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Business & Economy

Digital expansion great news for small businesses

A Sunderland-based digital training agency is expanding its team and service, after increased demand for e-learning resources amid the pandemic.

ThinkBiscuit Media, a technology business specialising in e-learning, outgrew its headquarters at Sunderland Software Centre and recently relocated to a larger office at the North Sands Business Centre, welcoming a new colleague in the process.

Founded by Michael Ditchburn in 2017 after being made redundant, ThinkBiscuit has since supported clients worldwide, including Vodafone, Buzz Bingo and Comtec, to create and deliver engaging e-learning experiences for their teams.

Now a team of eight, ThinkBiscuit is settling into its new office space – following support from the Sunderland City Council Business Investment Team – and working on bringing a new service to market that enables small businesses to easily access quality, affordable e-learning.

Michael, managing director at ThinkBiscuit, said: “Since the pandemic, digital learning has become a much more in-demand service and sometimes we struggle to say yes to every request that comes through. That uplift in demand has driven our growth plans and we now need to expand the team to increase our ability to service more clients and keep saying yes! Our new office has 12 desks, and we’re hoping to have all of those filled within the next 18 to 24 months.

“We’re also launching our new Learning Platform service within the next six months, aimed at smaller North-East-based businesses to begin with. It will be a system that allows them to access and easily manage great online learning for their colleagues, rather than maybe have to pay for and arrange face-to-face training.

“A lot of smaller businesses don’t really do e-learning or have their own in-house training teams to build things, and one-off costs for building bespoke training courses can be thousands. Often budgets for small teams aren’t that big, so I see it as a gap in the market where small businesses in the North-East can have access to good quality digital learning to help drive their success.”

ThinkBiscuit has been supported by the Council’s Business Investment Team in terms of funding and advice on early stage growth, as well as links to other support organisations such as Sunderland Software City, which is currently supporting the technology business with its marketing strategy.

It has also developed a strong relationship with Sunderland University, recruiting two members of staff through the graduate internship scheme, as well as having previously invited Michael to lecture there and having the business showcased in the 2021/22 student prospectus.

Michael said: “We’ve accessed funding twice now from the Business Improvement Team. We’re a tech-heavy business, so it’s been hugely supportive in ensuring we have right tools that allow us to do our jobs. A small amount of the funding went towards office furniture for our expansion into the new office. Again, it’s really helped us to keep cash flow in the business and lightened the blow when having a big spend.”

Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “It’s great to see ThinkBiscuit investing in the city and creating new jobs within the tech industry with the help of Sunderland University’s graduate internship scheme.

“The Business Investment Team was set up to support and nurture successful enterprises, and we’re delighted to support ThinkBiscuit and its work to deliver effective e-learning experiences to organisations in the North East and across the world.”

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