COUNTY Durham businesses keen to highlight their products and services to new customers are being recruited for the second phase of a support programme.

Last year saw the launch of the Incubator Zone programme at Durham Oktoberfest.

And this year, micro and small companies who could be eligible to take part are being sought.

Organisers of Durham Oktoberfest, County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network (CDEMN), have teamed up with Business Durham’s Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP), with European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funding, to offer companies a mini exhibitor package they hope will open the expo up to those companies who don’t have big marketing budgets or the resources to exhibit.

The package means they can have a presence within the show with the bonus of support provided to help prepare them for the exhibition and marketing materials, such as banner stands and flyers designed and printed if they need them.

David Land, CDEMN chairman, said: “The first Incubator Zone was an overwhelming success with many of the 21 companies who took part winning work as a result.

“The programme helped us address the balance as far as attracting micro and small businesses to exhibit, and backs up what we’ve been saying, which is that the event is as much for companies at the smaller end of the supply chain as those bigger businesses.

“We’re now looking for companies to take part this year, so if you fit the criteria and want to grow your customer base and showcase your business to a vast audience of leading engineering and manufacturing companies, get in touch.”

The criteria to participate is:

• Your business must be based within County Durham

• It must have links to the engineering and manufacturing sectors

• Ideally employ less than 15 people

• Have never exhibited at Durham Oktoberfest

Lisa Wall, DBOP business engagement officer, said: “This is the perfect opportunity for companies to take part in Oktoberfest without the pressure of significant costs which are often attached to exhibiting at big events.”

One business that took part in the 2017 Incubator Zone programme was Newton Aycliffe-based The Emotional Intelligence Company, who had such a positive experience that it has already signed up as a fully-fledged exhibitor this year.

Gary Hosey, founder and owner, said: “Our team was over the moon with the 100-plus new contacts we got from Oktoberfest 2017.

“This, coupled with reconnecting with companies we’d had previous contact with, has meant we’ve had several meetings and resulted in a number of proposals to deliver work to new clients.”

Durham Oktoberfest returns on Thursday, October 18.

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