Free digital help and grants for dale firms
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
BUSINESSES in Teesdale are being given a free opportunity to improve their digital offering thanks to a new programme.
The help from Digital Drive Durham ranges from cash grants to update IT systems to free workshops and training.
Now businesses can learn more about what is on offer during weekly drop-in sessions by Digital Drive advisor Stephen Fenwick at Enterprise House, at Harmire Enterprise Park, Barnard Castle, each Friday.
The sessions run from 9.30am to 12.30pm.
Mr Fenwick said Digital Drive has three schemes that businesses can tap into, with the first being direct help from advisors who can offer 12 hours of support on a range of things, such as using social media and website development. Part of the advisory service is a four-hour digital health check for businesses which looks at aspects like cyber-security.
Advice can also be given on advertising campaigns, search engine optimisation and attracting more followers on social media, he said.
Another part of the scheme is the offering of free workshops across the county.
Mr Fenwick said: “We try to vary them to different areas and vary the content of the workshops, so it will be quite easy for businesses from this area to attend.” He added that the workshops have a practical element so people can take along their laptops to get on-the-spot help.
The workshops are presented by experts in their field, such as social media guru Nicola Little of Digital Sparkles. The final part of the programme is offering of grants for businesses to upgrade their hardware, get new software or to employ a consultant. Mr Fenwick said the grants cover 40 per cent of a company's outlay which can range from a minimum of £1,000 to a maximum of £10,000. Mr Fenwick said: “If they want to do a £10,000 website then they will get £4,000 funding. Typically people are interested in new platforms like ERM (enterprise resource management) or CRMS (customer relations management system). He added that the scheme covers a wide range of businesses, from those who have little or no digital presence but want to get involved, to those that are quite advanced but want to “go to the next level”.
Mr Fenwick said: “It is a fantastic opportunity for businesses and it is totally free, so why not take advantage of it?”
To qualify businesses need to be of small or medium size and must be based in County Durham. The drop-in sessions begin this Friday, September 21. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.