How I started a business in Newcastle

Newcastle - a gem of the north, a city bustling with culture and friendliness. But doing business is different everywhere – what’s it really like to start up in Newcastle and what support is available? We spoke to a business funded by Virgin Startup to find out!

Simon Coward and Michael Carling of Iglouu

Iglouu make delicious and inventive milkshakes, froyo, and smoothies for the good people of Newcastle, including shakes that involve just about any kind of chocolate you can think of. Delicious!

Who did you  speak to in the North East for advice,  and how did they help you?

We spoke to our advisor from Tedco, Allison Cowen. She had such great advice for us and helped us with our business plan. She was excellent at giving us great contacts to use, which really helped drive our costs down. She is someone I will always be indebted to for helping launch Iglouu, and is someone I consider a friend.

Did you go to any networking events in Newcastle - what were they, and were they any good?

Not as yet, but Michael & I are close to launching a new networking group for aspiring NE young entrepreneurs (ages 16-25).

Why is the North East a good place to do business?

Its cheap. We wouldn't have realistically been able to do what we did in London - rents are too high. Being from Newcastle and having been lucky enough to travel the world and (unluckily) live in London for a year, I was able to draw on my experiences and saw a gap in the market in Newcastle.

Secondly, the people are great. We try to use as many local suppliers as we can and try to support NE businesses. We find our customers really easy to talk to - they are interested in how two young lads have started up something like this and are really supportive. We are constantly asking them what sort of products they would want. I think that's key for a business like ours. Talk to the customer, find out what they want... then sell it to them!

Where in Newcastle is your shop and why did you base it there?

Our shop is in Jesmond in Newcastle. Jesmond has a large student population and three large schools, so we are in a good location for our product range. We wanted to create a cool space where people would want to hang out. Music is always on and we have a blackboard to draw your own Louu (our friendly company mascot) - so we think we're on the way to achieving it.


What advice would you give to other people looking to start a business in the North East?

Just go for it. Hopefully through our networking events we can inspire other businesses to get going and learn from each other. I couldn't recommend Virgin StartUp Loans more highly. Also read Richard Branson's Losing my Virginity - this is all the inspiration you are ever going to need. It's the only book I couldn't put dow,n and was the reason I went through Virgin StartUp Loans in the first place.

Is it expensive to start a business in the North East?

Obviously it depends in which bit of the NE you are based. If you want to start on Grey Street right in the middle of Newcastle, your costs are going to be high! But there are so many other places you can go and test your market and see if your idea is viable - from a stall on the quayside to some of the bustling coastal towns like Alnwick.

What types of businesses do well in the North East?

Well obviously you have the main businesses like anywhere else, but I always see local businesses, which have a genuine sense of pride in our area, do well. People are always going to have an affinity for where they grew up, but I believe that people from the North East have a deep sense of pride and local connection for our special part of the world. Businesses who can tap into that will succeed. Look at Sage, who have kept their head offices up in Newcastle, and sponsored important cultural buildings in the NE - or Greggs, who started on my local high street. They always seem to hire friendly, bubbly people - something that the NE is definitely not short of!

Any other tips?

One of the most famous cliches in business is "Don't go into business with friends."

I've always thought that was rubbish. The most important thing to look for in a co-founder is someone you can trust. I asked my best mate to get involved because I trust him... that, and he is also far cleverer than me!

To find out more about Iglouu check out their website, or connect on Twitter and Facebook. Iglouu received their Virgin StartUp loan after working with Tedco, one of our Virgin StartUp delivery partners.

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons