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Support Programmes Unite to Help Bridge Skills Gap for Marketing Consultancy

Simonside founder Sarah Alcock has tapped into various support programmes available to businesses in the North East as well as plugging the digital skills gap in her own company to enable her business to grow even more.

Published: 02 August 2021

With over two decades of experience in marketing, Yorkshire-born Sarah found herself working at a senior level, but her roles became more about managing staff and budgeting and less doing what she loved… devising marketing strategies to help businesses achieve their goals.

“I love marketing, but I wanted to get back to rolling up my sleeves and getting stuck into the detail again. Working directly with entrepreneurs to make a real difference to their businesses.”

With priorities shifted, Sarah wanted to feel fulfilled in her career once more and decided to take the plunge and set up her own marketing business. Having recently moved to Northumberland, Sarah took inspiration from her surroundings and Simonside Marketing was born on 4th June 2019.

“One of the things I wanted to achieve when I set up Simonside was to plug skills gaps I’d developed due to me being in senior leadership roles, where you have a team of people doing the day-to-day campaign activation work.”

With a huge range of support available Sarah knew she could benefit from available guidance to further cement her growth plans.

“You can never have too much support for your business, especially at times of economic uncertainty, like we are in now because of Brexit and Covid.”

The first referral into Business Northumberland came from NBSL, where Sarah took full advantage of attending workshops to hone her social media skills, having 1-2-1s with a dedicated Business Growth Advisor and attending online networking meetings as part of Simonside’s wider marketing strategy.

Business Northumberland provides support to small and medium enterprises across the North East who are looking to sustain and grow their business online. The fully funded support programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Advance Northumberland, so there is no cost to eligible businesses when accessing the support.

“Networking has always been one of my main marketing strategies... Everything is online now, which while it’s not the same, it fundamentally works and opens up opportunities, as you can network further afield”.

Simonside now has a retainer client based in Aberdeen, as well as forming a second business with a group of other freelance creative and marketing consultants who have pooled their collective expertise to create a “compelling proposition” to take to the market, thanks to working online and eliminating geographical restrictions.

“Organisations like Business Northumberland run free courses to help you develop skills and of course, it’s a great way to meet other micro business owners.”

It was through Advance Northumberland that Simonside was referred into the Northumberland Covid Business Response Programme (NCBRP) and took advantage of both the Business Advantage and Digital Advantage elements of programme. Working with a dedicated coach, Sarah was able to utilise the time to discuss, develop and refine the Simonside brand, services and website.

“It’s been really good for me to bounce ideas off someone in the marketing field. I find creating successful strategies for my clients much easier, but turning your hand on your own business can be tricky, as you’re much more emotionally invested! As a business owner it is always great to have another person in the industry to act as a sounding board”.

As part of Simonside’s new brand and marketing collateral, the redeveloped website was launched at the start of 2021. Simonside then worked with The Allies Group to create a Google Ads campaign to the value of £1,000, work funded by Digital Advantage (the other arm of NCBRP).

NCBRP is a new service for businesses that have been adversely affected by Covid. The Project is funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority and delivered by Advance Northumberland on behalf of Northumberland County Council and the Northumberland Business Hub.

If you would like to get in touch with Sarah about how Simonside can help your business, please go to

To find out more about NCBRP and getting your business online with a fully funded e-commerce website please go to:

For more information about Business Northumberland, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit

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