One Sunderland was borne out of several years of research and experiences from when I first decided to start my own business. I encountered many potential stumbling blocks both before and after I had started out. I then met many other people who had similar experiences, teamed up with Sue Stott, herself a small business owner and we began to connect-up and support each other. Over the past five years, both Sue and I have been overcoming potential pitfalls and trying to provide solutions and ways around many of the problems pre and post small start-ups might encounter. We are immensely proud of Sunderland and wanted our City to stand out as a beacon where entrepreneurs can flourish, are nurtured and supported and is a destination for small businesses. This passion spurred us to create One Sunderland.We are in the first year of a five year plan to develop and grow One Sunderland. The Office of National Statistics 2016 show that small business failure rates in Sunderland over a five year life cycle are the worst within all major Towns and Cities across the North East and are among the lowest throughout the UK with only 37% still trading after five years. Sunderland is not deemed to be a destination City for business and we have found that there are large amounts of empty and under-utilised workspace around the City. Support for pre and post start-ups is available in small ERDF funded pockets, as is training and support for help and advice however, this is difficult to find. Much of the financial help is match funded, grant funded support has almost disappeared. With the onset of Brexit, One Sunderland wants to map out all support across the city and create a signpost, free at the point of delivery (where possible) to nurture new and small businesses.
Our aim is to create a support hub coupled with a small business strategy, designed to offer not only direction and support but a training facility for small business and the community to work within. Converting to a Community Interest Company (CiC) and partnering with some of the larger established businesses throughout the area, including Make iT Sunderland, the Federation of Small Businesses and some influential, like minded partners such as the University of Sunderland and Natwest, we can deliver services that will not only signpost the external help available but also allow us to provide direct help and support to try and stem the small business failure rates.
We would also like to take advantage of Big lottery and other such funding for community initiatives. We want to deliver targeted workshops and training to some of the areas of Sunderland and surrounding areas that have high unemployment and deprivation. We are working with eight jobcentres across Sunderland and the Enterprise allowance scheme (job centre work placements team) to actively educate and prepare unemployed people to start their own small business or to get back into employment
Ultimately, by targeting small business and community initiatives, our aim is to bring business into Sunderland to fill as much workspace as possible, to bring a buzz back to the area and to showcase what is available throughout the City. We want to drive small businesses out of their bedrooms and into affordable workspace so they can network and thrive off other like-minded people. We need our established businesses to help us nurture small business as they could become their customers of the future right here on our doorstep. One Sunderland will be at the centre of a map of help and support and by making it free or affordable to those who really need it, we can rebuild Sunderland from the ground up, local people driving local initiatives.
Having graduated from Leeds University in the 90s (yes I am that old) I spent 17 years at General management level and above working for several blue chip national companies. I then decided to ‘go it alone’ and have been on a steep, eventful and exciting journey with my own business.
One Sunderland has evolved from both mine and Sue’s frustration at the lack of support for pre and post businesses startup help and support, that is affordable and practical. Sunderland seems to be a forgotten part of the North East when it comes to new initiatives and cutting edge innovation and we want to address this as almost two in every three new startups can fail within their first three years.
Our aim is to champion and promote local small businesses and encourage them to generate wealth by sourcing from within the City first.
Having networked within various groups throughout the North East when I started my business in 2012. I found the networking to be of great advantage, gaining useful connections and gaining clients through doing so. I now find that within the Sunderland and surrounding areas the groups are very few and far between, unless you want to pay a fee, which for new start-ups is a lot to pull out.
When Mike suggested developing the new One Sunderland network to help support pre and post business start-ups I jumped at the chance of helping others to grow. I still have a lot of connections through groups that I am and have been involved with and feel that these can be utilised in a new way moving forward.
I am really excited about this new group and looking forward to helping Mike move things forward and collaborating with new and old connections.