“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed. The vision pulls you” –– Steve Jobs chairman, chief executive officer (CEO), Apple Inc

FIRST thoughts….

The start of a new year is often both a time for reflection and an opportunity to articulate your vision for the year ahead.

In December our Chair, Caroline Theobald, spoke to Bdaily to share her views on 2020 and FIRST’s plans for 2021. This month Charlotte Windebank and the FIRST team share their vision to help more people in the region gain the confidence and skills they need to find opportunities in the pandemic recovery.

We received very touching and inspiring feedback from 2020’s Level 1 Award in Understanding Enterprise and we hope to help many more people in similar ways in 2021. If you live or work in South Tyneside we are now recruiting for the next group of 19+ year olds in partnership with Skills South Tyneside.

With 95% of North East employers, we surveyed agreeing that “entrepreneurial skills are fundamental to ensure growth and innovation” this accredited course can act as a vital FIRST Step to support young people who may now have found themselves unemployed due to the pandemic. If you know anyone who is struggling to find work, or your business could support with apprentice-opportunities in the future please contact for further information.

Last year saw an increase in the number of people spending more time on their hobbies. This activity can lead to becoming a ‘side-hustle’ or even grow to become a successful startup. To help those ideas and startups grow FIRST is proud to launch the Startup Awards North East 2021 which helps early stage founders by developing their skills and spot opportunities and develop business ideas. It’s also focused on startup founders who have the vision and ambition to progress from startup to scaleup and are looking for the resources they need to grow. Follow the Startup Awards Facebook page for regular updates. If you would be interested in supporting the event as a partner, please contact


Sara Davies Dragons Den Tycoon

Starting 2021 in lockdown can make us all feel isolated so it’s more important than ever to focus on the positive and celebrate achievement.

The third annual Tees Businesswomen Awards takes place this Thursday and features Crafter’s Companion founder and Dragons’ Den star Sara Davies as the ‘keynote speaker’. The streamed live event will be hosted by FIRST's Caroline Theobald and will take place from 7 pm on Thursday, January 14, on Tees Business YouTube Chanel with 10 main awards up for grabs. 

As part of the inclusive North East business community FIRST partners, Karbon Homes and their fantastic team of job advisors are working hard with residents to support them and signpost their tenants to services and projects. Their tenant Alex recently completed FIRST’s Level 1 in Understanding Enterprise. Listen to her story here and contact if you would like to take part in a life changing qualification.

Referrals from community and business partners are crucial to ensure that people receive the right support and to celebrate their achievements. If you know anyone who you think deserves a huge pat on the back and support for their new business please nominate them for the Startup Awards which will take place virtually 15-17th June.

Startup Awards Nomination

Events, news, and opportunities from the North East ecosystem:

FIRST vision EntreComp

It is true that the UK is an island but having a vision of an inclusive community doesn’t have to stop at our shorelines. The Export Academy from the Department for International Trade is offering an amazing opportunity to take part in a FREE programme for owners and senior managers of businesses with a turnover of up to £500,000 who are ambitious and want to sell to customers worldwide. For more information and to register check this out. If you see this and you have ambitious plans for your business (and it’s less than three years old and in North East England ) please make sure you register for Day 3 of Startup Awards

Vision is a funny thing. Looking at something from different angles can radically change your perspective. The way people look at things is always different and that is something to celebrate as it creates a buzz of creativity and innovation. Sometimes though, seeing the world differently can come with its own challenges. Spectrum Enterprises CIC was created to help support people who are on the autistic spectrum and see the world a little differently to most. Pam Lawrence and her team of freelance mentors help these people to get their business started by using Access to Employment funding, so anyone with any form of social disability can reach out for support.

People who work within the creative sector often see things through artistic eyes. The Case for Culture North East is hosting the annual forum "Shifting Cultures: Reframing the future with the North East's independent creative workforce." This is a chance for the North East's culture and heritage sectors to come together for a day of reflection, and discovery on Friday 29th January. Tickets are free but numbers are limited, so reserve your place today!

The creative sector is one that has been hit hard during the pandemic, music, arts, and culture it what makes people feel is what makes us human. Heading to a museum and looking at things from the past gives you a new perspective for the future. Do you have a passion for the cultural sector? If so, then applying with Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) for one of these fantastic opportunities to become a chair or one of two new trustees. Apply before Friday 29th January and your energy and vision could help Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums in delivering its mission of making a difference in people‘s lives.

Whatever way you see the world the FIRST team welcomes you to share your vision with us and inspire the North East Community with your exciting plans for 2021.

Inspire the North East Startup Community

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