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North East business leaders challenged to ‘revitalise the economy’ at Entrepreneurs’ Forum Conference

Chris Hulatt, co-founder of Octopus Group

As the UK prepares itself for Brexit and unchartered waters, North East entrepreneurs have been told that they ‘will be the ones who are going to be the driving force of revitalising the economy.’

Speaking to an audience of more than 200 people at the Entrepreneurs’ Forum Global Entrepreneurship Week conference, ‘Fortune Favours the Brave’, Chris Hulatt, co-founder of investment firm Octopus Group, implored business leaders in attendance to ‘embrace, rather than fight change’ in order to grow and ‘change the world.’

He said: “Your values need to be memorable as the success of your company is going to be down to your people, who should never be compromised. Trust your instincts and gut feelings; one of the worst things is to be paralysed by decision-making.”

Chris has overseen Octopus’ growth from an investment company, which has helped put more than £8.3bn into the UK economy, to a multi-faceted organisation that includes a consumer energy supply business that boasts more than 400,000 customers.

He added: “In five years’ time, I don’t think the ‘Big Six’ energy companies will exist in their current form. These are industries that have let people down and we are determined to change the impact that people have with their investments. No-one wants to sit down with their grandchildren and talk about how much money they’ve made, but what their money helped to achieve.”

Renowned businessman Bob Keiller CBE, the former Chief Executive of Wood Group, who operates entrepreneurial consultancy AB15, built on Chris’ emphasis of maintaining brand values by providing an insight into effective business culture to support the growth of companies, while discussing his extensive oil and gas career.

The day’s introductory session, which was chaired by Graham Robb, Senior Partner at Recognition PR, focused on effective finance strategies to unlock businesses’ potential and growth. The panel included Nigel Mills CBE, Chairman of The Lakes Distillery, Kevin Brown, Group Managing Director of home services firm Pacifica Group, and Rob Mathieson, who founded technology company ION Industries.

Business leaders in attendance were also given an inspirational insight from the world of sport by Mark Inglis, the first double amputee to stand on the summit of Mount Everest, who is also a Paralympic medallist. Mark drew on experiences from his sporting exploits and how he has since carved out a business career as a world-renowned winemaker and motivator.

Tamara Roberts, CEO of Ridgeview, talked about how her family-run business has grown to produce nearly 300,000 bottles of sparkling wine each year, while exporting to 12 countries.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen rounded-off the cohort of speakers, by drawing on his ongoing work to build a strong local economy across the region, as well as the creation of an Access to Finance Fund to provide capital investment for SMEs.

The conference, which took place at The Grand Marquee at Wynyard Hall and was sponsored by Recognition PR, was hosted by BBC presenter and journalist Charlie Charlton. It is one of the highlights of the Forum’s extensive calendar of events, which brings together more than 200 leading entrepreneurs for a day of peer-to-peer learning.

James Robson MBE, Chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, said: “Our line-up of inspirational speakers and personalities has given our members plenty of advice and invaluable ideas that they can take inspiration from. Our conferences are at the heart of stimulating effective peer-to-peer learning among our membership and 200-strong guests, who are the people creating the jobs, driving growth and strengthening our regional economy.”