The North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) provides office space and tailored business support at its three sites – North East BIC Sunderland, Business Central Darlington and The Hub Washington. Like all businesses, the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) faced unprecedented challenges when the UK went into full lockdown on March 23. But the team across the organisation’s three sites adapted quickly and continued to provide much needed guidance and support to its tenants. Here, four North East Business and Innovation Centre tenants share their experience of the support and guidance the organisation offers

Beverley Ashton, River View Clinic

Tell us a little about your business?

I aim to provide dynamic information regarding the ageing process. It could be as simple as ensuring patients have adequate sun protection to aesthetic interventions, cosmetic surgery, and most recently hormonal support.

What is the most rewarding aspect of running an independent business?

The benefit is the wonderful ability to make your own decisions, very quickly. You could go for a walk and realise that the direction of your business needs to change, or reconsider its focus, and you can do that without having to ask for anyone’s permission.

And what are the key challenges?

As a business owner you will always, at some stage, ‘hit the wall’. It is vital to remember that this is when the true creative process occurs, as it is at this stage that a change is inevitable. I have 100 per cent respect for anyone who is self-employed. It has been one of the biggest challenges of my life but I believe it is worth the investment.

How does the North East BIC support your business plans?

I signed my lease on March 19, 2020 – only four days before lockdown. The team have been amazing, I have felt 100 per cent supported by everyone from the beginning, and I believe it was the best business decision I’ve ever made. In my short time here, I have experienced support with printing, business advice, but also regarding local grants available to support businesses due to COVID-19. And in the future, I’m hoping to be an integral part of the business networks created at the North East BIC.

Patrick Masheder, Corporate Personal Fitness Limited

Tell us a little about your business?

Corporate Personal Fitness is one of the UK’s leading workplace wellbeing organisations. We improve our clients’ business performance by developing and delivering bespoke strategic and tactical workplace wellbeing programmes. These have a direct result on the physical and mental health, wellbeing and fitness of our clients’ primary resource – their workforce.

What is the most rewarding aspect of running an independent business in the region?

It’s being able to help people. Our personal trainers, therapists and mental health specialists can transform people’s lives. It’s fantastic to get feedback from our client companies about increasing productivity but when we get a call from one of our client’s employees saying we helped them get through a crisis or we have eased a chronic condition – well, that feeling can’t be beaten. We have found that businesses across the North
East are innovation-led and their senior management teams are open-minded.

And what are the key challenges?

For us, the key challenge is communication, whether that is internally, externally, to clients or learners. The usual channels of communication closed during the crisis. We have always embraced technology, so it was a relatively simple process to change the emphasis of our channels.

How does the Business Central Darlington support your business plans?

Business Central is all about community. Many of the tenants here keep fit in our personal training studio or enjoy treatments in Micro-Spa. They have become our friends and partners. Our accountant is based here as is our marketing agency. Our network has grown, and with office locations Business Central has set the benchmark.

Sam Piplica, Sam Piplica Surveying

Tell us a little about your business?

Sam Piplica Surveying Limited helps people look after and maintain buildings, by solving property problems.

What is the most rewarding aspect of running an independent business in the region?

Running my own business, rather than working for someone else, means I can give my customers the quality services I think they deserve. There’s nothing better than knowing you’ve given your client a high standard of personal advice, based on local knowledge.

And the challenges?

Right now, as I’m at the start of my business journey, changing my mindset from employee to business owner is the hardest thing. I’ve spent years becoming a building expert to be a valuable employee. It’s a big mental shift to business owner.

In a post-COVID-19 world, how have you adapted your working practices?

I’ve put in place extra safety measures when visiting properties and meeting with clients to keep all parties safe. Thankfully the measures put in place by the BIC mean I can continue to work from my usual co-working office space without any disruption to my desk-based work.

How does the North East BIC support your business plans?

Working at a business hub where there is a professional business support team on hand to help is really reassuring. There’s also
a ready-made community of businesses that can support each other. The flexible terms regarding office space mean I’ll be able to expand, without the hassle of changing address.

What are your reasons for working in Open Space?

There’s a really friendly atmosphere here and you get the company of others but also the space to concentrate. I find it’s easier to achieve that cut off between work and home too if I’m physically moving between the two.

North East BIC