Heather Mills took to the stage to give the keynote address at this year’s EMCON event on Aycliffe Business Park.
Ms Mills, whose vegan food empire is the biggest producer of vegan-based food in the world, took to the stage to share her entrepreneurial journey and the growth of her business.
She spoke to an audience of over 100 people, sharing with then more about her plans for the North East, which include the development of the former Walkers Crisps plant in Peterlee, which she recently purchased to accommodate the expansion of the VBites brand, and the recent launch of Plant-Based Valley in Seaton Delaval.
Following the keynote address, Ms Mills then participated in the Industry Leaders’ Panel Debate, which was organised by the Engineering and Manufacturing Network (EMN) in partnership with Jackson Hogg Recruitment.
Ms Mills said: “It’s a pleasure for me to be back in the North East, attending EMCON which is just down the road from my hometown of Washington.
“I am so passionate about the region, which is why when the opportunity to expand VBites within the North East came up, I took it.
“My best friend called me and told me about the Walkers plant closing and that people were losing their jobs, and said I had to come and see it. I did and after much work behind the scenes, VBites is now located there.
“Around the same time, I was in the region with a friend who told me about the closure of the Procter and Gamble facility in Seaton Delaval. And I just knew in my gut that one day I would own it.”
The panel debate also featured Valda Goodfellow from Goodfellow and Goodfellow, Steven Parker from Digital Allies and Ryan Maughan from AVID Technology, with Richard Hogg acting as moderator.
EMN chairman David Land said: “The feedback we’ve had from visitors, exhibitors alike has been tremendously positive.
“Heather was a real draw for a lot of people, and we’re delighted that she gave up her time to be part of our event.
“We’d also like to thank headline sponsor Stadler Rail, our long-term partner Business Durham, the event team and everyone else who helped make EMCON 2019 such a success.”
EMCON saw over 1,000 people flock through the doors. Other EMCON sponsors included GOM, Horizon Works, Kite Packaging and Lumo Tax, which are all silver sponsors, and LemonTop Creative, ACB North and E-max Systems, which are bronze sponsors.