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Meet the Team

Get to know the people who are providing support for businesses looking to expand or establish new operations in Gateshead, South Tyneside or Sunderland.

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Claire Hinde

Service & Investment Executive

I worked 18 years in Quality and Assurance within the banking industry. I was responsible for processing and assessing applications and claims on a variety of different grant funds. Dealing with frontline enquiries.


My role in The Growth Fund Team is being the first point of contact for customers to discuss eligibility and start the process for applying. As well as assessing the customers expression of interest I am responsible for collating all customer documentation throughout their journey to application stage ready for reporting.


My top tip for a business is “Don’t ever get too satisfied with your business. You can always improve – and improve you must!”


My favourite business quote is “There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.” – Ray Goforth


In my spare time I love spending time with my family. I voluntarily help run a local girls football team Easington Colliery Girls U15s carrying out the roles of secretary and treasurer. I also love going out for food and have a passion for baking! I dislike loud noises, teenagers and exercise!

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Jill Ross

Project Adviser

My career in the last decade has been predominantly in finance, I worked as a mortgage intermediary, moving into retail banking and most recently with a local Fintech Bank as a lending specialist to the commercial market. I also managed to squeeze in a Law degree. Previously my life was very different altogether as I worked for an International Airline tripping around the world as a cabin manager with a permatan!


I’m now a Project Adviser for the Growth Fund, covering the South Tyneside local authority area.

My top tip for business is to “Stay focused, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ It takes time to let people know who you are, stay focused on achieving you short term goals and the longer ones will follow.


My favourite business quotes are


“Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” (Richard Branson)


“Know your business and industry better than anyone else in the world. Love what you do or don't do it.” Mark Cuban


“If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.” Tony Robbins


In normal times I am a member of a National ‘Rock Choir’. The camaraderie and sheer joy of all joining together collaborating and blending different voice ranges then producing an amazing production is astounding and very uplifting. Our group have performed at dozens of charitable events and even in Hyde Park at the ‘Proms in the Park’ event.


The budding Miss Marple in me enjoys reading and watching crime dramas, but my passion is food, cooking it but mostly the eating part, I cannot wait to be able to eat out again with friends.

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Kate Ward

Project Adviser

I have worked in business support most of my working life, and the last 12 years of those have been in in an advisory capacity. As part of Busines Link I was a Skills Broker and Business Adviser, working with businesses to recognise and address problem areas in their business, identify training solutions to improve their staff, and source funding to assist in their growth plans. After Business Link I became an ERDF Business Adviser for a local small grant scheme Investment for Growth, which again involved working with North East businesses to overcome barriers to the growth and utilising the funding to achieve this. When this came to a close, I spent time on the Let’s Grow scheme monitoring the outcome of successful projects. That was my first introduction to the large grant programmes. Since then, I became part of the Business Support Helpline, offering telephone-based support to businesses across England.


This current role has taken me back to the face-to-face support that I love, working with businesses with exciting growth plans, and helping them access finance to make those possible. As a Project Adviser I work closely with customers from initial enquiry throughout the life of their project, offering support and guidance around the application process, procurement of goods and services and submitting claims, all in accordance with ERDF procedures/regulations.


My top tips for a business really coincide with my favourite quotes. I love the quote from Richard Branson “train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to” Staff are an integral part of any business, and getting the right team in place is vital. Showing respect and an appreciation to your staff is more likely to win the same back from them, enabling the business to prosper as a result.


Another is “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you always got” I think this is key in business as well as in life. If you want to strive forward you need to think and do things differently and learn from previous mistakes. And sometimes a calculated risk can be a platform to something amazing.


When I’m not working, I spend my time with my family. With two young children, that’s not always as idyllic as it sounds! We try and get out and about as much as we can and often find ourselves at the coast. I love music, particularly live events and am an avid Formula 1 fan.

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Steven Hodgetts

Project Adviser

I have worked in the business support environment for 20 years. In my previous role I worked on the UK Government's Business Support Helpline as a Business Support Adviser, providing guidance to pre-start, start-up, and established businesses across England.


In my current role, as a Project Adviser, I support businesses that are looking to invest in growth projects that will lead to an increase in productivity, profitability and employment within the business. Support begins with an initial meeting to identify eligibility for grant funding, signposting to additional areas of external business support, advice and guidance around the completion of the application form and finally the presentation of the application to panel for assessment. I primarily cover the Sunderland local authority area.


My top tip to a business is don’t ever stand still and think how great you are doing; you should always be on the lookout for the next opportunity to take your business forward.


My favourite business quote is “Sell the problem you solve, not the product”.


Outside of work I enjoy spending time with my wife and two children. We love keeping active and travelling.