Nationally acclaimed, The Lakes Distillery, has raised a toast to the Open North Foundation by donating £2,000 to help businesses in the North East recover from the pandemic.

Open North Foundation is a North East-based, private sector-led initiative, whose aim is to support small businesses with grants and specialist advice in areas such as finance, marketing and HR.

Established in 2011 by Nigel Mills and Paul Currie, The Lakes Distillery was, last year, recognised as one of the London Stock Exchange Group’s ‘1000 companies to Inspire Britain’ and it is home to some of the finest English whisky. It also produces a collection of exceptional handmade gins and vodka, distilled using traditional copper pots and British wheat and water from the Lake District National Park.

Located to the north of Bassenthwaite Lake, near Keswick, production at The Lakes Distillery is overseen by celebrated whisky maker Dhavall Gandhi, who created the Lakes first single malt whisky, The Whiskymaker’s Reserve No 1.

North East entrepreneur, Nigel Mills, is chief executive. In 2018, he was awarded a CBE for services to entrepreneurship in the North East and Cumbria and is former chair of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum.

He said: “I am supporting the Open North Foundation because I am a great believer in the North helping itself. Let’s make the money here, let’s share the money and let’s help others.

“I am very hopeful the Open North Foundation will make a big difference to small and medium sized businesses in the North East who are not only tackling the pandemic but Brexit issues, also. With collective support I am sure we can not only make a huge difference within the region but also the UK.”

Open North Foundation is led by a range of businesspeople from across the North East. They are chair, Richard Swart, global sales director at Berger Group Europe, vice chair Colin Hewitt, partner at Ward Hadaway solicitors, Teesside entrepreneur, Claire Preston, area business manager for Barclays, David Foreman, director of Wessington Cryogenics, Gill Courtney, director of Stephenson-Mohl Group, Mark Stephenson and MHA Tait Walker director, Paul Shields.

Richard Swart, said: “We would like to thank Nigel Mills and The Lakes Distillery for the very generous donation. We are thrilled that Nigel has also become an ambassador of the foundation and our mission continues as we look to help support North East businesses of all shapes and sizes continue in their recovery.

“We invite all like-minded businesses, institutions, organisations and individuals to join the scores of us involved in our mission, by pledging financial and or service support to help as many qualifying businesses as this support allows. A qualifying business is any business which can demonstrate it had a future pre-Covid, has been impacted by Covid, and is likely to have a sustainable future. Full details and requirements are on our website www.opennorthfoundation.co.uk.

“Our initiative is growing by the week, with offers of financial and in-kind support coming from a range of individuals and companies. Times are especially hard for smaller firms who, despite having good business plans, are struggling due to the time we have been in the pandemic.

“While testing and vaccinations are helping the situation, our businesses need support now if they are to survive. We need them to grow again and to provide good jobs. I would encourage as many businesses as possible to support our campaign to help our great region to recover.”