The Enterprise Support package is a series of workshops and individual 1-2-1’s designed to take a business idea and help explore and understand entrepreneurial creativity from initial concept to the end product, with all the elements from finance to marketing in between.

The entrepreneurial journey isn’t to be stifled but with guidance and a plan it can be a road less rocky! The workshops are pitched at those interested in pursuing a career within the creative and digital industries and make reference throughout to finding work perhaps within a software development role, becoming a musician or even a graphics animator.

Week One: Generating Ideas & Expanding Your Business Vision

Career coach Lysa Morrison has been delivering personal and professional coaching for over 10 years & can help ‘live the life you have always imagined’. Lysa joined this first session at the Sunderland Software Centre to invoke discussion on why do some people succeed and others don’t, helping to address such issues as how to conquer perhaps the fear of failure or a lack of confidence in an idea and giving the tools needed to answer with conviction “I am an Entrepreneur”.

Lysa also spoke with the group about having the ‘perfect’ pitch. A pitch isn’t just the verbal speech, but body language and creating an overall positive impression. Lysa gave guidance and clarity on how to have confidence in your idea without overselling it and how to present yourself to the best of your ability.

The second part of the session led by Enterprise Mentor Lee Casey posed the question “Have you done your Market Research?’. One of the most important aspects to consider when starting any business and as Lee reiterated to the group this means planned research with the collection of relevant data as evidence, not simply asking your friends and family to agree their support.

The session highlighted the different methods of research and data collection that could be used and the importance within the overall business plan to help identify potential customers and analyse the competition within the marketplace. Lysa stayed to talk about identifying who is the right and wrong kind of customer, the right ones can grow a business significantly but the wrong ones can perhaps cause quality to suffer or have personal detrimental effects. An insightful first session leaving the group motivated to develop further their ideas…

Week Two: Funding A Start-Up Business

Starting a business can require a level of startup capital to progress the idea and build the foundations. Many creative and digital businesses seek financial funds from external resources to get their ideas to fruition and this session covered which avenues of raising finance are applicable to a new startup as well as other non-financial support options such as mentoring and business support.

Julie Skevington, director of Sincero Business Growth and Funding Solutions Ltd discussed and explained the different funding avenues to explore as with her wealth of experience could offer practical advice and support to most pre-startup businesses. Working with Transmit Start-Ups a national delivery partner of the Start-Up Loans Company (a Government initiative set up in 2012), Julie can help find the most appropriate funding solutions to allow concentration on running a business in the early stages. Plus, it was interesting to hear of Julie’s story of her journey through the regions Entrepreneurial Spark programme.

Enterprise Mentor Lee then discussed the support an organisation such as TEDCO could offer to new startup businesses. TEDCO based at Sunderland’s Business Innovation Centre has helped thousands of businesses to start, grow and achieve sustainable business success in the last five years. They are delivery partners with Virgin Start Up too, providing low-cost loans, advice, resources and support with a number of programmes throughout the region.

Keeping Financial Records & The Importance of Building Networks

The City Library, Newcastle hosted the next session where guests Blu Sky Chartered Accountants gave practical advice on what records books the self-employed should keep and why. They talked through how to set up accountancy software, personal tax compliance, self-assessment, National Insurance and VAT. Members of the group recognised that perhaps their own skill sets didn’t extend to managing their finances but with some guidelines in place keeping accurate records didn’t have to be a daunting prospect.

The afternoon session saw Lee introduce the idea of effective networking and how if done with consideration could benefit any size business to build their professional connections, foster trust and cultivate new relationships which could, in turn, generate business leads, sales or collaborations.

There are many networking opportunities within the North East from breakfast meetings to sector-specific gatherings, online seminars and training initiatives.  It’s working out which ones are right for you, attending and then following up, so Lee took the down group to tech hub Campus North for inspiration. A venue in the heart of Newcastle renowned for its networking meetings and base of many an entrepreneur including self-confessed networker and ‘Collaborator of the Year’ Paul Lancaster, of Plan Digital. A short tour of Campus North allowed the students to see how freelancers can co-work, the networking opportunities they could access here and Paul spoke of how he had built his business, networks and how his focus now was on Newcastle Startup Week, an event he hoped to see them at!

Week Three: Marketing & Promotional Strategies and The Importance of Branding

Back at Sunderland Software Centre, Lee led this session as a self-confessed marketing geek and hashtag fan! An overview of the marketing mix was presented with references back to individual ideas to ensure they understood the importance of choosing media channels appropriate to them and their business in order to begin planning a suitable strategy. Insight was given into the different types of digital platforms to help identify where key customers were ‘hanging out’. Target markets were discussed and a recap of why at this stage market research is key too.

After lunch Hollie Ellis joined the session, a freelance Graphic Designer specialising in branding, logo design and print design. Hollie regularly works with a range of small businesses to help create their overall branding look and identity. Practical tips on how a logo could be achieved and the processes involved were given with lots of visual examples of what to do and what not to do!

Costing & Pricing Strategies and Sunderland Software Centre Business Visits.

How to price a product or service, and price it right can seem overwhelming for any new creative business as there are a number of factors businesses need to take into consideration. Chloe Rodham, a freelance animator specialising in stop-motion techniques and after effects animation joined the session to talk about her own journey into self-employment and offer up lots of useful hints and tips on how as a freelancer you can price your work accordingly.

In the afternoon Jeni Banks from Sunderland Software City popped in to chat about her role as a Business Support Specialist and what potential support to a new business could be given, they have supported the growth of over 500 North East software companies since 2008 with support, expertise and training solutions to help start and grow businesses.   Jeni then invited the group to see the offices, meet the team and spoke of her passion for networking within the industry.

Then it was a stop off at New World Designs, leaders in Bullet Time Photography and creators of the first bullet time experiential rig based at Sunderland Software Centre but working globally. Ian Wright, Co-Founder and Director gave an overview of the type of work they had done with a glimpse across their ‘Wall of Fame’! Revealing they had worked on the Ben Stiller movie Zoolander 2, Dr Strange as well as on a Pepsi Max advert and then with Toyota and Jeep UK too. An impressive line up to stay the least! Ian was actually assembling the rig for test in another part of the centre so it was with great excitement the group, including Chloe (who had stayed!), got to see how it is put together and creates the time slice effect.

Thank you to all the supporting individuals, businesses and venues.