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Match-making programme helps develop small businesses

By 23rd January 2019 No Comments

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

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.

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 some of the region’s largest businesses including Go North East, HSBC, Nexus and Virgin Money.

Over four half-day workshops the entrepreneurs identify key areas of their business they want to develop more effectively. They then build a one-to-one relationship with their mentor who provides an objective sounding board, a fresh perspective and ideas for steps the small business can take to help the company grow.

At the same time, the manager has the opportunity to develop their own leadership and coaching skills, support small businesses in the region and engage directly with entrepreneurs.

Both partners are able to also benefit from the knowledge and support of experts at Newcastle University Business School.


Mentoring support

 Dr Fiona Whitehurst, Captured programme lead, said: “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 completely free and open to businesses from any sector who are based in County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside or Sunderland.

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 in May.  The deadline for applications for these first two groups is Friday 25 January.  To apply and for more information, visit

Addressing challenges

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 has received to build new networks and develop long-term business goals has enabled her to attract a string of new clients and grow the business by 35%.

Nina Walton, Director, 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.”

Nina was mentored through the Captured programme by Nick Grey, Managing Director (North and Ireland), Faithful + Gould. Nick said: “Captured is really interesting because it causes me to reflect on my own experience, listening to the challenges faced by small businesses and looking at how the experience I’ve been fortunate to gain throughout my career can be used to help them in what we’re trying to do. I think it’s a really good concept and would really recommend it.”

The success of the Captured programme led to Newcastle University Business School becoming one of just 30 institutions around the world recognised by the Innovations that Inspire scheme, run by AACSB International – the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The scheme identifies institutions that are defining what it means to lead in the face of uncertainty and rapid global change and highlights best practice in educating the next generation of business leaders. The AACSB praised the Captured programme for its bold and innovative approaches to business education.

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