How the latest Newcastle University mentoring scheme is helping the region’s startups

Small businesses are being invited to take part in a scheme aiming to develop and grow their business by pairing them with mentor managers from larger companies.

Newcastle University Business School’s ‘Captured’ scheme is a free initiative that matches owners of businesses with fewer than 20 employees with experienced managers from businesses including Go North East, HSBC, Nexus and Virgin Money.

Spread across four half-day workshops, the entrepreneurs identify key areas of their business they want to develop more effectively.

Following this, they can build a one-to-one relationship with their mentor who provides ideas for steps in which the small business can take to help the company grow.

Dr Fiona Whitehurst, Captured’s programme lead, explained: “The Captured scheme works on the principle that experienced managers from larger organisations can be a valuable resource for small business owners who might otherwise struggle to find time to step back and look strategically at their business.

“Smaller businesses tell us that they really value learning from experienced professionals who can help them clarify the vision for the business and how they can spend their time to make sure they get the greatest impact.

“The managers from larger businesses say that the programme gives them a chance to reflect on their own managerial practice and make new contacts.”

The two-month Captured initiative is free and open to businesses from any sector who are based in County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside or Sunderland.

Since its launch in January 2016, Captured has worked with 100 small firms in the region, pairing them with experienced managers from more than 30 larger businesses.

One of the first businesses to take part was Newcastle-based Walton Marketing & Communications. Set up in 2014, owner Nina Walton joined the very first Captured programme.

The support she received supposedly enabled her to grow the business by 35 per cent.

Nina Walton said: “There are so many elements to navigate when setting up a business.

“Working for yourself can at times be isolating and there are lots of grey areas and questions to resolve, so having the opportunity to work with a mentor to talk through those challenges was very appealing.”

The first wave of Captured workshops of 2019 will start in February at venues in Newcastle and Sunderland, with two further rounds of workshops beginning this May.


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