Maven caught up with Business Durham, the economic development arm of Durham County Council, who work in partnership with the Finance Durham Fund and Maven to drive business growth whilst creating and safeguarding jobs across the County. A knowledgeable and trusted guide, Business Durham connects companies with the right funding, advice, and networks they need to grow and thrive.
The County has long been the location of choice for businesses looking to invest and capitalise on new opportunities, in Business Durham, you have a trusted partner to encourage an enterprise culture, helping entrepreneurs turn bright ideas into reality.
But how does Business Durham enable local businesses to grow and flourish? How do you find the right funding partner or decide if you should grow organically?
In Maven’s latest guest blog, Sarah Slaven, Operations Director of Business Durham, discusses the organisation’s impact amongst the County’s small business community and how to access the support or finance you may need to grow your business.
- Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself – what does Business Durham do and what’s involved in your role?
Business Durham is the economic development arm of Durham County Council working to ensure businesses have the support they need to prosper in the County. As the Operations Director at Business Durham I lead on all the work we do to engage with and support businesses across the County. As part of my role I oversee the Finance Durham Fund. The Fund is part of Business Durham’s strategy to deliver business and economic growth across the County by supporting dynamic companies which are otherwise struggling to access the growth finance that will allow them to develop their businesses. The Fund was launched in 2017 when we appointed Maven Capital Partners to manage the Fund on our behalf.
- Since the Finance Durham Fund launched in 2017 what is the biggest change you’ve seen amongst County Durham’s business community?
One of the biggest changes I have noticed in County Durham since the launch of the Finance Durham Fund is the increased awareness amongst the business community of the funding options available. The existence of the Fund and its focus on companies in County Durham has encouraged businesses in the County to be more open to considering a range of funding options. It is also noticeable that there is a growing vibrant network of professional intermediaries who are actively referring and signposting companies to the finance options available. The Fund has acted as a catalyst, levering in funds from other finance funds and routes. Its fantastic to see some great County Durham companies getting the investment they need to fulfil their growth potential.
- What would you say to a business that is put off by taking on investment and would prefer to grow their business organically?
It is, of course, up to owners to decide what is best for their business, but what I would say to any ambitious business with growth aspirations is that taking an investment from Finance Durham is about much more than the money. Finance Durham really want the companies we invest in to succeed, the team at Maven can put you in touch with great networks, expert advice and other funding routes. We recognise that each company we are investing in has different challenges, the team at Maven will work with you, acting as a critical friend to find the right support for you. For example, we’ve helped one company to appoint a new non-executive director, supported others access additional funds elsewhere, helped in securing additional Finance Durham awards to support conpanies further growth plans. Taking on finance isn’t for everyone but if it is something you are looking at the Finance Durham Fund is well worth considering.
- What do you think are the main obstacles to accessing finance to grow that Durham businesses face today?
When I speak to businesses across County Durham the main reason I hear for not accessing finance is still a lack of awareness of the options available and a misunderstanding of what is involved. As part of Finance Durham, Maven has been running a comprehensive ‘Access to Finance’ programme. Businesses considering accessing finance can attend clinics and workshops to explore the options best suited to them. The programme helps to demystify the process of applying for finance and assist entrepreneurs in developing an appropriate business structure and strategy to enable them to secure growth funding.
- What are the long-term goals for Finance Durham and what’s the lifespan of the Fund?
The goals for Finance Durham are very much aligned with the goals for Business Durham as a whole. Our mission is to encourage entrepreneurship in County Durham and help businesses grow and compete more effectively, we see Finance Durham playing a key role in delivering this. It is an evergreen fund, with funds being continually reinvested and as such there is no end date for the funding, and we expect it to continue to invest in Durham businesses for the long term.
- What is the one thing local entrepreneurs might not know about Business Durham?
Business Durham provide a truly integrated range of support for businesses across County Durham. Entrepreneurs may not be aware that we own and manage over 500 business units providing space for around 300 County Durham businesses. Our property portfolio includes office space, industrial units, factories and NETPark, one of the UK's premier science parks. Durham County Council are also investing in the future, current developments include Jade Business park, a 55-acre park, close to the A19 and Dalton Park which will provide more than 1 million sq ft of new employment space which could accommodate 2,500 jobs. The council is funding its first phase of development which will be managed by Business Durham.
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