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Xcel Centre - Newton Aycliffe

21st October 2021

2021 DABS Festival of Enterprise

The second DABS Festival of Enterprise took place on 21st October at the Xcel Centre, Newton Aycliffe.

Our speakers inspired the audience and gave them their top tips on how to run and grow a successful business. Find out more with the highlights reel >

Speaker interviews


We have put together a video of each of the speakers being interviewed as they came off stage.

If you would like to see the full presentation videos of each speaker, register for the DABS programme and we will send you the link.

Joanna Feeley

Joanna is founder and CEO of futures agency, TrendBible. She advises some of the world’s most recognised retailers, brands and organisations, helping them to understand what life at home will be like in the future. With 20 years experience, Joanna is regularly cited as an authority on trends by The Independent, BBC Radio 4 and the Financial Times.

Lizzy Hodcroft

An award-winning entrepreneur with North East start-up successes to her name, Lizzy’s path to the life she knows today has not been without its difficulties. Having fought depression and anxiety, Lizzy now shares her enormously ambitious and passionate stance on positive wellbeing and mental health.

Lizzy raised her profile through the North East and beyond with her first business, The Sweet Beet, which she sold in 2019 and her position as co-founder and CEO of Discova, a mental health support application awarded over £300k from Innovate UK.

The Scottish born and Texan raised Lizzy is currently an Associate Lecturer at Newcastle University Business School, public speaker, inspiration lead for The Enterprise Academy and consultant. She has been recognised on the 35 under 35 list of ones to watch.

Steven Braines

The Weird & The Wonderful / HE.SHE.THEY.

Born and raised in the North East, Steven Braines is the founder and “head honcho” at The Weird and The Wonderful, an Artist Management company representing a wide range of musical acts from across the globe.

After graduating with a first class honors degree in psychology, which was followed up with a masters degree, Steven initially began to work in this field but always had a desire to be involved in the music industry.  Steven decided to follow his dream and after some success working in the North East music scene working for Kiss, Ministry and Generator, he decided to uproot his life to London with nothing but a dream and a friends sofa to sleep on.  From this The Weird and The Wonderful management company was formed.

Steven has experienced some amazing successes during his time in the music industry, touring in 45+ countries, multiple awards and the pinnacle of which was guiding his artist and friend, KDA, to #1 in the UK chart, besting One Direction to the coveted spot.

His latest venture HE.SHE.THEY. fashion label / event series / record label launched at London Fashion Week with the record business in association with Warner Music which pushes diversity and inclusion is now a global brand which has ran live events from New York to Mumbai and has been featured in the likes of NME, DJ Mag, Love and GQ.

Andrew Thorp

Storytelling – a superpower for business owners?

Drawing on his personal experience as a business owner, Andrew will demonstrate what it means to tell a better story, one that educates and inspires people to buy your product, service or idea. His session will focus on 3 themes: what you say, how you say it and how you sell yourself in the process. You’ll learn how to deliver an intriguing elevator pitch, a compelling presentation, a reassuring case study and an amusing anecdote. Expect a highly practical and entertaining session from ‘the Multi-Story Man’.

Andrew Thorp is an award-winning speaker, trainer and consultant in the field of business storytelling. He works with senior leaders, business owners and professionals to help them connect and persuade by telling a more compelling story. This starts with developing a narrative which does justice to both the individual and the organisation they represent. He helps to humanise and ‘storify’ what can otherwise be a dry, factual message, something he describes as ‘Verbal PR’.

Mark Wong

Impossibrew, a 0.5% alcohol beer developed by plant scientists that aficionados are awarding five stars to for the beer’s malt and biscuit flavours.

After an accident meant he had to give up his beloved beer, Impossibrew founder Mark Wong tried every alcohol free product going but found they all failed both on taste and in satisfying that itch that alcohol brings.

“I love alcohol. I really love it – to the point that I became a French Wine Scholar from the Wine Scholar Guild, and planned to make a career out of it. The news that I had to give it up meant the end of my career, but it also felt like the end of my social life. I wanted to be able to go out with mates and enjoy myself, and sitting there sipping soda water just wasn’t going to be the same.”

Never one to stand down from a challenge, Mark decided to turn his situation into a positive one and after much research and testing, he has developed the Impossibrew lager, the latest entry to the 0% alcohol market.

Throughout the process Mark says he learned one important thing – that he needed to learn lots more about actually running a business: “I heard about DABS through an e-news piece on entrepreneurs and got in touch to see what help I could get from them. I have absolutely no business background and founds DABS offered good programmes, online training and network events. I particularly like these events because everyone is very helpful and generous in sharing their experiences – what worked for them and what didn’t.”