A specialist County Durham recruitment agency that began life in lockdown is building for the future after securing a five-figure investment from the North East Small Loan Fund Supported by The European Regional Development Fund.

Elvet Recruitment began trading on 4 January, the day on which the third national lockdown was announced, but has gone on to smash its first year’s revenue targets within just six months.

The business, which focuses on the built environment and construction sectors, was founded by experienced recruitment professionals Stephen Phillips and Michael Dufferwiel, who had previously worked together in the regional office of a leading recruitment firm and who decided last year to set up in business for themselves.

After working with regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers to secure the £30,000 Small Loan Fund investment, the business has now taken on its first employee and doubled the size of its Durham City offices.

Five further new jobs are expected to be created as the business grows over the next 12-18 months.

Elvet is primarily focused on businesses and projects within the North East, but it is also working with clients in Yorkshire and the North West, and is aiming to further enhance its presence in both locations.

Stephen Phillips says: “The construction sector has come out of the pandemic in better shape than most and there’s huge demand for skilled and experienced construction professionals in a wide range of roles across the built environment.

“Despite the wider situation, we had confidence in the construction sector’s ability to bounce back, and even though the country went into a further lockdown on the very day we opened our doors, the support of clients enabled us to quickly establish ourselves as a recruiter of choice.

“We set ourselves some pretty stiff initial targets and didn’t expect to be taking on our first employee until next year at the earliest, but having made far faster progress than even we’d hoped, it seems like the right moment to try to take advantage of the opportunities that are out there.

“While the North East will remain our primary focus for now, we’re already building an extended client base outside the region too and will be directing resources towards Yorkshire and the North West to further build on the progress we have already made in those areas.

“NEL’s backing for our growth plans has given us even greater confidence that we’re on the right track, their funding model fit well with our needs and the team helped keep the application process running very smoothly.”

Abigail Cook, investment associate at NEL Fund Managers, adds: “Stephen and Michael have made really impressive progress in just a few short months, and with the construction industry’s prospects look very strong, their plans to build on what they’ve achieved so far made a compelling case for investment.”

Part of the £120m North East Fund and aimed predominantly at smaller SMEs, the £9m North East Small Loan Fund typically offers loans of between £10,000 and £100,000 to businesses in Tyne & Wear, Durham and Northumberland.

It is designed to assist with the creation of over 1,200 new regional jobs in more than 320 SMEs over the life of the fund.

The overarching £120m North East Fund will provide financial support for more than 600 businesses, creating around 3,500 jobs and delivering a legacy of up to £80m for further investment into the region.