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15 startup businesses from across the North East battled it out on Wednesday evening at the 2017 If We Can You Can Challenge Live Final, delivered by FIRST Face to Face alongside partners: Growth Hub North East and others, including all 5 regional Universities. This event is a highlight in the calendar of the local business community, with over 150 people attending at BALTIC: Centre for Contemporary Art.

The atmosphere was electric, with all 15 startups pitching to each table in the room. Over dinner the guests debated who they thought deserved to go through to the final round of the ‘Biggest Social Impact’ and ‘Highest Growth Potential’ categories.

This year the winners were Jigsaw Recovery Project and Storage Shepherd. Jigsaw Recovery Project aim to support young people to live independently after leaving local authority care, and Storage Shepherd provide the opportunity to rent your spare space as storage for other people.

A selection of guests in the room included representatives from the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, Brewin Dolphin, Mincoffs Solicitors, Entrepreneurial Spark/NatWest, as well as all 5 regional Universities. Charlotte Windebank, MD of FIRST Face to Face and organiser of the If We Can You Can Challenge said “the challenge gives startups the necessary confidence, contacts and publicity to take them to the next stage of growing their fantastic businesses. The quality of those shortlisted truly represents the talent and innovation that is coming out of the North East. Thanks to all our partners and we can’t wait for the 10th anniversary next year.”

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at Growth Hub North East emphasises the impact of the If We Can You Can Challenge:

“The North East Growth Hub is right behind the If We Can You Can Challenge! In the North East we have around 600 High Growth Small Businesses, employing some 21,000 people, with a combined turnover of £2.4 billion. We want to double this by 2024 and it’s initiatives like the IWCYC Challenge that will help us to do that.”

By bringing together a wide range of businessmen and businesswomen in one room, the 15 startup finalists have the opportunity to impress, and ultimately improve their business through connections made on the night.

With 2018 being the 10th anniversary year for the If We Can You Can Challenge, there are sure to be numerous more success stories. For any startups or businesses who wish to get involved and support this initiative, please visit www.ifwecanyoucan.co.uk or contact Owen at info@ifwecanyoucan.co.uk or 07715547148.

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