Crowdfund North East LEP: Shoe Tree Cafe

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership has partnered with Crowdfunder to make up to £5,000 in match funding available to help small businesses continue to trade through the coronavirus pandemic.

Crowdfund North East LEP allows small businesses employing no more than 10 full-time equivalent employees to secure match funding to boost their own crowdfunding efforts.

There are 45,800 eligible small businesses across the North East and many are in urgent need of financial support. The funds released by North East LEP will provide urgent relief for those businesses most in need who do not qualify for other government funding schemes. The match funding is being sourced from the North East Investment Fund and will total up to £1 million.

Below is a case study of Shoe Tree Cafe – a vegan and vegetarian cafe in Heaton, Newcastle – that has benefited from Crowdfund North East LEP.

To find out more about Crowdfund North East LEP, raise funds for your business, or donate to a small business in need, please click here.

Please introduce yourself, your company, and tell us why you fundraised through Crowdfunder.

My name is Joe and I’m one of the owners of Shoe Tree Cafe, a veggie and vegan cafe based in Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Due to the uncertainty of this time we decided to raise money to help us diversify and alter our business model to one that can operate safely in the current climate, as well as support our staff and the wider community.

How easy was it to set up your crowdfunding campaign and apply for the North East LEP’s match funding?

Everything was really easy to setup through Crowdfunder. Choosing rewards was fun and it’s nice to know that folks are getting something back for their investment in your business, rather than just being encouraged to give you money for nothing.

Crowdfunder informed us there was potential match funding available and I was able to apply the same day through a simple form. It only took four or five days to be informed we’d got it, and then it was just a case of getting our supporters on board to hit the 25% and 75% targets to get the full funding.

What difference will the match funding from the North East LEP make

Without the match funding it would have taken a lot longer for us to get the cafe up and running again. We’ve now got a really nice little pot of money to get us going and diversify our business model.

Would you encourage other businesses to start their own crowdfunding campaign using Crowdfund North East LEP?

Absolutely! What have you got to lose?

In conversation with Colin Bell about how the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group is helping to keep businesses moving

A North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group has launched to provide business resilience and get the region ready for recovery throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. It has a five point plan in place.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), explains how the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group is leading the response in terms of business continuity. 

The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group has come together to mitigate the shock created by Coronavirus, think about what the recovery looks like, and harness the collective energy and ability of the business community to make that upturn happen.

Now is an extremely challenging time and the biggest issue facing everyone is cash flow. Most self-employed and business owners are doing everything they can to keep their heads above water until they can access some of the support Government has made available. 

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme are the most significant measures that have been put in place but there is a period of time before people will be able to access these so it’s about buying time.

A partnership approach

Being able to draw upon the knowledge and expertise of the CBI, which is part of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, along with the North East and North of Tyne Combined Authorities, is crucial right now as we look at the issues facing large organisations.

These companies have similar issues to smaller companies but on a much larger scale, for example they may be furloughing staff and / or have seen a big drop in demand. Wider challenges for some management teams who continue to operate include trying to manage a reduced workforce where perhaps people are having to take time off to self-isolate, along with the need to reassure those who are still in work and their families about their safety. Where products and services are being supplied to the NHS there is a particular need for business as usual. 

It’s important to recognise that in terms of safety, North East businesses have really stepped up to the plate here. Many could technically still be trading right now but have taken the moral decision to furlough staff and place people before profits and that is to be commended. 

Government is listening

For the self-employed, it was a big win when the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the introduction of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, a vital lifeline we had been lobbying on and it reinforces that Government continues to listen and respond. The big challenge is we won’t really understand how people can access this until June, however on the plus side, it seems this group should still be able to generate income in the interim.

Another welcome step forward is the extension of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to smaller businesses who would previously have met the requirements for a commercial facility but not have been eligible to apply. Equally, the removal of personal guarantees for facilities under £250k, and capped recoveries for loans over this figure, is a big game changer and will help big and small companies alike.

As a Group, one of our biggest priorities is ensuring businesses exist in three months’ time. As before the crucial factor in that is the need for working capital so we are signposting hard. 

Diversification can help

Where businesses can trade, for example online and in distribution, we are working flat out to support them as much as possible. Alongside this we are trying to point those in industries where demand may have flattened to those where it has spiked, in case they can capitalise by putting core competencies to use in a way perhaps outside the norm. 

It’s a complex arena but we are trying to identify and share opportunities wherever we can and facilitate that diversification. Similarly we are putting lots of effort into rerouting skilled labour where it can be best utilised during this time of crisis.

There is one area in which people can help us. We’re gathering as much data as we can right now to ensure we’re providing the right support and so we can share this intelligence with Government to help inform what next. This is why we’re asking all businesses owners to complete this survey. If you haven’t done this yet, please do so now. 

To stay up to date with progress, follow @northeastlep on Twitter or visit the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group page. Lots of helpful support can also be found on the North East Growth Hub.

In conversation with Andrew Moffat, Board member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), about investment in the East Coast Mainline

A key driver for a strong and resilient economy is good connectivity. Without it, people, goods and data can’t be moved easily and efficiently, which impacts productivity and performance.

Connectivity is even more important to us here in the North East because of our geography. We, more than many other regions in the UK, rely heavily on road, rail, air and sea links to help us do business in the region, across the country and all over the world.

Our assets include the largest light railway system outside of London, an international airport, three major ports and a road network that links us to the rest of the country.

We also have an extensive rail network that provides us with regular and direct services to Scotland, London, Manchester and other key economic hubs in the UK.

Of course to remain competitive and to access markets, it’s essential we continually invest in our infrastructure to ensure it is future proof and fit for purpose. It’s for that reason I support the call for government to pledge significant investment in the East Coast Mainline.

The current East Coast Mainline is unable to cope with growing demand on the route. As well as carrying 15 million passengers from the region each year, the East Coast Mainline is a major freight route that supports the region’s expanding automotive industry and transports goods including coal and biomass.

The line reduces from four to two tracks north of Northallerton, which reduces capacity on the network and impacts its efficiency. Services on the line have also been subject to delays or cancellation because of ongoing under-investment.

For us to achieve the aims set out in the region’s Strategic Economic Plan and ensure the North East remains a key player in the Northern Powerhouse, we must build capacity on the network and make sure it’s ready to support HS2 services by 2033.

As the former Chief Executive of Port of Tyne, I know – first hand – how important our region’s rail system, and particularly the East Coast Mainline, is to our economy. Without it, Port of Tyne would have missed out on major contracts that helped us create jobs and boost the local economy.

Transport for the North is campaigning for better connectivity to unlock the economic potential of the North. Its proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail network would transform how people travel across the North and boost productivity by closing the gap with the South. The East Coast Mainline will have a major role to play so it is vital government make the funding available to carry out works the line so desperately needs.

A recent report into the benefits of investment in the East Coast Mainline found the impact of HS2 and investment in the line between York and Newcastle would generate around £493m of GVA to the UK economy each year and £100.42m GVA per annum for the North East.

As a region we must be better connected so we can access new markets and position ourselves as a major economic hub in the UK. We already have to work harder than other areas because of our physical location but by improving our transport infrastructure and ensuring it’s future proof, we can compete globally, grow our economy, create more and better jobs and bring more investment into the region.

By Andrew Moffat
Board member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership

Scaleup Annual Review 2019 showcases North East business success

The North East LEP’s ambitious goal of increasing the number of scaleups in the North East by 50% by 2024 through its multimillion pound Scaleup North East programme has had a significant boost.

According to the Scaleup Annual Review 2019, the region has 27% more scaleup companies than in 2016 and the increase in the density of scaleups is ahead of the national average.

The definition of a scaleup is an organisation that has increased turnover or employment by more than 20% annually.

Local businesses that have recently achieved scaleup status include ABCA Systems Ltd; Atom Bank; Crafter’s Companion; Cussins Ltd; END.; Lanchester Wines; Mailprotector; Oil Consultants; and Tharsus.

The Scaleup Annual Review 2019 provides oversight of the national scaleup business landscape and drills down into the local scaleup ecosystem and regional performance.

The page related to the North East states that: “ONS data for 2017 shows that there are 820 scaleups in the North East LEP: 290 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 680 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 150 are scaleups that are increasing both employment and turnover simultaneously.

“The ONS data reflects that across the four-year period from 2014 to 2017 the density of scaleups has increased by 4.13 per 100,000 of population per year, which is above the median of +3.90 per 100,000 of population.”

The Scaleup Annual Review 2019 attributes this success to interventions made by the North East LEP, from bespoke packages of Scaleup North East support delivered by established Scaleup Partners and its Mentoring Programme, through to work with the Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s established Scale-up Leaders’ Academy.

It also cites the North East LEP’s Supply Chain North East programme, which is designed to empower North East businesses to diversify their offer, as well as the High Potential Startups programme launched in July 2019 to increase the number of businesses reaching £1m turnover in three years.

Through High Potential Startups, support is facilitated through peer-learning plus coaching, mentoring and investor relation activities.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP, said: “The results within the Scaleup Annual Review 2019 show we have made strong progress to achieving our goal of increasing scaleups in our region by 50% by 2024.

“It also reflects the strength and ambition of our scaleup businesses who continue to drive ahead with focused expansion plans despite the current political uncertainty. These results should be celebrated but will not distract from our longer-term goal and we look forward to welcoming a whole new cohort of scaleups in 2020.”

For more information on Scaleup North East, please visit

Entrepreneurs with big ideas invited to join new business support programme

Budding entrepreneurs in the region are being given the chance to turn their notepad doodle into the next Google with support from the North East Growth Hub’s new High Potential Startups programme.

Giving would be entrepreneurs access to expert advice and support to help them create the high growth businesses of tomorrow, High Potential Startups provides the introductions and the business support needed to bring business ideas to life, bigger and better than people can alone.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP said: “High Potential Startups is all about finding new, ambitious businesses with the potential to grow fast and make a real impact on the economy.

“Scaleup business generate one third of new economic and job growth, which is why it’s so important we help North East entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable businesses that create more and better jobs.

“In the Strategic Economic Plan we set a target to increase the density of scaleup businesses in the North East by 50% by 2024. We currently have 17% more scaleups in the region than we did in 2017 and High Potential Startups will help us deliver more of these important, fast growing growing businesses.”

As well as targeting entrepreneurs, High Potential Startups will educate businesses on the benefits that come from supporting existing staff members to launch new ventures.

Intrapreneurship allows staff to develop new business ideas that often add value to their current place of work. Organisations can use staff spin offs to improve productivity, reach new markets and adapt faster to changes in the economy.

Investing in intrepreneurship has been to shown to improve staff motivation and morale, as well as drive business growth.

Colin continued: “Speaking as someone who has launched a business, I know what a scary prospect it can be. We want people with a great business idea to know support is on hand to turn that idea into reality.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re working full time for another business or working on your idea at home in your spare time, if it has the potential to create jobs and generate £1m or more by its third year, High Potential Startups can help you test market ideas, fill knowledge and skills gaps, and find cofounders to take your business to market.”

To find out more about High Potential Startups and to apply, visit

In conversation with Alan Welby, Innovation Director at the North East LEP, about the opening of The Biosphere

In 2005, the last batch of Newcastle Brown was produced at the Newcastle Breweries site, which stood opposite another of our city’s iconic buildings, St James’ Park.

Exported to more than 40 countries across the world, Newcastle Brown helped put Newcastle upon Tyne on the map. Fast forward to 2019 and a new building on the former brewery site is about to do the same.

The Biosphere, part of the Newcastle Helix development in the city centre, is a specialist lab facility tailored to commercialisation of life sciences. Home to some of the most innovative and pioneering health and life sciences companies operating today, the work they do in our region will impact people across the world.

The life sciences sector is one of the fastest growing areas of industry in the North East. From CPI’s (Centre for Process Innovation), world-class centres at NETPark in County Durham to the Centre for Life in Newcastle, we have developed a strong cluster that will be bolstered by the opening of The Biosphere.

Congratulations should go to Newcastle City Council for spearheading the project. It demonstrates the city’s ambition and forward thinking approach to growing our economy and creating more and better jobs by investing in sectors linked to the UK’s Industrial Strategy. Without specialist facilities like The Biosphere, ambitious companies within life sciences, healthcare and emerging fields of biotechnology will go elsewhere and that would be bad news for our region.

Being based at Newcastle Helix not only gives companies access to essential support services but also opens a wealth of opportunities such as access to university expertise and research but also the potential of collaboration with others on site – and it’s when companies collaborate that will see real innovation happening which can unlock business growth.

Let’s not forget, we also have a large NHS footprint in the North East, which means we’re home to the UK’s largest research active public health system. North East Health Trusts lead the rest of the country for involvement in clinical research with Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust ranked first for the last six years. That’s provides a significant opportunity for health and life sciences companies working in our region.

It’s for those reasons and more the North East Local Enterprise Partnership was happy to invest £8.6m in The Biosphere from the Local Growth Fund. We recognise its importance to growing the sector and our economy as a whole. More needs to be done to commercialise the health and life sciences sector and The Biosphere will provide the right environment for that to happen.

Newcastle Brown may longer be brewed on Tyneside, so I hope you’ll join me in raising a glass of Wylam Brewery’s Jakehead IPA, or another of your favourite local ales, to toast the opening of The Biosphere.