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Meet the people turing lockdown ideas into businesses

Lockdown inspired many to explore new ways of making a living. We catch up with three people who are taking their ideas from sofa to success.

Were you among the many who hit upon an idea for a new business or who realised you could perhaps ditch the nine-to-five and use your talents to work for yourself instead of someone else?

A huge wave of people did just that, as witnessed by Gateshead-based company Transmit, which specialises in helping people to run their own business, providing finance, support and training.

Demand for the Start Up Loans and mentoring they provide through Transmit Startups has soared in the past two years. And during lockdown the team began to pour all of their knowledge about how to set up and run a successful small business into a suite of courses for sister company Smarta, to give people the best chance of making their plans a huge success.

“We’ve been blown away by the creativity and sheer excitement of people who’re seizing the opportunity to change the way they work and fulfill long-held ambitions to own their own business,”

said Damian Baetens, Business Support Director at Transmit.

“After helping get 12,000 businesses off the ground and grow in the past ten years, we realised we had an amazing opportunity to share that experience through business training to help people get off to a strong start.

“It’s so satisfying to see some of those beneficiaries coming through now with real businesses and real futures.”

My startup story: Fiona Surrey, Wallsend

Fiona was made redundant 18 months ago but rather than stick with the industry where she’d carved a successful career, she decided to go it alone and satisfy her drive to inject some social purpose into her life.

My reason: I had lots of career options and job opportunities open to me but I thought why would I choose to be boxed into working for someone else when I can do it for myself? I wanted to combine the knowledge I’d accrued from a high flying retail management, sales and coaching career to make an impact in our communities. I’m passionate about bringing out the best in people and I wanted to use that for social good.

My business idea: I wanted to create a purpose-led marketing company which specialises in supporting charities, community organisations and small businesses. The aim is to help people build the skills and confidence to successfully market what they do to customers.

How I got started: I signed up for Smarta’s Startup Essentials on-demand course to learn all of the basics about how to be legal and compliant. This is the sort of stuff that could keep you awake at night so getting clarification on all the legal stuff gave me real peace of mind.

It’s given me the confidence to know I have a handle on the legal fundamentals. I know I can ask for expert support when I need it but I’m not relying on someone else for the basics. I’m not going to be blindsided in my own business by something I should know.

What’s next: I’m living the dream and I’m working on this full time! My ideas have already got me nominated for multiple awards. I’ve divided the business into not-for-profit and commercial arms and I’m excited to be working with my first customers. I have lots of ideas for projects and services and will build up a team to pursue them.

Our startup story: Gillian Hauxwell and Simon Evans from Gateshead

Couple Gillian and Simon wanted to find a way to scratch their entrepreneurial itch and even pay the bills, when they struck upon an idea for a card-based trivia game.

Our reason: Our normal jobs were really affected by the lockdowns of 2020. Simon is a self-employed PE teacher so he couldn’t work and had to rely on grants and I dreaded going to my job in retail under the circumstances. We realised it would be good to have something to fall back on, as the future looked so uncertain.

Our business idea: During lockdown, like many people, we played lots of games and did family quiz nights over Zoom. It got us thinking of our own ideas for a game. Strong Point started out as something we thought would be fun to play and after lots of thought we began to look at how to make it a reality.

How we got started: A friend recommended we get some professional business support to develop the idea. That’s how we found out about Transmit Startups, which provided a Start Up Loan to pay for our initial stock. Then a member of the team got in touch to suggest their Smarta Business Fundamentals training course would help us take the business to the next level.

The flexibility of the training was ideal because we’re fitting the development of the business around our day jobs. We could squeeze in the on-demand elements of the course whenever it was convenient and go back to things as many times as needed to be sure we’d understood them right.

Smarta gave us skills we could put to use straight away and the things we learned have really stuck with us. It’s easy to feel a little daunted by the prospect of launching your own business so it was a welcome surprise to have people reaching out to help in what we expected would be a bit of a lonely journey.

What’s next: We’re really excited to see where the Strong Point brand can take us. We are already stocked on Amazon and the great reviews we’ve received gives us confidence we’ll be on the Christmas lists of families across the land in 2022! Our vision is to see the first edition successful enough that we can expand into other editions, and overseas markets.

Feeling inspired by their stories?

If you’ve an ambition to work for yourself, make money from a side hustle or develop a better understanding of how small businesses work for yourself or your team, then you’re in luck!

Transmit has just announced plans to sponsor 1,000 businesses to access its courses, ensuring UK entrepreneurs can gain confidence and commercial edge, without paying a penny.

Which courses are sponsored?

On-demand courses include:

Smarta Business Fundamentals. Learn the skills you’ll need to start or grow your business - from testing out your idea with market research, to writing a budget and business plan. Smarta Startup Essentials. Learn the legal requirements for starting and running a UK business. Crack on with confidence knowing your business is legal and compliant. Smarta Marketing. Learn how to plan, create and implement your marketing strategies and grow a profitable business. Smarta Digital Marketing. Get the skills and tools to create a digital strategy that gets results for your business.

A range of other courses designed to grow businesses and accelerate careers are also available and funding from the European Social Fund means some North East postcodes can access fully funded places on these too.

Want to know more?

Take a look at our sponsored courses, and register your interest, here: []

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