Running a business in Newcastle

The Virgin Media Business VOOM Tour bus is back on the road next week and will be heading north to Newcastle.

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Population: 289,800

Pros: Low cost of living and running a business, transport links to London and Scotland.

Cons: Remote from large cities such as London, hard to attract talent.

What to expect: A friendly, collaborative business community who are willing to help each other out.

To find out more about business in Newcastle, we caught up with local entrereprenuers Alex Blakoe, co-founder of JimJam, Richard Gallagher, managing director at Glass Digital, Laura Sharpe, founder of Sharpe Recruitment, and Paul Lancaster, founder and event producer of Newcastle Startup Week.

What are the best things about doing business in Newcastle?

Paul Lancaster: It’s an incredibly close-knit, friendly and supportive business community at all levels, from start-up to corporate. The cost of living is low yet it’s a high quality of life. Newcastle is what I call a 'small big city' with everything you could want in terms of lifestyle, entertainment, leisure, retail, culture, tourism and fantastic people too.

It has a long and proud history of innovation and invention going back hundreds of years with some of the greatest ever industrial pioneers living and working here. We are a region of do-ers who work hard, play hard and get shit done! And the Geordie accent is the best. No question.

Richard Gallagher: Every penny spent here goes a whole lot further than in London and, because business is increasingly conducted online, our location doesn't hold us back. Plus, as a larger digital marketing agency, we stand out a lot more in Newcastle than we would elsewhere.

Alex Blakoe: Newcastle feels like such a connected city. Not only are we not that far from London nor Edinburgh on the train, but within the city there is a real culture of collaboration. We want to do the North-East proud – and that’s not difficult when we have lovely cities like Newcastle to work with! There no denying that the North-East is inexpensive when rent and living costs are so low.

Laura Sharpe: The people in Newcastle are the best. I have worked in London, Yorkshire and Cumbria and the people in Newcastle have by far being the most welcoming, encouraging and supportive. I have met people through business here who I now regard as good friends, that's rarely happened anywhere else.

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What are the downsides?

LS: Some of the transport links could be better, I think there is a lot of potential business in other parts of our region but it can take almost as long to get to them as it can for me to get to York on the East Coast Mainline from Newcastle!

AB: Talent tends to migrate south, meaning that businesses struggle to hire experienced employees, particularly in software development. JimJam has so far been fortunate in this respect; however, as a rapidly expanding business, it would be great to see people attracted by the bright lights of Newcastle rather than the bright lights of London.

RG: Because Newcastle is quite isolated, we do have to look further afield for business. And even though we conduct business online and travel to meetings where necessary, we've found that a lot of prospects don't consider us due to location. However, they're increasingly cottoning onto the fact that we can deliver better value for money, and offer benefits that far outweigh the problems caused by distance.

PL: I can't think of any. We could do with a bit more sunshine maybe (but that's the same with most of the UK really)?

We really do deserve more recognition for what an awesome city Newcastle is to start & grow a business, especially from the national media & politicians.

How would you describe the business culture of Newcastle?

AB: I certainly feel that there is a sense of excitement about Newcastle’s prospects in the near future. An abundance of businesses with boundless aspirations have received a great deal of interest from investors in the last few months.

RG: Newcastle's business people are well connected, so word spreads if you deliver a good service. Many of our clients have come off the back of a strong referral. We also find that business up north is a lot more straightforward. In our experience, people like to get to the point and get the job done quickly.

LS: Inclusive, encouraging, supportive and vibrant. Don't get me wrong, there are cliques and in my 10 years here I've come across the odd "bad egg", but all in all I think the business culture is positive and I've found it easy to integrate.

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What tips would you have for anyone thinking about starting a business in Newcastle?

PL: Three things: 1. Don't be afraid to ask for help. "Shy bairns get nowt!"

2. Start! Less talk, more action!

3. Follow me on Twitter @lordlancaster

LS: I'm sure the saying goes "it's not what you know it's who you know" and in some parts of the country that might not ring so true nowadays with the power of the internet and digital marketing but in the Newcastle I would say people still buy from people and your network can have a massive effect on your success so get out there, go build it face to face as well as online!

AB: The collaborative nature of the city is tangible once you start attending the local events. Get to know the local people and local businesses – opportunities will emerge from places you never expected. The North-East community wants you to succeed and that will happen if you get to know the people!

RG: Thanks to a close-knit business community, networking goes far. I'd recommend getting stuck into local events and speaking to as many people as possible. We Geordies are a friendly bunch, so don't be afraid to strike up a conversation!

The Virgin Media Business VOOM bus will be on Grainger's Street in Newcastle on July 6th, 2017. Find out more and sign up now on the Virgin Media Business website.

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