July 5 2019 @ 13:30 by Steven Hugill
A haven for adventure lovers is attracting new visitors thanks to support from a regional business organisation.
Weardale Adventure Centre has worked with enterprise agency NBSL to develop a digital marketing strategy, a new website and branding.
Officials say the County Durham-based business is now enjoying a significant upsurge in guests since adopting its plan to grow online, which has improved its reach to potential visitors and helped attract people from much further afield.
Weardale Adventure Centre has accessed business support from NBSL via the North East Business Support Fund – part financed by the European Regional Development Fund – since its inception, enrolling on a digital marketing masterclass and accessing funding to develop a digital marketing strategy.
A new brochure has also been created to showcase the centre’s offering, which includes canoeing, climbing, high-ropes and underground exploration.
The centre, in Ireshopeburn, west of Bishop Auckland, was created when a former YMCA facility closed in 2015.
Kay Sheppard, director of business and finance, and John Noble, director of operations, who had both worked at the YMCA, re-opened it as a business, re-recruited staff and rebuilt its customer base.
However, despite their respective experience, Kay said NBSL’s support has proven invaluable in taking Weardale Adventure Centre forward.
“It was a daunting experience, learning about things I’d never had to think about before, such as HR, finance and accounts,” said Kay, “but both John and I knew that we could make this work as a business.
“However, we also realised that positive word of mouth was not enough, and we had to build the business beyond what it had been before.
“We contacted NBSL and they helped us recruit Discovery Design to develop a fantastic website.
“We were also supported with masterclasses around digital marketing that really helped us become more adept at pushing ourselves online and suddenly we had the momentum to push on as a business, something that would not have been possible without the support of NBSL.”
NBSL’s Jonathan Barnes, who guided the centre throughout the grant support process, added: “County Durham is rich with innovative SMEs across a wide-range of industries and sectors, and none more so than Weardale Adventure Centre, which is a fantastic case study for rural business success.
“We understand some firms are put off by complex application processes, which is why we work with businesses to ensure it is as simple and straightforward as possible.
“We get to know people, understand the ambition for the business and help secure the funding or access masterclasses that will ignite their drive for growth.
“However, this fund will not be available forever. I urge anyone thinking about accessing support to get in touch and allow us to help as many businesses as possible reach their potential.”
NBSL relaunched The North East Business Support Fund (NEBSF) in 2018, focusing on funding County Durham businesses.
The funding is open to SMEs until 2020, including to those that have already accessed NBSL support in previous funding rounds.