The Creative Enterprise Explore stage provides students with the opportunity to engage with business owners and key industry connectors across a range of creative and digital industries.  Those who have taken the leap into self-employment or are working within prominent North East organisations and academic institutions as creative specialists.   Mentor Lee Casey leads this creative area and talks passionately throughout the course about creating connections and today for the enterprise students of St Wilfrid’s RC College the importance of networking starts right here…

Day One – The NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator, Newcastle Quayside

The NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator is the UK’s largest free business accelerator network and is capable of supporting 1,000 entrepreneurs simultaneously in its 12 hubs based throughout the country, including one such hub in the heart of Newcastle.

Day one begins with an introduction to the colourful creative space by Laura Mason, Entrepreneur Acceleration Manager and how new businesses can receive support from NatWest in the Newcastle area. Lee asked students to think about what qualities are needed to perhaps become an entrepreneur and could they match their personal character traits to such qualities. Soft skills such as good communication or self-motivation can be so invaluable when considering starting a business!

Next it was time to hear from some regional entrepreneurs, first up was Laurence Sweeney, a North East photographer Laurence Sweeney Photography who spoke about starting his business later on in life and the challenges a change of career direction created for him.  He inspired many of the students including Rebecca M. from St. Wilfrid’s RC College who said: “Lawrence’s talk stood out for me as he is doing photography and that is something I want to look into as it is a big hobby of mine.”

Stacey Sweeney (and yes daughter of Laurence!) of Scarlet Butterfly Media talked about her own videography business offering promotional, corporate and training videos as well as event capture and time-lapse possibilities.  Plus how being involved with other businesses and like-minded people within the network of NatWest helped her own business growth.  Clearly, the entrepreneurial gene is strong in the Sweeney household!

Founder of independent design studio Sail Creative Mandy Barker spoke too, giving an inspiring insight into the design industry, how she started her business and what kind of clients she currently works with. So much so, we know following the session students have been in touch direct with the additional design based, how to get into graphic design questions and starting their networking credentials!

The afternoon’s session welcomed back Laura Mason who gave an amazing ‘Pitching Masterclass’ to the student teams.  With practical advice on delivering key points within any business pitch and how to keep it short, to the point and convey your authentic self and idea in order to persuade and convince, leaving the audience truly understanding what it is you do and why.   As demonstrated so aptly by the SME’s in the morning session and then again by Caroline Davies a Paramedic and founder of Tumbles and Grumbles specialising in children’s first aid courses. Her pitch was flawless!

The teams were then asked to have a go and pitch back on something they felt passionate about, perhaps a hobby with the qualities they thought they had or needed to work on or to tell us an interesting fact about themselves. Nerves were certainly high in the room but using the pointers Laura had given, the tips from the guest speakers and with a little prep time even the most daunted got up and spoke! It was fabulous! Students who wouldn’t usually consider speaking in front of a large group took their newly acquired skills to gain confidence and find the courage to give it a go.

Day Two  – Northumbria University, Newcastle Upon Tyne

The day started with an introduction to Northumbria University Graduate Student & Enterprise by Ailsa Riddell, Enterprise Officer Student & Library Services. Ailsa explained about the opportunities available to those graduates of Northumbria should they wish to start their own business and the support they could access through the University.  Graduates come from a range of courses depending on their business or product idea and guest speakers for the day included two such graduates: Anna Brand Creative Director of Blue Tongue Design and Oliver Woods of Woods and Walker.

Anna Brand’s genuine passion for the creative industry in which she had decided to start a business relatively recently was clear to see. Her love for her job came through so strongly that it enthused those students interested in the arts to consider a branding/graphic design career.   Anna set a creative challenge of designing a new logo for her own business, for the students to create a design based on their original ideas and with the background information she had given.

The result some incredibly innovative designs and creative mind-sets emerging, Anna was more than impressed!

Oliver Woods explained how his company Woods and Walker create and support cloud-based software, web development and API Design; they are modern day inventors by building business based cloud-based applications and websites not physical products! He set a challenge of asking students to create an app instruction using SMS or SIM Card on/off capabilities that would improve an aspect of their lives.

The day concluded with one final guest speaker, Yvette Embleton Education Liaison Officer at the Northern Youth Film Academy. Yvette helps young people bridge the gap between education and employment within the film and TV industry, guiding them into perhaps their first roles.  Yvette’s own career path was nothing short of inspiring too, having admitted even she had to start by making cups of tea as a runner but working her way through the TV ranks from junior creative to producer and scriptwriter. It was the wealth of different jobs available within the Film/TV industry and many you might not have considered including Costume Designer, Technician to Booking Agent, Location Manager to Architectural Set Designer.

So after a jam-packed two days, Creative Enterprise Explore Stage closes with personal skills developed, great industry connections made and an awareness of which creative jobs are out there in the different sectors and potential educational routes to follow.  Now it’s time to put this knowledge to good use in the Create Stage, coming up next….

To all those involved in the Creative Enterprise Explore Stage, thank you.