Bridges means business during City of Sunderland Business Festival

Financial advice from top accountants and banks, a pop-up clothing event giving away workwear outfits, a chance to pitch ideas to a Dragon’s Den type business panel – just some of the exciting events taking place at the Bridges from October 4 – 8.

Promoted by City of Sunderland Business Festival
Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 2:44 pm

The whole city is now gearing up for its first business festival – the brainwave of Sunderland Business Partnership – and none more so than the Bridges which has organised a full week of activities to inspire, educate and even offer real jobs.

The former Disney store will be transformed into an enterprise hub for the entire week, so that passers-by can pick up vital information or just pop in for a particular session.

And there’ll also be the opportunity to call in and look at the Wall of Work, which will feature a whole host of local jobs currently available.

Centre Director at the Bridges Shopping Centre, Karen Eve

The week will kick off on Monday, October 4 with an official launch at the hub and then there’s the opportunity for would-be business owners to get some all-important advice.

Garry Cockburn, business specialist from HSBC, and Gary Salmon, from accountants DMC North, will be in the centre on Monday between 11am and 2pm, giving out free advice to anyone wanting to know more about financing their business and the commitments they need to take into consideration.

On Tuesday, October 5 there’s an opportunity for anyone who thinks they have come up with an idea for the ‘next best thing’ to pitch that idea to a panel of experts.

The panel includes Chris Reed, boss of ParkingPerx who appeared and won support on the BBC’s real Dragons’ Den, Samantha Czwordon-Auld, marketing manager at the Bridges, marketing expert Natasha McDonough and Professor Lawrence Bellamy, Academic Dean of the Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism at the University of Sunderland.

Also taking part are Professor Monika Foster, Head of School of Business and Management at the university, and her colleague, Dr James Scott, Head of School of Law and Tourism, along with John Longford, of wealth management company, St James Place.

Karen Eve, Centre Director at the Bridges, believes this is going to offer a fantastic opportunity.

She said: “This is an amazing chance for anyone who has a business idea to pitch to a real mix of experts who can give them the benefit of their expertise.

“We hope as many people as possible will sign up for the event.”

Tuesday will also see sessions by homegrown entrepreneurs, fitness guru Joe Sexton and former Apprentice star Katie Bulmer-Cooke, to help and inspire the next generation of business giants.

Fashion will be the name of the game on Wednesday, October 6 – with a serious message.

A fashion show in Central Square will feature members of both the men’s and women’s team at SAFC, highlighting clothes that are best for work and for interviews.

And to help people who feel they don’t have the correct wardrobe to impress at an interview, there will also be a pop-up session at the hub with Smart Works and Suitability.

Smart Works was set up to give women confidence to succeed at interviews and usually offer a two-hour appointment for anyone referred to them by organisations such as Jobcentre Plus, programme providers, work coaches and housing associations.

During that time each woman receives a complete outfit of high-quality clothes (theirs to keep) and dedicated one-to-one interview training – which so far has helped more than 70 per cent of the clients succeed at an interview stage.

To ensure that men don’t miss out, the Bridges will also be hosting CIC Suitability, set up initially in his spare time by employment advisor, Darren Tate, who provides men with confidence-boosting clothes to wear to an interview.

“Both Smart Works and Suitability are fantastic organisations which do an incredible job and we’re delighted to welcome them to the Bridges,” said Karen.

Advice sessions on training options, CV writing and building a social media presence will be provided by organisations including Springboard, Media Savvy and marketing guru Katie Storey on Thursday, October 7 - again open to anyone.

Springboard’s sessions will be held in its own unit at the Bridges and will be targeting 16 to 18-year-olds who can also find out about the apprenticeship opportunities available.

And the week will end with the chance for any budding performer to be signed to a major entertainment agency, with a Bridges’ Got Talent session run by ISG.

ISG, based at the BIC, has a number of jobs available for would-be entertainers and will be auditioning dancers and singers on Friday, October 8, with a view to signing up some would-be stars.

Throughout the week visitors to the centre can also pop into the unit and see a variety of job vacancies that are available in the city.

“We are delighted to be part of the first City of Sunderland Business Festival and to have also put together the Bridges Means Business programme,” Karen said.

“There are some fantastic opportunities for people to get advice, find a job, see how they can upskill or to pitch their business idea to some real experts and we hope our shoppers will take advantage of what’s on offer.”

Anyone wanting to audition for the talent event or pitch an idea to the business panel is asked to email [email protected].

For further information about Sunderland Business Festival visit