NORTH EAST professionals, aspiring entrepreneurs and students have gathered to celebrate the official launch of this year’s If We Can You Can (IWCYC) Challenge. 

Taking place at The Dickens in Middlesbrough, the event marked the website launch and application opening for the 2018 IWCYC Challenge, which is open to businesses less than three years old. 

Participants enjoyed an insightful talk from guest speaker Bethany Ainsley, a successful wellbeing entrepreneur, who shared her story on growing her business as well as also hearing from students and their business ideas. 

The students, from Teesside University, have all been taking part in Teesside Launchpad’s STARTUP Sprint programme to explore their options and develop strategies to succeed in business. 

Now in its 10th year, the IWCYC Challenge aims to publicise and connect startup businesses with the wider North East business community. From Northumberland to Teesside, the challenge is open to all sectors looking for regional opportunities and to connect with existing well-established businesses.  

Organised and delivered by FIRST Face to Face, this year’s challenge will feature four categories, Highest Growth Potential, Biggest Social Impact, Ones to Watch and Ideas Prize. Interactive and exciting events will take place in the run up to the live final in November including a bus tour visiting local entrepreneurs to an accelerator weekend held at Sage HQ in Great Park. 

Charlotte Windebeck, managing director of FIRST Face to Face, said: “To be able to launch the If We Can You Can competition amongst enthusiastic students at Teesside University was a real pleasure. We have an exciting year ahead to celebrate entrepreneurship in the North East. 

“Thank you to our partners for their support and commitment to startups. Remember, if we can, you can!”

The IWCYC Challenge is supported by ten partners from the region, each keen to support startup growth and share their expertise. This year’s partners are Sage, Brewin Dolphin, Mincoffs, Entrepreneurs’ Forum, PNE Enterprise, GetFilm, O Communications, 49Digital, BQ North East and new additions Teesside University. 

Steve Dougan, head of graduate enterprise at Teesside University, said: “At the heart of Teesside University are our amazing students, many of whom have businesses or business ideas. Our STARTUP Sprint programme, really helps them to explore this and the team at FIRST Face to Face deliver amazing workshops that really enthuse and inspire them all. 

“I am also a supporter of the If We Can You Can Challenge, a platform that allows entrepreneurs to get their business recognised by the North East business community, and I look forward to attending the events throughout 2018.”

Aspiring entrepreneur and English and Creative Writing student, Billie Smart, shared her idea at the launch event of taking over and running a children’s entertainment business that she has worked at for five years. 

Speaking about the challenge, Billie said: “It’s a perfect opportunity for anyone in the early stages of business to gain knowledge on finance and starting out.” 

To find out more about this year’s challenge and to apply please visit: