Why I started STEAMD Symposium, the ONLY event of it’s kind in Tees Valley!

Around 10 years ago when I started laying the foundations to start my own business there was very little support, support came as a one size fits all solution. You needed to have several meetings to establish who, what and if someone could deliver the service you require and then it would take months to see if they could deliver. The cost of doing business has often been cited as a contributing factor to start up failure in years 1-3. In fact, stats show that in 2017 we saw the largest decline in new businesses being founded since the last recession with business deaths are on the rise. (HOC Dec 2018). A few things have happened over the last few years to nudge the needle on entrepreneurship to enable micro and SME founders to get creative and make informed decisions to support and create momentum around their vision.


The single biggest disruption has created a level playing field for founders of micro businesses and SME’s. What once took weeks and months out of my schedule (business admin i.e. accounting, VAT, legal, social marketing, sales etc.) has been turned on its head in the last few years by digitisation. If I were starting up again today from incorporation through to year 1 admin spend, I would budget for 3 cloud based services and 3 advisors on retainer. I now spend one third of what I did 3 years ago. The cost saving of digitisation is lifesaving, but the efficiency and time saved is ‘phenomenal’. I can do in 1 day what it would have taken me weeks to do BD (before digitisation) and the value of being able to step back, strategise and view progress on your business dashboard and data is dynamic. Clarity is a beautiful thing!


If you want to start a business to create a job for yourself, take advice from someone who has successfully done it. If you want to start a business to create a company with an exit plan for investors don’t take advice from someone who has never done it! If you’re looking to disrupt an entire industry your circle will be pretty niche and extremely hard to find. Everyone is an expert these days, but the good news is that again with digitisation we have LinkedIn and social networks where you can connect with like minds, suss out where they network and do business before you even engage.

So what’s next?

Since Sir Peter Bazalgette, former Chair of Arts Council England, launched an independent review in 2017 there has been a flurry of activity and research resulting in some very heady statistics leading up to 2030 and any optimism is welcome judging by the announcement that Honda is to depart the UK by 2021 which will affect scores of businesses in the north. Cue the watershed moment! I can see why the governments forecasts on employment and trade for the creative industries are so optimistic given that every sector has an element of creative industries within it. It is only a matter of time before digitisation is accepted across the board in all industries and everyone implements it. Rather than battling with the cost and admin of starting and running a business those entrepreneurs who want to create innovative products, sustainable services etc can focus quality time on designing and collaborating. However, we are seriously behind the national trajectory in the Tees Valley & North East accounting for a mere 2.3%. We need to chart our own ambitious course in Tees Valley & North East.

It is on this spirit of all of the above that I created STEAMD duly named as a wee nod to Darlington’s rail heritage along with the skills that make for great entrepreneurs which isn’t just STEM! It brings back Art and Design ergo the polymath of STEAMD. Debates and conversations about disruption, innovation creativity and designing better! Aimed at people who are serious about change and progress ushering in a new creative business class. Plugging the gaps and working with industry 4:0 This year STEAMD will start with a one-day Symposium, panel debates on key topics and inspirational stories from historical entrepreneurs from our region who made shit happen in #fintech #transport #entertainment and keynotes from founders who are in the thick of it today and advise from industry leaders. Time is valuable and most business owners rarely look up to plan ahead but for one day the STEAMD symposium will do exactly that look to the future. Register now for this event on the 13th March, for more info on the schedule, speakers and partners visit the website www.steamdsymposium.co.uk