A CHILDREN’S clothing store has become the 150th venture in the last five years to benefit from a small businesses support scheme.

Since 2012, Durham County Council has given almost £1 million to support independent businesses and retailers through its Targeted Business Improvement scheme.

The council says the finance has helped create 34 new businesses and 199 new jobs across County Durham.

The scheme aims to support businesses, bring derelict or underused retail space back into use and encourage business growth by offering funding and advice.

The latest business to benefit is children’s designer clothing store Minni & Me, which has been trading in Chester-le-Street for six months.

Co-owner Angela Clennell asked the council for help with digital marketing and customer service training for herself and her staff.

She was also interested in redesigning the shop’s exterior to create a more appealing and accessible entrance.

She said: “I think the fresh new look for the shop front will have a positive impact on the business and I’m really excited about the proposed improvements.”

Landlord Russell Greenfield, who owns the premises, added: “The property has been in my family now for about 150 years but I wouldn’t have been able to make these improvements without the council’s help and the shop may have had to close.”

Over the weekend, the council showed its support for independent retailers by offering free parking at all of its off-street car parks and on-street spaces to mark Small Business Saturday.

Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “Small businesses really are the lifeblood of our towns and villages, often offering unique products and services and providing employment for local people.

“We are extremely keen to do all we can to support them so I am thrilled to see that so many businesses have benefitted from the Targeted Business Improvement scheme”.

For more information on the scheme, which is open to businesses in a number of locations across County Durham, contact the economic development team on 03000 267967.