Local entrepreneur, Laurie Scully, opened her store 'Laurie's' in Boldon Colliery last weekend. The long-time antiques dealer, who has appeared regularly on TV's Dickinson's Real Deal, opened her first physical premises on North Road, selling a unique selection of vintage and reclaimed items as well as handmade gifts and local crafts.
Before the pandemic Laurie would regularly travel to Antique Fairs from Brighton to Northumberland, buying and selling vintage goods, when this became impossible due to government restrictions, Laurie needed to pivot her business to become more sustainable.
To help her figure out her next steps Laurie took on Understanding Enterprise, a free course aimed at anyone over the age of 19 living in South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland or Durham.
Laurie explained, "With everything that happened last year I realised I was ready for something a bit more permanent. I've been operating as an Antiques Dealer for over a decade but I needed to find out a little bit more about the structure of running a small business to move things forward.
"Understanding Enterprise gave me that knowledge and supported the development of my business plan for the shop. Having worked on my own for so long it was really helpful to have people to bounce ideas off and give me feedback.
"The teaching and support were excellent, and the online delivery meant I could fit it around my other commitments. It really gave me the confidence I needed to take the next step. The course also gave me an amazing local network of like-minded people and let me know about the support that's available out there for small business owners.
"I think despite all the uncertainty, this year has left a lot of people inspired to make a change or try something new. If you're thinking about turning your passion into a business or changing or growing your existing business, this course will really help you figure out how to get started.
"The response I've had since opening has been amazing, I think people were definitely missing something a little bit different in the area and hopefully we can provide that for them."
The Level 1 Award in Understanding Enterprise, is delivered by FIRST in partnership with Skills South Tynesideand provides a recognised qualification in Entrepreneurial skills.
Charlotte Windebank, MD and Cofounder of FIRST explains, "The pandemic had a significant impact on employment in the region, meaning some people lost their jobs and others have been left reconsidering what they want to do with their careers.
"Extended periods on furlough provided many with the opportunity to work on side hustles or personal projects they just didn't have time for before and job insecurity for others meant looking for new ways to generate income.
"2020 was a record year for new businesses and 64% of the early-stage founders we're currently working with set up their businesses during the pandemic.
"Whether you're looking to gain employment, get a promotion, change career or start-up and grow your own business, we'll help you develop your ideas and provide opportunities and resources to put those plans into action."
The Understanding Enterprise Level 1 course is completely free to anyone over 19 years old living in South Tyneside, Sunderland Gateshead or Durham. Places are available on the June intake of the course, the intensive two-day courses will be delivered on 10th & 11th and 24th & 25th of June, while the bite size option begins on the 29th of June with twice weekly two-hour sessions for three weeks.
Cllr Mark Walsh, Lead Member for Regeneration and Economy at South Tyneside Council said: "Our region's indomitable spirit and resilience has seen us through this pandemic, and it is those same qualities that will allow us to come out of it stronger, capitalising on new and innovative solutions. Laurie is a shining example of that grit and determination. Upskilling herself and reshaping her business to make it more sustainable in a post covid world. I'm delighted that the free courses we fund have helped her on her journey and wish her every success for the future. Skills South Tyneside deliver over 250 courses to support our residents to get into work, change career and improve their skills."