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We are 'Save Our SME',

a team of dedicated professionals passionate about helping our SME's and supporting people during the COVID 19 crisis.


Ammar Mirza

Leadership & Development Specialist

01661 823 234

Ammar is a sought-after multi-award-winning management consultant with strategic board level, including Chair, experience and expertise across the Public, Private and Third Sectors.

Appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for outstanding services to Business and the Community by Her Majesty the Queen in June 2014.

In his company, AmmarM, he has delivered numerous Leadership and Management/Business Development commissions working with SMEs to help develop and deliver strategic plans, provide advice and guidance and ultimately helping support growth, implementing service improvements, realise operational savings and efficiencies.

Ammar currently holds an MBA (with distinction), Institute of Leadership and Management level 5 post grad diploma in management, AAT, PRINCE2, PTLLS at level 4 and a whole range of other professional qualifications.

More recently, Ammar has been awarded with Entrepreneur of the year - The English Asian Business Awards.

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Matt Atkinson

Digital Transformation Specialist

01661 823 234

Matt is an experienced digital leader and innovator, skilled in business process design and digital product design.

In his role as a digital transformation specialist he works with businesses to understand what's holding them back and to identify suitable solutions. He has cross-sector experience and has helped countless start-ups and SME’s to innovate and realise their ambitions.

Matt has  been an engineer, systems specialist, project manager, team manager, process improvement consultant, change manager, sales director and digital strategist. As a result, he has a unique ability to identify opportunities for improvement and exploit digital technologies to deliver extraordinary results.


Not only that but...

  • He's always smiling. ‘Positive’ is his middle name. (actually, it’s Steven, but…)

  • He can translate ‘Geek’ into plain language.

  • He genuinely enjoys studying complex problems and finding practical solutions.

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Chris Orrick

Head of Operations



Chris has been developing and delivering training programmes since 1997 after he graduated from his software engineering programme at Northumbria University. Chris has expertise in all areas of training and development and is particularly strong when it comes to evaluating training programmes of all sizes.

Having a logic-based background yet delivering training and development programmes, Chris has been fortunate enough to hold various positions such as business analyst, account manager and systems analyst giving him a unique blend of technology and people skills that supports his approach with participants he works with.

Chris holds a level 5 coaching qualification from the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Post Graduate Diploma in Management Development from Northumbria University in addition to starting a whole range of businesses in the previous 20 years from training through to software development and more latterly a private coaching practice.

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Dr Philip Veal

Design Thinker


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Philip established Silbo Ltd in 2000 as a consultancy and production agency, since then Silbo Ltd has worked with a wide range of clients including: British Airways, Virgin Holidays, Channel 4 as well as many start-ups and early stage enterprises.

Silbo Ltd has also delivered several Innovation-led projects under the Innovation Voucher scheme as well as working with a total of 40 different companies as part for the Digital City Fellowship scheme. In each case innovation has been a key part of the process as often new products and services invariably form part of the offering.

In 2016 Philip Veal was awarded a Professional Doctorate at the University of Sunderland for his study "The realisation of a value- driven organisation" A comprehensive study around how design thinking and innovation practices can be used to create value within organisations through transformation.

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Justin Souter

Coach & Mentor



Justin specialises in working with early stage founders; corporate innovators; and address issues of entrepreneurial well-being. He assists them all to validate their ideas and business models and get them ready for scale using big pieces of paper and Post-It notes.

With other colleagues he runs start-up accelerator programmes; support programmes for cultural businesses; as well as for workshops and coaching for Generator, and several North East Universities. He’s volunteered on start-up weekends, and half-a-dozen Lean Start-up conferences.

Nice things people say about Justin: e.g. “Justin Souter is like the North East’s own little piece of Silicon Valley!!!”; and “Justin – I think it was an epiphany”.

Justin’s goal is for beneficiaries to have their own insights, so their learnings are internalised and therefore stay with them, and they are equipped to succeed.

He started his own business ten years ago and has bootstrapped a social enterprise for two years. Previously he worked for 9 years at an IT outsourced where he trained as a techie but transitioned to be a business consultant.

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John Abbott

Media & International Communications

John Abbott is Chief Executive of Globeflow (, a localisation technology company based in Durham, UK.

He began his career as a media executive at the world’s largest media company TimeWarner and was later appointed as the company’s youngest executive editor at 24.

He went on to be appointed international editor for Decanter, Time Inc’s flagship wine media brand, running digital output and audience operations across its global audiences and platforms.

In 2012 he was appointed launch editor for Decanter China, IPC Media’s first overseas venture, and was on the advisory team for the key launches of the Decanter Asia Wine Awards and the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter. He led Decanter’s launch into Asia to critical industry acclaim, culminating in being shortlisted for Media Brand of the Year and Outstanding Global Achievement by the Professional Publishers Association (PPA).

John holds a degree from Durham University and is corporate advisor to a number of companies. He has given talks around the world as a conference speaker and has appeared as a commentator in publications including The Wall Street Journal, South China Morning Post and The Independent. He became Chief Executive of Globeflow in 2019.

His professional interests are the Chinese internet, digital marketing workflows and helping companies increase their engagement in new international markets through modern localisation strategies.

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Ben Haynes

Digital Marketer

Ben is a digital marketer at the SME Centre of Excellence helping businesses to build their online presence through a range of online platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, email marketing and beyond…


Ben comes from a background of family business with a desire to help more SMEs survive and thrive. In today’s modern world, digital marketing is the perfect mechanism to allow SMEs to grow which is why Ben has become heavily invested in supporting businesses with their online presence.

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Jess Farnham

Project Coordinator

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Jess is a project coordinator at the SME Centre of Excellence helping to manage a variation of exciting projects for a wide range of clients and organisations.


Jess has always had a passion for business and enjoys meeting new people and finding out ways that the SME Centre of Excellence can be a support to them. Jess is looking forward to continue growing and developing a wide range of skills both personally and in the world of business.

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