NORTH-EAST entrepreneurs have been urged to think big as part of a search to find the region's next successful business owners.

The If We Can You Can Challenge (IWCYC), run by The Northern Echo alongside the Entrepreneurs' Forum, aims to help get hundreds of people into business by raising their profile, offering mentoring and giving them access to the North-East's entrepreneurial community.

Now in its sixth year, IWCYC was this year launched at the Tyneside Cinema, in Newcastle, and offers entrants the chance to present their ideas to a panel of experienced entrepreneurs and business professionals before Northern Echo readers vote for their winner.

The prize, worth at least £17,000, includes First Deal investment, mentoring and professional advice from the forum's partners, which include Yorkshire Bank, Onyx, Ward Hadaway, PwC and Rivers Capital.

A shortlist of eight candidates will be selected to present their ideas to a panel of expert judges, with a final three going head to head in a readers' vote in July.

Nigel Mills, chairman of the Entrepreneurs' Forum, said: “If we want to grow an entrepreneurial economy you need iconic figures to inspire and somebody to hold your hand along the way, and IWCYC provides both.

“All new net jobs in the world are created by businesses under five-years-old, and the people who enter IWCYC are the job and wealth creators of the future.”

The deadline for entries is Friday, June 7. For more information, visit