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‘Deliberately Different’ is the brainchild of Recruitment Manager, Neil O’Connor and Retired Fire Officer, John Doyle. The company launched early in January, having enjoyed success with trial runs at the end of 2017. Meetings are designed to encourage businesses to share their successes, concerns and challenges and take inspiration and advice from other members experiences.

Setting themselves apart from traditional networking groups, Neil and John have introduced several novel concepts, including a charter of values, limited group numbers, comprehensive questioning replacing 60 second pitches, alongside high-quality coaching, mentoring and facilitation to get the best out of all members.

Speaking about the launch of the new business support network, Director Neil O’Connor, said: “The idea behind Deliberately Different was really born out of frustration at trying to find a similar service, a place that business owners from all different sectors could come together to not just pass around business cards but get real, practical advice at an affordable price.

“The feedback from our test meetings has been incredibly encouraging, with members already finding each session different. As a group we go deeper into what businesses want to achieve. We’re not afraid to challenge individuals on what they’re aiming for before helping them achieve success.

Deliberately Different selected Hartlepool, alongside Darlington, as the destination for their first meetings after being inspired by the number of SMEs in the area. All profits made from the groups are donated to local charities selected by members, with £100 already donated to the town food bank.

As well as networking, members enjoy the benefit of training sessions for essential business skills, including sales, strategy and planning, time management, financial planning, and marketing.

Fellow Director, John, said: “Our groups are diverse, from company owners with over 30 years of experience, to start-ups, business advice services, aspirational young people – even prison governors!

“Ultimately our groups are only as strong as the member facing the most issues. Therefore, it’s very encouraging to see that people face similar challenges and, because everyone is essentially looking at a problem with a fresh pair of eyes, the solutions can be innovative and thought-provoking; truly helping businesses to grow.”

For more information, including group times, visit