Replicating the Business Central start-up success story

Vanessa Wood
Vanessa Wood, Centre Manager at Business Central

Vanessa Wood, Centre Manager here at Business Central in Darlington, explains how she aims to replicate the success of the site to help launch more start-ups at Innovation Central.

The first thing you notice when you walk through the doors of Business Central is how homely it feels.

The building’s design around a central atrium creates an atmosphere of community and our reception desk at the entrance means there’s always a friendly face to welcome you.

That really makes a difference to the start-up businesses that are based here – whether they’re a freelancer, or sole trader using our coworking space, or a small company with one of our 60 dedicated offices.

Businesses are run by people and people generally need to be around other people to be happy.

That’s been a major takeaway from the pandemic for us. Despite our worst fears about a possible drop in demand for business space, we’ve remained almost fully occupied throughout and I think it’s that connection to others that’s made the difference.

Our tenants found it reassuring and stabilising to be plugged into a community for information and support and even just another friendly human voice.

But we take nothing for granted when it comes to providing the right type of physical environment for our tenants. Since the pandemic we’ve carefully considered how people now want to work.

We’ve refreshed our coworking space to feel calmer and less corporate.

Add that to our facilities such as our gym, micro spa, events and socials and this becomes so much more than a place to simply plug in your laptop.

Coworking Space
Coworking space at Business Central

We’re empathetic towards our start-ups too. We know the challenges entrepreneurs face and I like to think we act as extra family members who really care. People will often ask our opinion on things, test out ideas or rehearse their presentations on us.

Even just a friendly face at the end of a long day, someone to share a bad joke with or have a chat about the football, can be huge.

Since opening the doors of the workspace in 2015, we’ve helped 200 businesses to get started and grow. You’d think we’d be sad to see our beloved businesses grow up and move on but we feel a bit like proud parents seeing our children fly the nest!

There are always new, up-and-coming businesses ready to fill the space and right now there’s more demand than we can accommodate.

That’s why we’re aiming to replicate the model at the new Innovation Central development that’s currently under construction just a few minutes’ walk away on the Central Park site.

We’ll be operating the centre on behalf of Darlington Council and we’ll extend the entrepreneurial environment we’ve already established at Business Central to give the best start to even more entrepreneurs.

We’ll be connected by the same ethos, team and facilities.

There’ll even be electric bikes so tenants can move quickly between the two sites and make the most of everything we have to offer. It’s exciting to be growing our family and we can’t wait to get started.

Innovation Central – the lowdown

• 45 Grade A offices and five labs
• Flexible accommodation for growing businesses of all sectors
• Opening late summer 2022
• Shared use of Business Central facilities, team, events and support
• Key component of Darlington’s Central Park development

My start-up story: Property Box

Ben Quaintrell, Founder of My Property Box, tells us how Business Central played a part in his business success story.

What does your business do?
We’re a property agency, dealing with lettings, sales and investments.

How’s business?
Business is booming. It’s an exciting time for the property industry and there are lots of opportunities for businesses that are keen to grow. We’re on an acquisition drive and have bought out seven agents in the past three years. The business community in Darlington is on fire! There’s so much excitement about the new train station, Treasury, Tees Port and airport. It really feels like the place to be right now.

How did it all start?
I set up in a little office in Darlington town centre and as soon as Business Central was built, we moved in. I love the way you can start out hot desking and then move up to having your own office. It’s perfect.

My Property Box
Ben Quaintrell, My Property Box

How did Business Central support your growth?
It felt like such a step up for us. It provided a professional environment for staff and clients and that makes a big difference when you’re starting out. It helps to get you into the right mindset, makes things feel possible and keeps you motivated and proud. I took the biggest office and quickly took a second to accommodate our growing team. Eventually, I bought my own property on Grange Road.

What difference did the community make?
My business is built on networking. Word of mouth is everything when it comes to marketing a property business and Business Central gave me a ready-made business network that is still important to me today. There are experts on every floor, with experience in everything you can think of, and so many of my recommendations came from those people. There’s a real willingness to help each other – you get the sense that you’re in it together because everyone is starting out at the same time. And you’re always guaranteed some good craic!

To find out more about either of our centres email

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