The Enterprise Support sessions are a series of workshops and individual 1-2-1’s designed to take a business idea from concept to creation, whether looking to start as a self-employed freelancer or build a creative company from scratch. The sessions focus on key elements including keeping financial records, funding support, marketing, branding and the power of networking.

They are pitched at those interested in pursuing a career within the creative and digital industries as perhaps an animator, a filmmaker, a musician or games developer to name but a few.

Week One: Newcastle Start Up Week & The Importance of Market Research

Day One & Two

This series of Enterprise Support workshops coincided with the second ‘Newcastle Startup Week’, a 5-day and night event designed to inspire and enthuse those thinking of starting a business or wishing to be more entrepreneurial. Enterprise Mentor Lee Casey looked at it as an excellent opportunity to take 10 students along to the first two days before the theory side of Enterprise Support began and pre-purchased 10 tickets especially.

After meeting at Central Station for a coffee and introductions it was a short walk round to The Boiler Shop, the venue host for Day One ‘Inspiration Day’. A celebration of both local business success stories and from further afield other inspirational speakers. Event host Paul Lancaster ‘Collaborator of the Year’ started the day, followed by a memorable talk from Brad Burton, the UK’s No.1 Motivational Business Speaker and Author who got the crowd inspired with his real rags to riches story. Then we heard from Tom Shanks of Blueline Taxi’s talking about his growing role within the family business. A lot of networking opportunities presented themselves with Lee encouraging students to visit the business stands, say hello to those speakers they had resonated with and connect with fellow attendees either personally or through social media.

Day Two of ‘Newcastle Startup Week’ was based at The Core in Science Central for the theme ‘Getting Started’ with no less than 16 speakers in the lineup. This day was geared towards giving practical tips and advice on how to bring business ideas to fruition, how to manage time and money and where to get professional advice. Perfect for our young entrepreneurs at this stage! Speakers included Canny Drinks and Digital Union. Again great networking opportunities presented themselves throughout the day and these connections extended later into the evening at the after party too!

Day Three

Students gathered at Sunderland Software Centre with Enterprise Mentor Lee Casey for a recap on the connections they had made earlier in the week at ‘Newcastle Startup Week’ and these could be utilised going forward or at the very least try to connect with those they were inspired by on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Next Lee asked: “Have you done your Market Research? If yes, what have you done, let’s discuss.” Market research is one of the key areas to consider when starting any business and initial research of the marketplace including looking at existing data, asking potential customers relevant questions and making an attempt to establish real evidence. This can add substantial weight to any business plan so this session Lee talked through the different methods of research and data collection, highlighting how they could help identify potential customers and analyse the competition.

Week Two: Building Professional Networks, Keeping Financial Records & an Introduction to Marketing Channels

Day Four

Building on the networking theme from last week Lee introduced 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. The North East poses many opportunities including at Sunderland Software Centre and Jeni Banks, of Sunderland Software City, popped in to chat about her role and the events she would recommend plus the business support available. A tour of Software City followed! Lee specifically picked out other networking events too across the region she felt would be beneficial for students to access: ones by Generator, Northern Design Centre, Northern Film Academy, Customs House, North East Times, and the Inspire Network.

Day Five

Blu Sky Chartered Accountants joined the session at The City Library, Newcastle to give 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. It’s important for those looking at starting a business to not be daunted by keeping their records in check and the team from Blu Sky reassured that with procedures in place from the offset finance management was another role they could fulfil.

Marketing & Promotional Strategies

The next workshop saw an overview of the marketing mix presented with the importance of choosing media channels appropriate to them and their business in order to begin planning a suitable strategy. Lee led the session with references back to individual ideas to ensure they understood what might work for them. 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 and should be an on-going process. A mini-Facebook/LinkedIn training session was added at the end for those looking to build their online profiles on these platforms.

Week Three

Day Six: Costing & Pricing Strategies and Sunderland Software Centre Business Visit.

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. A practical session enabling the group to look at their own ideas and start determining a pricing strategy.

New World Designs, world leaders in Bullet Time Photography and creators of the first bullet time experiential rig are based at Sunderland Software Centre but work internationally, so when they invited us to pop in we jumped at the chance! Steve Rees Co-Founder and Director gave an overview of the type of work they had done with a fascinating 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. A small rig was set up in the office and Steve invited the group to have a go, what an opportunity! He explained how the camera rig operated and how the images were created and then these were then instantly emailed through. Check them out here.

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