Top speaker line-up at entrepreneurs' conference

Around 200 people attended the Together we can take on the world conference

Model and entrepreneur Caprice talks at the 'Together We Can Take On The World' conference at the Baltic in Gateshead

Around 200 business people turned out at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead for the annual entrepreneurs’ conference.

Organised by the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, in partnership with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, this years’ event focused largely on the benefits of collaboration and mutual support as the North East’s economy begins to grow again.

Hosted by BBC Radio Newcastle’s Alfie Joey, the Together we can take on the world conference provided networking opportunities for firms of all sizes, who also benefitted from the advice and insight of a high profile range of guest speakers.

Among the line-up was Kresse Wesling MBE, co-founder of Elvis & Kresse; model-turned-businesswoman Caprice Bourret; global entrepreneur Paul Shoker; Anthony Thomson, who recently announced the launch of Atom Bank, the UK’s first all-digital bank; and Sir Tom Shebbeare, chairman of Richard Branson’s Virgin StartUp, who is leading its roll out across the UK.

There was also input from a panel of Ward Hadaway’s Fastest 50, an initiative that recognises the privately-owned businesses that have done the most to grow their organisations.

Among the contributors were Phil Kite of Reece Group, a holding company for a group of innovative engineering businesses operating in the oil, gas, construction and defence markets; Kevin Brown, of Pacifica Group, a national provider of repair, installation and warranty services to the domestic appliance and home heating market; and Jeff Winn of Winn Solicitors, a road traffic accident service for victims of motor accidents.

Introducing the event, chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, Nigel Mills, explained how the organisation - which provides networking opportunities and a wide range of support services for members - was working to make the North East the number one region in the UK for enterprise.

It was vital, he said, for businesses to pull together and support each other, the forum playing a “crucial role” in this.

According to the organisation’s quarterly Business Tracker Survey, its member companies were now growing at speeds of up to 10 times the national average, creating jobs, generating profits and investing in the region.

“I believe nobody does it better than the Entrepreneur’s Forum,” he said.

Among the organisation’s successes has been its mentoring programme, which had the potential to make a major positive impact, given research showed 70% of businesses making use of a mentoring services survived more than five years, compared to 35% among those that did not.

“There is depth and breadth of experience in the advice that is given fore free, with no commercial angle,” Mills said.

“The starting point is totally honest and one of confidence and trust.”

Godfrey Worsdale, director of Baltic, likewise emphasised the importance of working towards shared goals with mutual interests in mind, and said cultural organisations such as Baltic had a crucial role to play.

“It is critical moving forward that we can work to serve the business community as effectively as possible” he said.

“Our partnership with [hospitality firm] Fresh Element is so strong and important to us, it is clear the way Baltic operates as a business is going to be increasingly central to our long-term future ambitions.”

He pointed out the venue had become recognised not only for art, but for the shopping and food experiences it provided.

It was also a great place to bring those visiting on business, being an “iconic badge of the history of this area”.

“Any organisation that does not understand the importance of entrepreneurial activities will suffer in the long-term,” he added.

The headline sponsor for the event was MGM Precision Engineering, which manufactures precision parts for the oil, gas, power, petrochemicals, automotive and aerospace industries.

Onyx Group and Invest NewcastleGateshead acted as associate sponsors, while the drinks reception partner was UK Trade and Investment (UKTI).


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer