East Durham Business design agency plans for growth with five figure investment

A Northumberland design company is expanding its range of services and its workforce with the help of a five-figure investment from the North East Small Loan Fund.

AS Design North East provides graphic design services across print and digital media for a range of different functions, including branding, logo design, web design, social media and marketing.

The Prudhoe-based firm was originally set up in 2011 by founder Alan Sawyers as a sideline to his role as an in-house graphic designer before he decided to focus on the business full-time in 2019.

Since then, the team has grown to five people, including young designer Nathan Cockburn, who was originally recruited via the Government’s Kickstart programme and who has since gone on to become a senior member of the team, leading work around the launch of and co-owning AS Design’s sister company, SNAC Digital.

AS Design’s clients include a range of North East SMEs as well as influential musicians Toyah Willcox and Robert Fripp.

And now, after working with regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers to bring in the investment from the North East Small Loan Fund Supported by The European Regional Development Fund, the business is looking to further expand its client portfolio.

Additional services including SEO, e-commerce, digital advertising management and coding are being added to the company’s offering, with new expertise being added to the team to meet emerging client demand.

The business is also currently looking for new offices in its local area to provide the extra space required to support its growth plans.

Alan Sawyers says: “I’d never really planned for the business to be anything more than just me, but when I saw the growth potential that it had, it was a natural move to begin to realise it.

“Being able to provide a wider range of services means we can meet more of our clients’ requirements and provide them with an efficient single point of contact that delivers more of what they need.

“Moving into areas like digital advertising requires particular expertise, especially with the advent of AI making change happen quickly in this field, and we’re growing the team to make sure we stay ahead of the game.

“Working in this way will help us grow our revenues on a sustainable basis, while having more resources available will give me more time to focus on strategic business development work.

“This investment marks a real milestone moment for the business and we’re excited at the opportunities that we know are out there for us to grasp.

“The NEL team’s hands-on approach and their commitment to being a long-term part of the growth process was really important to us, and we’re very glad to have them on our side.”

Susan Snowdon, investment executive at NEL Fund Managers, adds: “Alan and his team have a clear idea of how they want the business to expand and the growing range of skills and knowledge they need to make it happen.”

Part of the £153m North East Fund and aimed predominantly at smaller SMEs, the £9m North East Small Loan Fund typically offers loans to businesses in Tyne & Wear, Durham and Northumberland.

It is designed to assist with the creation of over 1,200 new regional jobs in more than 320 SMEs over the life of the fund.

The overarching £153m North East Fund will provide financial support for more than 600 businesses, creating around 2,500 jobs and delivering a legacy of up to £80m for further investment into the region.

NEL Fund Managers is also responsible for managing the £18m North East Growth Capital Fund, which offers unsecured investments to established businesses looking to realise their growth potential.

For more information about NEL’s investment criteria, visit www.nel.co.uk or contact the investment team on 0345 369 7007.

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