The outcome not only establishes Aartoft in this country but it also takes the company full-circle as it looks to retain its customer base in Europe, exporting from the UK.” Amble-based QuestUAV manufactures small unmanned aircraft that carry digital photographic equipment for mapping and surveillance purposes. Having developed an award winning product QuestUAV founder Nigel King turned to Oxford Innovation to support him and his team in developing a strategy to take the company’s highly innovative product range into new markets. “We’ve got an incredibly talented technical team but to grow the business further we needed to reach new markets and that proved to be extremely challenging,” explained Nigel. “Mike’s wealth of experience in marketing has been so helpful and his ongoing support is providing us with the commercial focus we were previously lacking.” QuestUAV’s products are tried and tested in the most extreme environments but to achieve its full growth potential, the company needs to achieve increased sales in the commercial and private sector. As a former international marketing director, Mike Jobson was ideally placed to provide the

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COMPANY PROFILE

Oxford Innovation business coach Gill Hall pictured with Aartoft managing director Niels Sandahl at the Lynemouth firm’s manufacturing site

support Nigel and his team needed. “QuestUAV is a remarkable business producing this incredibly sophisticated range of airborne vehicles that are being flown in some of the most remote locations on the planet,” said Mike. “The team’s technical expertise is beyond question so my task was to instil a commercial mind-set alongside the scientific and engineering brilliance. As well as improving their sales techniques, we’ve also identified some key industrial sectors for QuestUAV to target very directly.” One of Mike’s most recent coaching assignments saw him return to his brewing industry roots. Husband and wife team Simon and Dawn Miles established Anarchy Brew Co in 2012 and they turned to the Business Northumberland High Growth Programme to support the next stage in their award-winning company’s development. “We set the business up with our own funds and that’s how we want to continue to operate,” said Simon. “However in order to create that self-sustaining future, we knew we needed to take some expert advice on planning our growth strategy. Brewing quality beer is what we know best but the actual running of the business is incredibly demanding so we recognised the time had come to take stock and plan properly for the future.” One of the issues Simon and Dawn face is in managing the rate of long-term growth in their business. “We want to expand but at the same

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time we want to remain niche and we won’t ever compromise on quality,” said Simon. “Having looked at all aspects of the business, Mike has set us a two-year target to increase production from 30 brewers’ barrels a week to 50 but with that sharp rate of increase comes issues around space, staffing and logistics.” Explaining his work with Anarchy Brew Co, Mike said: “The fundamentals of the business were all in place; a great product range, strong brand and most important, people with a talent and passion for what they do. I wanted to introduce some focus to Simon and Dawn’s efforts and to get them to work on their business as well as in it. “The drinks industry is highly competitive with discerning customers enjoying more choice than ever before,” said Mike. “Simon and Dawn have worked incredibly hard to establish Anarchy in the market and with their renewed focus and clear business plan I am convinced they are well set on the path to growth.” Oxford Innovation’s methods have proved successful elsewhere in the UK, where the organisation has worked with over 2,500 high growth businesses. And despite the challenging economic circumstances of recent years, Oxford Innovation has helped its clients across the UK access over £100 million of funding, creating or safeguarding more than 2,000 jobs. Andrew Farmer, Oxford Innovation’s director of coaching and performance said: “It is testament to the ambition and dynamism of these businesses that they continue to grow even in challenging economic times. We are delighted to have played our part in enabling them to grow and generate so many new jobs in Northumberland and elsewhere in the UK.”

Anyone wishing to find out more about the Business Northumberland High Growth Programme and how Oxford Innovation can potentially support their business should call 01670 528403, email northumberland@oxin.co.uk or visit www.businessnorthumberland.co.uk.

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TAKING PART Event Hosts – BIC Paul McEldon, chief executive Business and Innovation Centre, BIC Shaun Oakes, managing director of iEvo, manufacturer of integrated fingerprint biometrics, based in the Tyne Tunnel Trading Estate. David Dunn, chief executive of Sunderland Software City. Martyn Young, managing director of Sunderland-based First2Print. Di Gates, heads an agency called Stick Theory. Ken Dunbar, chief executive Sunderland Business Improvement District.

in association with

Kieron Goldsborough, managing director at Press Ahead, a full service creative agency based at the BIC.

FINDING SUCCESS FROM WITHIN The issue: How can SMEs in the region work smarter, be more innovative and look to new markets in order to support their own growth as well as helping boost the region’s economy?

Paul Callaghan, chairman the Leighton Group. Julie Skevington, business development manager for Growth Accelerator. Fiona Standfield, director of Newcastle Science City. John MacIntyre, dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences and pro vice chancellor University of Sunderland. Sue Houston, assistant director at Department of Business Innovation and Skills, Yorkshire, Humber and the North East. Pat Dellow, area commercial director for HSBC heading up the commercial banking team in the Tyne-Tees areas. In the chair: Caroline Theobald Also present: Peter Jackson (BQ)

Paul McEldon: “We use these events to give us an idea about what’s going on so that we can look at what we are doing and see if it’s what the world wants.’’ He said it was also to mark the BIC’s 20th anniversary. Throughout those 20 years a constant principle of the BIC has been to expose the businesses it nurtures to as much business support as possible to maximise chances of survival. “It’s a very simple model, the more chance it will survive, the more chance it will grow and the more chance it will pay the rent and the more money we’ve got as a social enterprise to be able to put back into the businesses. It’s a model we have stuck to and it has worked well. We have helped set up 3,500 start-ups since we started, we’ve had 600 businesses at this site and those businesses have created 8,000 jobs and the combined turnover of those businesses on site is £750m for that period and most of it is spent in the North East.’’ Caroline Theobald: Invited the participants

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to introduce themselves. Shaun Oakes: He said his company had done a lot of innovative planning over the last two years and explained how over the last year it has defined four key export markets. David Dunn: “The title of the debate gets things the right way round, it’s about private companies’ own growth to support economic growth. For too long the public sector has demanded private sector support without warranting whether it needs it.’’ Martyn Young: He said First2Print still classed itself as a small business. This year it will take on its 20th employee and is about to take another 6,500sq ft of space. The business had 40% growth last year and is hoping for 50% to 60% growth this year. “We started during the recession in the declining market of putting ink onto paper. Innovation is key to us, I don’t classify us as huge risk takers.’’ He said 70% of its work is out of the region. Di Gates: “I changed my business model completely from a traditional agency structure

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Venue: Meeting room at the BIC. BQ is highly regarded as a leading independent commentator on business issues, many of which have a bearing on the current and future success of the region’s business economy. BQ Live is a series of informative debates designed to further contribute to the success and prosperity of our regional economy through the debate, discussion and feedback of a range of key business topics and issues.

to one being based completely on 100% collaboration – best decision I ever made. Collaboration is the way forward. In this region collaboration is something we excel at.’’ Ken Dunbar: “There’s a huge amount happening in Sunderland and we need to retell the story and repackage the story. There’s an exciting future ahead, part of it will be about building events and creating a cultural hub.’’

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Kieron Goldsborough: He referred to the three elements of the debate: working smarter, innovation and new markets and said that in the North East we could work smarter by partnering, the key factor in innovation is creating time and an environment in which people can innovate and, as far as new markets go, exploiting markets a business already has is cheaper and more time-effective. Paul Callaghan: He outlined the history of the group from being the second business in the BIC 20 years ago when it was a text book publishing business. It got into the internet in 1992 as a domain name company which was sold in 2000. With the advent of broadband the group launched a company to manage big construction projects, 4Projects, subsequently sold to a US software giant. “Our business model has been one of innovation where we have tried to identify where the traditional way of doing things is about to change.’’ 4 Projects was followed by Communicate Corporation to use mass email. It also set up a video communications business which has now gone global. The group’s fastest growing business is Sales Cycle, to improve the efficiency of online retail, which is set to employ 150

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people in Sunderland, with offices in London, Washington DC, Singapore and Sydney. Julie Skevington: She said Growth Accelerator is partly government funded, to support high growth businesses. “We try to find out exactly what the barriers to the growth are and matching the right person to go into that business to help that business grow.’’ It also provides leadership training and works closely with UKTI and Mas. Fiona Standfield: She said there were four strands to Newcastle Science City: providing marketing and communications on behalf of Newcastle as a city of science; providing skills education community engagement support; it has a physical regeneration role being responsible for Science Central; providing business support to science and technology businesses working with SMEs and student entrepreneurs. John MacIntyre: “There is commonly a perception of business and universities being on either side of some kind of divide. But a university is a business. Sunderland is a £140m turnover business with the best part of 2,000 employees making a massive contribution to the local economy. Therefore the university

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understands business. Sunderland works closely with Nissan and across various other sectors. What the small businesses that we have worked with want is access to people, money, markets and knowledge. The university provides people in the shape of staff and students, it can work with businesses that want to access funding particularly where it supports R&D. In markets the university has an international footprint and it works in supply chain development, and the university’s knowledge is available and its specialist facilities. We want to be a porous institution so that knowledge can flow in and out of the institution easily.’’ Sue Houston: She said that now there are no longer RDAs and government offices there is desire for a single focal point for people to go to for help and support, so the department set up BIS Local, a team of which she is a member Pat Dellow: She referred to the title of the debate. “Smarter – from a banking point of view, how can we be smarter in supporting our businesses?’’ She conceded that banking hadn’t been smart enough in looking at alternative ways of providing finance and alternatives to bank funding. There is now innovation in >>

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banking and support for businesses to get into new markets. Caroline Theobald: “Let’s just play around with the ideas of partnership, collaboration, porosity and two-way flows.’’ Di Gates: She stressed that collaboration has to be honest and based on trust. “A lot of people fake it – bring partners in but still wanting to claim credit, or not being honest about the way in which people are working together, or not being honest about what everybody in the party wants out of it.’’ She believed that the culture is changing. “The smarter people running businesses now know that what makes things happen is the right combination of people getting together in the right environment to get things done.’’ Sadly, in too many organisations the safe procurement decisions are the ones that get rewarded. “Culturally, that inhibits and prevents innovation.’’ Caroline Theobald: John, you’re in a large organisation, you might be one of the ones she is talking about. John MacIntyre: “We are indeed. Elements of the regulatory frameworks around the way universities operate always get in the way of that. I do think it’s an issue, I would agree.’’ Di Gates: She said she did not think that

procurement issues were the problem but that there was a cultural issue with people in business not being given the space to take more risky decisions Kieron Goldsborough: He cited the example of answering one question for a tender which was `Tell us what makes you special’. He asked each of his team to think of one word and he collected 10 words for the tender. The client chose them and said it was because they felt they were prepared to do things differently. Caroline Theobald: “David, are you seeing a lot of collaboration in Software City?’’ David Dunn: “One of the real strengths that not many people in the North East are aware of is that there are a lot of self-formed groups.’’ He described groups of 25 or 100 people getting together to discuss technology development issues. “It doesn’t really happen anywhere else. I don’t know whether it’s the culture, or whether we just like going to the pub and talking.’’ He said that major IT companies in Software City, which might be expected to be in fierce competition were working together to solve problems. Paul Callaghan: He described how at a recent event he had asked a group of business people in the IT sector what the barriers to growth were in IT in the North East. Nobody said they

There is a perception of business and universities being on either side of some kind of divide. But a university is a business – John Macintyre

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had had difficulty raising finance or suitable premises. “I then said, `Hands up anybody who has got problems with labour supply,’ and every single hand went up.’’ He said that other problems had been - or were being - addressed but not the skills shortage. Pat Dellow: ”Skills shortage is one of the things we hear a lot about, businesses say they find it really difficult to recruit, especially skilled engineers. One of our larger companies is working with Teesside University, sponsoring a course around the subsea sector. I guess that’s quite innovative.’’ Sue Houston: “The EEF brought in an organisation called Primary Engineer and are going even further down the chain, into primary schools, working with the schools all the way through from primary through to university level, getting children interested and maintaining that interest throughout the school career to help them make the right choices, and to help the schools understand to share with their pupils and parents what the opportunities are.’’ Paul Callaghan: “The problem we have in the North East is that we have the lowest participation rate in higher education of anywhere in the country. In London, we are talking about 60% doing degrees, in Manchester it’s 40% to 45%, here it’s about 23% to 24%. That means we are always going to have a skills shortage.’’ He said this was particularly a problem for smaller businesses competing for skilled labour and success in creating so many IT businesses had made the problem more acute. John MacIntyre: He raised the question aired at a recent debate of graduates being ready

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for work and the different requirements and expectations of different businesses. “There was a small business expectation that they would be able to take a graduate and plump them straight into a business with no extra training and they would immediately add value to the business. That’s an ideal situation, but if they need technical skills which are very bespoke that’s very hard for a university to achieve. There’s a mismatch of expectations there.’’ Shaun Oakes: He emphasised that apprentices have to be taught and that while graduates have a wealth of knowledge they lack business experience. His business puts graduates on whatever additional courses it can find. “I look on them more as a long term investment. That shortage is there, but there are other ways to source people, providing you are under that clear understanding of what you want to achieve and, more importantly, that it might take you just a little bit longer.’’ Sue Houston: “That’s something the Department is very keen on, that businesses are taking that responsibility and doing that succession planning. We have an ageing workforce, we do need to do some serious work to put people in behind those that we are losing, never mind creating the additional jobs and looking at the new sectors.’’ Paul Callaghan: He pointed out that businesses reach a stage of growth when they are seeking to recruit experienced people. “That’s where we have the real shortage. We are now getting lots of businesses that have gone through the four or five person stage and are now looking at the 25 to 50 person stage. It’s when you are looking for an experienced

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programmer or sales person, that’s where we are really struggling here at the moment.’’ Shaun Oakes: He said his company had taken on three experienced people in the last year attracting them from larger businesses with a less corporate and more family type environment. “You do as a small business have some very good selling points yourself.’’ Caroline Theobald: “And that’s innovating.’’ Kieron Goldsborough: “We talked about graduates and apprentices leaving education and then being trained by businesses. I work with Cleveland College with their graphic design group and something I do, which I believe very strongly in, is I go into that course and teach them what I expect as a business owner. You can’t expect a graduate to come out work ready but the more clues I can give them as to what’s going to be expected of them, the better chance they’ve got of getting that job.’’ He also said 90% of those coming up for graduation are thinking of working outside the region. The region must sell itself better to retain that talent. Paul Callaghan: “We have a real problem in attracting people from outside the region.’’ Fiona Standfield: “Unless they’ve already been here.’’ Paul Callaghan: But he said that trying to attract people with no connection was difficult because of the salary differential and the fear of losing a place on the South East housing ladder. “We have a regional problem here which means we have to try to hold on to our graduates.’’ He said that 55% of Newcastle University’s students stay in the North East. “One of the few ways we can get people to move from other parts of the country and

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other parts of the world to the North East is through education.’’ Martyn Young: “We have taken three into our senior team which was very difficult.’’ His sector has not been innovative and skills are declining. If he recruits people from larger competitors he has to re-educate them. He said this was also a regional problem. “Apprentices are never work ready, our graduates are never work ready.’’ Caroline Theobald: “Julie, you work cross sector, is this something you find?’’ Julie Skevington: “We do have coaches to help businesses recruit the right people.’’ Growth Accelerator also offers help for leadership management training. Recruitment and retention is a common theme among companies that Growth Accelerator helps. Shaun Oakes: He said iEvo had used Growth Accelerator’s services to great effect and advised all businesses to take advantage of any such available support. Ken Dunbar: “For today’s young people, if you don’t fit into their values you’ve had it. The points around collaboration and the points around getting the culture right are precisely the things that should draw people in and if this is a feature of the North East, it’s how do you package that and sell it in a way that attracts people?’’ Caroline Theobald: “I’d like to bring Di in again here. Have you seen the culture change?’’ Di Gates: “I think it’s better now. I think the links with other people around the region and outside the region who can help are deeper. But one of the things I’m wondering as we are chatting is that 10 years ago we might have been sitting here saying how can we >>

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create an entrepreneurial culture, should we have more formal networks? Well, no. People have done it themselves. It’s the people who have got off their backsides to network with each other, those are the voices that need to be carried outside, not the formal networks. The difference we could make that would attract people in isn’t the formal networks. It’s the opportunity to work with like-minded, leading thinkers. How can we encourage them, what can we do to help those networks grow? I think the entrepreneurial culture is here, I think this is a region of doers as much as it is thinkers to be honest.’’ Fiona Standfield: “A lot of the work that we do is around undergrads at the university and it’s a really exciting area to be involved in to have an opportunity to work with young people who might have an idea that is not related to the course they are doing that they want to develop.’’ “How can we support the graduates to start-up a company and create some stickiness in the hope that when they graduate they’ll decide that not only is the North East a great place to live but, as well as that, it offers them a real career path which is

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what a lot of young people leave for because they see the opportunity out of the region.’’ She said that the university had secured a centre for doctoral training in Science Central for PhDs in cloud computing which will give young people an opportunity to develop a specialism. “It’s identifying those areas where Newcastle has real world class research going on and how we can use that to attract and retain some really exciting young people.’’ Martyn Young: He said that in the print industry there were no informal networks because of a fear of giving trade secrets away. Pat Dellow: “I think in the new industries they are more willing to share.’’ John MacIntyre: “One of the ways we can help is in the areas where there are big problems and open that up to small companies. I think Sunderland Software City is a great model for opening up the opportunities for SMEs to engage.’’ David Dunn: “One of the major challenges for opening up opportunities is for those with the problems not to second guess the solutions.’’ John MacIntyre: “Some of those innovations

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come from people finding solutions to problems people don’t realise they’ve got yet.’’ Caroline Theobald: “For innovators here, what have been the problems and how have you solved them?’’ Paul Callaghan: “I’ve found it’s people who work for me who come up with the really clever ideas. What we’ve always done is take an American model which is, if you come up with an idea, we’ll set it up as a separate company and you’ll get equity in it. It’s your idea, you’ll work with us to finance it and develop it but still it’s your idea. You give people the space to come up with the idea, not to be frightened of pitching an idea to you and, once they’ve seen two or three people do it in the past, and they’ve got the nice house and the big car, there’s an even greater incentive to do it.’’ Kieron Goldsborough: “It’s not just the financial incentives, it’s about being part of the team and not being afraid.’’ Di Gates: “On attracting people to the region, why do you need them in your office, what about homeworking? We have got collaborative tools.’’ She described employees who are based abroad. “Businesses have to question their model and work smarter by working remotely. It’s difficult because it requires almost a decentralised sense of leadership, it needs people in autonomous roles. There are two ways of getting teams working well together. One is putting them in a room with the boss and they work well because the boss will spot them if they take off early for lunch, the other is to get people working round a virtual table and they are there because they want to work together and they have a common goal. That team will work effectively whether it’s in the same office or not.’’ Pat Dellow: “I think we need to get the message out about what a fantastic place this is to work.’’ Di Gates: “No, you see that’s what I fundamentally disagree with. Good companies, good people with leaders don’t have to be in a place for it to work. One of the things we can offer is a strength of leadership that allows collaborative working.’’ She said people were attracted to businesses that give that flexibility. “There’s real value in that and you don’t

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have to move to the North East.’’ Sue Houston: She said that in Newton Aycliffe it wasn’t possible for Hitachi to design and build trains remotely. Ken Dunbar: He agreed with the point about home working but wondered how this would sit with making a city more vibrant and liveable in. “How do you do that without people gravitating to somewhere else because it’s easier to work remotely?’’ John MacIntyre: “If it allows a business based here to access talent and help the business to grow then why shouldn’t they do that? Some of the benefit of the business will be here.’’ Ken Dunbar: “It works well if everybody shares their locations but if you find some areas just become dead because nobody is using them then they become unliveable in and that’s the challenge. That’s what so many towns and cities have suffered from. I don’t disagree with that whole concept that you can work remotely in a number of areas, I just think there’s a factor about liveability.’’ Di Gates: “This is about helping businesses work smarter and innovate to grow the economy and you don’t need people relocating here to grow the economy. It’s part of it, but it’s not at the heart and one way to work smarter and grow more profitable businesses is to look at different working models.’’ Caroline Theobald: “Shaun, when we started, you talked about the lessons you’d learnt in accessing new markets, do you

How can we support graduates [so] they’ll decide not only is the North East a great place to live, but offers them a real career path? – Fiona Standfield want to share some of those?” Shaun Oakes: “When you are looking at a new market, every single export market is different. The most important thing for us, being a smaller business, is go there yourself. That’s what I’ve had to do. Now we have five strategic markets – the States, Mexico, South Africa, Middle East, and Europe. Everything we have learnt, all of this information has been piled in from different resources, different people, different ideas and different thoughts.

The secret to our longevity The North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) is about to celebrate its 20th birthday, having first opened its doors in June 1994. Originally offering a mix of offices and workshops for just 20 businesses, the BIC has grown extensively over the years, and today is home to more than 130 independent businesses. A great deal has changed since the BIC started trading but one thing remains constant and that is our desire to support SMEs and to build business success in the region. A not for profit organisation, we passionately believe that in order to help businesses prosper you need to provide an environment that encourages growth. The secret of our success is the ability to adapt to the needs of our customer base, and by working with both new and established clients from a diverse range of sectors, as well as a variety of partner organisations we have been able to develop a sustainable model that has resulted in the creation of over 7,000 jobs. Paul McEldon, chief executive, North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) Ltd

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You take all of that knowledge as a business owner and you go yourself and then you start to cherry pick what people have told you which is relevant to that particular market.’’ Ken Dunbar: “I’m interested to hear from Shaun about the cultural aspects of those countries.’’ Sue Houston: “That’s part of UKTI’s role to help and give you contacts through the embassy.’’ Shaun Oakes: “Yes, definitely, we’ve used UKTI. I also studied business etiquette, just on Google, which is quite simple. It’s absolutely key. You don’t have to be a specialist, you don’t even have to speak the language.’’ Pat Dellow: “Having done all that work and having won the contract, agree what currency you are going to be paid in and agree which country’s law you are going to use.’’ Caroline Theobald: “It’s people and individuals who are absolutely at the core of this.’’ Shaun Oakes: “People do business with people.’’ Paul McEldon: “I’ve got a lot from this discussion. A lot of the things we probably knew but the question of collaboration is key. In the BIC we’ve got to think about how we create that environment.’’ n

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COMPANY PROFILE

SPRING 14

EMSI report reveals impact of Newcastle College A recent socioeconomic impact analysis has revealed that Newcastle College is vital to the economy in the North East The study was undertaken by Economic Modelling Specialists International (EMSI) and looked at the economic impact that the College has on key stakeholder groups, including learners, society, taxpayers and the local community. Deputy Principal, Robin Ghurbhurun commented: “The report clearly demonstrates the significant economic impact that Newcastle College has in the North East from multiple perspectives. The role of the College is far from just providing courses; it’s about equipping people with the relevant education, training and skills and empowering them to make a positive contribution to society and the local economy. The experiences that our learners have here will shape the rest of their lives and put them on the path to becoming happy and productive members of the community. “The College works in partnership with employers to help them provide staff development opportunities and to recruit qualified trained workers. The local business community also benefits from the College as a large scale purchaser of goods and from the expenditure of our staff and learners. Mr Ghurbhurun added: “With an intensifying lens on value for money it was important for us to really look at the impact of what we do as an education and training provider, employer and local business. Despite the uncertain economic climate, this research shows how valuable high

The report clearly demonstrates the significant economic impact that Newcastle College has in the North East from multiple perspectives

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14

Newcastle College – Rye Hill House

State of the art Performance Academy

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ENTERPRISING THE REGION


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COMPANY PROFILE

The College works in partnership with employers to help them provide staff development opportunities and to recruit qualified trained workers. The local business community also benefits from the College as a large scale purchaser of goods and from the expenditure of our staff and learners quality education, training and skills are to the North East. Newcastle College commissioned the research to assess the value of learning on its key stakeholder groups, as little research had been done in the past to quantify the monetary value of this. Newcastle College is one of the largest FE and HE colleges in the UK, with around 18,000 learners and over 1,150 staff. The College works closely with local employers to develop a range of training programmes tailored to the individual needs of each business and identifying cost effective solutions that can help employers recruit for growth or develop their existing workforce. EMSI has produced more than 1,300 comprehensive impacts analyses for colleges and universities in the UK, US, Canada and Australia. The company was founded in 2000 and serves education, economic and workforce development institutions and organisations.

REPORT HIGHLIGHTS

A copy of the full report, detailing all of the key findings is available. If you would like to receive a copy or if you would simply like to discuss your current or future skills requirements and the ways in which Newcastle College can support your continued success and growth, contact Mark Flannery, Director of Student Recruitment and Marketing at mark.flannery@ncl-coll.ac.uk.

ENTERPRISING THE REGION

• Altogether, the economic contribution of Newcastle College to the local business community in Newcastle is £234.8m each year. • Many of the College’s learners stay in the region. Their enhanced skills and abilities contribute to business success, leading to higher regional income and a more robust economy each year. • The accumulated contribution of former College learners who are currently employed in the regional workforce amounts to £187.5m in added income in Newcastle’s economy each year. • The total added income created by the College and its learners is approximately equal to 1.2% of the total economic output of Newcastle in 2011-12 and represents roughly 8,908 average wage jobs. • For every £1 that learners pay for their education at Newcastle College, £3.40 will be gained in lifetime higher earnings. An annual return on investment of 11.1%. • Society will receive £2.20 for every £1 invested in the College. An average annual return on investment of 8.9%. • Taxpayers see an annual return of 7.6% on their investment in Newcastle College.

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SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14


CASE STUDY

SPRING 14

TAKING THE HARD OUT OF SELLING

A scheme to help businesses with their sales is paying dividends for at least two companies in the region, as Peter Jackson reports

No business can prosper – or even survive – without sales. Recognising this, the BIC has set up an interim sales director, ISD, programme. The ISD programme is a mentoring scheme administered by DigitalCity Business and the BIC, designed to help companies form an improved sales strategy. Working with consultant, David Anderson, the scheme provides a sales specialist to a business which could not afford to sustain such a role full time. It only has to pay the BIC a percentage of any increase in turnover after the first year. The ISD Programme is designed to encourage self-sufficiency and set established businesses on the path for future growth and success. Focusing on effective business growth strategies and selling skills, the ISD programme was developed by the North East BIC in conjunction with David Anderson and DigitalCity Business. SCHEME UNLOCKED FIRM’S POTENTIAL A Sunderland based legislation consultancy is expanding and creating jobs after taking part in the ISD programme. Cedrec Information Systems, a 20-year-old company based at the North East BIC has seen both its workforce and client base grow since

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14

signing up to the programme. Cedrec’s team of legal authors help to translate and simplify complex legal requirements, providing expert and relevant information to businesses across the UK, including Heinz and Viridor, one of the UK’s leading recycling, renewable energy and waste management companies. In June 2012, the company was referred to the ISD Programme by BIC business adviser Louise Hardy who has witnessed the business boom since putting into place recommendations made by their ISD adviser, David Anderson. Having initially undertaken a detailed review of the current company performance, and made recommendations as to how they could improve or diversify to unlock potential, Anderson worked with Cedrec directors, Steven Armstrong and Gareth Billinghurst to help them consolidate their business plan and to encourage cross selling of services. Through the ISD Programme, Cedrec has identified how to present its services with greater clarity and client focus. Armstrong and Billinghurst have also enhanced their ability to monitor workforce roles and identify where key employment is needed in order to streamline business development. Billinghurst says: “The ISD programme

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encouraged the company to take apart and rebuild areas that we feared we were losing focus on and allowed us to identify missed opportunities in the offshore sector. In doing so, we’ve consolidated our services, spotted trends and gained a number of high profile clients. “In the past year we’ve also taken on four new members of staff, taking us to a 14-strong workforce and the team’s overall confidence in terms of selling our own services has gone from strength to strength.” Daniel Watson, head of cluster development at DigitalCity Business says: “The ISD programme is not about putting a salesperson into the business but drawing the salesperson out of the business, which in turn, can deliver real benefits for businesses across the North East. “It’s not about quick fixes, but about helping businesses to put in place sustainable, long-term strategies to improve their sales techniques and ultimately benefit their bottom line.” SIGN-UP LED TO GROWTH A North East digital animation company has designs on further expansion, after taking part in a scheme to spot and exploit business opportunities. Animmersion, a Teesside based visualisation business, has enjoyed >>

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CASE STUDY

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14


CASE STUDY significant growth since signing up to take part in the ISD programme. The company produces animations and interactives for marketing and training, as well as customerfacing products such as interactive manuals for touch screen devices. Animmersion, a seven year old business based in Middlesbrough’s Boho building, took part in the programme and has seen business boom since putting into place recommendations made by their mentor. David Anderson worked with Animmersion owners Dominic Lusardi and Sam Harrison to help them develop their sales plans, segment their markets and begin to put into place a solid growth plan that built upon the business’ strengths and track record. Through the ISD Programme, Animmersion has identified a number of market specialisms, allowing the team to present its services more effectively. Lusardi and Harrison have also improved their ability to monitor sales and production activity and clarified account management and key personnel activity roles, to streamline business development. The duo set up the business after studying together at Teesside University for a degree in visualisation. They both gained industry experience before forming Animmersion in 2006. Lusardi says that signing up to the ISD scheme has delivered real benefits for the business, helping to focus the team’s efforts and deliver significant growth in turnover. The business has enjoyed 50% year-on-year growth over the last three years, and has seen its team expand from four to 12 since 2010. Lusardi says: “The ISD Programme encouraged an increase in the Animmersion team’s overall confidence in terms of selling our own services. “Confidence is absolutely priceless whenever a business is selling its products or services, and that’s one of the main things we were able to take from the programme. Improvements made to the way we manage our customers’ journey have been incredibly helpful in ensuring that we’ve retained clients. As a business, we’re now much more customer focused, which in turn increased overall annual turnover. The programme is not about quick wins – it’s about creating a long term strategy to encourage growth –

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14

SPRING 14

Confidence is absolutely priceless whenever a business is selling its products or services, and that’s one of the main things we were able to take from the programme – Dominic Lusardi

the results, for us, have been invaluable.” As well as introducing improved sales techniques, the ISD Programme also helped to identify opportunities for Animmersion in the healthcare sector. The business has also landed a lucrative contract with US based Vortex Valves, a manufacturing firm from Kansas, which – along with other contract wins – has allowed it to add to its team with two new recruits. It is also seeing growth in the oil and gas sector, where animation is used to articulate complex concepts. Anderson, who has worked with the

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Animmersion team for the last three years, says he was delighted to have played a part in the growth of the business. He adds: “Often, it takes someone from outside of a business to go in and really take a critical look at where the gaps are in a business’ sales strategy and what can be done to improve it. “The ISD Programme does just this. The impact that is has had for Animmersion shows that, with the right strategic support, businesses can make small changes to really optimise their performance and help them grow.” n

ENTERPRISING THE REGION


TW BQ Half Page Ad AW.indd 1

22/04/2014 16:36


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INTERVIEW

FOCUSING ON THE POSITIVES We talk to Harry Collinson who, in addition to running Collinson’s Jewellers, is chairman of Sunderland City Centre Trader’s Association (SCCTA) which operates under the Wear1City banner Two years ago this summer Harry Collinson took the chair of the SCCTA to help keep businesses informed on all matters relating to Sunderland. He says: “I didn’t want to be a part of something that just talks and has no action. I was determined to make a difference. To be honest I was really fed up of people complaining about what we didn’t have but didn’t focus on what we did have.’’ And one of the first issues to tackle was that of traffic wardens. He explains: “Businesses were getting tickets when they tried to unload deliveries which was crazy – they needed to be able to do this without being persecuted. “So after discussions with the council we created a livery badge for traders in the city centre. The Wear1City badge allowed traders to be able to unload and load from their vehicles for 20 minutes. It was a great win

ENTERPRISING THE REGION

for businesses.’’ On the same traffic theme, SCCTA then looked at parking for shoppers. “It took a year of meetings but we managed to negotiate Free after Three Thursday and Friday in Council owned car parks not to mention all day Saturday and Sundays.’’ But retail has not been the only focus, leisure has also benefited from SCCTA’s activities. “It is as important to represent night time economy as it is daytime,’’ says Collinson. “Pubs and restaurants need help getting footfall too. One of our first events we helped bring to the area was the Coca Cola truck. This, with a few rides for the children, was a huge success. It brought 55,000 people to the centre; it was a sea of people full of families like it used to be; all secondary areas of independent tills were ringing. “For every pound spent in a local independent shop 63p goes back in to that business, it’s a no brainer. We really need to get the message

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out about how far that pound goes in a local business; growth, jobs, wages the list goes on.’’ SCCTA also played a role in setting up the city’s Business Improvement District (BID), which will invest £3.4m in the city centre over the next five years. The BID will also give businesses the chance to capitalise on the estimated £130m of planned new city centre developments by the City Council and its partners. Last July Sunderland businesses voted to set up a BID, to be funded by a 1.5% levy on business rates to pay for a range of improvement initiatives. The aim of the BID is to promote and improve facilities in Sunderland city centre to make it a more attractive, safer place with events and activities designed to bring in visitors and families. The BID board – on which Collinson also sits – is responsible for ensuring projects are >>

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14


INTERVIEW

SPRING 14

delivered on time and within budget. “It took 18 months of developing the BID, steering groups and lots of hard work up and down the country and Sunderland achieved the quickest BID in history,’’ says Collinson. “We set up workshops and listened to what the businesses wanted and we plan to hit the ground running in April. “I want people to realise that the BID is private sector led so we can think and react quicker. Sunderland is one of the safest cities in the country and businesses want better signage, events, cameras and police presence. “I am keen to point out the BID isn’t going to fix everything but it’s a fantastic start and step in the right direction. “We are already working on Christmas, we want to light up the city and so much hard work goes on behind the scenes. We need to shout about what we do have.

We want people to venture back into the city to come and experience what the independents have to offer “I have been in business myself now for 22 years, nobody gave me any help, there wasn’t things like the BIC or the university back in the day. But there is so much available to businesses and there is so much more Sunderland can offer. “We need to share information on what we do have to offer within the city centre and we want people to venture back into the city to come and experience what the independents have to offer – cafes, coffee shops not to mention the music scene which is bigger and busier than ever.’’ “Come and explore the city – not just The Bridges but the secondary locations.” n

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Changing face of watch repair specialist Set up in 1981 as a watch and clock repair specialists J H Collinsons is a family business whose heart remains in Blandford Street where the business receives watches to repair from all over the world from expats. After Harry senior’s children – Rachel and Harry – came into the business, Collinson’s Jewellers opened for business and four years ago they opened a Pandora store in The Bridges. “I loved being in front of the customers and serving them,’’ says Collinson. “We persuaded my father to go into the jewellery business in addition to the watch repair servce and in 1993 Rachel and I opened a shop in Waterloo Place. “After a successful four years of being open the Food Giant closed for business which was a massive blow, Pizza Hut followed and when we witnessed the 99p store close their doors for good we realised we were in trouble. “With virtually no footfall remaining we bought off the lease and found a new home in Crowtree Road; seven years ago we saw potential in a company called Pandora and invested £2,500 into one product range. We opened a Pandora shop in The Bridges which Rachel now manages and in its first year alone sold over 20,000 charms and 7,000 bracelets.”

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ENTERPRISING THE REGION


INSIGHT

SPRING 14

ANGELS MAKING Two North East businessmen are driving entrepreneurship on more than one front, as Peter Jackson reports Football enthusiasts in County Durham will be able to enjoy first class facilities, thanks to crowd funding. The Soccer Factory is aiming to raise £500,000 to develop facilities and a first site, to include seven 3G astroturf courts on Aycliffe Business Park, County Durham, which have already secured planning permission. The Aycliffe facility will also have a health

SPECIAL REPORT | SPRING 14

and fitness suite, two multi-purpose studios, a café/bar, sports injury clinic and conferencing facilities. The Soccer Factory is the brainchild of Dan Lewis who, for 10 years, was deputy director of sport at Durham University. Growthfunders, the North of England’s first online equity crowdfunding platform, and also based on Aycliffe Business Park, is helping

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him and his team raise investment funds, adding to £20,000 of personal funds which have been injected. The fund is part of Growth Capital Ventures. This was spun out of Carlton & Co, a consultancy business which helped raise venture capital for businesses. GrowthFunders was launched by North East and Yorkshire-based entrepreneurs, Craig

ENTERPRISING THE REGION


SPRING 14

INSIGHT

IDEAS TAKE FLIGHT and Norman Peterson, aged 44 and 58 respectively. Both have supported entrepreneurs, helping to raise capital, acting as mentors and providing strategic advice to a range of high growth businesses. It aims to match ambitious entrepreneurs with business ideas to a range of investors. The site allows entrepreneurs leading businesses with high growth potential to gain support and raise capital online from investors, including angel networks and early stage venture capitalists. It has only recently been launched but already

ENTERPRISING THE REGION

has a pipeline of about 60 businesses looking to raise capital. Growthfunders also opens up access to this asset class to a wider audience of suitablyqualified online angels, or ordinary investors – the crowd. It is the latest venture by the Sunderland born Peterson brothers who have worked together since 2000. It is hoped the introduction of crowdfunding platforms, such as GrowthFunders, will make raising equity finance simpler and more streamlined. Growthfunders’ technology allows all of the necessary information to be

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gathered in one place. The pitch, business plans, and financial forecasts are all uploaded onto the platform, which potential investors have access to. Craig Peterson explains: “It’s all about streamlining the process. A major issue for businesses is that when they are chasing money and going to traditional offline pitches they can be travelling round the country spending an awful lot of their time chasing capital and not focusing on growing their company.’’ The brothers are involved in a number of >>

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INSIGHT

SPRING 14

businesses particularly in the area of investor readiness and raising capital. Norman is from a telecoms and civil engineering background and helped raise £60m for a broadband start-up on the continent. Craig worked in construction and regeneration. “We are experienced problem solvers and project managers and in our roles in the past we have had to raise money for all types of businesses and development projects,’’ says Peterson. They will have four platforms under the Growth Capital Ventures umbrella connecting investors with businesses seeking funding, of which Growthfunders is the first as an equity based crowd funding and equity based co-investment platform. The second will be Growthplaces for institutional investors such as pension funds looking for large scale infrastructure projects; a lending platform to connect private investors to property companies looking either to refinance commercial property loans or development finance; and finally, Hedgefund Connector. “It’s the same back-end engine or software that operates the platforms but it’s a very different marketplace and solution we are dealing with,’’ says Peterson. The Petersons’ business has three arms to help businesses: Carlton & Co which provides support to companies to grow; Growth Capital Ventures which provides the funds; and the HUB, a managed workspace to provide a physical space in which companies can grow. Opened in 2011 the HUB is 25,000sq ft of business space on Aycliffe Business Park. “It’s aimed at businesses that are ambitious and want to grow,’’ says Peterson. “We manage and operate that space and it gives us a holistic approach where we can bring a business in and help it and provide the sort of strategic support that companies need.’’ To enhance the support for growing businesses in the region the HUB Partnerships was formed as a collaboration of GrowthFunders, Thrive, Harlands Accountants and Mantis Media. The partners ran a competition, ‘Achieve Your Dream in 2014’, offering all of their expertise as the prize with a combined value of £100,000. Copying the hit BBC TV programme Dragons’ Den, the competition was open to any

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We are experienced problem solvers and project managers and in our roles in the past we have had to raise money for all types of businesses and development projects – Craig Peterson company of any kind – existing or start-up – with the winner bagging a package of services including office space, marketing and social media strategies, training, PR and mentoring support to develop a strategic growth plan. Ten entries were shortlisted to just three, which pitched their idea to the judges and faced a grilling in the final part of the competition. The winner was Lostbox, set up in February 2013 after founder Clare Owen, from Durham, found a piece of jewellery during a Premier League football game. She made several attempts to reunite the ring with its owner - she still has the ring - but during the process spotted a potential idea to launch a lost and found website. After just a year, Lostbox has 50,000 followers

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on Twitter and 5,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook after a host of success stories, including one involving celebrity comedian Rufus Hound, who used Lostbox to try to reunite a baby’s comforter blanket that he found in London. Now the Petersons ambition for the HUB is to expand it to 30,000sq ft with 40 to 50 companies based there of different sizes and stages of growth. “We are real fans of entrepreneurship and enterprise,’’ says Peterson. “We get a great deal of satisfaction from working with innovators and entrepreneurs and seeing some of the fantastic people who are out there in the North East. When you see good young companies coming forward and employing people and apprentices, that’s the sort of thing that really excites us.’’ n

ENTERPRISING THE REGION


A MAJOR EVENT TO INSPIRE, MOTIVATE & SHARE BUSINESS SUCCESS

EMERGING ENTREPRENEUR DINNER 2014 In partnership with

North East: 6th June, 6pm, Hilton Newcastle Gateshead BQ Magazine continues to support and encourage entrepreneurship across the UK. Our mission is to recognise and celebrate the contribution that entrepreneurs make to our economy, whilst encouraging and motivating others to succeed in business. The BQ North East Emerging Entrepreneur Dinner is being held in conjunction with MADE: The Entrepreneur Festival 2014, the UK’s largest annual festival of entrepreneurship. Be inspired, gain practical advice and celebrate as our successful entrepreneurs and emerging talent tell their story. Join BQ and BBC Home News Editor Mark Easton for an evening of chat, celebration and recognition.

Starting a business has been an amazing adventure - it would be fair to say that it has changed my life. I have not only been able to make a career out of doing something I love, but I have been able to use my business to do good along the way FRASER DOHERTY, FOUNDER OF SUPERJAM

Entrepreneur MADE The Festival: Sheffield

Join us for an inspiring evening in celebration of entrepreneurship

Book your place now by contacting events@room501.co.uk or call Kirsty Tarn or Rachael Laschke on 0191 426 6300


BQ2 North East  

Enterprising the Region

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