Council invests almost £1 million in small businesses

A children’s clothing store has become the 150th venture in the last five years to benefit from a scheme set up to support small businesses in County Durham.

Since 2012, Durham County Council has awarded almost £1 million to independent businesses and retailers through its Targeted Business Improvement scheme, helping create 34 new enterprises and 199 new jobs.

The scheme aims to support businesses, bring derelict or underused retail space back into use and encourage business growth by offering funding and advice.

The latest business to benefit is children’s designer clothing store Minni & Me, which has been trading in Chester-le-Street for six months.

Co-owner Angela Clennell approached the council for help with digital marketing and customer service training for herself and her staff.

She was also interested in redesigning the shop’s exterior to create a more appealing and accessible entrance.

The council is now working with Angela, her landlord and the shop’s staff to provide marketing and customer service training and progress with work to the shopfront.

Angela said: “I think the fresh new look for the shop front will have a positive impact on the business and I’m really excited about the proposed improvements.”

Russell Greenfield, who owns the premises, added: “I am really grateful for the help and support from the council. The property has been in my family now for about 150 years but I wouldn’t have been able to make these improvements without the council’s help and the shop may have had to close.”

The council will also be supporting independent retailers this weekend by offering free parking from 10am at all of its off-street car parks and on-street spaces to mark Small Business Saturday.

This national campaign encourages people to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities.

Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “Small businesses really are the lifeblood of our towns and villages, often offering unique products and services and providing employment for local people.

“We are extremely keen to do all we can to support them so I am thrilled to see that so many businesses have benefitted from the Targeted Business Improvement scheme.

“I’d also like to call on people to show their support for independent retailers by shopping locally, particularly on Small Business Saturday this weekend.”

The Targeted Business Improvement scheme is open to businesses operating in a number of locations across County Durham. For more information, contact the economic development team on 03000 267 967, email or visit