County Durham Growth Fund helps East Durham businesses to expand

Apr 4, 2023 | Business

Since launching four years ago, the County Durham Growth Fund has supported the creation of hundreds of jobs and helped dozens of businesses expand.

And recently the fund has helped two East Durham companies to move to new premises and invest in state-of-the-art equipment which is fast-tracking their ambitious plans for growth…

The County Durham Growth Fund was launched by Business Durham back in 2019 to support larger SMEs in the area that had ambitious plans to expand, invest in new equipment or technology and create jobs. Since then, millions of pounds in grant support have been awarded to businesses across the County Durham area, helping them on the next phase of their growth journey and creating hundreds of jobs in the process. And recently the fund, which is co-managed by UMi with grant applications appraised by UNW LLP, has helped two East Durham companies to move to new premises and invest in state-of-the-art equipment which is fast tracking their ambitious plans for growth.


A catering company which provides equipment to hotels, restaurants and bars is fast-tracking plans to become a £50m turnover business. E Catering, based at Jade Business Park, has seen operations grow by 700 per cent since the current owner bought it in 2019. Headcount has also grown from five to 24, with ambitious plans to expand the team further as it continues to implement its ambitious growth strategy. Now, thanks to the County Durham Growth Fund, which awarded a £120,000 grant to purchase additional racking and forklift trucks as well as carry out electrical work on-site, the company is fast-tracking its plans and believes achieving a turnover of £50m is realistic by 2025. Head of Finance Reece Ingham said: “When our owner Duncan Everheard purchased the business in 2019, it was being run as a bit of a hobby, although was still turning over £3m. “Although the previous owner was happy with things, Duncan saw real potential. It was a tough start though, as not long after the purchase was complete, the Covid pandemic came along. We managed to ride through it and from there our growth, supported by organic expansion and acquisitions, has been significant.”
E Catering was initially based in Kendal before Duncan decided to relocate it to Middlesbrough, then Stokesley. However, the business quickly outgrew its premises and in September 2021, it moved again, this time to two units, collectively more than 48,000 sq. ft, at Jade Business Park in Murton. Reece added: “We took on more space than we needed to, allowing for our planned growth over the next five years, however with the grant support, we are now looking at achieving our projections in the next three years. “That includes increasing our turnover from £21m currently to £50m by 2025 and recruiting even more people from the East Durham area – currently around 90 per cent of our workforce is local which is fantastic.” Guy Bashford from Business Durham said: “It’s wonderful to hear that, thanks to the £120,000 grant awarded to E Catering, they’re now able to fast-track their ambitious plans to become a £50m turnover company.” Simon Allen, investment centre director at UMi, added: “The County Durham Growth Fund is here to support businesses like E Catering, who have relocated to our area and see it as the ideal base from which to grow, supported by the recruitment of people from their immediate surroundings.”


A growing design and technology company has completed the purchase of a historical office building to support continued expansion and job creation. Founded in 2016 by Ryan Carter, Creator was initially located in a single office within Castle Eden Studios. However, following year-on-year growth which saw the team increase to nine, Ryan felt he needed additional space to accommodate the extra staff and enable the business to meet increasing client demand. When he was made aware that offices within the historic building were becoming available, he looked into what funding support was available to assist with the purchase and was introduced to the County Durham Growth Fund. Ryan said: “The business has grown organically since I set it up in 2016 and each year we have added to the workforce, meaning we now have nine employees. “However, that will increase in the short term, as I have just recruited a project manager, who will enable me to focus on the business development side of things. “The space we initially occupied within Castle Eden Studios was pretty small and we’d got to the point where we were working on top of each other. “I looked at options elsewhere in the region, particularly on Teesside which has a growing tech sector, but I didn’t feel it was right for us. Then rather fortuitously I was made aware that all remaining studio space was becoming available, so I started looking into whether we could purchase them.” Guy Bashford from Business Durham said: “Creator is a real home-grown success story, a business that has expanded organically from just one employee to soon having a workforce of 10. The purchase of the additional space within Castle Eden Studies will take the business to the next level and gives the team the perfect base from which to continue to grow.”