The TEDCO-backed business from Whitley Bay continues to go from strength to strength.

(l-r) Paul Hall with business Advisor Tracy Clarkson and Lucy Hall

For the Love of the North is fast becoming one of the most popular independent stores in North Tyneside. And walking into the endlessly colourful, cosy and inviting shop, it’s not difficult to see why.

Initially starting off as an online-only business, For the Love of the North sells stunning gifts, cards and prints all celebrating the magnetic energy of the North East. What’s more, all the pieces sold by For the Love of the North are created by talented local artists. The business also offers workshops to encourage locals to unleash their creative side, and hosts exhibitions of featured local talents as a way of revelling in the artistic skill found in the North East.

For the Love of the North is the brainchild of Whitley Bay residents Paul and Lucy Hall, having received help and guidance from the North Tyneside Business Factory and TEDCO Business Support. When we last spoke to Paul and Lucy, they were excited for their store opening. Now the duo is continuing to take the business from strength to strength, and their hard work is paying off big time.

The work of For the Love of the North is being recognised on a national scale, as Paul has been announced as one of ten finalists in this year’s Tourism Superstar award. This is jointly run by Visit England and the Daily Mirror, and is a well-deserved reflection of the effort Paul and Lucy have put into promoting creativity and community in the North East. Voting is open on the Daily Mirror website.

Clearly, the last twelve months have been busy at For the Love of the North, which is why we thought it was the perfect time to catch up with Paul and Lucy and see exactly how much things have changed since that initial TEDCO support they received to get their business off the ground.

Can you tell us how For the Love of the North has changed over the last 6-12 months?

“A year ago, we were about to launch the website and very much saw 2017 devoted to that. We hoped for an actual physical shop premises the following year.”

“The website was very well received, and we developed a social media presence through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We set up stalls at a variety of markets and fairs in order to raise awareness of FTLON [For the Love of the North]. We never dreamed an actual shop would open in 2017 but the opportunity arose, and we knew we had to take it!”

“Setting up the shop was initially a case of contacting North East artists ourselves, inviting them to stock and exhibit their work in the shop. Now we find that artists contact us directly as they’ve heard about the shop. Following on from excellent Christmas sales, we now have the means to invest in greater purchases. It is amazing to look back to a year ago and see how far we have come in such a short space of time.”

What are you most excited about for the year ahead?

“We want to see the Whitley Bay shop and FTLON develop as a brand, introducing new artists’ work into the mix whilst also creating designs of our own. With the work nearing completion on the seafront in Whitley Bay, these are exciting times to be part of the town.

“We also have the hugely exciting prospect of a second shop in a city centre location. This offers all kinds of opportunities, especially with this year’s Great Exhibition of the North [running from 22nd June – 9th September 2018]. A potential second shop will bring with it the need to recruit staff who shall represent FTLON, meaning we can contribute to the local economy.

“We are also very excited that Paul is a finalist in this year’s Tourism Superstar Award. This is run by Visit England and the Daily Mirror and celebrates the work of unsung heroes in the world of Tourism who promote their respective areas and offer a warm welcome to visitors. Voting begins on February 5th via the Daily Mirror website where you can vote for Paul to be 2018’s Tourism Superstar. It was a huge honour to be nominated and we are both chuffed to bits!”

How important is the local community to you?

“We very much want to make it clear that we love the North East. Supporting its array of wonderful creatives is very close to our heart. We are a totally independent small business and people have really gotten on board with the idea that by supporting the shop they are supporting a great many other small independent businesses right here in the North East.”

“By selling local pieces we hope to show off how fabulous it is to live in, work in and visit the North East. We want that message to reach increasingly wider audiences to help promote tourism.”

What’s your process for finding new local artists to work with?
“Originally, Paul used relationships he had built when working in Tourist Information Centres after the service was cut by the local authority. We also did a lot of research by visiting markets across the region and looking at artists’ websites.”

“We still actively look for new artists and craftspeople to stock their work in the shop and on the website, but now we also have artists contacting us directly wanting to be part of FTLOTN, which is hugely encouraging and rewarding. We want it to very much feel like a community.”

How important are your workshops to your overall success?

“The workshops have provided us with a way of reaching out to a greater audience. This has helped to inspire people and encourage them to get crafting themselves. The shop itself is a cosy space and our workshops always have a very warm and welcoming atmosphere and a calm environment.”

What kind of support did you initially receive from TEDCO?

“We received great support from TEDCO’s Tracy Clarkson, who gave us mentoring support from the very beginning when the website was just starting out. Since then we have attended a variety of courses dedicated to utilising social media to promote your business, as well as workshops where we can share ideas with others looking to set up a small business. Tracy has always been there to assist us throughout our journey, helping us get both the website and the shop established.”

How important was this support in helping you reach the level of success you’re at today?

“We often think back to that initial meeting with Tracy in December 2016 and think about how much of a journey we have been through.

“The support really gave us the boost to say: ‘We can do this and make a success of it’. As this was very much new territory for us both, it is fabulous that this support and mentoring is out there.”

Inspired to make your own business dreams a reality? Contact TEDCO Business Support today by calling 0191 516 61 02 or email us at enquiries@tedco.org.