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COVER STORY - PETER JACKSON

Business Group Bounces Back


A County Durham Business group has seen rapid growth with booming membership and big plans for the future.


Derwentside Business Network, DBN, was on the point of folding two years ago, with just 17 members and nobody to manage it, but it now has 110 local businesses signed up and is helping to set up a digital hub in North West Durham.


The network holds events every month, which are hosted by venues across the area covered by the old Derwentside District Council. Its members range from archaeologists to accountants. Earlier this year, it signed up its 100th member, Stanley Events.


In partnership with Derwent Valley Area Action Partnership, it has delivered a Business Growth Skills Programme - providing workshops and mentoring to DBN members and using other members to deliver the mentoring. Over the six-month programme, DBN beat its targets of creating eight jobs and mentoring 12 businesses.


Last year it also held its first members exhibition which was over-subscribed and it plans a bigger event this September.


While the network covers North West Durham and surrounding areas its reputation has spread and it now also has members from Hexham, Gateshead, Sunderland and Newcastle.


But two years ago the group was on the point of folding. Chairman Gary Scott recalls: “I joined two years ago and when I went along to my first meeting they were looking for a new Chairman and the network was in danger of closing unless someone would take it on.’’


Gary took up the challenge and, in partnership with Derwentside Enterprise Agency and, with help from fellow DBN members, he has succeeded in rebuilding the organisation.


“Our model is simple and effective,’’ he says. “We hold regular meetings where we actively facilitate business connections. Our members have already placed at least £25,000 worth of business with each other over the past year.’’


It is now planned to set up DBN as a not-for-profit business to deliver more business growth support to its members and its ambition is to help establish a digital hub in the district for fledgling businesses.



For more information on the Derwentside Business Network visit their website HERE