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Business & Economy

Durham City Incubator helps entrepreneurs take first steps in business

A business incubator is looking for another cohort of ambitious entrepreneurs after helping its first eight small businesses achieve national recognition and investment funding.

Durham City Incubator, based at Salvus House, in Aykley Heads, offers intensive support for businesses that have been trading under 12 months as they go for the next stage of growth.

Entrepreneurs receive training and advice on issues ranging from financing and marketing to legal issues and business strategy.

The Incubator, which has been designed to keep talent in the region, is a unique collaboration between Durham University, New College Durham and Business Durham, the economic development organisation working on behalf of Durham County Council.

Sarah Slaven, operations director at Business Durham, said: “It’s fantastic to see that the nurture and support these entrepreneurs are receiving is already working.

“The aim is to help them have businesses with real longevity and these entrepreneurs keep their talent in the region. There’s nothing like this in County Durham and we look forward to seeing the next businesses joining us.”

The Incubator was developed as part of a wider drive to grow the Durham City economy and to offer Durham University graduates and New College Durham students high-quality facilities and business support to grow their ventures in the city.

Mark Cullen, of Raw Botanics Ltd, said the Incubator had been instrumental to the successful launch of his business.

“Through the DCI’s on-going programme of seminars and 1-2-1 workshops, we learned how to prepare and submit a professional business plan that secured our business funding from one of the region’s leading investment firms, Northstar Ventures,” he said.

“The advice, guidance and connections we’ve gained has truly allowed us to turn our idea for an e-commerce business into reality.”

The innovative County Durham companies include:

  • Jacwicks Designs Ltd – Ruth Jacobs has developed a range of waterproof, foldable, lightweight, seating mats as part of the Perch range to be used when walking or at festivals and for pets. Ruth’s products have appeared in Country Walks magazine that led to more than 20 sales, including a bulk order from Chillingham Castle
  • Plastech Innovation – Durham University PhD students Natasha Boulding, Phil Buckley and Scott Bush have developed a process for recycling undesirable plastic waste that is destined for landfill to be used as an aggregate.  The team has won the 2019 Bright SCIdea competition and Shell Livewire April 2019. They are currently working with Biffa, Durham County Council and Bespoke Concrete Products for testing
  • Ceelders Ltd – A start-up business supplying raw ingredients, such as sweeteners to food, drink and sports nutrition manufacturers in the UK, the company secured its first deal in March
  • System 88 Ltd – A business providing digital transformation to public and private sector organisations. Entrepreneur Matt Atkinson is in talks with investors after developing a process-mapping solution
  • Raw Botanics Ltd –Mark Cullen and James Llewellyn have secured additional finance from Northstar Ventures to develop three more products for their business, which produces ethically sourced, clinically formulated, hemp extract oil for health and wellbeing
  • Globeflow Ltd – A software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, it enables companies to launch and manage corporate websites across international markets, including on-demand translation, geo-strategic servers and engagement with local search engines and social media. The company is post-revenue, with initial client companies now engaging with new users in over 30 countries
  • Strength For Students Ltd – Marcus Rowley, a Durham University student, and his team are developing a wellbeing app for students. They are currently developing a prototype to demonstrate to four universities, who have shown interest in a pilot, and are in the finals for a number of competitions at Durham University
  • Fumarii Technologies Ltd – Liam Gill, a Durham University postgraduate, and his team have developed a cloud-based PC service, connecting end user computers in the cloud to speed up processing and software functions with the aim of providing cheaper computing, office space and essential business services to start-ups. They’ve secured initial investment and are looking to develop hardware and software for further trials

Each business owner is matched with a mentor and given support over six months. They receive a start-up grant of £2,500 each and are able to take advantage of workspace at a discounted rate.

Dr Tim Hammond, director of commercialisation and economic development at Durham University, said: “Creating a new business is an exciting career choice for an increasing number of our students.

“The Durham City Incubator builds upon the enterprise support provided within the university.”

Dawn Fairlamb, vice principal at New College Durham, said: “As a college, regional and economic development is extremely important to us. We want to ensure that our students’ talents are harnessed and nurtured, so they can reach their full potential and make a positive contribution to the local economy.”

Durham City Incubator is part of Durham Internships and Collaborative Enterprise (DICE), which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programme.

To apply for the Durham City Incubator, log onto