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Unlocking the North East’s Scale-up Potential

James Robson, Chair (Entrepreneurs’ Forum)

Created by James Robson, Chair (Entrepreneurs’ Forum), 30th November 2018


They contribute £1 trillion to the economy and employ over 3.6 million members of staff - but how do we support the UK’s most ambitious scale-ups?

This is the question that was posed during last week’s Annual Scaleup Review, hosted by the ScaleUp Institute. Created in collaboration with the Office of National Statistics, the review provides a comprehensive analysis of the UK scaleup scene, using detailed research undertaken across all UK regions.

The review shows that the North East, which is split between the region’s two LEP areas - the North East and Tees Valley - accounts for 1,010 scale-up businesses, a 7% increase from last year’s 940 figure. These businesses turnover an estimated £12.8 billion and have created jobs for over 86,000 people.

While these figures are positive, demonstrating the rise of high growth businesses coming from the region, the focus of the review was undeniably on the barriers faced by entrepreneurs to scale-up. Collaborating with the two LEPs, the ScaleUp Institute identify a number of key barriers for North East entrepreneurs, including access to talent, access to UK markets, and leadership development. It also places a particular emphasis on the importance of peer-to-peer networks, citing them as the most significant local support scheme for scale-ups.

As of 2018, there are 220 dedicated ‘scale-up support programmes’ in the UK, 37 of which are endorsed by the ScaleUp Institute. I’m proud to say that the Entrepreneurs’ Forum Scale-up Leader’s Academy is one of these, and even features in in the annual review as a ‘One to Watch’.

Since launching in 2017, the Academy has supported 20 ambitious business owners to focus on their growth journey and to build a blueprint for future business success. The first cohort of businesses, which have been the subject of research conducted by Newcastle University, have reported a 66.37% increase in their business revenue since completing the Academy – equivalent to an added average value of £668,413 per business.

While the numbers speak for themselves, it’s the feedback from our learners that truly demonstrate the value of the Academy. Joanna Feeley, Managing Director of Trend Bible, reports a 36% increase in her turnover since completing the Academy. On reflection, it was the peer-to-peer learning that was beneficial to her and her team:

“The most impactful part for me has been being able to access one-to-one time with a dedicated mentor and crucially, getting to openly discuss growth issues with other business leaders.

“The Academy was well worthwhile in my opinion, we grew 36% in turnover, and maintained our double figure profit margin the year after the programme. It certainly worked for us.”

And Joanna’s comments are echoed by Dominic Lusardi, co-founder of digital media consultancy Animmersion. His business recently celebrated the successful launch of the world’s largest mixed reality display – the launch forms part of the company’s ambitious growth strategy to double turnover in the next two years and enter new markets. Of the Academy, Dominic said:

“Taking ideas from the programme and other business leaders, and applying them to Animmersion, has definitely influenced our growth.

“We think we’ve identified a cost-effective framework that will hopefully allow us to triply turnover in the next five years, without having to re-evaluate plans at every stage.”

Joanna and Dominic’s testimonials highlight the importance of a collaborative and supportive environment for ambitious entrepreneurs offered by the Academy. Ultimately, it is through such an environment where experiences and knowledge can be shared. I know first-hand that these support systems are essential for any entrepreneur.

New for 2018, our Scale-up Leader’s Academy includes six sessions designed specifically for collaborative working between business owners and their senior leadership team. The ambition of these sessions is to enable all of your team to realise the vision of your company and to implement your blueprint for business growth.

In January, we’ll welcome another 15 entrepreneurs to the Academy. While recruitment is currently ongoing, we’d be delighted to hear from those North East business owners who have ambitious plans to grow and succeed.

For more information, and to apply to the Scale-up Leader’s Academy, please visit or contact the Entrepreneurs’ Forum team on 0191 500 7780.

James Robson, Chair (Entrepreneurs’ Forum)

Created by James Robson, Chair (Entrepreneurs’ Forum), 1 year ago, [last edited 1 year ago]