Where Passion Meets Potential

At FIRST we empower students, founders and professionals to reach their potential and beyond

You are First

We are an accredited learning and development agency specialising in progression skills and leadership experiences for cross sector clients including educational institutions, combined authorities, community organisations and private business.

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Sign up now Level 1 in understanding enterprise

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Our work with Young People


Working throughout the UK and beyond, we support young people to develop confidence and essential skills so they can find a job, start a business or initiate a civil project.

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Our work with Businesses & Employees

From meaningful CSR opportunities to support early stage founders to leadership and confidence training for junior staff. We get your business and staff team connected.

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Our work with Early stage founders

Self belief, commercial awareness and connections to customers, mentors and peers - we're working hard to improve startup business rates and essential skills for ambitious founders.

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Celebrating North East Talent

Alongside our partners, Startup Awards North East shines a spotlight, celebrates and connects ambitious, early stage founders to life changing opportunities and experiences.

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Meet the Team

Caroline Theobald CBE

Caroline has spent her career connecting North East business people and is passionate about creating commercial and life opportunities. She was awarded a CBE for services to business and entrepreneurship in 2016 and is a lifetime holder of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise. As cofounder of FIRST her work focuses on strategy, leading the advisory board and inspiring and supporting the MD.

Charlotte Windebank

As FIRST’s Managing Director, Charlotte is responsible for development, vision and quality. She supports the operations and communication managers and ensures all company outputs are aligned to objectives, values, and mission. Alongside her role as director, Charlotte is an advocate for social and structural change within entrepreneurship and is regularly invited to speak about research, innovations and positive actions towards increased inclusivity and empowerment for early stage founders, young people and junior staff.

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Sam Gallilee

Sam has 20 years experience working across the education and youth sector for school trusts, local councils and national charities. Sam’s passion and experience ensures all of FIRST’s projects create meaningful outcomes whilst supporting the team to ensure they have the resources they need to deliver their projects to the highest quality standards.

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Louise Debnam

Louise's expertise stems from global event management, marketing and relationship building from a research and development perspective. Louise ensures that our activities are enriched with analytical data that gives our partners, meaningful return on investment and our learners, meaningful outcomes for their careers or enterprise journey.

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Masud Raja

Masud's role is to share our enterprise and entrepreneurial opportunities with stakeholders including learners, partners and clients. As an innovating 'intrepreneur' Masud works with the learning/development and communications team to empower communities to develop confidence, leadership and progression skills.

We are hiring

Visit the news section of this website to see a full list of our latest job opportunities.

Carl Scarisbrick

Carl works across our projects to build our digital community of learners and leaders. He ensures that market data drives our communications and keeps our designs and messaging on brand. Carl is a people person and loves team banter :)

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Sam Clegg

Samuel Clegg is an advocate for entrepreneurship, business and innovation, and is highly passionate about supporting and helping others in their business journeys. He is a business owner, advisor, academic, and published researcher with over 10 years’ experience within the SME and Startup profession. Sam works as a tutor for our enterprise courses and brings energy, passion and first hand knowledge of what it's like to run a business.

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Ellie Short

Ellie works on assessment, pastoral care and coordinates all of FIRST's educational contracts to ensure learners develop essential skills and gain valuable experiences when working with us. She is passionate about inclusive education and loves a challenge!

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Lucy Batley

As an established and successful business owner, Lucy is an expert in communications and brand strategy. She ensures that FIRST keeps on message and with her wealth of experience within the private sector, utilises her connections, insights and creativity to help shape FIRST's strategy.

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Duncan McNulty

Duncan has 10 years of financial service history across education, public and private sector. He is an advocate for skills and supports FIRST to remain focussed on KPIs and objectives and how this translates to securing business finance and sustainability for the future.

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Simon Hanson

Simon is a policy and lobbying expert with a passion and mission to make the regional economy inclusive. As a public sector expert he ensures FIRST is making connections and building a case of support within local authorities to help more residents access support from FIRST.

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Alison Shaw

As an educational leader, Alison is an expert in social impact and skills. She is passionate about creating opportunities for young people's progression and making changes within education so it's accessible to all communities.

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Su Rayner

Su is responsible for making sure our projects meet contractual deadlines and that our paperwork, including finance is on point. Su's a small business expert with an impressive accountancy and public sector background and she keeps the team in line whilst supporting the MD to make informed business decisions.

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Upcoming Events

  • Leaders on Tour: Tees Valley

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  • Celebrate Social Impact Success - Led by NIBE, powered by FIRST & PNE

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  • Startup Awards North East

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