Businessdurhamdabs (2)

L-R: James Craft (TEDCO); Carole White (TEDCO); Paul Clark (UMi); Cllr Carl Marshall; Mark Langdale (Candle Digital); Sarah Slaven (Business Durham); Amanda Armstrong (UMi); Jenny Halford (Enterprise Development Manager); Andy Jack (Candle Digital). Photo was taken prior to lockdown.

Durham Ambitious Business Start-ups (DABS) is an innovative new approach to supporting start-up businesses in County Durham.

Set up by Business Durham, the economic development arm of Durham County Council, DABS will test pioneering new approaches for encouraging and supporting ambitious business start-ups across the county. 

The three-year project will provide a programme delivered by three sub-contractors – TEDCO, Candle Digital and UMi – who will each be responsible for different elements of DABS.

Business support experts TEDCO has been contracted to deliver the premium-quality pre-start and post-start programmes. Working in conjunction with Business Durham, TEDCO’s uniquely designed programmes use a combination of peer-learning, one-to-one coaching and intensive interactive workshops.

Innovative individuals with a fledgeling business idea can take advantage of a new dynamic idea creation and formation model to identify, test and validate their business idea.

Another strand will bring together potential co-founders to create aspirational businesses. Through corporate team-building activities, this strand will connect like-minded entrepreneurs with complementary strengths, knowledge and experience.

For those with a clear business idea with growth-potential, the pioneering support will focus on developing a scale-up strategy and securing investment and funding. A tailored package of workshops will help entrepreneurs navigate the start-up process with topics such as: innovation and opportunity, growth through partnerships and pricing strategies to grow and scale. Other topics will help businesses build a new resilience for post-COVID-19, like the 'digitising your business' module. 

To complement the programmes a start-up web portal has been launched today. Developed by Candle Digital, the portal showcases the support that is available from various providers. The portal makes it easy for people to access online resources wherever they are based in the county, including in rural areas, something that hasn’t been available before. 

UMi has been contracted to deliver a profile-raising campaign to increase the visibility of start-up support.   The campaign will include monthly meet-ups, an annual Festival of Enterprise to bring together clusters of like-minded entrepreneurial new-start business and would-be entrepreneurs to collectively gather, share and grow the regional knowledge economy.

Managed by Business Durham, the DABS programme has been uniquely designed to inspire and support entrepreneurial activity across different sectors within the county to create higher-value jobs and boost the local economy.

Sarah Slaven, Business Durham’s interim managing director, said: “There are lots of entrepreneurs with great business ideas, but they don’t always have the confidence to pursue them. Durham Ambitious Business Start-Ups is all about increasing ambition, raising aspirations and helping companies to reach their full potential in County Durham.

“We want to be able to help businesses that have an ambition to reach out and grow year on year creating a lasting legacy of great businesses that County Durham can be proud of.

“We recognise that the months ahead are going to be very challenging for the economy, and once we get through this difficult time, more than ever there will be a need for new approaches to support businesses to start up in the County.

Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We’re really pleased to support Business Durham in launching the Durham Ambitious Business Start-Ups project.

“This is an initiative which can only help attract even more businesses to County Durham, benefiting the local economy. In doing so it very much supports our vision to create 30,000 jobs over the next 15 years.”

DABS is a three-year programme for SMEs which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by Business Durham.

For further information on this innovative new start-up support programme, email, or visit the DABS website.

Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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