Fat Hippo confirmed as EMCON caterer

Fat Hippo, the North East-founded burger chain, has been announced as the catering provider for this year’s EMCON.

The food group, which has three restaurants and outlets in the North East and a recently opened food kiosk in Sheffield, will offer up a range of meat and vegetarian offerings to exhibitors and visitors to the annual engineering and manufacturing event.

The company was chosen by the EMCON event’s team following the success of its involvement in the Business Durham Food Truck Friday programme, which champions local food producers by allowing them to pitch up at its office in Salvus House in Durham to provide lunch to staff based at the offices.

Jake Smith said: “We are delighted to partner up with EMCON to provide catering for this year’s event. Diners can expect tasty meat, vegetarian and chicken burgers, all freshly made by the Fat Hippo Fleet team, with plenty of fillings and side dishes to choose from too.

“Our involvement in Food Truck Friday has been great for our profiling, and really helped spread the word about our food. It’s also helped change perceptions of the ‘burger van’ and show that tasty food can be served out of mobile caterings facilities. We’re confident EMCON will do the same.”

Andrea McGuigan from Business Durham, who is also part of the EMCON planning team, said: “Whenever the Fat Hippo Fleet attend our Food Truck Friday event, their food is always so popular. Their burgers in particular go down well with diners as they’re so fresh, tasty and very good value for money. We think their catering will be a big hit with exhibitors at and visitors to EMCON and really backs up our commitment to constantly improving the event based on the feedback we get each year.”

Rondean expands Drum Industrial Estate presence

Ron Lewis and Gordon Brown

Ron Lewis and Gordon Brown

Machinery supplier Rondean has expanded into a second unit on the Drum Industrial Estate after enjoying continued success.

The company has acquired a second unit of 3,000 square feet on the estate, which will accommodate a forthcoming recruitment drive. Up to 12 new members of staff are expected to be recruited this year, with Rondean looking to appoint an operations manager, machine tool fitters, sales and support staff.

After originally relocating the business to the site in December 2016 from Tanfield Lea, with the assistance of Gordon Brown Law Firm’s (GBLF) corporate and commercial team, this latest move, again assisted by the firm, will mean the company occupies a total of 11,000 square feet of operating space.

Ron Lewis, managing director at Rondean, said: “The expansion into a second unit in Chester-le-Street allows us to continue our growth plans and recruitment of further new staff. I have worked with GBLF and Gordon Brown himself for over 25 years; he has assisted us with four industrial premises acquisitions, as well as various leases, and a very tricky disposal negotiation. Working with GBLF is like calling up an old friend for some advice and getting the very best of it.”

Gordon Brown, consultant at GBLF, added: “One of the great joys of having been in practice for nearly four decades is the opportunity to forge close relationships with clients, such as the one I have with Ron, and to be asked to bring to bear a commercial judgement, as well as a legal opinion, whether for business or personal needs. While the move from Tanfield Lea was protracted due to complex negotiations with the freehold owner, it has worked out well for Rondean Ltd as the company is now in a much better location for the business, just over a mile away from the A1.”

Established in 1984 by Lewis, Rondean sells refurbished machine tools to engineering, sheet metal and woodworking companies with a specific focus on machinery designed and built in the UK.

How to manage strong personalities in your business

The first thing to remember is, there is no right or wrong personality type. And that employees with strong personalities have an important role to play in any successful business. As do those who tend to be more reserved. But without good management in place, dominant employees can disrupt the balance of your workforce.

Every workforce includes a mix of personalities, but not every manager has received the training required to know how best to deal with them. So here are some useful tips on how to manage strong personalities in the workplace.

Avoid silencing them in public. Hushing a strong personality in front of their co-workers will do little to solve a problem. The employee may argue back and cause further disruption. Their point is important to them after all.

Rather than asking them to keep it down, practice patience and offer a suitable time and place for their voice to be heard. If they persist, make it an immediate 121 to discuss their conduct.

Take the time to listen. After suggesting an appropriate time for them to air their views, be sure to follow through with the offer. If you don’t, they will pop up like a meerkat at the next available opportunity and your patience will really start to be tested.

Discuss communication and structure. Use the meeting to provide them with an outlet for their pressing issues. These may be a stream of ideas. Discuss appropriate channels of communication and how their needs fit into the wider priorities of the department or business.

If their ideas can’t be pushed through, add context and explain why. Or if you spot potential during the discussion, think about how you might like to benefit from their energy and enthusiasm in a different role.

The outcome of your meeting will form the basis of your plan moving forwards. A good aim should be for the employee to leave the meeting knowing how best to communicate their needs in the future.

You may also want to task them with some activities that channel their energy and determination in the best possible way. Advise them on how to consider their co-workers and think about the needs of their wider team when completing the tasks.

Getting the team to work together. If you can create an environment where each member of the team feels valued and understands each other’s preferred communication style you will really benefit from the different personality strengths.

Get more advice.

Octopus Revenue celebrates five years success

A Durham-based firm that helps hotels across the country increase their revenue and profits is celebrating its fifth year.

Sarah Thompson (pictured above) decided to set up Octopus Revenue Ltd in 2014 when she was made redundant, having spent over 20 years of working in the hospitality sector with major hotel chains and independent groups around the UK.

Owner, Sarah Thompson, said: “I knew it was the perfect opportunity to set up by myself and carry on working in the industry that I love and know, as well as spending time with my growing family. In fact, when my six-year-old daughter came up with the name of the business for me I knew I had to do it!”

Operating from her office in County Durham, Sarah offers a range of revenue management support services to hotels of all sizes alongside training that is designed to support both experienced and aspiring revenue managers.

Sarah, and her growing team of four, has provided outsourced revenue management to over 50 properties across the UK over the last five years and proudly counts all types of hotels, from boutique to budget, including some of the best-known brands in the business in her portfolio.

Sarah said: “I am delighted with how the business has developed. From the outset I’ve been privileged to work with some fantastic hotels to help them identify new sources of potential revenue and increase their profits, and most of them remain as my clients to this day.”

In addition, Sarah has provided revenue management training to over 400 students, including revenue management scholarships with HIT Scotland.

David Cochrane, Chief Executive at HIT Scotland said: “We offer those working in hospitality in Scotland opportunities to broaden their skills and grow personally through our inspirational scholarship programmes. Sarah has organised and taught revenue management scholarships for our scholars who wanted to learn more in this area, her area of expertise. Her contribution has been invaluable and the feedback we have received has been exemplary. We’re excited to launch our 2020 scholarships, which includes a new revenue management two-day programme to help hospitality professionals in all roles understand the importance of revenue to the business.”

As well as running Octopus Revenue, Sarah has set up a networking group to give hospitality professionals insights into local market trends, which involves an array of well-known and innovative industry suppliers. Known as IN4Hospitality, the initiative has steadily grown with free events scheduled regularly throughout the year each attracting around 40 attendees.

Sarah said: “I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me. A desire to be good at my job, and a healthy competitive streak means that I have progressed in the hospitality industry and have built up an excellent reputation. I can honestly say that I am pleased with my success to date and it’s wonderful to get to spend time with my children along the way. Here’s to many more exciting years ahead!”

Search is on for the Durham Business Executive of the Year

The annual hunt for the shining lights of the region’s business community has started with the official launch of the North East Business Executive Awards 2019 – one of the biggest contests in the North East business calendar.

Strong business leaders form the backbone of the North East’s economy. Drive, dynamism, integrity and leadership – these are just some of the qualities the judges will be looking for in the 36th year of the Awards.

Last year the main prize was won by Mark Thompson, managing partner for Ryder Architecture. Prizes were also won by Mohammed Ishaq of The Punjab Kitchen Ltd, Sharon Lane of Tees Components and Jordan McCabe of Aztec Diamond Equestrian, with Irene Lucas taking home the Lifetime Achievement Award and Farooq Hakim the prize for Non-Executive Director of the Year 2018.

The range of categories at this high-profile awards ceremony have been carefully considered to allow us to fully reflect the activities of Business Executives from across the region whilst also rewarding and encouraging rising stars.

Find out more.


Powered by People

The Powered by People initiative aims to promote County Durham as one of the country’s best places in which to live and work.

It highlights all that Durham has to offer including businesses, transport links, with the east coast mainline and easy access to the A1 and A19, global Top 100 university and lifestyle factors such as Durham’s coastline and its world heritage site.

Durham County Council leader Simon Henig said: “This initiative has come from a conversation we’ve been having with businesses on how we need ways to showcase the county and everything that’s going on.

“We know that Durham is a great place to do business, but we need something to present to the region and beyond. We need to amplify all that positivity about what a fantastic place Durham is to do business.”

Be part of it. 

Bees are vital to a healthy economy

Businesses urged to book their place at event to better understand the massive impact that bees have on the economy.   

The role bees, and other pollinators, play in the food chain is so important that, in the UK alone, their services are worth around £691 million a year in terms of the value of the crops they pollinate. It would cost the UK at least £1.8 billion a year to employ people to do the work of these pollinators. Bees do it for free.*

Bee decline is a financial risk for business and, as outlined in The National Pollinator Strategy, their rapidly reducing population will seriously damage the £100 billion food industry making foods, from almonds and vanilla and apples to squashes, more difficult and expensive to grow.

The role pollinators play is not well understood and is often taken for granted. That’s why County Durham based Climate Action North is hosting Bees for Business on 25 September.

Climate North East Action Managing Director, Sharon Lashley, said: “Environmental impact, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability are important issues for everyone but especially for business. More than ever before, we need to recognise the importance of bees to our economy and to our lives. And we need to turn that into action to ensure they don’t just survive but thrive.

“This event will do just that by explaining and exploring the essential role that bees play to building resilient livelihoods, creating new jobs and a vibrant ecosystem, and will share some examples of how local businesses can play their part.”

The speaker line-up includes James Fearnley of The BeeArc Project an exhibition and research centre that explore ways in which the honeybee can inspire the economic, social and cultural life.

James said: “The economic exploitation of the honeybees has brought them to the brink of destruction despite the fact that they support not just our economic life, but our social and cultural and spiritual lives. It is time to wake up to the wonder that is the honeybee.”

Stuart Duckett, who is the design team leader on the Project, is also joining the line-up and will talk about the design concept of the BeeArc and sustainable design principles.

Barbara Keating of the Tyneside Beekeepers Association will talk about the ecosystem in which we keep honeybees and will highlight the dangers of “beewashing” and how businesses can help bees in an ethically sound and sustainable way.

Climate Action North’s Sharon Lashley will also join the speakers to explain how the Pollinator Parks Project is supporting the survival of struggling pollinating insect populations on industrial and retail parks throughout the North of England.

Sharon concluded: “Honeybees are by far the most important pollinator on the planet but over-industrialisation, the destruction of natural habitats, the use of pesticides, and the climate crisis are all forcing their alarming decline.

“During the course of this event, we will be using knowledge, connections and collaboration to discover positive and proactive ways that businesses can improve the situation – to the benefit of their own commercial objectives and the economy as a whole.”

Held at the Hope Street Xchange in Sunderland, the event will also feature demonstrations and interactive workshops from local beekeepers and groups, and a range of bee-related exhibitors will be showcasing their products and projects.

Refreshments and buffet lunch will be provided. Tickets cost £25 and can be booked here.


Collaboration sees traffic solutions for Drum Estate

Discussions and collaboration with businesses on the Drum Industrial Estate, Durham Police and Durham County Council will see new traffic solutions put in place.

Following ongoing parking and traffic issues on the Estate the group, facilitated by Business Durham, a plan of proposed locations for parking restrictions is now being progressed.

Andrea McGuigan, business development area manager (North) for Business Durham, who coordinates the Drum Business Park Group, said: “It’s fantastic that solutions to the traffic problems on the estate have been agreed with the input and collaboration of everyone involved. This is an issue that has been raise on numerous occasions and we are really pleased that there are some suggestions to alleviate the problems. The estate is home to around 80 companies and we strive to provide support for them all.”

The proposals that were put forward as a result of the consultation by Durham Police and DCC Highways were fully discussed and agreed by all the businesses attending Drum Group meeting. Full details will be released in due course.

The region’s Innovation Awards are back!

Entries are now open for the North East Innovation Awards. Celebrating the ground-breaking ideas, processes and products impacting on business, industry and society, businesses at the forefront of innovation are encouraged to apply.

There are seven awards categories with nominations being accepted for five, these are:

Innovation Champion – in partnership with CPI; Manufacturing Innovation Award; Energy Innovation Award – in partnership with Engie; Healthcare Innovation Award – in partnership with AHSN; and Digital Innovation Award.

It doesn’t matter about size or turnover, whether it’s a new product, service or something that gives a competitive edge, you can nominate for free.

The North East Innovation Awards are delivered in partnership with RTC North’s Pathways to Innovation programme. They’ll take place as part of VentureFest North East on Thursday 28 November 2019 at St James’ Park.

Read more.



ITPS run for Percy Hedley

Congratulations to Managed IT solutions and services experts ITPS who took part in this year’s Great North Run in aid of the Percy Hedley Foundation, a great charity supporting children, young people and adults with cerebral palsy and other disabilities.

Among the team, which is based on the Drum Industrial Estate, was Managing Director, Garry Sheriff. He joined 57,000 runners his first half-marathon and donations have exceeded his initial £1,450 target.

Watch more.

Brexit-proof your business

Uncertainty is one of the biggest hurdles you have to manage as a business-owner and it doesn’t get much more uncertain, or drawn-out, than Brexit.

With tariffs, taxes and immigration all yet to be decided upon while the government finalises the negotiations to exit the EU, it’s a time of complex ambiguity and uncertainly affecting issues such as supply chains, finances and staff.

Many businesses have built their business models on access to the EU single market and have EU supply chains involving cross-border movements of goods.

Businesses with such critical supply chains have developed them to be highly efficient and resilient within the EU but they will become subject to stresses that they weren’t designed to withstand, including higher tax, tariffs and trade costs.

While the full effects of Brexit are unknown, it doesn’t mean you can’t start preparing now.

Here are our recommendations:

  • First and foremost – stay positive! Managing uncertainty is challenging but it isn’t impossible. Instead of trying to guess what’s going to happen next, focus on the outcomes that are within your control and look for opportunities while identifying and managing risks.
  • Plan and prepare. As Benjamin Franklin said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”, so forward planning and adopting flexible, fluid reactions are critical to weathering this transition period. Reviewing and adjusting your supply chains and your business overall against any possible future requirements post-Brexit will be a valuable business planning exercise in any event.

Anticipating the possible impacts that Brexit may have on your supply chain and the management of imported goods that support your production process is essential.

Depending on the type of Brexit deal reached, it’s likely you may experience delays at borders for goods, so you should ensure that your supply chains have increased stock levels to avoid any delays and consider procuring in advance.

Keeping close to the political discussions will give you a competitive advantage regarding the decisions you’ll need to make to meet your business needs.

  • Communicate! Keep your communication lines open and transparent so suppliers, employees, and any other stakeholders feel an element of comfort. Effectively communicating any changes in your company policies and processes will provide clarity and manage expectations, particularly for those from the EU, and will help avoid panic-driven reactions.
  • Explore and engage collaborations with other businesses will offer many benefits and could contribute significantly to the success of your company.

Building trusted networks and relationships can help you to improve your business performance, save costs and increase sales, improve capacity and efficiency, and allow you to access new markets.

All businesses are different, and the effect of Brexit will vary significantly depending not just on your business model, but how you anticipate the changes and the choices that you make now.

Getting these foundations right will help you navigate the uncertain road ahead, remove the ‘Brexit Fear’ and future-proof your business.

Animal rehab centre cuts electric bills thanks to BEEP advice

The North East Hydrotherapy and Rehabilitation Centre, based on the Drum Industrial Estate, has drastically reduced its energy bills after it acted on advice from the County Durham Business Energy Efficiency Project (BEEP).

The centre, which is uniquely built for the rehabilitation of injured small animals, have changed some lighting to LED and have replaced the heated hydrotherapy pool with a second underwater treadmill.

Director Michael Leonard said: “When BEEP came in, we realised that the heated pool was very costly and that we could provide the same service with another underwater treadmill. We have seen our electricity bill fall by £300 a month, which is a huge saving. We would definitely recommend BEEP to other companies. They have nothing to lose.”

Helen Grayshan, BEEP Manager, said: “Since we launched in 2016, we have helped hundreds of businesses across the county to improve their energy efficiency. This has not only saved them a lot of money, but the enhanced LED lighting has improved the working environment in many instances. We have had a number of managers tell us that their staff feel the new lighting has enhanced working conditions.”

The deadline for applications is 15 September 2019.

Arrange a visit or get more information.

ITPS continues drive to recruit talent

Managed IT solutions and services experts ITPS is further strengthening its team by recruiting a number of positions.

The Drum Estate company, which recently completed an expansion project to add 3,000 square foot of data hall space to its high specification data centre, has released details of job roles including: Installations Engineer; New Business Sales, and a Microsoft Consultant.

Recruiting the best people in their field and nurturing new talent is part of what has made ITPS a successful business.

Read more.

Gardening course reaps rewards for autism charity

Green-fingered enthusiasts are encouraged to sign up to study for qualifications in horticulture and support a Drum Estate-based North-East charity at the same time.

Following a successful launch at the end of last year, the North East Autism Society (NEAS) is continuing with Levels Two and Three of the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society gardening course.
The charity’s course will be led by a team of qualified horticulture staff with extensive knowledge and many years of experience and will include theoretical and hands-on teaching.

Read more. 

How to stop meeting for meetings’ sake

Have you ever stopped to ask, “Why are we having this meeting?”. If the only answer presented to you is “We always meet at this time every week.”, it’s time to put meetings under the microscope.

If you’re looking at ways to improve productivity you’re not alone. Reports tell us that UK workers typically lose 13 days a year due to unproductive meetings. In fact, these meetings are so unproductive that 12 per cent of office workers admit to having fallen asleep!

Most meetings are planned with the best intentions. However, meeting to talk about an issue or topic with no structure or agenda in place will not produce the results you are looking for. The participants will also likely become frustrated that issues don’t get resolved and projects don’t progress, despite all the time spent meeting about them.

Before arranging or committing to your next meeting, ask yourself the following five questions.

1.What is the main objective?

Defining a clear objective and sharing it with participants ahead of time helps everyone to understand the main purpose of the meeting before they attend. This can aid meeting prep and can cut down time spent telling everyone why they were invited.

2.Who needs to attend?

It is best to keep meeting attendees down to a minimum. Invite only those whose input is required as they can subsequently share important information to interested parties. If the meeting objective was to obtain a decision, make sure the decision maker can attend.

3.When and where?

Try to avoid known busy times and steer clear of Monday first thing or Friday last thing if you want the full attention of your attendees. If you’re holding a meeting over breakfast or lunchtime, catering will prevent any bad decisions being made on an empty stomach.

If idea generation is the objective of your meeting, a new location can get employees thinking differently. Try outside if it’s a nice day or even offsite once in a while.

4.What is the agenda?

An objective sets out why you are meeting. But an agenda with a clear time limit ensures you make the most of it. A meeting plan or agenda allocates time slots for all topics of discussion and can reduce the risk of overrunning or wasting time. Why not try meetings standing up or assigning someone with a stopwatch to be in charge of sticking to the agenda.

5.When to follow up?

Most meetings require actions or follow up. Without this it won’t be long before you are meeting again to discuss the same topic. A list of actions should be decided upon during the meeting and shared with all participants along with any important notes. Setting deadlines or committing to follow up dates will improve the likeliness of those actions being completed.

Read more.

Why flexible learning matters to your business

Did you know that British businesses lose around £22 billion a year due to unproductive employees?

Additionally, the absence of training, on matters such as Health and Safety, leaves a business wide open to risk and can lead to enormous fines.

So, whilst a training and development plan may have seemed like an unnecessary expense, it saves money in the long run. Oh, and about them leaving with all that knowledge to work for a competitor? Training is known to improve employee retention and there are legal ways to protect your investment and business interests.

The problem with most workplace training is that it is outdated and typically only applies to one style of learning. But as we know, people are different and process information and learn in a variety of ways.

Flexible learning can help. A successful training strategy will factor in the following:

Timing. Employees are busy and a flexible approach to learning can help them to manage their workload.

Platform. Continuous advancements in technology mean that employees are used to adapting to new devices, some quicker than others, so variety is still important.

Participants. People learn at a varying pace and so flexible learning can give everyone ample time to complete a course.

Engagement. A lack of engagement can lead to a lack of learning. Flexible learning will factor in a mixture of techniques to encourage engagement.

Flexible eLearning empowers employees and allows them to learn and develop their skills at a time that best suits their schedule. Accredited, easy-to-use video courses can be completed at any time on a device that works for them.

While face-to-face training is still an effective method of upskilling your workforce, accessible eLearning can add a degree of flexibility and encourage employees to take control of their learning. A successful training and development strategy will consider both methods for a well-rounded approach.

Read more. 

Reasons to outsource health and safety

Every day the Health and Safety Executive brings new prosecution cases for serious breaches of safety in the workplace.

Most businesses require at least a few processes and functions to run smoothly from day to day. And ensuring they are each carried out accurately and on time can be a worry. Not only do things need to be done, but they need to be done well.

Health and safety compliance is no exception yet it’s often put towards the bottom of the pile. Postponing your health and safety checklist is risky business. What once might have seemed like a lesser priority, has the potential to come back tenfold.

A way to sidestep this potential health and safety sinkhole is to consult an external health and safety company. There are numerous benefits of outsourcing to a health and safety service provider including:

Save time. Reading up on health and safety legislation for your business can be a time-consuming task. It can easily feel overwhelming sifting through documents as you try and identify the points that are most relevant to you and your business.

Outsourcing this task to a qualified health and safety expert takes a weight off your mind and frees up your time to focus on your core activities.

Reduce risk. By planning and pre-empting situations, your expertly advised health and safety policy can massively reduce risks for you and your business. Think of it as a virtual safety net ready to catch you if you slip up.

The added value of outsourcing to a professional health and safety service provider is knowing that you are receiving the most up-to-date and legally compliant health and safety advice.

Save money. Health and safety compliance is a legal requirement, yet the overhead cost of hiring a full or even part-time health and safety employee could be costly and not something you had originally budgeted for.

Outsourcing gives you the opportunity to consult a health and safety expert, as and when you need the advice. This cuts down on overhead costs and ensures that you are only paying for the advice you need, when you need it.

Read more.

In the spotlight with PACCOR

Drum roll please for Paul Mordue, Project Manager at PACCOR UK.

PACCOR supplies the food industry with sustainable plastic packaging solutions.

They manufacture PET plastic products which are made from post-consumer waste and its own internal plastic waste stream making their products 100 percent recycled content and 100 percent recyclable.

The UK site is one of 19 manufacturing sites located in 14 countries around Europe. Group employ 3500 people 250 are based here at Drum.

How would you describe your business in one word. And why?


PACCOR UK have decades of experience which enable us to innovate our operations and products like no others, which places our products at the forefront of the market and our consumer.

We have the ability to turn any customer concept into a live product using a completely internal and experienced process. At our site on the Drum Estate we have our own specialist design team who will turn our customers concepts into 3D Designs and 3D prints. We also have our internal tool making facility allowing us to produce physically samples and full tooling, the products are then produced using the latest thermoforming technologies.

Tell us about your customers.

We supply all the industrial food and food service industry main players including Bakkavor, Samworth Brothers, Muller among others. Our products are filled with food products at these customers and are then sold onto to all the major High Street supermarkets. 85 per cent of our custom is based in the UK and the remaining 15 per cent goes to mainland Europe.

What are your plans for the future?

Plans are already underway to start future-proofing the Drum site ready for new investment. Group have committed to investing in the Drum site and bringing in new technology and increasing the workforce. In terms of size, the Drum site is one of the largest within group who plan to maximise our potential.


Why is the Drum Estate your place of business?

The company was originally located in three locations across the UK: Stanley, Livingston and Caerphilly. We needed to merge these three sites into one central UK hub. After looking at a number of options in the North East, Drum offered the space we needed with the bonus of the location of the site having great transport and network links.

What motivates you?

The drive to improve and develop myself. Whatever role I am in I want to push myself to the limits and make the most of the opportunity to ensure I am performing to the best of my ability.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?

Focus on the employee as much as you would focus on the customer, look after your employees they will look after the company.

And what’s the best advice you’ve given?

Improve don’t perfect. Don’t look for perfection; its very rarely there. As long as you improve success will come over time, strive for constant improvement not perfection.

Tell us about your most difficult challenge so far.

As a young production manager, trying to balance the demands of working in an intense pressured industry and role whilst at the same time becoming a father for the first time and taking on my first mortgage. Getting the work life balance right at that time was the most challenging thing I went through.

And finally, what’s your favourite quote?

“I’ve always liked the quiet people: You never know if they’re dancing in a daydream or if they’re carrying the weight of the world” John Green.

Pop-up initiative for Durham food and drink producers launched

A pop-up programme to give food and drink producers from across County Durham the chance to showcase their products and explore potential routes to market has launched.

The idea is that each week during the three-month scheme, select groups of producers of food and drink goods from County Durham will come together at a converted unit within Prince Bishops to showcase their products, push out their brand and meet visitors and tourists who descend on the city every day.

The event is a collaboration between All Durham, the brainchild of entrepreneurs Grant Thompson and Chris Donovan, the Durham Food and Drink Network, Business Durham, Prince Bishops Shopping Centre and Durham County Council, whose Targeted Business Improvement (TBI) scheme part-funded the project.

By teaming up with the Durham Food and Drink Network, which is a strand of the Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP) and funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), all participating producers will be given 12 hours of support which includes: pre-event assistance to prepare for the pop-up initiative; one week’s exhibiting space; post-event support to engage with other producers in the area with a view to collaborating in the future; and access to support through the Durham Food and Drink Network’s partners.

Grant Thompson said: “What Chris and I wanted to do was create a space that champions local food and drink producers, providing them with a platform to showcase their fantastic products to a diverse and large audience of shoppers. There are some wonderful, tasty goods made right here in County Durham, however we’re not shouting loudly enough about them and that’s something we want to change. We want our area to be known as much for our food produce as it is for the wonderful cathedral and castle, university and vast history and heritage and this pop-up initiative is a great way to show people just what our participants have to offer.”

The pop-up programme will run until the end of September and visitors to Durham City are encouraged to drop in and sample some of the produce being showcased.

For more information on the pop-up initiative, or if you think your business could be eligible, email Steve Robson, steven@theenterpriseagency.co.uk.

Heather Mills to speak at this year’s EMCON event

Businesswoman Heather Mills, who has expanded her international award-winning plant based vegan company VBites by opening two sites in the North East, has been confirmed as the keynote speaker at EMCON, the flagship event for EMN.

She will share an insight into her entrepreneurial journey by outlining her plans for the area, why she chose to extend her vegan empire in the North East and her thoughts on the future of the business and its plans for growth.

Heather will also take part in this year’s industry leaders’ panel debate, organised by EMN in conjunction with Jackson Hogg Recruitment, the event’s delivery partner. The debate will include a question and answer session which enables the audience to participate.

David Land, who is Chairman of EMN, said: “There’s been a huge and understandable level of interest from the business community around the opening of the VBites manufacturing facility in Peterlee so we’re delighted to have secured Ms Mills as our keynote speaker at EMCON 2019.

“It’s a real coup for our event to secure someone of Ms Mills’ profile and will certainly generate a new level of excitement around the event.”

Last year VBites purchased the former Walkers Crisps factory in Peterlee and has recently added to their portfolio the Proctor and Gamble plant in Seaton Delaval, which has established VBites as the leading pioneer in plant-based foods and owning the largest related manufacturing facilities in the world totalling over 600,000 square feet.

VBites is an award-winning manufacturing company which makes plant-based foods replicating 130 meat, fish and dairy products. VBites exports to 24 countries globally and has won over 80 awards.

For more information on the 2019 event visit emcon.show.

Businesses urged not to miss out as manufacturing programme nears full occupancy

Businesses are urged to book their place at the final Incubator Zone programme at this year’s EMCON event, with only a few stands remaining.

The programme, one of five strands of the Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP), is aimed at companies within County Durham that have never exhibited at the annual engineering and manufacturing expo.

The first two years of the Incubator Zone saw 38 companies put through 12 hours of intensive support, which have resulted in contract wins worth over £300,000 and 20 new jobs created.

Fourteen businesses have now booked their place for the 2019 programme and organisers are urging anyone interested to sign up now.

Michael Harriott, business engagement officer at DBOP, which is managed by Business Durham said: “We’ve had a great response from businesses that want to be involved and with just weeks to go until the event only a few stands remain. We must stress this is the last year of the Incubator Zone so if you are thinking about exhibiting, don’t hang around as you could miss out.

“Previous exhibitors have done very well, winning hundreds of thousands of pounds of new business and between them creating 20 new jobs which is great. So, if you’re a County Durham business that wants to grow and tap into the thriving engineering and manufacturing sectors, the Incubator Zone is perfect for you.”

The programme, which is ERDF funded and delivered by Business Durham’s Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP) and LEC Communications and Design, was launched in 2017 to encourage those businesses who wouldn’t or couldn’t exhibit at EMCON, either because of lack of experience, resources or budget, to get involved.

Ben Gilhespy, operations director at the Engineering and Manufacturing Network (EMN) which organises EMCON, said: “The Incubator Zone programme has helped dozens of businesses to win work and to put themselves on the radars of some of the biggest companies in the region and beyond with a view to winning contracts further down the line. Without doubt these are companies that wouldn’t have otherwise exhibited, either because of a lack of experience, budget constraints or an incorrect perception that the event is only for bigger companies.

“This year could be the final time the Incubator Zone programme is held, so don’t miss out as it really could make a difference to your future growth.”

This year’s event will take place on Thursday 10 October at the Xcel Centre in Newton Aycliffe.

Get more details.

Be part of this year’s spectacular Lumiere as a Festival Maker

Festival fanatics are being reminded to take the opportunity to be part of the UK’s largest light festival.

Lumiere returns to Durham from 14 to 17 November with its 10th anniversary spectacular. Featuring highlights from past editions of the festival, alongside new, unique installations, Lumiere 2019 is set to turn Durham into a shining city of innovation and imagination.

Council and Lumiere producers Artichoke, want everyone to be part of the magic by offering people the chance to become volunteer Festival Makers.

Cllr Joy Allen, Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: “Festival Makers are integral to the running of Lumiere. They are the face of the festival. They help with welcoming the thousands of visitors to the city and directing them to the many installations.

“For those who volunteer as Festival Makers, Lumiere provides an incredible opportunity to be part of a professional production and to gain valuable experience.”

Sixty-four-year-old Ann Ferguson volunteered for the last two Lumiere festivals and has no plans of stopping. She said: “I had been a visitor to Lumiere and thought it was outstanding. My role included supporting the thousands of people who come to the city, offering them a helping hand with directions to make sure they saw all the sights, and taking the odd snaps for people who wanted to cherish the moment.

“To anyone who is thinking of volunteering, I would say do not hesitate. Durham is a beautiful place and it is incredible to be a part of promoting the area. You get lots of support, and it is an experience you won’t forget. I cannot wait to be part of Lumiere 2019.”

Anyone interested in this opportunity can find out more here.

EU experts praise energy efficiency project

A project designed to help County Durham businesses to make financial savings through energy efficiency has been praised by European experts.

The Business Energy Efficiency Project (BEEP) received recognition from the Interreg Europe programme for the excellent support it provides to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

BEEP raises awareness of energy efficiency measures with local businesses, so that they can enjoy the associated economic benefits, assisting them to become more competitive and enjoy a better chance of success in the future.

Maggie Bosanquet, Durham County Council team leader for the Low Carbon Economy Team said: “We are delighted that the hard work of the team has been recognised in this way. Through the EU grant funded LOCARBO project we are continuing to learn from best practice across Europe to support small and medium sized enterprises in Durham with energy efficiency and cost saving.”

BEEP is a partnership with Durham County Council, Business Durham, The North East Chamber of Commerce, The Federation of Small Business, The North East Local Enterprise Partnership, and Northern Powergrid is supported by the European Regional Development Fund and is part of the LOCARBO project, a transnational project that identifies and shares best practice around energy efficiency.

Get more information.