Competitive North East

Author - Jasmin Brown

Date published:

The Stronger North East campaign work on competitiveness is an important platform to ensure the region punches above its weight.

This theme’s remit includes putting pressure on Government to explain how EU funding is going to be replaced, as ERDF investment had been so beneficial to North East regeneration historically.

The North East also has particular challenges in terms of skills, the need to encourage entrepreneurship and getting the right infrastructure development, so we are able to narrow the gap between the rest of our country and the region.

We have campaigned consistently on the need to level up with letters to Government stressing the need to address our members’ Brexit problems.

In the coming months we are also looking at how we can best support start-ups and micro businesses in their transition to fully-fledged SMEs.

Two of these businesses are already having substantial success.

WL Distillery based in South Hetton, County Durham was established by Scott Wilson-Laing to create distinctive gin with a very personal twist.

The gin’s flavours were created through his own experience of eating fruit from his grandad’s back garden as a child from conference pears and Braeburn apples to raspberries and blackberries.

In its first year, WL Distillery’s 1st edition gin has already scooped global awards and featured in prestigious magazines including Vogue and GQ.

The most recent award was a gold at the Gin Masters, a worldwide competition where the gin was judged against hundreds of entries. It was hot on the heels of also being awarded a silver at the London Spirits competition and a bronze for its distinctive branding at the World Gin Awards.

Scott Wilson-Laing, WL Distillery’s founder said: “The last year has been fantastic with a great appetite for my gins and also the new Wilson’s gin club offer, where new flavours will be developed in the range. The current one is watermelon and liquorice which seems to be going down very well. It wasn’t the easiest of times to start a business but sales are on track and awareness is definitely growing week on week.”

The Chamber supported his business with a PR opportunity, with an interview on the BBC national website which helped raise awareness of his venture. At the time his first gin was put on hold due to the outbreak of Covid and the switch was made to the production of hand sanitiser to help front-line teams.

He has also benefited from the opportunity to network and meet other entrepreneurs through the organisation’s wide range of events both on-line and now in person. WL Distillery now has its own retail outlet at Stack Newcastle where its gin products are sold from Wednesday – Sunday. Scott also has ambitions to export in the future capitalising on his media coverage overseas including New York and Dubai.

A second start up has similarly been supported by the Chamber.

Alan Green Photography based in Sunniside, near Gateshead is the culmination of a 40 year love of the art which has resulted in a freelance business.

Despite a successful career in commercial insurance Alan Green always had a passion for photography and decided to take the plunge and set up his own business two years ago.

It’s fair to say his route to success was not all plain sailing as he had one or two challenges along the way including the need to have open-heart surgery and the impact of the Covid lockdown.

His photography business is now on track and specialises in brand images in particular construction projects and people. Alan has recently completed work for fellow Chamber member Carney Consultancy.

Alan said: “I absolutely love working with people and that’s what is so great about working for myself and creating photographs that get results for my clients. In my view there is nothing as powerful to promote a business as some stunning imagery that complements a brand.”

Like Scott Wilson-Laing of WL Distillery Alan has found huge benefits in being part of the Chamber and making connections with other members for support as well as a source of new business contacts.

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