Wayne Hemingway urges North East firms to Go Digital

Entrepreneur Wayne Hemingway MBE has visited Newcastle to enthuse firms to take advantage of digital opportunities


Entrepreneur Wayne Hemingway MBE and BBC Breakfast’s Steph McGovern were stars of the show at a business event in Newcastle.

Quirky online videos including dancing chickens and ‘Dumb Ways To Die’ were included in the renowned designer’s presentation to more than 100 businesses, charities, internet suppliers and commercial landlords at the event at Centre for Life.

The founder of Red or Dead was the keynote speaker at the Go Digital Newcastle Superfast Summit – an event to promote the funding and free support available as part of Go Digital Newcastle, a campaign to deliver superfast broadband to 97% of the city by summer 2015.

The 53-year-old gave the audience a potted history of how he and his wife Gerardine (OK) began their business empire with a market stall on Camden Market, and selling their designer label Red or Dead 19 years later for a substantial sum.

The couple now have a multi-faceted empire including brands HemingwayDesign and HemingwayDigital and use the internet and social media in savvy ways to reach a wide audience.

He said: “Whatever you do on social media, whether it’s Facebook or other channels, it’s not just about what you sell, it’s about the people you sell to, it’s their lifestyles that are important.

“Generosity is important. For instance, if your competitors are doing something amazing then congratulate them.

“People respond to generosity, the world isn’t a nasty place, there are some nasty people but 99% of people are decent folk.”

Hemingway also discussed the couple’s brand Vintage, celebrating the best of British music, fashion, film, art and design, and explained how the brand has reached hundreds of thousands of people purely using social media.

Broadcaster Steph McGovern acted as MC for the event and explained that during the course of her work for the BBC she regularly meets businessmen and women who feel hampered due to slow broadband speeds and also a shortage of skilled staff, especially those who are digitally skilled.

She said: “The benefits of having a 24-hour online presence are immense, it’s well documented that businesses with a website grow four to eight times quicker than those without.

“One businessman told me he moved his business 40 miles just to get better internet connection and I’ve lost count of the number of times people talk to me about the digital skills shortage.

“It’s well documented that there are skills shortages in the engineering and manufacturing sectors, and we also have employers in the nuclear industry worried that they are not going to find the young people they need to fill the skills gap, but it’s the basic things employers are struggling with, skills like communication and digital skills.”

Councillor Ged Bell, cabinet member for investment and development said: “This campaign is about helping local businesses to promote products and reach new markets as well as boosting the local economy.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure premises across the city are at the forefront of the digital revolution.”

To enable companies to get connected to superfast speed Go Digital Newcastle – a campaign being run by Newcastle City Council - is offering free connection vouchers worth up to £3,000 to businesses in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Gateshead, to give them the competitive edge they need.

The campaign is also offering free business support so companies can learn how to better use the internet to improve their profitability and productivity, and up to £2,000 towards the cost of IT equipment.


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