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Sunderland tech entrepreneur is one smart cookie

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Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council alongside Michael Ditchburn, founder of ThinkBiscuit Media

A training professional is proving he has the recipe for success after taking on his first employee to support his business’ growth.

Sunderland-born Michael Ditchburn, founder of ThinkBiscuit Media, a business that specialises in supporting clients with digital eLearning solutions, videos and animations, has appointed his first employee after seeing sales soar since setting up.

The company, which boasts an impressive roster of clients, including BrewDog and Sodexo, has appointed Rachel Smith as an illustrator, to support its growth.

The business, based in tech incubator space Sunderland Software Centre, was founded in August 2017, and – having used freelancers in the past – has now taken the decision to recruit its first employee. Rachel will put her skills to use by creating graphics that can be used in training animations and materials, developing creative and engaging learning tools.

Michael said: “It’s amazing to be sitting here with a business that is growing so quickly and to be able to take on a member of staff to support me.”

“The company has quickly built a client base, and I think we have also managed to develop a reputation for delivering high-quality content that businesses can trust.”

Michael had worked in senior roles within the learning and development teams for both Dixons Retail and B&M Stores, before joining a local learning provider, where he worked until 2017 when the company fell into administration. It was then that he made the decision to set up his own business.

He said: “Lots of my friends and old colleagues used to say to me I should take the leap and set up myself, but it was losing my job that gave me the push I needed. I was absolutely terrified at first, but I’ve not looked back since.”

Michael chose to base ThinkBiscuit Media in Sunderland Software Centre after being impressed by the facility during his time with his previous employer.

He added: “When I first set up, like most businesses, I based myself out of my attic and that worked for a while, but I realised that if I wanted to really make a go of it, I needed to have a proper office. Sunderland Software Centre is a fantastic place to be based. We have very quickly been able to build relationships with our neighbours, and that’s given us a chance to collaborate already. It’s got a great sense of community in the centre, and it’s an incubator, which means we will be able to grow into a bigger office as the team expands – which I hope it does.”

The 38-year-old has been further supported with the development of ThinkBiscuit Media by MAKE it Sunderland, delivered Sunderland City Council.

“The council has been so accommodating. They’ve been there to help with practical things that will aid our growth. And it’s incredibly handy having them so close by – they’re based in the centre, so we can easily catch the team in person and tap into their support, if we need help or advice.”

“It’s been so refreshing to be given the assistance we have. I remember thinking ‘why on earth would you support me; I’m just a small business’, but they really do want to see you do well. It’s been a massive help.”

Michael has plans to continue to grow the business with MAKE it Sunderland’s ongoing support.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Michael’s business is exactly the kind of company we want to see occupy the Software Centre. A company that is ambitious for the future and that has the potential to grow and create jobs.

“Michael’s new recruit is a graduate from the University of Sunderland. We want to ensure that there are opportunities on our doorstep for people leaving our university and with more and more fantastic tech companies springing up in Sunderland, we will be able to retain the talented people who study here. We wish Michael every success and look forward to seeing him take ThinkBiscuit Media from strength to strength.”