£1.3million boost for business leaders of the future

Rob Banerjee, co-founder of Korp Talent

Published on 25 January 2019

The University of Sunderland has launched a new project worth more than £1.3million to help student and graduate entrepreneurs turn their business dreams into reality.

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) scheme at the University’s Enterprise Place will expand on the many success stories from their previous projects that ran from 2015 until 2018.

The Enterprise Place acts as the perfect environment for students, graduates and staff of the University to start their own business, bringing together budding entrepreneurs at all stages of their development and providing free hot-desking space, business advice, structured interactive workshops, up to £1,000 of funding as well as PR and networking opportunities.

Based at the University’s Hope Street Xchange Building, the Enterprise place has already helped scores of students and graduates get that vital first step on the career ladder to building their own business.

Graduates like Robert Banerjee who, in August last year, co-founded Korp Talent, a recruitment agency working in the Swedish market.

Robert, who graduated with a degree in Criminology, set up office at the Enterprise Place after a friend told him about the hot-desking facilities on offer.

The 24-year-old said: “Because my work is based in Sweden, I was able to work from home to begin with, but after hearing about what the Enterprise Place can offer graduates, it seemed like the right opportunity.

“It gave me a chance to get out of the house and work in an office environment surrounded by other people.

“It also provided the opportunity to access some of the support services they offered, like the workshops and training they held in areas like marketing and branding. This type of help has been invaluable.

“We are hoping to take on new staff members this year and, by the end of the year, will be looking towards moving into our own offices.”

Amy Armstrong and Marie Donnelly were both studying an MA in Public Relations when they decided to turn their business dream into a reality.

Between their studies the pair had been working with local DJs and cinemas when they decided to take the plunge.

“I suppose if we’d sat down for too long and thought about it, we might never have done it,” said Marie, from Gateshead.

“Yes, I think it’s just because we decided to go for it that we managed to get everything off the ground,” added Amy, originally from Bradford.

The pair founded MAD Communications and, in 2013, moved into offices at the Enterprise Place.

Since then the business has gone from strength to strength, with the pair later relocating to St Peter’s Gate before moving into their current offices at Design Works in Gateshead.

“It’s been incredibly hard work but we love what we do and we enjoy getting up every day to do it,” adds Amy.

“We offer all different kinds of communication services for all different types of businesses.

“It’s been an incredible five years and we have been able to take on another member of the team, Beth Waldron, through the Graduate Internship Scheme.” 

The team of UoS graduates say the support they received from the Enterprise Place was pivotal in helping launch their careers.

Amy said: “You were in a place with other young entrepreneurs, starting out on their own, so to be able to share experiences was incredible.

“We were all in the same position and we were all there to support each other on our journey. We know we wouldn’t have been able to get that kind of office space without their support.”

Marie added: “The other key thing was the help we got on the business side. We did not have a business background in terms of knowing about keeping your own accounts etc. We got some valuable help from the Enterprise Place in this area.”

Marie added: “The other key thing was the help we got on the business side. We did not have a business background in terms of knowing about keeping your own accounts etc. We got some valuable help from the Enterprise Place in this area.”

Laura Foster, Internships and Enterprise Manager at the University of Sunderland, said: "It's fantastic to be able to help students and graduates like Robert, Amy and Marie realise their start up ambitions.

“To see them develop their businesses from concept to taking on their first employees through our subsidised Internship Scheme, is a huge privilege and we wish them every continued success.

“We are also pleased to be able to support SMEs in the region, through this funding, to recruit our graduate talent.

“For many businesses, taking on a new member of staff is a big step. The Graduate Internship scheme not only supports SMEs financially by paying a proportion of the graduate's salary, but the team can also guide business owners through the recruitment process if required.

“Employing a graduate can really make a positive impact, bringing new and innovative ideas into the business. I would urge any small to medium business looking to grow their team to get in touch."