Wind in its sail as design agency benefits from grant

A creative design agency in Gateshead, is the second company to benefit from an Open North Foundation grant.

Sail Creative, established four years ago by founder, Mandy Barker, has seen growth slow significantly since the start of the pandemic, with big projects in the arts and culture sector slashed or suspended until 2021/22.

Utilising her business networks, Mandy was made aware of the not-for-profit Open North Foundation and the grants that were available. Mandy forwarded a detailed application and following a strenuous assessment, £1,500 was donated to the company to assist with mentoring support.

The grant to Sail Creative follows the first joint cash donation and in-kind marketing support to South Shields-based gym, Queen Street Fitness.

The Open North Foundation is a not-for-profit business-led response to the Covid-19 pandemic and is run by a board of directors, all of whom provide their time free of charge.

Its primary focus is to call upon businesses and individuals throughout the region to pledge financial and in-kind support to rebuild the regional economy. Businesses receiving financial support will generally be considered to deliver long term positive economic impact and create high quality jobs, although exceptions may be considered. In most cases, grants will range from £1,000 to £5,000, subject to funding availability.

Richard Swart, chair of Open North Foundation said: “We have had many pledges of financial and in-kind support, such as marketing, HR, legal and financial services and we are leveraging this to the benefit of what would have been buoyant small to medium businesses regardless of sector, trying to recover from the pandemic.  We continue to gather pace and momentum and we urge as many companies as possible to provide assistance, no matter how small.

“We are delighted to provide a donation to Sail Creative. It is a young, ambitious and dynamic team, and we were impressed by their business model, which is to deliver meaningful solutions that have commercial and real-world impact.

“We are also pleased to see that Sail Creative will be using the grant to gain access to mentoring support, which will help its long-term growth.”

Mandy Barker, founder, Sail Creative, said: “A huge thank you to the Open North Foundation for supporting us. Psychologically, knowing there is a supportive business community in the North East, is very comforting and reassuring, even if we cannot physically meet.

“My background is in design but four years ago I made the leap from working in an agency to establishing Sail Creative and we have built our client base. We are known for our conceptual thinking and storytelling, which connects us to the audiences we are targeting on behalf of our clients.

“Leading up to the pandemic, we saw solid growth and worked on a number of high-profile campaigns, one of which saw us win an international pitch process.

“However, this year, we have been stopped in our tracks, with clients in the arts and culture sector seeing huge cuts, so have started to explore other opportunities and markets.

“The Open North Foundation donation has fast-tracked our ability to appoint a well-known creative mentor who, we have no doubt, will help assist us with our strategic focus going forward, so we really want to thank all involved. It has made a huge difference to us.”