Grow your business with entrepreneur and investor Neil Stephenson
Meet Neil Stephenson, the experienced CEO, entrepreneurial investor and mentor behind Stephenson Ventures.
Neil, 46, is well-known in the North East business community, actively investing in the tech sector and holding several board positions.
How did it all begin? In 1990, studying a joint degree in computers and economics at the University of Sunderland helped Neil set his sights on a career in business and media.
His first break came at Sunderland’s Vaux Breweries, when he was living in South Shields: “I joined the marketing team and spent three years there. I absolutely loved it.
“We had a significant marketing budget, sponsoring Sunderland FC and national TV advertising… The job was to drink beer and sell it! It was great, I loved every moment.”
Being a driven character, he knew that job wasn’t for ever. Having always known what he wanted to achieve with his career, Neil made his next big leap with Stockton-based Onyx Group.
His 20-year tenure there started in 1996, when it was simply a small ‘dot com’ startup.
“I liked the people and the opportunity,” he said. “I was enthused by it – it was a million miles away from home and I took a modest pay cut. I had to buy a new car as it was such a long way… But I just loved it, it was the total opposite of what I had been in.”
A management buyout in 2000 was the catalyst for growth, after which the company’s turnover soared from less than £1m to £30m, generated by 200 staff across 11 UK offices.
Neil explained: “Supported first by management and angel investors, the journey included investment from local VC’s and then a period under private equity ownership, during which the business acquired regularly and built out its business nationwide.”
Onyx evolved dramatically over time with Neil’s dedication: “I was initially the sales and marketing director for eight or nine years, then chief executive for 10 years. In that time I probably had seven three-year jobs because it was just growing so fast and the needs of the business were changing so quickly.”
In early 2016 the business was acquired by one of its competitors in a deal valued at £65m. Neil left at that point to found his own business, Stephenson Ventures.
Since then, Neil has been heavily involved with other businesses, using his expertise in finance, acquisitions, sales and marketing to help them scale up.
Companies he has worked with include Redu, the multi award-winning marketing firm based in Seaham, and creative agency We Are Concept, which launched in Summer 2017.
Neil specialises in showing others how to transform their businesses, from startups and entrepreneurs to companies that have been around for years.
He holds Sales and Marketing Master Classes across the UK throughout the year – one-day events that help attendees power up their sales skills, covering everything from cross selling and upselling to online tools, account management, prospecting and lead generation.
The master classes are suitable for both new salespeople or more experienced professionals looking to brush up and refine their skills.
Neil’s own sales and marketing expertise enables him to provide in-depth training for businesses looking to reach the next stage of their development.
As an active investor he continues to back projects across the country.
No average working day is the same for Neil: “It’s always busy [but] I try to be efficient and organised with everything I do. I can work from home, and work with the businesses I’ve invested in… I’ve got good control.
“I speak regularly… It’s nice when you’ve got a few different things because you can promote them all at one event!”
If you’re interested in attending one of Neil Stephenson’s events or would simply like to get in touch with him to discuss how he could help your business thrive, head to his website at Stephenson Ventures or see the form above.