Business management

“We created a free gift voucher platform for local businesses”

We hear from marketing agency Vida Creative about its creation of Tyne Collective, a gift voucher platform aimed at helping small businesses maintain cash flow during the crisis.

At first, business was conducted on the road and without help as the pair travelled freely around Europe, but fast and organic growth encouraged them to lay some more permanent foundations upon returning to the UK. Office space was secured in Newcastle upon Tyne, and the company in its current form was born.

Things have gone from strength to strength ever since, with the two founders’ hard work and talent being complemented by support from NatWest’s Entrepreneur Accelerator programme, something they’ve been part of since April 2019.

“Before we started on the programme, we weren’t really operating like a proper business,” Ellen says. “It was just two of us, and we were just working as freelancers really, but the programme helped us take the next big steps into full-blown business ownership by providing plenty of advice and invaluable contacts. It’s only been a year but we’re about to make our third permanent hire already.”

Team spirit

Like most other entrepreneurs, Ellen and Henry have been coping to the best of their abilities with the coronavirus outbreak, continuing with business as usual when it’s possible and finding other ways to be productive when it’s not.

“Given the nature of our business, a lot of what we do is online already, so we were quite comfortable with that aspect,” says Ellen. “Some of our team were used to working remotely, for example, and we had the right measures already in place for that.

Primarily, we want to help our local business peers with cash flow while they’re closed. But we’re also keen to showcase the amazing small companies we have in Newcastle

Ellen Hedley
co-founder, Vida Creative

“One challenge we have had is in keeping team spirit high without any real face-to-face contact, but the technology we use is helping massively. We’ve been having regular team video meetings to help keep everyone in touch, for example: those sessions allow us to discuss daily goals, give work updates and generally just enjoy the small talk we’d normally have in the office.”

A helping hand

While much of Vida Creative’s retainer work has continued, some projects – namely those commissioned by clients hit harder by the disruption – have understandably been delayed, leaving the team with more capacity than usual.

“We sat down together and thought: we’ve got all these skills here, we have more time; what can we do to give Vida something more positive to focus on?” says Ellen.

That impromptu ideas session led to the creation of Tyne Collective, an online platform that allows independent businesses in the North East to sell gift vouchers for use after the pandemic. The idea is that SMEs can keep money coming in, and their customers have something to look forward to when normal life resumes.

“Primarily, we want to help our local business peers with cash flow while they’re having to stay closed,” Ellen explains, “but we are also keen to showcase the amazing small companies we have in Newcastle and the wider North East. It’s very early, but we’d love for it to become more of a community rather than just a voucher platform.”

As well as being a potential lifeline for others, the project has shown Ellen just how reactive and resourceful her team can be when faced with unfamiliar pressures. “I don’t think we’ve ever set anything up this fast,” she says. “It’s not really possible in our normal work, but having complete control and needing to get this going quickly means we’ve had to take a different approach, and that’s a valuable learning experience in itself.”

This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of NatWest Group, as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Copyright © NatWest Group. All rights reserved.

scroll to top