Sunderland Business Festival logo

October 4-8th


Attend panel discussions and roundtables with leading experts and speakers, who will explore the transformation of Sunderland, the digital revolution in the city and the importance of skills and education in future-proofing Sunderland’s business landscape. 

There will also be a Recruitment Fair to provide information on training options, job opportunities and guidance, with a week-long event in the Bridges Shopping Centre, which includes lively sessions for those looking for employment, a career change, or dreams of running their own business. 

Sign up to book a place at this free event, and dip into sessions on the live event platform to fit with your diary!

Attended by our city ambassadors

Sunderland Business Festival will welcome some of the city’s most well known ambassadors with Patrick Melia, chief executive at Sunderland City Council, highlighting the transformation of Sunderland during a virtual presentation.

Creator and author of Celebrity Service and OMG Marketing, and world leader in brilliant customer service, Geoff Ramm, will be hosting an event at the Stadium of Light about customer service excellence. There will be a talk in with Leo Pearlman, founder of Fulwell73 – the production company behind Friends Reunion and Sunderland ’til I Die – about their plans for a new Sunderland studio.  And to top off the incredible line-up of events, international music sensation, Emeli Sandé, will headline the Foundation of Light’s 20th Birthday Gala Awards Dinner, at the charity’s home the Beacon of Light. 

Geoff Ramm

Geoff Ramm

Patrick Melia

Monday, October 4, 2021

Finance for your Business

The Bridges Shopping Centre

Hosting experts from HSBC and tax consultants, who will be giving free advice about finances and tax to anyone wanting to set up business.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Recruitment Fair

Stadium of Light
10am – 3pm

A recruitment fair aimed at all ages, connecting people with excellent career opportunities at companies including Nissan, Ocado and much more. Stands are still available and there will be various workshops throughout the day.

Pop up clothes swap shop

The Bridges Shopping Centre

Smartworks and Suitability – which offer free, new clothes to men and women who need items for work or an interview – will be running a pop up shop at the Bridges.

Meet the Buyers Event 

Stadium of Light
1pm – 3pm

This event will showcase the jobs available across the city in the construction industry, including a session for people to learn about the procurement/tending process.

Register today button

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Transformation of Sunderland

10am – 12:30pm

Join this session to hear council chief executive, Patrick Melia, share more about the city’s ambitions to become a healthy, dynamic, vibrant smart city.  This will be followed by a conversation with Centre for Cities’ Paul Swinney, and new North East England Chamber of Commerce chief executive, John McCabe, who will give their thoughts on the opportunities that lie ahead for Sunderland and its people as the city transforms.

CV writing and interview training 

The Bridges Shopping Centre

Various training organisations including Springboard, Media Savvy and Katie Storey Media will be holding sessions on everything from confidence building to CV writing.

Smart City: Digital Tech & Start Ups

1pm – 3pm

Hear direct from some Sunderland entrepreneurs about their journeys in to business before a panel discussion with a wide selection of business support organisations, highlighting the wide range of support available to those looking to set up and grow a business.

Future Living Expo

1pm – 3pm

Learn about Sunderland’s ambitions around future living and an update on the Sunderland Future Living Expo programme. Hear the role that smart and digital technology, low carbon and renewable energy, and advanced manufacturing have to play in defining Sunderland’s future homes, communities and lifestyles. A panel including former MHCLG executive, Andy Von Bradsky; Executive Chairman of Igloo and UK Built Environment Climate Ambassador, Chris Brown; Diane Carney, Executive Director of Property at Gentoo Group and Liz St Louis, Assistant Director of Smart City at Sunderland City Council; will explore the opportunities that Sunderland’s Expo brings for local businesses and the importance of entrepreneurs and business start ups in creating sustainable communities.

Developing your entrepreneurial mindset

2pm – 4:30pm

This workshop will be delivered by CUBED Mindset and help you to understand the importance of mindset as a foundation for success.

It will introduce a number of concepts, tools and techniques that will help you to create strong relationships, make better decisions, identify and maximise opportunities and respond effectively to the challenges you will face on your entrepreneurial journey.

The workshop will cover everything from perception, personality and pitfalls to defence mechanism, imposter syndrome and verbal economics.

Automotive & Advanced Manufacturing – Electrification and Emerging Technologies

4pm – 5:15pm

This session showcases recent announcements in the automotive and advanced manufacturing sector in the city and provides an opportunity to hear more about how businesses of all sizes are adapting to, and leading the way, in new and emerging technologies – from electrification to digital.

Geoff Ramm – Customer Service Excellence

Stadium of Light
4pm – 6pm

Discover the gap in your customer service you never knew existed. Geoff Ramm, author of the Celebrity Service and OMG book trilogy, will be sharing his top customer service and marketing tips live at Stadium of Light. 

SAFC Talk – The Business of Football

Stadium of Light
7pm – 9pm

Hear from SAFC senior leadership team on what it takes to run a football club and how solid foundations are the key to success both on and off the pitch. This event will provide opportunity to participate in an energetic and inspirational discussion with Steve Davison and Kristjaan Speakman.

Register today button

Friday, October 8, 2021

Education and Skills

Keynote address from Shaid Mahmood

9.45am – 10am

Shaid Mahmood is the Chair of the National body representing education and skills in England.

Panel: Alignment of Education to the City’s Long Term Employment Opportunities

10am – 11:15am

Panel discussion with Ellen Thinnesen, Chief Executive of Education Partnership North East; Simon Marshall, Director of Education Services at Sunderland City Council and Michael Young from the University of Sunderland.

Mindfulness Training

Virtual Workshop
10am – 11am

Delivered by Alan Ross, a leadership coach, yoga and mindfulness teacher. Alan set up ARK Associates after a career in large food and drinks companies, on the board of three companies over 10 years. He now coaches senior leaders and their teams on the issues they face in this crazy business environment. Alan is committed to working with clients on their well-being, emotional intelligence and resilience.

The session will cover an introduction to mindfulness and how it can help with challenges such as handling distractions, obstacles and gratitude in the worlds of business, public sector and education.

Further details (.doc)

The HR Journey

Virtual Workshop
10am – 11am

The HR journey is a multi-faceted one and doesn’t just end following the recruitment or onboarding process. This session will follow the HR journey from the beginning with your recruitment strategy, moving on to employing staff and cover all elements encompassed within, throughout the term of employment. We will guide you through the processes and best practice suggestions involved in the employee-HR journey and how your policies support the processes.

Marketing Your Business Effectively

Virtual Workshop
10am – 12pm

This online session will help you develop ideas to create a marketing plan for your business, including:

• Introduction to marketing
• Tips on how to plan your marketing
• Importance of developing a customer persona
• Attendees will receive a free marketing plan template

Health and Wellbeing – Uni Medical School

11:30am – 1pm

With Ellen Thinnesen and Scott Wilkes.

Culture, Arts and Creative Industries

iStage Talent Show

The Bridges Shopping Centre

Real jobs on offer in the performing arts courtesy of North East based entertainment group, ISG – which provides entertainers, singers and dancers for everything from holiday camps to cruise ships.

An Audience with Leo Pearlman

The Looking Glass, Athenaeum Street
12pm – 1pm

Leo Pearlman, managing partner of one of the leading international film and TV production companies, Fulwell 73 group, which is responsible for small-screen hits such as Carpool Karaoke, Sunderland Till I Die and this year’s Friends: The Reunion, will share the secret of his success at this special event. 

Bringing the City Back to Life

The Looking Glass, Athenaeum Street
1:30pm – 2:30pm

Sponsored by Sunderland BID

Bill Grimsey, who has more than 40 years of retail experience, is the author of a series of well respected Grimsey Reviews the most recent of which take a detailed look at what the high street needs to do to survive in a post pandemic world.

And now he will be in the city on Friday 8 October at an event hosted by Sunderland BID as part of a panel discussion which is open to everyone.

He will be joined on the panel by Johnny Hayes, the driving force behind York’s famed “Bishy Road” which was transformed from a quiet local shopping area to one of the country’s most vibrant independent streets.

Also on the panel will be Sharon Appleby, Chief Executive of Sunderland BID and Peter McIntyre, Executive Director of City Development at Sunderland City Council, along with local retailers Harry Collinson who owns The Looking Glass and Café 1851 and Simon Whittaker of Master Debonair.

The event will be chaired by Graeme Thompson, Pro Vice-Chancellor at Sunderland University.

So You Want to be a Social Entrepreneur

Virtual Workshop
2pm – 4pm

A workshop designed to introduce social enterprise to people whose business idea may benefit from being a social business, but they are novices to the subject. It covers social enterprise in general, focuses on CIC’s and Co-ops, relates them to charities, and the differences and pros and cons of being a social enterprise compared to private businesses.

Foundation of Light Gala Dinner

The Beacon of Light
6pm – 10pm

The Foundation of Light’s 20th birthday Gala Awards Dinner, at the charity’s home the Beacon of Light, will showcase the work of Sunderland AFC’s official charity and the impact it has made to thousands of lives across the North East, as well as raise thousands to support community sport, education, employability and wellbeing projects. International music sensation Emeli Sandé will headline the event.