Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

How Success Is Taking Root; in the Wake of Global Entrepreneurship Week Last Week, and Following Research Showing the Region Is Capitalising on Opportunities for Growth, Business Reporter ROBERT GIBSON Looks at Why Entrepreneurs Are Still Flourishing in the North East

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

How Success Is Taking Root; in the Wake of Global Entrepreneurship Week Last Week, and Following Research Showing the Region Is Capitalising on Opportunities for Growth, Business Reporter ROBERT GIBSON Looks at Why Entrepreneurs Are Still Flourishing in the North East

Article excerpt

IN 2006, Geoffrey Thompson founded Utilitywise with just three employees. In year one, the company generated revenues of PS100,000 and profit of a mere PS5,000.

Since then, a good deal of investment and commitment has seen the South Shields firm flourish to become a leading energy management consultancy with 550 staffand projected revenue this year of PS25m.

Such growth is far from unique in the region.

In fact, a recent study from EY suggests entrepreneur-led companies in the North are capitalising on the biggest opportunities for expansion in the UK.

According to figures supplied by the professional services firm's Entrepreneur of the Year Awards finalists - including Geoffrey - 24% achieved growth in turnover over the past year, compared to 19% in London and the South, 17.1% in Scotland and 12% in the Midlands. The study also suggested business leaders here were the most optimistic about the economy, with 83% expecting a significant turnaround.

Findings from the Entrepreneurs' Forum would seem to back up both assertions.

"The latest survey of our members shows real positivity among entrepreneurial businesses," said its executive director Nicola Short.

"Sales, exporting, profits and employment are all on the rise, with further positivity forecast for the coming months.

"The role of entrepreneurs in the regional economy is hugely important.

"With entrepreneur-led businesses consistently outperforming national benchmarks and being 70% more likely to continue on after five years with support from like-minded peers, we have a community unique to the North East and at the forefront of growth."

So what is it about the region that's so conducive to entrepreneurship? At a simple level, the gritty determination seemingly ingrained in the North East attitude undoubtedly acts as a major driver.

Take Judith Mathias as an example. At just over 60 years of age, when most might be dreaming of retirement, she saw a gap in the market for products that wouldn't flare up childhood asthma or eczema. Her Hexham-based natural cleaning product company, Homes Scents, is now going from strengthto-strength, manufacturing around 70 products. As Judith points out, though, it was support in the form of two investments from Rivers Capital Partners that allowed the business to get offthe ground and expand. "It's great when you work with someone like Rivers," she said. "That funding can make a big difference. "I think the North East is great for entrepreneurship. "There are pots of money available and, even it's just a small amount, it will buy you a bit of equipment or give you a chance. "There are good services out there like the RTC North Growth Accelerator. "The Manufacturing Advisory Service has also been helpful to us." Support, indeed, doesn't have to be financial, and, in the North East, there's a huge swathe of organisations focussed on helping entrepreneurs get to grips with everything from the increasingly important realm of social media to the complex world of taxation. Others, like the 350-strong Entrepreneurs' Forum, turn their attention more to helping businesses share experience and make valuable connections. Nicola Short said: "We're unique. There isn't a forum like us, other than one in Scotland. "What we do is bring entrepreneurs together with corporate partners and business owners. "We've got the decision makers in the room and that's when connections are made." James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, takes a similar line on the importance of community for entrepreneurs. "We have a wealth of entrepreneurs in our membership and I'm From Page 15 delighted to say we have many who have taken that original nugget of innovative inspiration and turned it into a successful business," he said. "We have nationally recognised entrepreneurs like Sarah Pittendrigh and Darren Williams, both of whom have been winners at the national British Chambers of Commerce Awards, to name but two. …

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