YOUNG would-be entrepreneurs in South Tyneside are being inspired by a prize-winning businesswoman.
Nicky Gray, who set up her first business at the age of just 20, has been recruited by borough enterprise agency, Tedco, to help encourage those thinking of striking out into self-employment.
Sponsored by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, the scheme will see enterprise coach Mrs Gray working with more than 180 young people on the cusp of starting their own businesses.
Mrs Gray, 27, said: “Starting up in business can often be a scary experience and I use my own background to help people at the pre-business start-up stage.
“I help them explore business options and ensure there is actually a place out there for their product, by carrying out market research.
“Sometimes, young entrepreneurs can only get the grounding they need by going through their own business experiences.
“I’m going out into the community and talking to those thinking of starting up in business and sharing my own experiences and passing on practical advice.”
Mrs Gray set up Kiki’s Kabin, an indoor soft play area, in North Shields, when she was just 20, and remains the owner of the successful business.
A few years later, she launched Fidgets in Whitley Bay, a hair salon for children, after noticing how her autistic nephew struggled to cope with getting a haircut.
The concept scooped a £50,000 business investment grant from Barclays Bank and Mrs Gray retains a 50 per cent share in the company.
A Tedco spokesman said: “The Coalfields project is an ideal opportunity for local people to gain support in finding the right business idea for them or to build on important enterprise skills and qualities.
“Tedco also has access to a loan fund, aimed at supporting people, aged 18 to 30, to move into self-employment.”
To contact Mrs Gray, call 0779 543 3366 or visit www.tedco.org.