ONE year on from the pandemic starting the entrepreneurial spirit of the North East has shone through despite the challenges of lock-down with businesses setting up and pivoting to ensure they are able to grow.

One of the success stories is a South Hetton company WL Distillery. Its managing director, Scott Wilson-Laing said: “As with many businesses the start of the pandemic made 2020 a challenging year.

Having planned to launch our Signature First Edition Gin we unfortunately had to put this on hold. Owing to the national shortage of hand sanitiser we quickly pivoted the business and used our raw materials to help charities, emergency services, the NHS and vulnerable individuals during this time.

“Fortunately, towards the end of the year we were able to launch our Gin alongside some special seasonal gift sets which have proved very popular throughout the UK.”

Another new business, Kerckoffs,has been created in Sunderland, using virtual reality to enable people with disabilities to get a fully immersive experience of possible tourist destination around the globe.

Set up by Dr Ramachandran and his team the Eyemmersive® (Eyemmersive® - A Digital Market Place for VR-based Tourism - YouTube ) service is like a ‘Uber’ like digital marketplace for enabling VR-based tourism. It enables VR travel enthusiasts to access professional tourist guides who can provide 360-degree video content at destinations with a ‘Netflix’ like stock content.

The product was inspired by the Dr Ramachandran’s personal experience and targets tourists who have limited ability to travel. However, the platform has a wider universal application in previewing destinations and advertising locations and venues to all consumers and to enable educational visits.

Dr Ramachandran is one of the chosen explorers by European Commission funded Next Generation Internet project.

A well-established designer used the challenges of lockdown to pivot her business to include animation to open up new opportunities for growth.

Julia Noble Design, based near Darlington said: “Motion graphics and animation has become commonplace and part of our everyday lives. Whether it be animated logos, adverts, social media posts, YouTube intro's or explainer videos, there are plenty of good reasons to use good design and motion to grab your viewers attention, you'll know from your own experience you're much more likely to stop scrolling.”

These businesses are members of the North East England Chamber of Commerce. Membership manager Bev Brown said: “These businesses are such fantastic examples of entrepreneurship and show a real desire to grow a business, no matter what challenges come your way.”

Another Chamber Partner member Sage plc is currently running a free programme to support North East’s start-up and microbusinesses like these enterprises.

The Sage Small Business Growth Programme helps businesses establish the financial and digital foundations they need to start, run and grow their business in these challenging times.

As well as accessing free advice through a series of on-demand webinars, participants can also access extended free use of Sage software, through an exclusive offer of 6 months of free Sage Accounting available until the end of April.