An entrepreneurial archery enthusiast is hoping to hit the target with his new business venture as Darlington’s first indoor archery centre opens its doors, creating four new jobs in the process.
Inclusion Archery has been opened by local man Steve Ward (45) and is housed in a dedicated facility on Cleveland Industrial Estate. It is the first indoor archery centre of its kind in the area and has been supported by a £25,000 low cost, government-backed business loan from Virgin StartUp following help from TEDCO Business Support.
Steve came up with the idea for the business after realising that his archery hobby is often difficult to maintain over the autumn and winter months when the weather puts a stop to any kind of practise, sometimes for months on end.
With a national shortage for indoor archery ranges, the weather-resistant arena and extensive equipment offers beginners and those trying archery for the first time a more appropriate space to give the sport a try. Steve felt that an indoor arena would give a more year-round opportunity to archers looking to practise the sport on a regular basis.
Founder Steve Ward comments: “Archery is a very popular sport across all ages and given my own interest in the sport, I was keen to look at ways to improve access and facilities in the local area with the added bonus of drawing people into the sport with fun games and activities, such as archery tag.
“I had been running Inclusion Archery as a mobile business, working with schools and doing outreach in the local community but decided the time was right to look at how to give the business a more permanent home.
“Thanks to the £25,000 loan from Virgin StartUp I was able to source premises at Cleveland Industrial Estate and fully renovate the space to support archery activities with an 18 metre range which meets all regulations for amateur competition in the sport. We have up to 32 bows available in a variety of sizes from 48” to 68” to support involvement for adults and children age 6 and upwards.
“We are a fully rounded facility and can support amateurs in the sport looking for regular training sessions as individuals or through local archery clubs but we also offer group bookings for children’s parties or people looking to try the sport for the first time. With such a unique indoor range, we also offer archery tag, a new import from America where participants must tag opposing teams with foam-tipped arrows. It’s great fun and has proved a real success in other parts of the world.”
Steve worked alongside TEDCO Business Support to realise his business idea and develop Inclusion Archery. Working one-to-one with business advisor Mark Johnston, who helps new and growing business in the Darlington area, Steve was able to access direct help in business planning to develop a new enterprise in the sport and recreation field.
Steve continues: “I have never run commercial premises before and previously worked in finance for a major national organisation so developing the processes and day-to-day operations for a small business was new to me. However, Mark has helped enormously, not least in helping source the right funding to get the business open in the first place.
“With the Virgin StartUp loan in place to fund the renovations and equipment, I am now absolutely delighted to be able to start welcoming the first visitors to Inclusion Archery and hope it provides a new facility for budding archers to give the sport a try.”
Inclusion Archery was supported by TEDCO Business Support as part of the Start and Grow programme, which is delivered by TEDCO in the North East and supported by the Regional Growth Fund (RGF). The programme is delivered throughout England by Cavendish Enterprise in areas where there are low levels of business start-up to help new enterprises get up and running and develop new employment opportunities in the private sector with a range of services, including one-to-one mentoring, business planning and helping new ventures get investment ready.
Mark Johnston, business advisor at TEDCO Business Support said: “Steve is very passionate about archery and aside from wanting to create a fantastic new indoor archery range for keen amateurs in the sport, he also identified ways to diversify the business to attract a new following. The £25,000 Virgin StartUp loan offered Steve an essential lifeline to help fund the costs of opening a facility of this kind and given that TEDCO delivers the Virgin StartUp programme exclusively in the North East, I was able to guide him through the application process every step of the way. The facility has been renovated with real care and attention and I look forward to working with Steve and his team in the future once Inclusion Archery has opened for business.
For more information on the Start and Grow programme or Virgin StartUp, please visit www.tedco.org.