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Julia's cheese initiative given a lift-off boost; SME Development.

BEFORE the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) opened its doors in 1994, the site was derelict, having been the location of the former Austin and Pickersgill shipyard. It was a fitting space for a new business development which aimed to heal some of the wounds felt by the devastating decline of the North East's heavy industries.

As well as regenerating what was a constant visual reminder of what had been lost on a major approach into Sunderland, the BIC developed something which, 14 years ago, was a unique approach to supporting entrepreneurs and young companies keen to expand.

Since 1994, the BIC has become a regional centre of enterprise, helping more than 4,000 budding entrepreneurs realise their dreams, creating thousands of jobs and constantly providing a home for a flow of hundreds of SMEs.

On the eve of the organisation's 15th anniversary, John Anderson CBE, chairman of the North East BIC, explained: "As a not-for-profit business and technical support organisation our aim in 1994 - as it is now - was to support the development of an innovation and enterprise culture in the North East."

One of the many entrepreneurs who has benefited is Julia Cammiss from Durham.

With start-up support from the North East BIC, Julie has started Durham Cow Cheese Company, a business which she has developed over the last three years, now catching the attention of chefs at some of the North East's most exclusive restaurants and hotels.

Julia said: "The trick was to begin thinking in a 21st Century way. Farmers would have been the only people who could do this in the past, but that wasn't the case anymore. I needed to put a new spin on an old product."

Armed initially with nothing but a good idea, Julia set off on a path which has since seen her embark on a cheese-making course with the UK's experts, as well as converting the family garage into a custom-made workspace complete with a cheese vat.

Julia said: "I embarked upon a Start Your Own Business course at the North East BIC, before working with Pulse Creative Marketing and Glow Creative, which allowed me to develop the image of my product, whilst experimenting with the cheese, searching for the right consistency. Creating the same flavour on a consistent basis was the real challenge and this took time - I had to practice constantly."

Teasdale Game and Poultry in Durham's Indoor Market was the first outlet at which Julia sold her product. To her delight, the first batch was a roaring success, with the cheeses quickly selling out and customers demanding more.

The confidence Julia gained from this initial success led her to place the cheese in a number of outlets including Oldfields Restaurant and Grafton House Hotel in Durham, where it has continued to impress. At Durham Cathedral's restaurant, the head chef was so impressed with the cheese that he has served it to celebrity guests including Bill Bryson.

Willie Herdman, special projects manager at the North East BIC, said: "Julia's story is a truly inspirational one, and it is wonderful to see the business flourishing after the eventful development period. At the driving centre of this story, we have a truly delicious blue cheese for the region, which I would encourage all cheese lovers to try."

For more information on business support services available at the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) contact Audrey Watt on (0191) 516-6145 or e-mail businesssupport@ne-bic.co.uk.

Creating the same flavour on a consistent basis was the real challenge

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FLAVOUR OF SUCCESS Entrepreneur Julia Cammiss with Willie Herdman, special projects manager at the North East BIC.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 23, 2008
Words:610
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