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Business & Economy

Business leaders share ideas with next generation of entrepreneurs

Budding North East businesspeople have been tapping into the knowledge of experienced entrepreneurs for advice at a special networking event organised as part of the 2019 If We Can You Can Challenge

Around 25 participants in this year’s Challenge joined representatives of 20 firms from right across the region at the first of a series of events which will provide opportunities for nascent owners/managers to meet a range of business contacts whose knowledge and experience could help their startup and early stage SMEs grow and develop.

Established businesses which were represented on the night included Land Digital, creative agency JUMP and The Biscuit Factory where the Grand Final will be hosted.

Newcastle Business School, PNE Enterprise, Newcastle City Council and the British Business Bank were also in attendance connecting with the aspiring entrepreneurs.

The event was held at the Newcastle offices of construction industry technology platform NBS and was supported by regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers and NatWest Business Bank, both of which are partnering with the If We Can You Can Challenge this year.

Christopher Nutman, founder of Sunderland-based social enterprise mycloudcoach and winner of the Challenge’s Ideas Prize in 2018, was one of the participants in the event.

mycloudcoach enables educators and content creators to expand their reach and donate educational material to a digital platform which can then be accessed free of charge by students and teachers in underprivileged communities.

He says: “I had a really awesome time at the event, and it was great to hear from Terry Nelson from Jigsaw Recovery Project as an IWCYC alumni and fellow social entrepreneur.

“The atmosphere through the day was brilliant and the team at FIRST were great facilitators – I learnt a lot and even won tickets to see Jack Whitehall by winning the quiz!”

Now in its 11th year, the Challenge is recognised as the North East’s premier business startup initiative.  It is open to any North East startup or business idea fewer than three years old and has provided hundreds of regional firms with invaluable access to new markets, mentors and resources.

Charlotte Windebank, managing director and founder of FIRST, adds: “All new businesses start with a conversation, and we’re hoping that the many conversations between our participants and those that they’re looking to emulate will help put them on the right road towards increasing their results in the coming years.

“Enabling the next generation of North East entrepreneurs to connect with the broader business community allows them to recognise the hard work that goes into building a business, find out more about the challenges they might face and give them ideas for how they might overcome them.

“The feedback we’ve had from both sides of the fence has been really encouraging, and the businesses that kindly gave us their time clearly provided a great deal of inspiration to our Challenge participants.”

Carolyn McGregor, business development executive at NEL Fund Managers, who was one of the speakers at the event, says: “We’re committed to investing in the future of North East enterprise and it’s great to see such inspiring, ideas-filled young people building their chances of commercial success by participating in this year’s challenge.”

The grand final of the If You Can We Can Challenge takes place on November 22.  For more information on the aims and successes of the initiative, visit