Sara Davies panel event
(Clockwise from top): Sara Davies, Jonathan Lamb, chief executive of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, Dean Benson, Dr Tim Hammond and Richard Lane.

Member Article

Dragons’ Den star tells North East entrepreneurs that response to covid opportunities instils confidence in the future

Dragons’ Den star Sara Davies has delivered an upbeat assessment on the future for North East entrepreneurs – predicting that 2021 will be the year to build upon the many opportunities that have arisen from the coronavirus pandemic.

The founder and CEO of Newton Aycliffe-based Crafter’s Companion, who was chairing an Entrepreneurs’ Forum event entitled ‘The Future for Entrepreneurship’, was supported in her positive views by a panel of business experts.

She told the online event: “I’ve been hugely encouraged by the way this region’s businesses have adapted and pivoted in response to the many challenges and uncertainties of the last eight months.

“Change always generates opportunity, even when forced upon us, and it’s the entrepreneurs who possess the right mindset and ability to think outside the box that are best placed to react.

“Given the response of North East business leaders, I have more confidence in the future and believe that 2021 will see a real reboot of the entrepreneurial spirit.”

She was joined on the panel by Dean Benson, founder and CEO of Stockton-based e-commerce experts Visualsoft; Richard Lane, co-founder and CEO of Newcastle-based sales consultancy durhamlane, and Dr Tim Hammond, director of commercialisation and economic development at Durham University, and project lead for Northern Accelerator.

Dean Benson, who is also a member of the Forum board, said lessons could be learnt from the last recession when those businesses that retained the confidence to invest in sales and marketing had emerged in a much stronger position.

He added: “Entrepreneurs are agile and adaptable and as a result thrive on change. However, one of the biggest challenges is not in starting a business but in scaling it and that’s where it’s vital to surround yourself with a good team of management and staff.

“Running a business can also be very lonely and it’s also important to seek the advice and support of your peers, through an organisation like the Entrepreneurs’ Forum.”

Richard Lane told the online audience of more than 50 that technological changes, including cloud computing, had made starting a business much more attainable. He added that this was reflected by a new phenomenon - the ‘furloughpreneur’, those on furlough who used the time to develop their business ideas.

“My advice to entrepreneurs is that any reduction of sales and marketing creates a void, that can be filled by a competitor. Above all, look after your people, look after yourself, look after your customers and be proactive.”

Dr Tim Hammond said that Northern Accelerator – a collaboration between Durham, Newcastle, Northumberland, and Sunderland universities is making a step change in how the Universities commercialise ideas from their research base. This is particularly critical as the Universities account for approximately a third of all research spend in the North East.

“Covid has presented many opportunities which have seen the development of new and responsive business models and innovation,” he added. “We are pushing to get these innovative ideas out of the universities and, through Northern Accelerator, are creating collaborative solutions as well as increasing engagement with external organisations.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by News Gathering .

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