International Trade

Three businesses tell us what it’s like to set up shop in Newcastle

7 min read

31 May 2018

Former special projects journalist

With the Amazon Academy coming to Newcastle on 5th June, we speak to three business owners operating in very different industries about what it has been like launching and running a business in the city.

Newcastle was voted the number one place for travellers to visit in 2018 by the Rough Guides series, and has a longstanding reputation for its wild nightlife. The city is packed full of pubs, bars and nightclubs, so its Geordie Shore party-scene reputation with tourists isn’t too surprising.

What might turn a few heads, however, is the city’s solid reputation as a business hub. In fact, for many entrepreneurs in the North East – and further afield – the city offers some attractive advantages.

We caught up with three business people in the area to find out more – and they couldn’t be more different. While one of these businesses is tapping into the city’s good time atmosphere, the other two are making a name for themselves in the digital arena by reaping the rewards of the city’s talent base and business support networks.

We spoke to:
Ian Robinson, CEO of Broadband Satellite Services, a mobile satellite communications provider
Lisa Eaton, director of Unwritten Creative, a strategic brand and digital agency
Matt Mavir, MD of Last Night of Freedom, a stag and hen party organiser.

Here’s what they had to say about doing business in Newcastle:

Why did you decide to set up in Newcastle?

IR: Historically, shipbuilding and engineering had been key to Newcastle’s prosperity, but by the 1970s, these industries and jobs within them were in decline. The city’s strong links with the maritime industry and access to skills in electronics and engineering provided what we needed to be able to start the business.

LE: I’ve grown up in Newcastle, always lived and worked here so I knew it was where I wanted to set up…I know the ecosystem. It’s a great place to do business and there’s plenty of support for a business to grow.

MM: Being from the North East it seemed logical to relocate from our original offices in Morpeth and set up in Newcastle. We also decided to move to Newcastle due to the nature of the business; selling stags and hens in a city known for its party atmosphere is a no-brainer.

What are the advantages of operating out of Newcastle?

IR: Across Tyneside, we have access to quality expertise across all areas of our business, such as offshore, telecoms and Cisco engineers. The quality of the talent pool means we are able to lead our product development out of the region. In Newcastle, we also benefit from proximity to a number of world-class universities.

LE: There are some of the UK’s largest businesses here, Sage, Virgin Money, Akzo Nobel, plus great universities with an abundance of talent that we can benefit from. So, the network is full of all the right ingredients to make the perfect hub for business.

MM: The advantage of working out of such a well-known city are obvious to us; we want to inspire and ensure groups have a great pre-wedding trip away, and where else than a city we know and love?

What are the disadvantages of operating out of Newcastle?

IR: While not a disadvantage as such, the nature of our business means we also need teams on the ground within the international markets we operate in, so couldn’t have our whole team in the North East. We have 18 locations from Phoenix to Singapore and Tokyo.

LE: I haven’t experienced any, but I suppose the biggest disadvantage Newcastle has is its distance from London.

MM: In the industry we operate in there is not really any kind of disadvantage. The city is known for its friendly, welcoming atmosphere for visitors as well as the epic nightlife – something that most locals pride themselves on. The only thing, I feel, that could make the city better for us is the weather; if we had the sun and heat that the likes of Spain has then what a wonderful place we would live.

What would be your tips for someone launching a new business in Newcastle?

IR: Wherever you are starting a business, the first thing you need is the vision, ideas and focus to develop the plan you need to succeed. It’s important to assess how much of an impact location will have on the future growth of your business. This comes from a deep-rooted understanding of your audiences, competitors and overall market.

LE: Go for it, there is a very supporting business network for those setting up in Newcastle. Surround yourself with good people and the rest will follow.

MM: My tips for someone launching any business is to do their research. Newcastle is becoming a hub for business and somewhere where investment is paying off, which is great to see. The tech industry is growing rapidly here in the North East, while already having world-leading facilities for scientific research. I also recently saw that Newcastle and Gateshead are in the running to be the new home of Channel 4, which is huge for the media and communications industry.

As a whole, the region is becoming a hot spot for enterprise businesses and we are proud to be a part of it.

Next week will see the Crowne Plaza in Newcastle play host to the next Amazon Academy, part of a free event series put on by Amazon to help small businesses grow and scale online.

If you are interested in running a business in Newcastle, register free for your Amazon Academy Newcastle ticket, here.