Clare Lavelle (1)

Durham-based startup Aniseed Creative is off to a great start, finding new clients and a supportive network through the Durham Ambitious Business Start-ups (DABS) programme.

With 25 years’ experience in graphic design and branding, Clare Lavelle took the leap into self-employment in July 2020 after working with TEDCO, which runs the DABS programme, to give her the solid foundations her business needs.

Despite the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Clare bravely forged ahead with her plans to go freelance. She explained: “I got to a point where I wanted to write my own story. When you’re starting up, you’re juggling a lot, wearing so many hats and it was overwhelming in the early days. The support I’ve received from DABS, being able to ask about anything I don’t know, has been keeping me on the right path.”

Delivered by a team of highly experienced and knowledgeable individuals, DABS are experts at helping startups turn their ideas into commercially-viable businesses. Since signing up to DABS, Clare has been able to take full advantage of the programme’s many offerings, from one-to-one support and mentoring, to expert-led workshops, all helping her get Aniseed Creative off the ground.

Clare continued: “The courses have been really useful in focusing my mind and developing plans. They have helped me to define my customer journey and what my value offering is. The latest one I have been doing is on strategic partnerships. For example, we’ve been looking at social media and how to use it as a partner, how to effectively identify potential collaborative partnerships when I am networking and how to use strategic data to give me insights into where my clients are coming from and how they are converting.

“Some of my clients have come from the DABS pre-start programme, which has been great, as I get to work with them from the beginning of their businesses to establish a strong brand. Other clients are already established and it’s about building up and strengthening their existing brand collateral.

“I have met so many lovely people through the programme. As a freelancer working on my own, it has given me colleagues that I can call on for advice, as we have access to one-to-one mentoring. TEDCO have been brilliant for providing networking opportunities, allowing me to meet different people from different cohorts with lots of great collaboration opportunities.

“DABS is aimed specifically at people who want to start a business, so the chances are that you won’t have run a business before. I advise you to take all the opportunities you can get, as DABS will help you to delve into everything and focus on what you need to do. For me, the support has been invaluable – they have always been there for me when I have needed support or information.”

As 2020 drew to a close and she considered what the next year will bring, Clare reflected: “It’s been such a crazy year! For the immediate future, I want to focus on growing my client base, working with more great people and producing creative work for projects that I really enjoy. Beyond that, I’d like to grow, but not too big as I’d like to remain hands-on.”

DABS is an ERDF-funded programme that helps high-quality startups in County Durham start trading and offers premium quality support during those critical first 12 months in business. There are two support packages available – one for pre-start businesses with a great idea and the other for early-stage businesses. The programme is delivered by Business Durham, with support from delivery partners TEDCO, UMi and Candle Digital. Find out more on the DABS website. 

Thank you to Steve Atkinson from Mission Studios for the photography of Clare.

Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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