Member Event: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

with Geoff Thompson, Fiona Cruickshank and Sarah Pittendrigh

22 March 2023, 18:00 - 20:00

RBC Brewin Dolphin, Time Central, 32 Gallowgate,, Newcastle, NE1 4SR

Navigating the rise and fall of entrepreneurship can sometimes feel like a rollercoaster ride with thrills and spills along the way.

It’s an exciting journey with challenges to overcome and opportunities to be seized. With a common thread of resilience and determination there is often good to come from bad situations.

Our panel will share their own personal stories of the challenges they have faced, what happened when it got ‘ugly’ and most importantly, how they made a comeback to be where they are today. We’ll hear about the support they valued, the lessons learnt and what they would do differently today.

Hosted by Forum Board member and Radio Tyneside presenter Yvonne Bell, we’re pleased to be joined by a panel of entrepreneurs whose experiences and stories will provide motivation and inspiration to business owners at any stage of their entrepreneurial journey; Fiona Cruickshank, serial entrepreneur, Sarah Pittendrigh, Sarah Pittendrigh Coaching and Geoff Thompson, South Shields Football Club.

About our panellist:
Geoff Thompson - 
The North East’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015, Geoff was born and bred in the region. He gained a degree in Science from the University of Sunderland and an MBA from Newcastle University.

After several senior management roles in business consultancy, Geoff founded Utilitywise plc which grew to be the UK’s largest energy consultancy, employing almost 2,000 people and with a turnover of nearly £100m. He stepped down from running the business in 2016 and now concentrates his efforts on developing South Shields Football Club.

Since joining South Shields, the club has gone from strength to strength, with three consecutive promotions, as well as bringing home silverware which included the FA Vase in 2017. He also set up the club’s charitable arm, South Shields F.C. Foundation which provides health and wellbeing programmes in the local community.

Fiona Cruickshank OBE - A renowned entrepreneur, Angel investor and philanthropist, Fiona has over 25+ years’ experience predominately in the pharmaceutical industry having established, grown and exited several businesses. Receiving an OBE in 2010 for her services to business in the region.

Having started her career as a pharmacist before establishing The Specials Laboratory, a business she grew to employ over 300 people, before selling in 2008 for £20m. 

Fiona’s next venture saw her become the owner and non-executive chair of SCM Pharma, part of The Specials Laboratory that she’d negotiated in its sale. SCM Pharma, which specialised in small-scale sterile products, did not enjoy the same initial success as Fiona’s previous business and the financial cost of ever-changing regulations took its toll. The company was forced to transfer its assets in 2014. 

Fiona has since invested in a range of companies, with some successes and plenty of lessons learned along the way.  Her interests include Raman Sehgal’s, ramarketing and It’s All Good, the successful Gateshead based snacks manufacturer. She recently founded Lead Candidate, a talent sourcing agency specialising in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry.

Sarah Pittendrigh - Sarah, award-winning entrepreneur, cancer survivor, mentor, and business coach, knows what it’s like to bounce back from rock bottom after going from being a bankrupt single mum to building a six-figure business.

Having lost a business in the recession of 2008 she took control of her desperate situation and founded the successful event company, Simply Bows and Chair Covers, using a small government business loan.  Drive and determination led her from start up to 11 offices around the UK winning numerous accolades along the way, including the 2015 NatWest Everywoman Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Sarah uses the lessons from her own bumpy life and business journey to inspire others. Alongside her coaching business, she is an ambassador for The Prince's Trust Women Supporting Women initiative, author of the ‘I CAN Method’ and podcaster, having recently launched the ‘Formidable Over Forty’ podcast where she interviews inspirational women with the mantra “it’s never too late to design a life you love”.

The small print - Member events are open to all members and partners of the Forum.

Two guest places are available to ‘Ultimate’ and ‘Premium’ members. If you are a ‘Core’ member and would like to find out how to upgrade your membership please email or call one of the team on 0191 500 7780.

Food and refreshments will be served during this event. If you have any dietary requirements please let one of the team know at least 24h prior to the event.


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