AN archery enthusiast hopes to hit the target with his new indoor archery centre in Darlington.

Steve Ward, 45, has opened Inclusion Archery in a dedicated facility on the Cleveland Industrial Estate, creating four jobs.

It is the first indoor archery centre of its kind in the area and has been supported by a £25,000 low cost, Government-backed business loan from Virgin StartUp following help from TEDCO Business Support.

The archery enthusiast came up with his business idea to overcome problems in autumn and winter when the weather often puts a stop to any kind of practice, sometimes for months on end.

Mr Ward said: “Archery is a very popular sport across all ages and, given my own interest, I was keen to look at ways to improve access and facilities in the local area with the added bonus of drawing people into the sport with fun games and activities, such as archery tag.”

He had been running Inclusion Archery as a mobile business, working with schools and doing outreach in the local community – but he decided the time was right to look at how to give the business a more permanent home.

“Thanks to the £25,000 loan from Virgin StartUp, I was able to source premises at Cleveland Industrial Estate and fully renovate the space to support archery activities with an 18-metre range which meets all regulations for amateur competition in the sport,” said Mr Ward.

“We have up to 32 bows available in a variety of sizes from 48” to 68” to support involvement for adults and children aged six and upwards.”

The centre can support amateurs in the sport looking for regular training sessions as individuals or through local archery clubs – but also offers group bookings for children’s parties or people looking to try the sport for the first time.

“With such a unique indoor range, we also offer archery tag, a new import from America where participants must tag opposing teams with foam-tipped arrows. It’s great fun and has proved a real success in other parts of the world,” said Mr Ward.

Working one-to-one with TEDCO Business Support advisor Mark Johnston, who helps new and growing business in the Darlington area, he was able to access direct help in business planning.

Mr Ward said: “I have never run commercial premises before and previously worked in finance for a major national organisation so developing the processes and day-to-day operations for a small business was new to me. However, Mark has helped enormously, not least in helping source the right funding to get the business open in the first place.”

Mr Johnston said: “The £25,000 Virgin StartUp loan offered Steve an essential lifeline to help fund the costs of opening a facility of this kind and given that TEDCO delivers the Virgin StartUp programme exclusively in the North-East, I was able to guide him through the application process every step of the way.

“The facility has been renovated with real care and attention and I look forward to working with Steve and his team in the future.”

For information on the Start and Grow programme or Virgin StartUp, visit