A business support organisation has hailed the success of the businesses and entrepreneurs it has supported, proving the coronavirus lockdown wasn’t all doom and gloom.

In the 13 months since the country went into lockdown, East Durham Business Service has helped a number of budding entrepreneurs to launch their own business.

Alongside the new-start support it provides, the Peterlee-based organisation has also welcomed several new firms into Novus Business Centre and played a pivotal role in the growth of existing tenant companies.

One new addition to the facility is e-commerce specialist Rogers and Rogers, which works with online retailers to grow their digital presence and increase sales online.

The company was launched by husband-and-wife Andrew and Kimberley Rogers in 2017, who decided to move into Novus Business Centre earlier this year after outgrowing their home office.

Andrew said: “Our business quickly outgrew the space we occupied at home, and alongside the fact we wanted to take on professional office space to host client meetings, we decided it was the right time to make the move.

“We knew about Novus Business Centre so came to have a look, and felt the facility was the perfect environment for us to grow our business.”

The first few months of 2021, most of which were spent in the third national lockdown, have also proved fruitful for long-term tenant LEC Communications and Design, which moved into Novus Business Centre in 2013 having been launched by communications expert and former business journalist Leanne Fawcett the year previously.

Leanne said: “After what was undoubtedly a challenging 2020, I’m delighted to say the first four months of this year have been really good for us, with several new businesses coming on board and existing clients increasing the support they receive from us.

“I’m now looking forward and feel optimistic that the growth projections I put in place at the start of last year are once again achievable.”

East Durham Business Service has also helped several budding entrepreneurs launch their own businesses during the pandemic, including Peterlee mum of two Aiysha Homer who founded Dreadsrock; Amy Speckman from Murton who set up Sweetie Treats; and Melissa Pigford, who is the most recent enterprising success story, having launched Material Mel Creations, which makes eco-friendly bags, in December 2020.

Melissa, 30, from Peterlee said: “I’ve always had a feeling I’d end up starting my own creative business. My background is a mix of fine art, textiles and costume design, so I have a wide variety of skills that blend really well with making eco-friendly bags and accessories.

“My adviser was Hina Joshi, who was great in working with me to develop a business plan and review all elements of running a business, so I was properly prepared when I did launch Material Mill Creators.

“I am really enjoying working for myself, being able to fully showcase my creative passion, and am excited to see the business grow as we gradually return to normality.”

The new-start support offered by East Durham Business Service is through the Enterprise Support in the North East programme through the European Regional Development Fund.

Denise Fielding, Operations Director at East Durham Business Service, said: “There’s no denying it’s been a tough 12 months for the business community, but there are some real positives to take from it too.

“We have been able to support existing tenants to grow, we’ve welcomed new companies into the centre and we’ve helped budding entrepreneurs realise their dreams of starting their own businesses. For me that’s testament to our resilience and determination that even when the chips are down, we have remained committed to doing what we do best – nurturing business growth and helping new starts launch, both of which are vital to the region’s economic growth and prosperity.”