Facilitated by Charlotte Windebank, of the If We Can You Can Challenge, the entrepreneurs focussed on how they feel they can overcome barriers to them establishing and growing their own businesses, here in the North East.
A common concern for new entrepreneurs is money and access to funding, and several of the entrepreneurs cited this as a barrier to starting up, both in the very early stages of business and further down the line.
Iraa Kadchha, managing director of creative agency, RGB Media, said: "Even finding a bank account was difficult, when I was looking for an account one bank said to me ‘we can help you out with an account for a start-up business, but we require a £5000 deposit to set up the account.’ I had just started my business from my living room, so that was the first hurdle for me."
Ross McPhie from marketing and design consultancy, McPhie Design, explained that he has encountered problems with securing funding for his established business. He said: "If you’re looking for a start-up loan, there are options to get people up off the ground, but when you need to make that next step there’s a big gulf where you need a bank to look at your business and think ‘this is going somewhere.’
"You know you just need that little bit of luck - and that luck can happen - with the capital to make it happen. But the sources you would usually go to are looking for something bigger, and the resources you have just aren’t going to get you there."
For new entrepreneurs who have only recently set up their business, barriers can be simply convincing people you’re serious. Hayley Ramm of High5ers explained she finds it frustrating when people don’t see her business as a ‘real job’, she said: "It can be difficult when people don’t believe in your passions and what you want to do."
Alex Muller-Nicholson of arts business Rosarts agreed, saying people often don’t see creative businesses as more than a side-line interest: "It’s not just a hobby. And people don’t always understand that. Especially if you’ve had a career before or you were studying something else at university, then you have to explain to people ‘I don’t want to do that thing any more, now I want to do this’," she explained.
The risk of leaving a career to start a business from scratch was another worry for people setting up a business. Ross McPhie said: "It’s the term ‘entrepreneur’ that feels a bit uncomfortable. It’s always applied to other people. The word ‘entrepreneur’ means you’ve taken risks."
Russell James of Guru Jamez Ltd added: "You need to have that risk. Nobody is going to die and there’ll always be a support network for you because you live in the 21st century in the UK."
Many of the entrepreneurs claimed support from places like Entrepreneurial Spark kept them going when they faced barriers. Sue Shaw-Toomey from Toomey Legal said: "Entrepreneurial Spark was a great boost. When I got accepted I had been going for just over a year and it was the first time someone had looked at me and at my business and thought ‘you’re good!’ You get that all the time at work, your boss will tell you if you’ve done well or secured a good deal, and that’s what I found really hard – that you’ve got to see yourself and pat yourself on the back. There’s nobody else doing it."
Several of the entrepreneurs who have entered If We Can You Can say that the support of their fellow start-ups has been valuable. As Ross McPhie said: "It’s about celebrating successes together."
Lizzie Hodcroft, from food company The Sweet Beet, says that as well as being there to celebrate each other’s successes in business, it helps to understand that every start up is facing the same challenges. She said: "A lot of the time I feel completely out of my depth, and I just have to remember that other people starting up don’t know what they’re doing any more than I do!"
There’s still time to enter this year’s If We Can You Can Challenge, which recognises and celebrates the best of the North East’s 0-3 year old businesses, regardless of the business leader’s age or experience.
For information on how to apply, the competition and its benefits please visit www.ifwecanyoucan.co.uk
Deadline for entries is 16th of October 2016.
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