The Apprentice’s Helen Milligan to feature in entrepreneurial workshops

The Apprentice runner-up Helen Milligan is among an impressive line-up of speakers aiming to help North East entrepreneurs secure investment through an innovative series of workshops.

Northumberland resident Helen, whose calm and composed professionalism shot her to fame in the popular BBC 1 show, is to share her own experience of pitching for investment to Lord Alan Sugar with attendees at the workshops – organised by Newcastle Science City and North East Access to Finance.

Other speakers confirmed for the series include Julie Meyer, online dragon for the BBC’s Dragon’s Den who is founder and CEO of Ariadne Capital; Ian Aspin, journalist, TV presenter and leader in social media and building online communities and Dr Nicola Hodson, Microsoft UK’s public sector general manager.

The workshops have been designed to inspire and enable pre-start and currently trading businesses with high-growth potential to refine their business proposition and prepare a pitch to investors. Each session will focus on an element of the delegates’ business plans – including commercial, financial and management-related issues – and will conclude with a session on pitching technique with an opportunity to deliver a practice pitch to real fund managers.

The five half-day sessions will run on consecutive Thursdays at Newcastle Central Library starting on September 1 and will conclude with practice pitches to fund managers on October 13. Each workshop will be led by experts in their fields and an inspirational speaker who can relate their own experience to the topic.

Estelle Chatard, new business and investments director at Newcastle Science City, said: “This exciting series of workshops will give North East entrepreneurs direct access to some of the most inspirational and experienced operators in entrepreneurship in the UK and will provide them with a rare chance to work on a one-to-one basis with experts who can shed real light on how to attract investment.”

Delegates will be given a workbook to help identify which areas of their business plan need most attention and will be able to work closely with the experts to develop their thinking.

The format of the workshops was launched earlier this year and is being repeated following impressive feedback from attendees and speakers.

Niall Dunne, former managing director of Saatchi and Saatchi and now chief sustainability officer at BT, was a speaker at the last workshops. He said: “They are an excellent way of ensuring young businesses have access to the best possible advice and of introducing them to people who are really in a position to help them.

“The North East is a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity and it is vital for the economic growth of the region that these businesses are given all the help they need.”

The topics covered in the workshops will be identifying sources of finance on September 1; assessment of market potential and positioning on September 8; benefits of legal compliance and intellectual property protection on September 15; building of an effective team and management controls on September 22; effective funding, tax and exit strategies on September 29.

Alan Holmes, project director for North East Access to Finance, said: “Creating a winning business proposition can require skills with which a lot of budding entrepreneurs might not be familiar.

“These workshops provide a wonderful and cost effective opportunity for attendees to pick the brains of people who have a thorough understanding and considerable experience of what’s required.

“Where this series of workshops truly differs from previous initiatives, however, is that young, ambitious businesses will have the opportunity to put their business plans in front of the people who hold the purse strings. Indeed we have set ourselves an objective that, at the very least, two of the participants will achieve investment in their businesses as a result of what they will learn.”

The series of workshops is being heavily discounted by Newcastle Science City and North East Access to Finance, and sponsored by Rivers Capital, Tait Walker and Square One Law allowing it to be offered at a rate of £150 for the whole series– including the practice pitch session.

For further information on the workshops visit  and to register for the workshops contact Michelle Blow on 0191 285 7100 or by email [email protected]

Speaker biographies

Julie Meyer is one of the leading champions for entrepreneurship in Europe. With over 20 years investment and advisory experience helping start-up businesses, she is the well known founder and CEO of Ariadne Capital, founder of Entrepreneur Country, co-founder of First Tuesday, dragon on BBC’s Online Dragons Den and weekly columnist in London’s City A.M.

Through these intertwining roles of entrepreneur, advisor, investor and industry commentator, Julie has set her mission to build a growth story for the UK and Europe. This passion and entrepreneurial flair has earned her awards as Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, World Economic Forum Global Leader of Tomorrow and a place in the Wall Street Journal’s Top 30 Most Influential Women in Europe.

Dr Nicola Hodson joined Microsoft UK in October 2008 in the role of General Manager, Public Sector. She is responsible for driving business and relationships across a number of customer segments, including Central and Local Government, Health and Education. A key focus for her is to introduce and deliver new capabilities to solve customers’ core business problems and opportunities.

Prior to joining Microsoft, Nicola was Executive Director at Siemens IT Solutions and Services, where she managed a range of IT and business process outsourcing contracts for customers in the Public Sector, Financial Services and Manufacturing industries in Great Britain and Ireland.

Ian Aspin, is a journalist and TV presenter who has interviewed entrepreneurs from across the globe to find out what makes them tick.

After jobs with the BBC and ITV, Ian became part of an independent production company and worked on a huge range of programmes; he’s covered everything from suicide bombers and exorcists to ASBO kids and comedy! Ian’s quest for meaning continues through his current broadcast journalism projects and his popular blog,

Runner up of the 2011 Apprentice series Helen Louise Milligan began her retail career with a national coffee shop chain, where she worked as Business Development Manager, overseeing the non-franchise UK shops.

She joined Greggs, the UK’s leading bakery retailer, in 2008 as Retail Operations Manager for Greggs Midlands region. Helen was quickly promoted to Executive Assistant, working closely for the CEO on key business activities and priorities for Greggs.

Editors: For more information, contact Laura White, on [email protected] 0191 211 3021 or 07739 126 152 or Helen McLoughlin, on [email protected] or 0191 211 3020