Online Masterclass | Mini Resolutions Retreat

It’s easy to get bogged down with the day-to-day operations of running your business and to forget why you do it in the first place. Finding time to work on this can be challenging so today’s session was all about taking a short pause to reflect and identify goals to move forward.  

Experienced Coach and mentor, Dr Julie Scanlon led the participants through a series of tasks to help them identify where they feel good about themselves and what they do and how to use this knowledge to set SMART goals for the near to long term. 

And a few tips on how to make sure they are achieved, including setting up an accountability or support group, which is exactly what this group did.

It is always so rewarding to see how supportive the Captured participants are of each other, whether that is within the Captured programme or the masterclasses. One of the greatest successes of Captured has been discovering how happily complete strangers share and support one another.

If you would like to find out more about how you can take part in the Captured Programme, please email

Online Masterclass | Marketing on a Budget

What links a Mason jar and a public toilet?

This was just one of the questions posed at our latest masterclass last week. We were joined by Vicki Stone of the Stone Collective marketing agency.

Small business and micro enterprise owners attention is split between the many operational needs of their business and for some, marketing can be time consuming and confusing.

Vicki took the participants through an interactive session to get them thinking creatively about how to market their business on a budget. Participants were asked to bring along a random household object (cue the Mason jar) and asked to work together in groups to come up with ideas on how they could reimagine and repurpose them.

The session concluded with a short-ish marketing surgery where Vicki and the group supported eachother by sharing any marketing niggles they had and working together to come up with creative ideas and solutions.

Our next masterclass is a mini resolutions retreat scheduled for Friday 3rd July which will provide a reflective space for Captured participants to consider work and work/life values and how best to set realistic goals at a time when the space to focus is stretched or maybe feels non-existent.

If you would like to find our more about how you can take part in the Captured Programme or would like to join one of the masterclass sessions, please email

Online Masterclass | Improving Your Odds of Success with 2-Way Communication

With the success of video conferencing since lock-down, we decided to look at whether the Captured programme and our planned Masterclasses could also be delivered in this way – the answer was ‘let’s give it a go’!   The first session we had planned was with Nancy Radford of Nancy Radford Mediation & Coaching on the subject of communication. 

Improve your odds of success with better TWO-WAY communication
We all want to improve our communication – whether it is in person or by phone, email, text or video. Most often, the focus is on transmitting rather than receiving and processing information and views.  As a mediator and conflict resolution coach, Nancy finds breakdowns in all three areas can fuel conflict. So she not only coaches people how to speak in a way that people are more likely to listen but also how to improve the way they receive and process information.  If you receive and process the information correctly, your transmission is more likely to be effective. In this interactive session,

Nancy showed us

– insights into why we all occasionally act unreasonably
– how the stories we tell ourselves can shape not only our own actions, but the way people react to us and treat us.
– practical and research-based ways of improving
the way you receive unpleasant or surprising information
how you think and plan to act on that information
the way you express yourself so that other people are more likely to listen
– resources to tap into

The event was a great success and we had 11 people join us for the 2-hour workshop.  We will be planning further workshops as soon as possible, so will keep you posted via email.  If you do not already receive emails from us and would like to find out more about the Captured Programme and our masterclasses, please email

FSB Small Business of the Year Awards 2020

This year we were delighted to sponsor the Self-Employed/Sole Trader of the Year at the FSB Small Business of the Year Awards. Who could have known that this would be the last public event that we would attend before the nation went into lock-down? 

Whilst the discussion of Covid-19 was in the air, we were still in the ‘old normal’ mindset and enjoyed a fantastic event and lunch.  The FSB did an amazing job pulling the event together under such uncertainty and we were able to celebrate the success of many local businesses and award 12 winners.  There were several familiar faces that we have worked with both from taking part in the Captured programme and via various projects with the University, including 

Details of all of the Region’s winners can be found at the FSB Awards website here:

Apply Now for Captured 2020

If you run or own a small business or micro-enterprise in the North East and would like to develop your management and leadership skills then Captured could work for you.

The programme is delivered via 4 half-day workshops over a 2 month period. Over the course of the programme, you will identify key areas of your business that you want to develop more effectively. You will then work with an experienced manager from one of the region’s larger businesses who can provide an objective sounding board and a fresh perspective on your business.

To apply please complete the online Application Form The Deadline for the first 2 cohorts is Friday 20th December 2019

Christmas Fair at the Business School

We were delighted to be able to host our second Christmas Fair at the Business School this week. There are plenty of other Christmas Fairs this time of year, but this one is a bit special. The stallholders are all artists, makers, and bakers that we have worked with on the Captured Programme.

The fair took place on Monday 18th November in the foyer of the Business School and was open to all staff, students and anyone passing by.

Please take a moment to look at the fantastic businesses that took part in the fair. If you click on the link in the photos it will take you to their websites where you can find out more about them.

We’re looking forward to starting the next round of Captured, which begins in February 2020 and who might take part in the fair next year.

If you run a small business and would like to find out if the Captured Programme would work for you, click here to find out more or contact Jo Singh or Fiona Whitehurst


This week, we hosted the second workshop in our 2-part masterclass, ‘Let’s Talk About Money’.  This time the session was led by Paula Henderson and Nathan Embleton, Financial Controllers at BluSky Chartered Accountants, who took the group through a more in-depth tour of business finances.  

We linked this event to Women Entrepreneurship Week #WEW2019 to celebrate the female entrepreneurs that we work with.  Over 200 universities in over 30 countries are celebrating Women Entrepreneurship Week by linking their events that focus on Women Entrepreneurs.

Workshop delegates at Let’s Talk About Money masterclass with BluSky Chartered Accountants

The Business School has also produced a series of podcasts featuring entrepreneurial women, one of which is Captured Alumna Claire Rolston of CLR Law.  Claire talks about being in business over a decade and having the flexibility to be there when it matters for her clients and her family.

Claire Rolston CLR Law

Let’s Talk About Money!

This week marked the first in our 2-part Masterclass on the subject of money, which we are co-hosting with NEL Fund Managers.

Nicola Jayne Little of MINT Business Club facilitated the session and led the group through a series of activities to help them get to grips with the basics of money in their businesses. Some of the topics included:

  • Pricing and paying ourselves
  • Personal targets and aspirations
  • Our why – the driving force behind our small businesses
  • The real costs of our business activities

Let's Talk about money

NEL Fund Managers offer loans and equity investments to businesses in the North East, and The Mint Business Club is a North East based community of business people who support each other in running their own business via an online and events and activities.

The second part of this masterclass will be facilitated by BluSky Chartered Accountants and will take place on the 21st October as part of Women’s Entrepreneurship Week 2019  #WEW2019

How Telling Stories Can Help Your Business

The latest Masterclass in our series was held on Friday the 20th of September with expert storyteller Duncan Yellowlees. Duncan took the group through a series of exercises to help them understand the power of using stories to market their business.


The Captured programme provides these masterclasses for free as part of the continuing support of Captured Programme participants, but spaces are also available to small businesses that have not taken part in Captured.

If you would like to find out more about future masterclasses, email us at and we will contact you when new masterclass dates are released.

To apply to take part in the Captured Programme, please view the upcoming dates here.

Masterclass | Multitasking, Myth-Busting and Record Breaking

We hosted our second Captured masterclass last week, this time with John Sunderland-Wright of the NFE Group on the topic of managing wellbeing and building personal resilience.  John took the group through a series of exercises to illustrate how we fool ourselves into thinking we can multi-task when in reality, we are switching from task to task causing our effectiveness to decrease and stress levels to increase!

John then invited everyone to attempt a world record of throwing a ball around, in a circle, without dropping it. As well as being a lot of fun this exercise demonstrated effective team-working and how much easier tasks become when we focus.

John also conducted a live demonstration showing how a simple breathing exercise can regulate the heart rate and create coherence with the brain.  The brave participant’s heart rate was initially quite erratic – completely understandable under the circumstances – then via the live-link to the heart rate monitor (shown in the below image), the audience was able to observe the effect this exercise had on the volunteer’s heart rate from erratic to a steady and rhythmic pattern.

More Captured Masterclasses are planned for the coming months, including how to deal with difficult people, story-telling and accessing finance for your business.

Captured First Masterclass was Pitch Perfect

The first in a series of new master-classes organised by the Captured programme team for the Captured Alumni went ahead at the end of March. The session, Pitching and Presenting with Impact was delivered by the hugely talented Jo Darby of Voice in the Room and booked up within hours of the release.


Jo took the group through a series of practical exercises and gave each of the participants a chance to have a go at public speaking in a safe and supportive environment and gave personalised feedback.

There were moments of fear and trepidation as the participants took to the floor, some for the first time, but everyone rose to the challenge and by the end of the session were raring to go for their next opportunity to flex their newly found presenting muscle!

The next masterclass will be on building resilience and managing your wellbeing as a business owner, with John Sunderland-Wright. Email invitations will be sent out shortly so keep an eye on your in-box as places go quickly!


Captured Alumni at the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards

This year’s FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards was a fantastic event made all the more enjoyable by seeing so many of the Captured Alumni nominated for awards.  Fiona Simpson of Artventurers, Matthew Creedy of Ethical Partnership, Gavin Forster and Chris Thompson of Media Borne, and a huge congratulations to Angela Harrison and the team of Green Shift Education who won the Community Business of the Year Award!

Photo – Fiona Whitehurst (Right) Presenting the Award for Community Business of the Year to Angela Harrison of Greenshift Education

We had a great time cheering everyone on and enjoying the food. Looking forward to seeing who the nominees and winners will be next year.


Celebrating North East Small Businesses

Captured is sponsoring this year’s FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards, which will be held at the Sage, Gateshead on the 26th March.

The FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards recognise the best small businesses and the self-employed from right across the UK, from every sector and industry and from businesses of all ages and all sizes.

The awards are the leading celebration of small businesses, shining a light on some of the best, most innovative and most determined small businesses.

Captured programme lead, Dr. Fiona Whitehurst will be on the judging panel for the Community Business of the Year award. We are hugely looking forward to the awards and would love to see a Captured participant taking part or better still, winning!

Nina Walton of Walton Marketing talks about her time on the Captured Programme

Capturing growth through collaboration

Having the opportunity to build new networks, overcome challenges and develop long term business goals were key priorities for business owner Nina Walton of Walton Marketing & Communications. That’s why she decided to join the inaugural Captured course back in 2016.

With more than 18 years’ experience of marketing and communications behind her with roles in media and a 10 year stint at professional services firm PwC in Newcastle, she launched her consultancy in 2014 and has since grown the business by over 35%, helping clients plan their communications activity and use their marketing channels more effectively.

Nina credits the growth of Walton Marketing & Communications, which specialises in marketing strategy, PR and communications, to the support of programmes such as Captured, that played a key role in helping her find solutions to challenges, as well as helping shape her aspirations for the business.

Nina Walton, Director, Walton Marketing & Communications said;

It’s been a long-standing ambition of mine to set up my own business. Having previously held a number of in-house marketing roles across the North East, I wanted to use that experience to work with a range of organisations across different sectors. I knew that creating a sustainable business and brand would take time, and that getting as much support and guidance from the outset was vital. As an alumnus, I’ve always had a strong affiliation to Newcastle University so when I saw the Captured programme advertised, I jumped at the chance to be involved. There are so many elements to navigate when setting up a business. Working for yourself can at times be isolating, and there are a lot of grey areas and questions to resolve, so having the opportunity to work with a mentor to talk through those challenges was very appealing.

Speaking of grey areas…It was in fact Nick Gray, Managing Director, North and Ireland for respected professional services firm Faithful+Gould that was to become Nina’s mentor. Nick said:

Captured is a really good concept and one that I would recommend. Listening to the challenges faced by the business owners causes me to reflect and look at how the experience I’ve gained through my career can be used to help them in what they are trying to achieve.

Nick has continued to take part in the programme along with other colleagues from Faithful + Gould.

Nina added;

Nick was really helpful in holding a mirror up to me and the business, getting me to think about my ‘why’ and the reasons for setting up in the first place. He also helped me to think about my short and long-term business goals and what my timescales were for completing them. Challenge was also provided around who my ideal customer was, which was beneficial in helping me form an effective business development plan, as well as understanding how to better align my brand. We talked a lot about pricing strategies and profitability and the balance between one off projects versus retainers. This was useful in grasping the impact this has on cashflow.

Since attending the course in 2015, Nina’s business has gone from strength to strength, with a string of new clients and contracts won, a number of which came about as a result of relationships built on the Captured programme. Nina also pays credit to the knowledge and insights gained from the Captured course’s fellow business owners, mentors and academics who helped to provide challenge and a focus on her personal business goals. As well as winning work, she made some good friends and even appointed her accountant from this network! Nina has also rebranded the business and is now outsourcing work and collaborating more with freelancers to build a team.

She said;

That’s one of the things I’m really proud of. In those early discussions with Nick, I set out to secure more long-term retained contracts and build a team of great freelance support and I’m delighted to have achieved just that. It sounds simple but to be able to pay other people felt like a real turning point in the business and something I’m very proud of.

On being asked about plans for the future Nina added;

More of the same, maybe a permanent office space and to partake in a Captured 2 follow up course would be great. I’m very much a people person, so getting the chance to work with different people is something I relish. And there is something special about having a business in the region – people are very supportive. It’s true what they say…it really is canny up north!

Richard Snell of IBM UK on Captured

Can you describe in a nutshell how Captured works?
Captured is led by Newcastle University Business School and allows managers from large companies to share their experience with micro businesses. It’s a development opportunity for smaller businesses but it’s also an exchange of knowledge both ways – we often find that the large and small companies face very similar issues and challenges and can learn from each other.

How do you define a micro business?
For the purposes of Captured, we concentrate on working with micro and small businesses which have fewer than 20 members of staff – it could be just the one person who’s running the business alone, as long as they have the ambition to make some changes, grow and transform their business.

What types of business can get involved with the programme?
Businesses from any sector can get involved. We’ve worked with all types of micro businesses from web designers and small retailers to coffee vendors, and we’ve seen managers from some of the region’s ICT, pharma and manufacturing sectors sign up, including: GlaxoSmithKline; Sage; HSBC and Calsonic. The mix of sectors is one of the things which makes it interesting and leads to cross-pollination of ideas.

How do you match the small firm owner with the right manager?
A lot of times, the sector of the two companies is less important than making a match based on the knowledge and experience of each person. Personality is also very important and we find that both sides of the partnership get out what they put into the process.

What are the planned outcomes for the businesses taking part?
The outcomes vary depending on what each small business wants to achieve, but they are all linked to business growth, whether that’s in terms of an increase in turnover, sales, or the creation of jobs, or personal growth, in terms of increased confidence, resilience, or motivation which will benefit the business.

And what do you hope the individuals will gain personally in terms of knowledge and skills?
People often realise that larger and smaller companies have a lot in common. A larger firm may have more expertise to call on in terms of specialists in HR, marketing and so on, but as a business they often face the same decisions as the smaller businesses they’re paired with.

Why do you think it’s beneficial to access guidance from outside your own organisation?
It’s always good to get a different point of view on your business, especially when, as is the case with the Captured programme, the person you’re talking to has no vested interested other than helping another business to grow.

Another great year for the Captured Programme

From February to September 2018, we welcomed over 30 local small and micro firms onto the Captured programme. Over the course of the workshops we got to know the people behind the business and understand their individual challenges and opportunities.

Participants worked with managers from large organisations including; HSBCGo North EastIBMFaithful + GouldDAC BeachcroftBorgWarnerNexus and Virgin Money.

It is always a pleasure to see participants grow and flourish as a result of taking part in the programme and to see the new connections between fellow participants and the managers develop.

Here are a few comments from participants:

I think Captured came at a really good time for me and the business. It’s enabled me to gain some traction developing our business plan and I’m better able to articulate the vision (and what it means!) to my fellow business partners and employees.


It was great to reflect on my current company performance and get an independent view-point from an industry professional of a larger company. My mentor helped me to view the organisational aspect of my company in a very pragmatic way and help to structure how it can move forward in an efficient manner. The only downsize to the programme is that it wasn’t long enough!


I would describe Captured to a small firm owner as well worth undertaking as you find out things about yourself that you probably know but felt uncomfortable facing/dealing with. You get challenged by the manager and [the team] make sure you have the right manager to challenge you.


Working on your business as opposed to in your business is time that is very well spent. Why not take advantage of the opportunity to spend that precious time with a mentor from a large company, working within a framework that has been developed by Newcastle University Business School? It helps to achieve clarity about your current business position and a plan of how to best scale-up in the future.


The Captured team are busy planning the next round of the programme, the dates and venues of which can be found here.

If you would like to be considered for Captured, please complete the application form

If you have any questions about the programme, please contact Project Lead Fiona Whitehurst or Project Coordinator Jo Singh


Business School hosts first ever Christmas Fair with Captured & Creative Fuse Participants

Newcastle University Business School held their first Christmas fair in the foyer showcasing a selection of talented local makers and producers that had participated in the Captured and Creative Fuse North East programmes.

9 local businesses set up their stalls in the foyer and delighted our senses with delicious artisan bread, handmade chocolate, cakes, artwork, knitwear and gifts.

The event was well received by all and we would love to host more, similar events in the future.

The businesses involved this time were:

Graphic designer David McLure of Velcrobelly
Contemporary embroidery artist Melanie Kyles
Gift wares from Corinne Lewis-Ward of Powder Butterfly and Kirsty McDine of Women’s Trading Collective enterprise B-Collective
Baked goods and workshops from the Artisan Baking Community
Chocolatier Wajeeha Hussein of Chocolateeha
Luxury knitwear designer Ellie O’Neill of Study 34
and provider of mobile coffee and cakes, Helen Trowbridge of Van-illa Treats

We would like to thank all of the traders for providing helping us to provide such a fantastic event and look forward to running further events like this in the future.


Captured Recognised for Innovation in Leadership Development

We’re delighted to announce that Newcastle University Business School have been recognised by AACSB International for Enhancing Approaches to Leadership Development.

The third annual Innovations that Inspire challenge focused on innovation leadership development and we were among 30 global institutions to be recognised.

We couldn’t develop and deliver Captured without all our wonderful participants from small and large firms and the support of our original funders, United Kingdom Commission for Employment and Skills and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, so thank you to everyone who has been involved.

We are always keen to recruit new participants from large and small firms. If you are interested in participating please contact Fiona Whitehurst, Captured Programme Lead (0191 2081603).

The link to the news item on the Business School’s website is here and more details on Captured are available here.

For an overview of all featured innovations, visit






Captured Programme is Released!

Over 50 delegates attended the 2018 launch of the Captured programme which took place at the Business School earlier this week. (Monday, November 27).

Hearing from previous Captured participants, including Vicki Stone of Vicki Stone Marketing; Nina Walton of Nina Walton Marketing and Communications; and members of the Programme’s steering group, Richard Snell of IBM and Dinah Jackson of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, those considering the 2018 programme were advised on the ways in which Captured could help their businesses.

Newcastle University Business School aims to be a globally renowned Business School that delivers excellence in the future of work and develops leaders for a future they can shape. This enables us to make an impact locally, nationally and internationally.
Professor Sharon Mavin, Director at Newcastle University Business School, said:

“Effective leadership is extremely important and the Captured programme will allow us to further develop the skills of small business owners across the region.”
“We have a huge number of outstanding small businesses in the North East, and creating collaborations between these organisations and larger companies such as Sage, IBM, Home Group, Sevcon and Lloyds Bank can only be beneficial.”

Dr Fiona Whitehurst, Captured Programme Lead and Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University Business School, said:

“We are playing a vital role in strengthening the entrepreneurial eco-system of the North East by bringing together small and large firms in a learning experience which is mutually beneficial for all parties.”

The launch of Captured 2018 comes hot on the heels of a report produced by legal experts Womble Bond Dickinson, which recognises the importance of large and small organisations working together.
Fiona continued:

“The Close Encounters report adds weight to our belief that large firms can collaborate effectively with small firms and Captured provides a mechanism to bring those parties together.”

Captured is now taking applications for the 2018 cohorts which start in February 2018. Find out the dates for the next workshops and to book your place here: Upcoming dates

The value of external perspectives

One of the mantras of Captured ( is that external perspectives are extremely valuable to any venture and we try to practice what we preach.

Not only do we listen to our participants, our owner-managers and the managers from the larger businesses, we have also always had a steering group chaired by an independent chair. At the outset that role was taken by Graham Hartley, Managing Director, Siemens Power Generation Services, Power and Gas. Graham was a great supporter of Captured, and when he moved to take on a new role at EthosEnergy we were delighted that Richard Snell, of IBM UK accepted our invitation to the over that role.

Image: Managers and small business owners reflecting on their time on Captured.

We also are privileged to have Sarah Callender, MD of Bdaily; Dinah Jackson of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership; Danielle Turton of Siemens; Matthew Creedy of Ethical Partnership as external members of our steering group. Leigh Sear of SFEDI, Fiona McCusker, Jo Singh and myself complete the line up.

We will be meeting on Tuesday 29th August to plan the launch of the third iteration of Captured…watch this space!