25 Mar 2020

500 free mentors to help 500 entrepreneurs and leaders navigate impact of coronavirus

Coronavirus Economy Business support

Regional appeal to retired former business leaders to help mentor entrepreneurs in Yorkshire through the challenges caused by the coronavirus

Press release issued on behalf of Leeds City Council and Next-Up

It is not only doctors and nurses who are being called out of retirement. Now the call has gone out for 500 senior people to mentor Yorkshire entrepreneurs and leaders from public, private and voluntary sectors who are dealing with the impact of COVID-19. The mentors could be recently retired or still working, but able to spare 45 minutes a week for online support, free of charge, for three months. 

Led by Next-Up, which helps executives coming up to retirement, and supported by Leeds City Council, the idea came from an intergenerational mentoring event for tech entrepreneurs – planned for Leeds Digital Festival – which cannot now take place. They already had 32 mentors and 16 entrepreneurs signed up, so are allocating these immediately and calling for more mentors and more leaders who would like mentors, to contact them. 

Victoria Tomlinson, chief executive of Next-Up is leading the campaign and said

“No-one has ever seen anything like COVID-19 and its speedy impact. However, my generation has lived through 9/11 and the financial crash – which at the time felt as awful. What this generation can do is to help people get perspective, talk through things in a logical way with someone independent and use their skills, experience and contacts to help people make good decisions. And shortly, to start looking at longer term plans once the virus abates. 

“It is important to stress that mentoring relationships are confidential so the mentee can talk about anything in a way they may not be able to do elsewhere.” 

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council said:

“These are unprecedented times and we are doing everything we can to prepare and to mitigate the business and economic impact in the city. As part of this, we are moving quickly to support innovative ideas that will help the sustainability of our region. This initiative is adapting and extending one of our existing activities and will have far reaching impact. It is a fantastic way to maximise the skills of an experienced generation to help businesses, entrepreneurs, voluntary and public sector leaders at such a challenging time. Technology is enabling really imaginative ways to support each other and we are proud to support it.” 

Stuart Watson, former partner at EY and now non-executive director at Clipper Logistics, has taken part in Next-Up’s mentoring events. He said:

“Leading a business can be lonely at the best of times and has just got a lot tougher. Full credit to Next-Up and Leeds City Council for taking the initiative to get behind entrepreneurial and other leaders as they take on the challenges and opportunities that the next few months will throw up. Mentors give them honest, critical friends to bounce ideas off. Possibly just as important, they can share worries and concerns, which could puncture team morale if aired in their own organisations.”  

People Success Platform, my2be, is helping Next-Up with access to their mentor matching software. Adam Mitcheson, CEO & co-founder, said:

“As the impact of coronavirus became clear, the first people we reached out to were our investors, non-execs and mentors, and they have been fantastic. I graduated university in 2008 when the financial crisis struck so haven't been through this before. Their experience and advice has been invaluable. Most of all, it gave us reassurance. Next-Up are putting together a fantastic initiative to help people that are in similar need right now, and our platform will help them deliver that. Mentoring makes a big difference to all entrepreneurs and leaders." 

The 45-minute call is based on people signing up for the free version of Zoom. Further sessions can easily be booked if more time is needed. 

Go to Next-Up for information and to register, either as a mentor or to be mentored. Next-Up will also be setting up weekly online sessions for all mentors to share experiences and help each other. 

Next-Up is working with RSM, NorthInvest and Tech Mentors:Yorkshire as part of supporting the tech infrastructure in Leeds. 


For further information contact 

Victoria Tomlinson, Next-Up 01423 562400 

Becky Stubbs, Leeds City Council   0113 3786 199

Notes to editor 

1. Next-Up 

Next-Up is a Yorkshire business, founded in 2018, to help senior people coming up to retirement. They have run a number of workshops for international partners of major accountancy and law firms. A key part is to help people use their skills in new ways once they retire – more than just through non-executive director roles – and from this the highly successful Next-Up tech mentoring events were born, now run in Leeds and London. 

Chief executive Victoria Tomlinson is 64 and plans to work for another 20 or more years. A former director of EY and on the London management team, she previously ran Northern Lights PR for 30 years and chairs Women in Leeds Digital. 

2. Leeds City Council and REAP  

Leeds City Council is a key partner in the two-year Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP) run by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston to bring significant economic and social change in the region. The ambition for Leeds is global. To be globally renowned as a place where innovators solve societal challenges.

As part of this programme, Leeds wants to compete with the most developed city and regional ecosystems around the world, differentiated in particular by our capacity to innovate global societal challenges. A key issue as part of this work is to find more mentors for entrepreneurs and innovators in the region to ensure the long-term success and growth of these businesses.

3. Tech Mentors: Yorkshire  

Tech Mentors: Yorkshire is a free 12-month mentoring programme connecting experienced business people and tech entrepreneurs in the region, delivered by RSM UK and NorthInvest, and developed by NorthInvest angel investor Gareth Healey.  

For media enquiries contact:

Rebecca Stubbs
Leeds City Council