30 years of Enterprising Newcastle
I started working in the council’s Economic Development Team in 1984, supporting new businesses start in the east of the city. As they have done, for the last 30 years, the council continues to see supporting business start-up and growth as a priority and it is, currently, an integral part of our ‘Working City’ agenda. Whilst the council is less involved in the direct delivery of business support services it still plays a key role, providing information and helping to coordinate support across the city.
The council also has a lead role, helping design the business support that will be available in Newcastle in the years to come, taking a strategic lead and helping to secure funding for the city. I still work with businesses and enjoy the day to day contact I have with new and more established businesses. It is only by talking to businesses that we can make any informed decisions on how business support should be delivered. There is always room for improvements and we need businesses to tell us what they think.
Back in 1984, unemployment rates were high in the city and many unemployed residents were considering self-employment as an option to employment and training. We have a similar state of affairs today with high levels of start-up enquiries but what has changed is the type of businesses that people are now looking to start up. There has also been a huge growth in personal services. Hairdressing has always been popular but there is now a range of beauty-related services for men and women that we’d never have imagined 30 years ago.
The growth of the internet, in particular, has opened up new doors for businesses and provided global market opportunities. In turn, this has also led to a massive growth in home-based business. Social media has given us all another way of communicating and making contact with our customers, but we need to use this effectively and to appreciate that we still need face to face ‘people skills’- social media is just another tool available to us. My key message to all businesses would be to network more – online and face to face. Learn to do it properly and you will meet other businesses, gain new skills and learn from their experiences. You’ll also pick up new ideas, maybe new partners and, certainly, new customers.