Craig Warkman

Former BITC Business Connector, 

Craig was seconded from Greggs to work in Middlesbrough. His role before being seconded was Corporate Project Manager, reporting directly to the CEO.

Craig Warkman Business Connector role overview

Greggs CEO Ken McMeikan was HRH Prince of Wales ambassador in the North East in 2011. The Business Connector role is focused on addressing the challenges facing the community in the Teesside area and building relationships with local business and other organisations, primarily focused on inspiring young people through initiatives including the creation of start up retail businesses for young entrepreneurs in vacant high street units; and launching ‘Business Class’ – Business in the Community’s flagship programme which partners schools from disadvantaged areas with schools in long term partnerships.

Craig has secured 3 businesses to partner 3 local secondary schools. The partnership will see the businesses committing to the school over the next 3 years to inspire young people into the world of work - many of whom are from 3rd and 4th generation of unemployed families. The first cluster will be up and running before the end of the school term with a launch event planned for September.

Case study - Enterprise Arcade in Middlesbrough

The risks of starting up new retail businesses in the challenging economic climate are largely prohibitive for young people, who often have the most creative ideas but little opportunity to put them into practice. To tackle this Craig has worked with Middlesbrough council and a local neighbourhood trust to transform a vacant retail space in the town centre into a new enterprise incubation space for young entrepreneurs to test trade their retail idea in a low cost, low risk environment.

A number of local organisations were brought in to support the project by refitting the premises and identifying start up businesses to trade. New entrepreneurs were also linked to enterprise support services to assist their start up process. The unit was opened in October 2011 by HRH The Prince of Wales and has been trading successfully since then. There are 14 businesses trading with most now looking to expand out of the centre and open standalone high street shop.

Others have realised through the test trading phase that their business is better suited to other channels such as online and are progressing their businesses via these channels with support from local organisations connected by Craig.

Key achievements

  • 14 new retail businesses are now trading successfully

  • 2 vacant high street units have been brought back into use in Middlesbrough / Redcar

  • 150 primary school children benefitting from a Right to Read programme

  • 16 young people now in Apprenticeships with PD Ports

  • 24 young people on Cadetship programme with Tata Steel

  • Hundreds of young people to benefit from a partnership between schools and key businesses, to inspire them into the world of work by launching Business in the Community’s ‘Business Class’ programme in the North East

Craig's employer said:

“Every Chief Executive should have a Business Connector – it hardwires you into the community and provides incredible insight into the issues that people are facing. With so many demands on business leaders’ time it is invaluable to have someone dedicated to working at the very heart of the community who is skilled at making things happen. Business people like to see results and the Business Connector role is vital in bringing together the right people to get things done. If we don’t provide the leadership and resources to help our communities, who will? This really is our time, but it takes the courage, commitment and vision of CEOs to make it happen.” Ken McMeikan, former Chief Executive Greggs

Craig said:

“In my role as a Business Connector I have been given the time and the challenge of carrying out projects that really can make a difference to communities. In doing so, I have become passionate about working with local communities in particular through education. I absolutely love the experience and feel that as well as benefitting people locally, it also benefits Greggs as it is a great experience that is really helping develop my business leader skills for the future. I believe that if the Business Connectors could be rolled out, we can make a much greater difference in the areas that need help the most.” Craig Warkman.