Seven County Durham entrepreneurs are set to benefit from a hugely successful six-month accelerator programme which will help them launch their businesses.

Durham City Incubator (DCI) is designed to help entrepreneurs to launch start-ups with high growth potential, as well as ambitious local businesses that have been trading for under 12 months. It is a joint programme between Durham University, New College Durham and Business Durham as part of efforts to grow and nurture the local economy in County Durham.

Since it was set up in 2018, DCI has supported 47 entrepreneurs to flourish in the county, from launching their businesses and securing investment funding to achieving national recognition. Following its run of successful programmes, DCI is now working with the seventh cohort of diverse businesses from sectors including digital, food, marketing and professional services.

Each business will benefit from a £2,500 grant as well as six months of intensive training to ensure they are ready for the next stage of growth. Training and advice will cover areas ranging from financing and marketing, to legal issues, business strategy and much more.

In addition to this, businesses can also benefit from a £7,500 loan from the Finance Durham Fund, established by Durham County Council and managed by Maven Capital Partners, a private equity and property specialist that offers funding options and equity investments to SMEs.

The six-month programme is primarily delivered through boot camps, one-to-one support, mentoring sessions, workshops, seminars, and networking events. DCI has also linked up with The Experience Bank Group to help entrepreneurs to develop key leadership skills. The group enables SMEs to build and maintain high-performing boards that are more resilient and responsive, can lead successful strategies, and are better equipped to plan strategically – as well as deliver sustainable growth, promote innovation and attain excellent standards of governance.

The seven Durham-based companies included in the latest cohort are:

  • Audemic Ltd – an app for students and researchers allowing them to listen to academic research papers and easily take notes and share knowledge with colleagues.
  • Sustain Meals Ltd – which provides healthy, sustainable, locally-sourced vegan meals, and has developed a meal box menu based around vegetable infused dahls.
  • Egeria Limited – which is building an app for students, academics and creative writers as a motivational tool to schedule and complete their work using milestone targets and achievements.
  • Hey! Food is Ready – an online marketplace for home-cooked meals, the platform connects home cooks from different cultural backgrounds with customers seeking freshly cooked meals.
  • Popliv Digital Ltd – a marketing agency specialising in SEO and digital marketing.
  • Lexoral Ltd – a software as a service for transcription and captioning, Lexoral combines AI-based automated transcription with simple tools to refine transcripts and auto correct mistakes.
  • Rare Rockets – a deaf-led organisation providing services for the deaf community, including BSL interpreters and PA support workers.

Sarah Slaven, managing director at Business Durham, said: “We’re delighted to be welcoming the seventh cohort of ambitious new entrepreneurs to the Durham City Incubator programme. It’s very exciting to play a role in supporting these innovative new businesses as they grow and thrive.

“It’s also positive to see the level of academic talent that we’re retaining in Durham, as DCI continues to attract businesses choosing to start-up in the county.

“With the support of Business Durham and our partners through this successful programme, entrepreneurs can gain the skills they need to launch a successful business with plans for growth. This in turn can help create jobs, attract investment and support the local economy not only in County Durham, but the North East as a whole.”

Dr Tim Hammond, Director of Commercialisation and Economic Development at Durham University, said: “I am pleased that there are four graduate start-ups in this seventh cohort.  The Durham City Incubator provides a hugely valuable programme of support to our student and graduate entrepreneurs allowing them to scale their ideas and make a real impact upon the local economy  . I am very much looking forward to supporting all the businesses as they progress through this programme.”

Peter Morrison, Assistant Principal at New College Durham said: “The Durham City Incubator Programme continues to offer an excellent support package to a number of innovative businesses within County Durham. The mentoring and networking opportunities along with access to funding makes this a very attractive proposition to any potential business start-up. Being part of the partnership means New College Durham is able to support these new businesses with the use of facilities and support with branding and marketing materials. Seeing businesses develop from the ideas stage to a sustainable and in some cases scalable business is really inspiring for us and our students.”

DCI is part of Durham Internships and Collaborative Enterprise (DICE), which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programme.