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Winning Newcastle's Dragons Den Contest

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Three aspiring entrepreneurs were handed rent-free shops after impressing business experts in a Dragons Den-style contest. Three vacant units in Newcastle have been decked out ready for a business, this includes yours truly (the fabulous To The Nines...)

Judging their efforts were self-made millionaire and businessman Mo Chaudry, Sinead Butters, chief executive of The Aspire Group, and McDonald's restaurant franchisee Eddie Leligdowicz. Each of the experts selected an individual to support.

Joanne Clay was given a birthday she will never forget after Sinead gave the thumbs-up to her wedding and formal dress shop, To the Nines. The 32-year-old, from Penkhull, who has worked as an events planner for about 12 years, said: 

"I went to Essex recently and I believe we can learn from what they do there with the glamour.  I'll offer wedding planning, photography and the dresses, all under one roof"

Aspire Group chief executive Sinéad Butters, who picked wedding planner Jo Clay, said: "It has been a fantastic event and great to see how much local people care and want to be involved. "I picked Jo Clay as she is very glamorous and has a great vision for what she wants to do."

The event was put together by Newcastle Town Centre Partnership, which identified vacant units in Lancaster Building, Bridge Street and Merrial Street. Each unit was offered with six months of free rent and business rates, with the following six months paying half the normal rent. 

Town centre manager Matt Taylor said: "This is a great way of getting people on the business ladder and filling empty units."


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