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THE Tees Valley is to be the focus of a major drive to bring together entrepreneurs and help local businesses survive and thrive in the region.

The Entrepreneurs' Forum's Talking Teesside event later this month is aimed at kicking off a programme of events and opportunities to connect and inspire local entrepreneurs.

The event will allow existing forum members based in the area to meet their peers at a local venue and to hear from inspirational speakers.

It will also see the forum bringing its own brand of peer support, shared experience and motivation from already successful business leaders to encourage all entrepreneurs in the area to grow their enterprises and boost the region's entrepreneurial culture.

The first takes place on September 28 at the Darlington FC Arena, starting at 6.30pm.

Talking Teesside will bring together a panel of some of the area's best known business leaders to share their thoughts on leadership, entrepreneurship and the strategies that have brought them success.

Steven Bell, John Elliott, Emily Humphrys and Alan Noble will be quizzed by business guru Andy Hanselman.

The son of an entrepreneur, Steven began his career with Bells Stores as a schoolboy, going on to be MD of the company at 25 and growing turnover to in excess of pounds 70m and winning numerous awards for training, customer service, IT and logistics.

He sold Bells Stores to Sainsbury's in 2004 but had already acquired the shop fitting business Newman Scott out of receivership.

Steven helped the team turn the business around and it has since built an impressive client base, including Adidas, Beaverbrooks, Zara, Mamas and Papas and Hugo Boss and now boasts turnover of pounds 15m-plus.

More recently, he acquired Chapters Hotel and Restaurant in Stokesley taking it from pounds 150,000 sales to more than pounds 1m, and bought the three-branch designer fashion retailer The House with his brother Peter.

John Elliott came from humble beginnings in Morley, near Bishop Auckland, and started work as an apprentice at an electrical engineering firm, before working in design and as a sales engineer.

Able to turn his hand to anything he met, by chance, someone who wanted a dehumidifier, sketched a design and persuaded suppliers to provide parts on credit.

Ebac grew from there and he began assembling dehumidifiers in his garden shed with his brother, Colin.

When orders grew, John invested the profits back into the business as sales reached an annual turnover of pounds 1m.

Emily is a director of Cambridge Research Biochemicals, which she and her business partner Alison White acquired through a management buy-out from Zeneca/Avecia in 2000.

And Alan Noble founded his first vehicle rental business (Noble Self Drive) with around 40 vehicles in 1981 before growing and acquiring other vehicle hire companies.

Northgate Motor Holdings was later acquired by Goode Durrant plc which relocated its head office to Darlington in 2001, becoming Northgate plc.

Now a FTSE250 company directly employing almost 3,000 people, Northgate has grown significantly to become the largest commercial vehicle rental business in Europe, with a 125,000 vehicle fleet operating from 90 locations in the UK and more than 35 in Spain and Ireland.

Carole Beverley, chief executive of the Entrepreneurs' Forum, said: "The forum has always operated region-wide and we already count many Tees Valley entrepreneurs among our growing membership from the area.

"Our If We Can You Campaign and the dinners and technology conference we have held in this part of the region has proven how the Tees Valley is really buzzing with some tremendously exciting new businesses and innovative ideas. However, it's well known that many enterprises do not fulfil their potential because they don't always engage in the support that''s available to them.

"The Tees Valley's entrepreneurial spirit needs to be nurtured so those enterprises started by local people live up to their promise. Experienced entrepreneurs like our speakers at Talking Teesside not only inspire but crucially can give honest, practical advice learned from having been there themselves."

Forum events take place in various formats from a major annual conference, workshops and sector specific conferences for all, to members-only focus dinners, on-site visits to companies and private dinners with national figures.

Talking Teesside is open to all business people and especially entrepreneurs. It is included in the membership package for existing Forum members and costs pounds 15 for their guests and pounds 35 for non-members, including supper.

* Details on 0870 8502233 or visit ASPIRING entrepreneurs are being invited to have a conversation that may help them start a business.

Regional development agency One North East is working with Iain Scott, creator of Enterprise Island, to design an Enterprise Journey programme specifically for "Organisational Captives," aimed at helping them to unlock their enterprise potential.

Organisational Captives are those aged over 28 and under 55 - who may still be working or have recently left a job - and will get the chance to have an informal but confidential discussion about their business dreams with a panel of enterprise experts.

The programme, which starts on September 30, is part of the One North East Enterprise Journey framework.

As well as the Enterprise Conversations, two days of Enterprise Workshops will take place next month in Newcastle at St James' Park and the Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough.

People must book a place for a conversation and can do so by calling 0845 326 8477 between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.

For further information about Enterprise Journey, log on to AN organisation designed to help entrepreneurs keen to develop new ideas, investigate opportunities and learn from each other has been set up in the North-east.

North-east chairman of the Entrepreneurs Board is Durham-based marketing consultant Karen Humble.

It aims to fill the niche between the two other forums run locally by the Academy of Chief Executives, which is behind the new organisation.

The group, which will meet for half a day each month to exchange ideas, is seeking entrepreneurial members who have either started a business or are considering doing so.

Research by the Entrepreneurs Board has found more than half of those quizzed (58%) thought Sir Richard Branson was the best famous role model entrepreneur.

Almost eight out of 10 thought the word 'ambitious' was the best description of an entrepreneur and more than half thought that people who grew up in poorer families were the best entrepreneurs.

However, 57% thought that the recession and changing attitudes to business would now make it more difficult for entrepreneurs to make a success of their business.

ENTREPRENEURS had the chance to shine at this year's If We Can, You Can Challenge.

But it was 36-year-old Louise Bell, from Stockton who was officially crowned as the 'new face of Teesside entrepreneurship'.

Her Healthy Glow business - which plans to conquer the UK with tanning parties launched on Teesside - was presented with a package of prizes at an award ceremony earlier this year.

The challenge organised by the Entrepreneurs' Forum and backed by nebusiness, saw more than 100 entries from across the North-east compete for regional entrepreneurial titles.

Meanwhile Teessiders have been given the opportunity to make their entrepreneurial dream a reality with Shop Start.

The competition, organised by Wellington Square operators Stenham and landlords Park Lane Estate, has given one business the chance to save around pounds 60,000 in rent, rates, insurance and service charges during its first 12 months selling from a 674sq ft unit.


WINNER: Louise Bell, the winner of our If We Can, You Can Challenge BUSINESS MASTERS: Get the benefit of advice from, left to right, Alan Noble, John Elliott, Emily Humphrys and Steven Bell
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Sep 22, 2009
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