Tony Neville

Tony Neville, founder or Nev Consultancy

County Durham-based entrepreneur Tony Neville has seen demand soar for his retail consultancy since investing in digital equipment to expand his services with the support of Digital Drive County Durham.

Less than 18 months after starting up, Tony found demand dropping off as the effects of the pandemic were felt in his core sectors of health clubs, hospitality and retail. He quickly realised that his clients would need a shift in focus from stock and branding to digital. He wanted to build on his keen eye for photography to expand his existing digital services for clients and take his business further. 

Tony explained: “To build my services I needed better kit and editing software, which meant I would need to invest at an uncertain time. Digital Drive had popped up on Google and after getting a follow-up email on my initial enquiry, I had a further conversation with my Digital Drive Advisor, did an application and started looking at the kit I wanted.”   

Tony invested £2,807 in a drone, gimbal, iPad Pro, accessories and software to help with planning, editing and producing video content, with £1,122 of this paid for by the Digital Drive grant.   

He continued: “At the same time, I started getting requests for digitising businesses and drone footage. I went from worried to a week later people approaching me for digital help and photography. 

“I did some indoor footage of a bar area, which gave the business owner a totally different perspective for marketing their bar. I also helped a guy to do a podcast – I couldn’t have done these jobs without the equipment and software from the Digital Drive investment. It has led to new clients and I can now offer a full package including business cards, sourcing merchandise, photography, filming, branding and website design.” 

Tony also appreciated the chance to brush up on some of his skills, attending live Digital Drive training webinars on sales funnels, podcasting and Instagram.  

“I had a lot of knowledge already but still took something away from each and they definitely helped – you get out what you put in”, Tony said. “I really liked that if you miss the live webinars you can catch up later and I listened to a few more that way.” 

Tony is keen to encourage other County Durham entrepreneurs to invest in their digital infrastructure with the help of Digital Drive.  

He said: “If you’re at a question mark – do I invest or not? – I’d say definitely go for it, as it opens up new opportunities. It has accelerated my business plans immensely despite the lockdown – I’m about six to 12 months ahead of where I planned to be. 

“There’s always someone there to help you with the application but you can’t really make a mistake. It was all very easy from the application to pre-approval. It can be a little daunting, but just give yourself some focus time to work on your application.”  

Digital Drive County Durham’s Digital Advisor, Helen Watson, added: “Tony’s experience is a great example of how the right digital tools and skills together with the confidence to invest can help you to do more with an interest or existing skillset to help your business go further.”  

Sarah Slaven, Interim Managing Director at Business Durham, said: “It’s fantastic to have been able to support Nev Consultancy through Digital Drive County Durham. The world has never changed so rapidly, and we are keen to make sure companies have the help they need to develop new and innovative solutions. 

Taking that step of investing in digital for your business can be daunting when there’s a lot of uncertainty, but the grant can help to reduce the risk and as Tony’s realised, it can accelerate your business far beyond what you might have expected. 

“We recently announced we have secured an additional £2.34m of funding for the programme, which will enable us to support more businesses from across the county to develop their digital capabilities in order to grow and remain competitive.  

Digital Drive County Durham is a programme being delivered on behalf of Business Durham, the economic development arm for Durham County Council, to help small businesses make the most of digital technology. The project can help businesses access grant funding support of up to 40% towards the cost of: 

  • Digital consultancy projects 
  • Equipment that will help to improve your business through the use of digital technology 
  • Website, app or software build 
  • Broadband infrastructure and installation

In addition, the programme offers webinars and events in a range of digital topics with the support of advisors to make the most of digital opportunities available to business.  

Digital Drive County Durham is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Business Durham, which works on behalf of Durham County Council and private investment and forms part of the wider Digital Durham initiative to transform broadband speeds for residents and businesses across the North East.  

For more information visit: www.digitaldrivedurham.co.uk 

Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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