Katie Bulmer-Cooke: Spain meets Sunderland in new business initiative

Sunderland will soon learn if it is to be crowned UK City of Culture 2021.
Sunderland will soon learn if it is to be crowned UK City of Culture 2021.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been involved in a fantastic programme, run by The North East BIC.

It involves Spanish entrepreneurs coming over to Sunderland to develop their businesses, research the UK market and work with business mentors ... and that’s where I come in.

I’ve been mentoring one of the entrepreneurs, Daniel, who has an awesome business that involves using an app and social media to connect fitness professionals and gyms with people who want to take part in group fitness classes.

The model is a fantastic way to get more people active and trying new activities, and the app is packed with lots of cool functions around pricing and participation and it’s right up my street.

It’s been great working with Daniel and I predict big things for his business both in Spain and the UK.

It’s really positive to have programmes like this taking place in Sunderland, and it’s been a pleasure to be involved, although I definitely need to brush up on my Spanish, especially as Daniel managed to learn enough English to explain his business and communicate extremely well with everyone he has met, in only three weeks!

I studied Spanish for two years at school and only retained the absolute basics, so learning fluent English in three weeks deserves great praise.

While he has been here, Daniel has been visiting local tourist attractions in his spare time too, and watching his social media posts reminded me just how many things there are to see in Sunderland and the North East, and how easy it is to take these places and attractions for granted.

Penshaw Monument is a great example of this, in my case. I’ve run up and down the steps countless times over the years and I’ve driven past it more times than I’d be able to count, but when you stop and take a moment to think about it, it is such an impressive landmark with incredible history ... and is just one of many fantastic places and features we have right here on our doorstep.

This week we find out if we have been named City of Culture 2021, when the winner is announced live on BBC’s The One Show, on Thursday between 7pm and 7.30pm by Arts Minister John Glen.

I’ll definitely be tuning in and showing my support for the city, and in the run up to the big day we can all get involved on Twitter by using the hashtags #UKCityofCulture2021 and #Sunderland2021 to stay up to date with the latest City of Culture news and to share your favourite photographs and inspiring stories about Sunderland.

I’ve got a really good feeling about the result, but whether we win or not, our city will always be a winner to me and we have much to be proud of.

Whatever the result, the amount of effort and energy that has been put into this project has been second to none. Whether it’s businesses, community groups or volunteers, everyone involved deserves a big high five, as this is certainly the start of a very special time in our city.