WAYNE Hemingway MBE and broadcaster Steph McGovern headlined an event that encouraged Newcastle businesses to make more of the internet to reach customers and boost the local economy.
Wayne, co-founder of Red or Dead and multi-disciplinary HemingwayDesign - was the keynote speaker at the Go Digital Newcastle Superfast Summit – an event to promote the funding and free support available as part of Go Digital Newcastle, a campaign to deliver superfast broadband to 97pc of the city by summer 2015.
TV journalist Steph hosted the event and shared anecdotes from across the country including companies struggling with slow internet speeds and employers across a range of sectors facing a digital skills shortage.
Wayne told a packed audience how he and his wife Gerardine began their business empire with a market stall on Camden Market - growing Red or Dead into a global brand and selling it 19 years later for a significant sum.
The 53-year-old addressed the issue of how the digital arena has since opened up a world of opportunities for businesses, and how he and Gerardine have used those opportunities to further grow the many strands of their businesses, including HemingwayDigital, a division of the renowned and award-winning Hemingway Design.
Wayne said: “Digitally enhanced communities are creative, innovative and exciting places to be and live, they enrich people’s lives.
“Those who use the internet well are those who know that it’s not just about what you sell, it’s about the people you sell to, it’s their lifestyles that are important.
“Online videos are a brilliant tool for businesses, councils and charities – they are low cost and have the potential to reach a huge audience.
“The most successful brands are the ones that give people something they can use or share with others, things like videos, posters and pictures.
“People respond to generosity, the world isn’t a nasty place, there are some nasty people but 99pc of people are decent folk.”
Wayne also highlighted HemingwayDesign’s hugely popular The Vintage Festival, which celebrates the best of British music, fashion, film, art and design, and he shared details of how The Vintage Festival has reached hundreds of thousands of people purely using social media.
Councillor Ged Bell, Cabinet Member for Investment and Development, said:
“Go Digital Newcastle is all about helping local businesses to promote products and reach new markets as well as boosting the local economy.
“We are doing everything we can to make sure premises across the city are at the forefront of the digital revolution.
“The scheme has the potential to boost the city’s economy by £150m, but only if organisations take advantage of the free connection vouchers and make use of the free business support that’s available.
“There’s never been a better opportunity for local companies, commercial landlords and charities to take advantage of free funding and practical help to reach more people.”
Guest speakers at the event included Andy Preston from CEO Sleepout UK and Nicola Little from We Are Sparkle.
To enable companies to get connected to superfast speed Go Digital Newcastle – a campaign being run by Newcastle City Council - is offering free connection vouchers worth up to £3,000 to businesses in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Gateshead, to give them the competitive edge they need.
The Connection Vouchers are available until March 2015 and in addition to enabling companies to move from standard broadband to superfast, they are also available to businesses wanting to significantly increase their current speeds.
The campaign is also offering free business support so companies can learn how to better use the internet to improve their profitability and productivity, and up to £2,000 towards the cost of IT equipment.
Go Digital Newcastle is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund, and is intended to help businesses grow and prosper, boosting the local economy and strengthening Newcastle’s position within the global market.