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North East Start-Up 'Weekend Box' invited to No.10

16/09/2013

  • Newcastle entrepreneur in special audience with the Prime Minister and BBC ‘Dragon’ James Caan
  • Andy Stephenson hand-picked to represent the region as part of a national Start-Up Loans delegation
  • His ‘Weekend box’ business has been shortlisted for a national business award – vote today!

A Newcastle entrepreneur has been shortlisted for a national award and hand-picked to represent North East start-ups in a meeting with David Cameron – after less than two months in business.

Andy Stephenson, 25, took out a £7,500 loan from Start-Up Loans North East and Cumbria in July this year to start Weekend Box – a fortnightly children’s activity box subscription designed to give parents the inspiration and resources they need to have amazing weekends with their little ones.

Originally a software developer, Mr Stephenson said: “Aimed at children aged three to eight whose parents are often short of time, each box is delivered directly through your letterbox once a fortnight in time for the weekend, and contains a selection of healthy, green and creative activities with everything you need included - even glue and paint! And everything inside is 100 per cent recyclable or reuseable.

“I call it edutainment. Children will learn and develop without even realising it as they’re just having fun with their parents. Sales are already three-times higher than predicted and I’m really pleased with our progress so far.

“The team behind Start-Up Loans North East has been so supportive and if you have a good idea they’ll do all they can to help you develop it into a successful business.”

Start-Up Loans UK has been so impressed with Mr Stephenson’s business he was invited to represent the scheme in the North East and Cumbria, at an event at No 10 Downing Street yesterday, where he met Prime Minister David Cameron and entrepreneur James Caan, of ‘Dragon’s Den’ fame. Now Mr Stephenson has been asked to produce a ‘Downing Street’ themed Weekend Box for the children of visiting dignitaries.

He continued: “I can’t believe I was part of the national Start-Up Loans delegation. It was an incredible opportunity and one I have been so lucky to get.”

Weekend Box, which is based on Newcastle’s Quayside, has also been nominated for national business award The Pitch UK, and Mr Stephenson is asking for your vote.

He explained: “I saw something about the competition on Twitter originally and thought I’d enter on a whim. Now Weekend Box is down to the final 50 and I’m so excited.”

As a shortlisted contestant for the social media award 2013, Mr Stephenson will now pitch to a live audience and a panel of expert judges at Paintworks in Bristol's creative quarter for a chance to become the overall winner.

He added: “I’m so proud to have got this far and I’m hoping the North East and Cumbria will get behind me and vote for me to win.”

The Start-Up Loans scheme in the North East and Cumbria is delivered through a consortium including Virgin Money, Virgin Unite, The Northern Rock Foundation (NRF) and Project North East (PNE) – with PNE being the consortium partner responsible for arranging and making the loans.

The scheme continues to open doors for entrepreneurs aged 18 to 30 who have a great business idea. Loans range from £500 to £25,000 with new ‘Lean Start-Up Loans’, of up to £1,000 ,aimed at those who would like to carry out market research before launching, or need a bit of a push to begin trading. With funding still to be awarded in the North East and Cumbria during 2013, successful applicants can benefit from Virgin Money’s mentoring support and Project North East’s many years’ working specifically with young business people.

To find out more about the Start-Up Loans scheme in the North East, as well as the new ‘Lean’ loans and how to apply, young entrepreneurs should visit startuploansnortheast.co.uk. To vote for Weekend Box in The Pitch UK, visit thepitchuk.com/pitch-shortlist/weekend-box and click 'vote for me' under the business logo.

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NOTES TO EDITORS


The Start-Up Loans scheme for young entrepreneurs was formally launched at Virgin Money’s Gosforth operational headquarters on Tuesday 20 November 2012.

Virgin Money has partnered with Virgin Unite, The Northern Rock Foundation (NRF) and Project North East (PNE) to form a consortium in the delivery of ‘Start-Up Loans’ – with PNE being the consortium partner responsible for arranging and making the loan.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), through Start-Up Loans, is providing funding to be offered in the form of small business start-up loans in the North East and Cumbria. The initiative is aimed at young entrepreneurs between 18 and 30 years of age. Loan sizes are between £250 and £25,000, with an average of around £5,000.

The consortium also provides a training, mentoring and engagement programme, to enable unemployed young people and young people from the region’s deprived areas to learn how to run a business and to find out more about the Start-Up Loans programme.

PNE is regulated under the Consumer Credit Act and is responsible for making the loans and administering the full lending process. PNE has nearly thirty years experience of successfully undertaking this type of work in the region, partnering organisations such as the Sainsbury family trusts and Royal Dutch Shell. More information about PNE can be found at www.pne-enterprise.org and information on start-up loans can be found at www.startuploansnortheast.co.uk.