Neill has Sights Set on Business Opportunity Thanks to TEDCO and Virgin Startup

An optician from Darlington with a clear vision about his next career move has been able to make his dream a reality thanks to TEDCO Business Support and a £20,000 start-up loan from Virgin StartUp.

Having opted to take the franchise route to start his own business, Neill Lockett has thrown open the doors to Speccies in the centre of Darlington and in doing so, has established the practice’s first branch in the North.

With more than 34 years experience as a qualified optician and having worked for well known industry names including Dollond & Aitchison and Boots Opticians, Neill seized the opportunity to set up his own business venture after being made redundant.

He said: “I was keen to pursue something which would enable me to combine my many years of experience as an optician with my goal of running my own business. A former customer pointed me in the direction of a franchise opportunity with Speccies; it had branches primarily in the South and was keen to establish a foothold in the North. I knew immediately that this was the ideal option for me and I jumped at the chance to be the first Speccies franchisee in the region.”

Speccies offers a cost effective way to purchase high quality prescription spectacles at affordable prices and because of Neill’s vast experience as an optician he is able to provide customers with professional, independent advice to ensure that they are able to select the right glasses for their needs.

Neill knew that raising the necessary finance to launch a new venture was one of the biggest obstacles facing would-be business owners. Having been introduced to Mark Johnston of TEDCO Business Support, he was able to successfully secure a start-up loan from Virgin StartUp which gave him the working capital that he needed to get Speccies off the ground.

He added: “I had been able to self-fund the purchase of the franchise itself but I knew that I would need to secure a business loan to get the remaining finance that I needed. Mark was recommended to me by Zoe Turner and he was able to guide me knowledgably through the process and ensured that I was able to put forward a robust application which had left no stone unturned.”

Virgin StartUp is a not-for-profit organisation and part of the Virgin Group, providing government-backed business loans to enterprises to help kick-start new ventures with the start up capital they need to make business dreams come to life. Virgin StartUp is exclusively delivered in the North East by TEDCO Business Support.

As well as help with securing finance, Neill received a wealth of additional advice from TEDCO Business Support via its Start and Grow programme.

He said: “When starting a new venture there is a huge amount to take into consideration and in addition to the guidance offered when I took on the franchise, Mark was able to steer me in the right direction when it came to evaluating the short and long term goals for the business, marketing advice and introductions to accountants and other professional expertise that I needed.”

Neill continued: “The Start and Grow programme is really geared towards supporting sustainable businesses that need additional support beyond the start-up stage. Knowing that I have an experienced adviser on-hand who will work with me in the crucial first few years is reassuring as there are many challenges to be faced as the business moves forward.”

Mark Johnston, business advisor at TEDCO Business Support added: “Neill is a prime example of the type of individual that the Start and Grow programme and Virgin StartUp is designed to support; someone with a strong commercial idea, growth potential and the commitment and dedication that is required to not only establish a new venture but to sustain the ongoing demands of running your own business.”

The Start and Grow programme is delivered by TEDCO Business Support in the North East and is supported by the Regional Growth Fund (RGF). The programme is delivered throughout England by Cavendish Enterprise in areas where there are lower levels of business start-up to help new enterprises get up and running and develop new employment opportunities in the private sector with a range of services, including one-to-one mentoring, business planning and helping new ventures get investment ready.

For more information on TEDCO Business Support and how Start and Grow or Virgin StartUp can help kick-start a new enterprise, please contact us today.