Based in North Shields, Graphic Print & Sign, is entering the pay per click market, thanks to a Covid-19 business recovery grant awarded by Open North Foundation.

The company, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary and is owned by father and son, Malcolm and Jonathan Cairns, received a £840 boost from the not-for-profit organisation.

Prior to the pandemic, it had a strong cohort of repeat clients, the vast majority of which were advertising and media buying agencies that represented public-facing clients such as theatres, shopping centres and live-events venues.

Almost overnight, commissions ground to a halt as the country entered its first lockdown. Work from the Health sector, printing social distancing and Covid safety signs, kept the business very busy initially and various, small projects helped bring some stability in the following months.

The company, which reached out to Open North Foundation after seeing it on Tyne Tees Television, delivers a large format print and installation service. Projects undertaken range from roller banner stands, vinyl graphics, display graphics, hoardings, fabric backdrops and point of sale.

In recent months, as Covid restrictions have eased and the country prepares to learn to live with the virus, it has welcomed an increase in work from clients such as Washington Galleries.

Established in July 2020, the Open North Foundation comprises of a board of directors, ambassadors and supporters, all of whom provide their services free of charge, with all money raised being distributed as grant aid to support SMEs in the North East.

Thanks to the generosity of individuals and a vast, diverse range of companies and organisations, including Northumbria University and Teesside University, Open North Foundation administers grant aid and in-kind support, such as marketing and accountancy, to small and medium sized businesses in the region who, but for the pandemic, would be financially viable and offering high quality jobs.

Malcolm Cairns, said: “The last 15 months has been fraught with anxiety and uncertainty for people who own businesses. Turning on the news was often something I did with a sense of dread as to what I was going to hear next, but to see that a Foundation had been established from within the business community to help small businesses such as ours, was a welcome glimmer of light during a very dark time.

“The grant from Open North Foundation has helped us to move into a new way of marketing via pay per click purchasing of banners and given us the confidence that we are going in the right direction. We look forward to working with new and existing clients and believe that post-Covid, the future looks very bright!

Richard Swart, chair of Open North Foundation, said: “Graphic Print & Sign is representative of the type of small businesses that exist in the North East, most of whom feed in to a larger supply chain. They have been hugely impacted throughout the pandemic, as when one business in the supply chain falters, all beneath it grind to a halt as well.

“The support of the Foundation must continue and it is only possible thanks to the generosity of organisations and individuals who are prepared to back our initiative by donating cash, however small, or in-kind support. Our region is built on the foundation of SMEs and we must fight to protect them.”