The first ever Rural Business Network event took place last week to offer support to farm owners and landowners in County Durham. Sponsored by shipping container business Parsons Containers Group, the inaugural event took place in the company’s headquarters at the Manor House in Sedgefield and saw 50 attendees comprising of rural start-ups and small established businesses in the food processing and tourism industries, come together to access support to help them to diversify or realise their growth ambitions.

The Grant Application Support & Sign Posting event took place on 15th January and featured a packed agenda. Craig Wilson, destination programme manager from Visit County Durham provided an insight into the opportunities for high-end accommodation providers in line with the opening of the Northern Saints Trail; Joanne Metcalfe, rural chartered surveyor at youngsRPS, offered practical tips on completing the RDPE Growth Programme Expression of Interest (EOI) Application form; and Yvonne Gale, CEO, NEL Fund Managers gave an overview of The North East Small Loan Fund and how investment can help unlock grant funding.

In addition, Mark Nicol, business development manager at Parsons Containers highlighted how shipping containers can be used for a diverse range of applications in a farming environment, including for self-storage. The afternoon concluded with a Q&A session and networking.

Jo Martin, founder of the Rural Business Network, said: “We were blown away by the support received at our very first event which attracted a fantastic 50 attendees. The feedback so far has been incredibly positive. We’d like to thank to our sponsors Parsons Containers Ltd and our engaging speakers who delivered some really thought-provoking presentations.”

For further information about the Rural Business Network and forthcoming events visit

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