Elaine Stroud

Elaine Stroud

CEO, Entrepreneurs' Forum

Emerging Talent, Scale-up Entrepreneur and Entrepreneur of the Year Judge

Elaine Stroud is CEO of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, a position she has held since late 2021. She is passionate about making the North East an exceptional place to be an entrepreneur, talking to Forum members about their entrepreneurial journeys and connecting like-minded people together. 

She has over 25 years’ experience working with and advising SMEs across the UK and abroad.

Elaine started her career with a brief spell in PwC’s London office, before emigrating to New Zealand where she spent the next 11 years living in Auckland. As Director of Assurance, she looked after some of NZ’s biggest companies including Fisher & Paykel Appliances before returning home to her birth city of Newcastle and joining the Forum as finance manager in 2013.

Outside of work Elaine is passionate about triathlon having completed two iron distance races and represented Team GB in the European age group championships. She is a qualified triathlon coach and founded her local junior tri club in 2019.

Kari Owers

Kari Owers

Founder, O.agency

Emerging Talent Judge

Kari has been a creative communications consultant for over 25 years working with high profile consumer brands and entrepreneurial businesses around the world. She founded O.agency in 2005 and as CEO she leads the client strategy team, who have worked with many top brands including Dr.Martens, Parkdean Resorts, Fenwick, Flymo and IamProperty. 

Kari is a former Susan Dobson ‘NE Woman Entrepreneur of the year’ winner, and has led O.agency in winning over 60 industry awards including most recent ‘North East Agency of the Year’ (NEMA), was named twice in the 'Best Agency Outside London' shortlist at the PR Week Awards and was named "Best Small Company" at the Journal ‘Best Places to Work’ Awards – recognition for her passion in creating a special agency culture, commitment to our people and youth talent and investment in our local community.

 

James Nightingale

James Nightingale

Partner, Ward Hadaway

Emerging Talent Judge

James is a Partner in the Corporate team at Ward Hadaway.

He has over 20 years experience advising on all aspects of corporate finance work, with a focus on mergers and acquisitions, private equity, investments, reorganisations and restructurings. James is a Legal 500 recommended lawyer and is experienced in advising entrepreneurial clients across the growth curve and in a broad spectrum of industry sectors, including independent healthcare, energy and disruptive technologies.

James Robson MBE

James Robson MBE

Chairman, Entrepreneurs' Forum

Emerging Talent Judge

James Robson MBE, is the Founder Director of Exwold, studied engineering at Leeds University, and began his career with Ellis and Everard, a national chemical distribution organisation, now part of Univar. In 1990-1992, James undertook a part time MBA at Durham University and in July 1992 he left Univar to set up Exwold Technology which is based in Hartlepool / Billingham.

Exwold is a contract chemical processing company which specialises in the granulation of formulations for the Agrochemical and Speciality chemicals markets. Today the company operates from four sites in the Tees Valley and employs around 100 staff. With a turnover in excess of £11million and 40+ customers from around the world the company has come a long way in its 25 year history.

In 2012 James changed to being a non-executive director of Exwold in order to make more time for supporting other North East companies who are experiencing some of the issues which Exwold has had to overcome. His own consultancy business Alexander Jewitt & Co. provides mentoring and hands on resource to SME’s in the region.

James is a NED for a number of other SMEs, chairman of The Entrepreneurs’ Forum and also a member of the NEPIC leadership team.

Zara Lane

Zara Lane

Origination Director, LDC

Scale-up Entrepreneur of the Year Judge

Zara is Origination Director in the North East team at LDC.  As the leading private equity partner in the North East, LDC is an active supporter of business communities across the region. Zara is passionate about working with ambitious management teams in the region, to help them realise their growth ambitions before, during and after investment.

Since joining LDC in 2015 Zara has helped a broad range of businesses to secure investment and successfully accelerate their growth plans.  Prior to LDC she qualified as a chartered accountant at PwC where she worked in the transaction services team, before gaining another 10 years’ corporate finance experience at UNW LLP and Grant Thornton.  

Warren Colby

Warren Colby

Managing Director, Agilico

Scale-up Entrepreneur of the Year Judge

Warren is the Regional Managing Director of Agilico Workplace Technologies. He manages the business units based in Leicester, Manchester, York, Gateshead and Falkirk.

Warren has 25-year experience as a Director for locally known United Carlton, whose turnover reached £17.5m before they were acquired by Agilico in 2019. A national provider of a broader portfolio of products and solutions, with the added benefit of owning their own IP technologies in telephony, document management and automated invoice processing. With Warren leading the North, Agilico has acquiring a further seven businesses to date. 

After over 30 years in the industry, Warren remains passionate about growing the business, offering clients a wider choice of products and services locally and across the UK.

Toby Bridges

Toby Bridges

Executive Chairman of The NBT Group

Scale-up Entrepreneur of the Year Judge

More details to follow...

Mike O'Brien

Mike O'Brien

Founder, Opencast

Entrepreneur of the Year Judge

After 10 years working in software development for the UK Government, Mike joined a 30 person start up focused on investment banking technology. As a member of the senior management team and board Mike helped grow the firm to an 800 person global investment banking consulting and software company with 14 offices in the UK, US, China, Philippines and Singapore. In 2010, with a client base featuring eight of the top 10 global investment banks, the company was acquired by the global consulting business Capgemini.

In 2012 Mike started Opencast with his friend, Charlie Hoult, as a modern, forward thinking and independent alternative to the large, traditional corporate consulting models focused on enterprise clients in the banking and government domains. In simple terms, Opencast work closely with clients to design, build and then support complex software systems often dealing with many billions of pounds worth of transactions and data. They now employ 450 permanent staff working primarily from their Newcastle base with global clients such as Barclays, NHS, JPMorgan, HMRC, DWP, Morgan Stanley, Defra, Sage, Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult.

Joanne Warren

Joanne Warren

Managing Director, Lumo

Entrepreneur of the Year Judge

Joanne has spent over 20 years in the accountancy and tax sector and is a proud member of the professional bodies, ICAEW, ACCA and CIOT.

After many years of being Tax Director of an accountancy practise Joanne is now co-owner of Lumo.Tax Limited. Having seen the emergence of different innovation reliefs and how they can support growth and aid further innovation, Joanne made it her mission to build a business of specialists that could really make a difference for their clients in this area, stepping away from the traditional transactional approach to these relief.

The team at Lumo have widely different backgrounds and skills from inventors, engineers, entrepreneurs, accountants and many more.

Dr Bill Scott OBE DL

Dr Bill Scott OBE DL

Chief Executive, Wilton Universal Group

Entrepreneur of the Year Judge

Dr Bill Scott OBE DL is Chief Executive of Wilton Universal Group which has achieved unparalleled success specialising in designing, manufacturing, coating and loading out large, complicated structures for the Offshore Oil & Gas, Subsea, Marine, Decommissioning, Offshore Wind and Defence industries.

He was awarded an OBE in 2019 for services to the Engineering and Offshore Wind Sector and to the community on Teesside.  More recently, Bill was appointed Deputy-Lieutenant, North Yorkshire and will bring his experience of working with charitable organisations, businesses and community groups to the role, which is a key part of the Lord-Lieutenancy’s activity in the region.

Bill is passionate about all things to do with engineering and coating, creating opportunities for apprentices, equal rights for women, workplace health & safety and supporting local charities.  He is a keen advocate of supporting the UK supply chain and works closely with trade organisations as well as government departments including DIT and UKEF.

He mentors lots of SME’s and company directors for no personal gain other than seeing those companies go from strength to strength.  Bill’s biggest passion is to inspire the next generation and he regularly delivers presentations that have been described as genuine, inspirational and motivational and are aimed at SME's from all industries, and schools with students from aged 5 to 21.

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