A national campaign which aims to inspire hundreds of new start-up businesses has kicked off in Newcastle with backing from one of the region’s top companies.
Grey’s Monument provided the backdrop for the first day of the Startup Britain tour in which a 1966 Routemaster will tour 25 locations around England, Wales and Scotland to offer advice from business mentors to people harbouring entrepreneurial ambitions.
The tour, which moves to Middlesbrough today, is being staffed by a team of business mentors and start-up experts, as well as employees from headline sponsors Sage.
Mentors organised by the North East’s Entrepreneurs’ Forum were on hand to chat with members of the public about their business ideas, helping to inspire with their own stories and connect people to local organisations that can help them get started.
Startup Britain is run by the Centre for Entrepreneurs think tank and supported by Sage, NatWest and Upwork.
Director Matt Smith said the bus was a great tool for reaching people who had thought about starting their own business but had not acted on their ideas. He said: “A lot of people we come across have an idea tucked away that they might not have acted on for a variety of reasons, whether that’s time, energy or resource.
“This campaign is about helping those people and connecting them with local people that might be able to support them. The North East is a great place to start a business and that’s evidenced by some of the great organisations here, including the likes of Campus North, Sage and the Entrepreneurs’ Forum.
“We wanted to get to more places in the North East but the tour schedule meant we had to pick only a number of locations.
“Hopefully we can come back and take the campaign to many more parts of the region that would benefit.”
On board the bus sponsors gave one-to-one advice to aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs, while local business support organisations including First Face To Face/If We Can, You Can... and Business & IP Centre Newcastle also provided support. North East-born businessman Graham Sleep was one of the entrepreneurs on hand to shine a light on the intricacies of starting a business.
Following a career in manufacturing, he set up his Edinburgh-based firm five years ago after realising he needed a change from corporate life.
Mr Sleep said: “One of the messages I’m keen on is that you’re never too old. I came to startup later in my career and I’ve never looked back.
“I worked in America for a few years and that’s where my entrepreneurial ambition was born. Now I think its time to bring even more of that ambition to the UK, and particularly the North East.”
Lee Perkins, managing director at Sage UK and Ireland, added: “Without doubt the North East is one of the best places in the UK to start a business.
“We have world class universities, people and ideas, and we’ve seen first-hand how those ingredients can create amazing businesses with the right support.
“Our research reaffirms that the region’s start-up scene is soaring with the North East ranking second only to London in terms of entrepreneurial spirit.
“However, with many still unsure where to go for advice on starting a business, it’s clear local budding entrepreneurs will benefit hugely from initiatives like the Startup Britain bus.
“We’re encouraging people to take advantage and get on board.”