An ex-teacher who bounced back from near bankruptcy six years ago to grow a highly successful digital training agency has launched a new venture aimed at giving much-needed support to the North East business community.

Consett entrepreneur Nicola Jayne Little hasn’t always had the best luck in business. Her childhood dream of becoming a teacher didn’t meet up to her expectations and a period of running an online ethical business ended in tears when it folded.

Undeterred, Nicola swapped teaching children for training small business owners and rapidly gained a reputation with her company Digital Sparkles for being one of the best social media trainers and 1-2-1 mentors in the business.

However, she felt that she had something extra to give and identified that once the training on the established programmes ended, the delegates were left alone with no accountability.

Eighteen months ago, she launched The Savvy Solos Business Club for self-employed people working on their own.

“I realised that many people working by themselves had no one to share ideas with, help achieve their business targets or make sure that they managed their time correctly. Most importantly, they had no one to share their success with,” said Nicola.

Demand for membership of the club was high. In just 18 months, Nicola recruited more than 100 members and ran packed monthly sessions in Blyth, North Tyneside and Consett. Her turnover increased three-fold and her personal success transferred onto her members with many benefiting from increased sales from her targeted business training and networking sessions.

“I saw a huge difference in the confidence levels of so many members and witnessed their businesses going through massive upturns. However, as I was building the community I realised that I hadn’t factored in the next stage. We needed to attract micro businesses,” said Nicola.

“People running micro businesses have employed others and gone through the challenging process of growing their businesses and working with a team dynamic. I wanted our Solos to be inspired and aspire to raise themselves up a level whilst at the same time giving the micro business owners a platform to resolve their own unique business challenges.”

The result is that Nicola has now merged her two companies, Digital Sparkles and the Savvy Solo Business Club into one and launched the MINT Business Club.

“I called it MINT after our members. It is a word I say to them frequently in training; they and their businesses are MINT!

“For the first time in a decade, things are exactly where I want them to be, I know where my business direction lies and the time is just right. I’ve demonstrated poor business judgement in the past and one of the reasons MINT works so well is that I have the opportunity to help prevent people making the same mistakes I made and offer unique business support to those that need it most. I aim to get all of our members businesses into MINT condition with our fresh approach!”