A recent Centre for Cities report highlighted three of the North East’s biggest centres of population at or close to the bottom of a league table for business start-ups. This news was disappointing but it is important to place these statistics in perspective; for other independent findings over the past 12 months have rated the North East as the second highest area for patent applications, we have the highest growing IT sector outside of London and, conversely to this new report, a Royal Mail survey in April last year showed Sunderland as an enterprise hotspot – the third highest area for start ups in the country.
It must also be noted that the survey is based around measurement of VAT registered companies only. We have many excellent businesses in the North East which operate under the VAT threshold (due to the increase in cost of living, these may not be seen as viable operations in the South).
As a business support agency we helped over 150 people to start their own businesses last year and whilst we have witnessed a decline in the number of starts; the enthusiasm and determination of our clients has certainly not been hampered. Indeed many of our clients decided to set up their own businesses because they are unsure about their job security and felt going it alone would give them a more secure future.
Of course it is very difficult for start ups to access funding in the current economic climate, but the government is making some money available: Along with our partners, the North East BIC runs the New Entrepreneurs Allowance, where unemployed individuals can access business support and an allowance of up to £1,000 to help them during the all important early days in business.
Finally, the developing abilities and aspirations of the upcoming entrepreneurial generation cannot be measured in these surveys; however it is vital to include it in any assessment. Projects like Sunderland College’s enterprise hub, a facility designed to teach young people how to start a business. Granted hub status by the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, this new partnership will enable the college to introduce new qualifications which focus on enterprise and entrepreneurship.
These are the initiatives that give me the greatest sense of optimism, and the confidence to believe that we will continue to see many more home grown success stories in the future.