Three entrepreneurs, including one who transformed an IT company into a £65m enterprise, hope to inspire students to business success through a new annual initiative next week at South Tyneside College.
Neil Stephenson, Caroline Ormston and Michael Owen will take to the podium for our inaugural Be Inspired Week, which runs from Monday, February 13, to Friday, February 17.
The programme, supported by business development agency TEDCO and South Tyneside Council, aims to motivate learners seeking to take the entrepreneurial path.
Neil, 45, who is from South Shields, grew data hosting company Onyx’s annual turnover from £1m to £30m in 15 years, transforming it into a leader in its field.
He rose from sales and marketing director to chief executive, finally overseeing its sale to Berkshire-based Pulsant in 2016.
Caroline set up Hebburn-based Feminine Grace Beauty School and Parlour last year, and Michael is the founder and managing director of North East designer clothing firm Always Wear Red.
All sessions take place in room D204, and Neil will talk to students from 1.30pm to 2.30pm on Monday, Caroline from 10am to 11am on Tuesday, and Michael from 11am to noon, on Wednesday.
Les Watson, a former chairman of college governors, who helped establish the fund, said: “I’m delighted that these entrepreneurs will be passing on their experience and insight.
“Academic qualifications are very important, but life is also about working hard and making the most of opportunities.
“That is the kind of message that will inspire our students to do well while at college and to also seize life’s chances when they arise.”
Father-of-two Neil remains heavily involved in business, but now wants to use his skills and experience to support young entrepreneurs.
A key message to students will be that persistence and commitment to goals – whether in the classroom or boardroom - are vital qualities.
He said: “I’m very much looking forward to coming into the college to speak to the students and to support them as much as I can.
“It is important that, as well as studying hard, they have opportunities to broaden their learning by hearing about other people’s experiences.
“That’s why I think Be Inspired Week is so very well worth supporting.”
Be Inspired Week forms part of our Dr Winterbottom Charitable Fund initiative, launched last year to support and inspire students in learning and life.
It is named after Dr Thomas Masterman Winterbottom, the founder of the 19th Century marine and technical school on which South Tyneside College was founded.
The fund supports students in a range of activities, including those whose exceptional entrepreneurial ideas require small financial backing.
Councillor John Anglin, Lead Member for Regeneration and Economy at South Tyneside Council, said: “It is always very special to see our home-grown talent grow and flourish. Entrepreneurs like Neil are a real inspiration – especially to young people.
“As a council, we are keen to develop the technology sector and look forward to nurturing and supporting more emerging and established businesses in the borough.”
Carole White, Chief Executive of TEDCO, which has supported Caroline and Michael’s businesses, said: “I am delighted that this event is showcasing some the entrepreneurial talent that TEDCO has helped to foster.
“We supported both these businesses, and continue to do so, and it very rewarding to know that they in turn are helping the college’s students through their participation in Be Inspired Week.”