THIRSTY Thursday is an informal business network group in Stokesley that meets once a month and, last week, celebrated its fifth birthday.

Started by Anna Murray, and Sue Thompson of Catch Designs as a way of providing a forum where local businesses could meet each other, their first get-together brought together 50 people to the Mill in Stokesley.

The term, Thirsty Thursday, normally found within the walls of a university campus, became popular when students who didn't have early lectures on Fridays, began their weekend early by partying the night before. However, although based in a pub, this network group is about meeting, talking, sharing information and advice, and passing on business cards in a friendly and social atmosphere.

"It's all very relaxed and informal," said founder, Sue Thompson," and we try to introduce people who may be beneficial to each other in business. It's a good forum for new businesses, especially if people are new to the area. We have monthly speakers, who give helpful information for both new and established businesses."

Claire Lowe, Business and Economy Officer from Hambleton District Council, attended to give free advice and support, and to help new businesses to get started. Laurent Allimant, known as the Frenchman, provided the canapes. He gave up his business in Lyon, and rents a shop in Ingleby Greenhow, in order to prepare French cheeses and charcuterie, which he sources from Lyon and the Alps, to sell at local markets.

He feels he has really benefitted from meeting people and being able to promote his products at the monthly event.

Vicky Cuff from ER Resolutions said: "We want to build up a network in Stokesley, and we are here to help companies set up HR correctly."

Ryan Merson and Ash Banks, who have a new company, DLT Valeting and Detailing, have found the network invaluable in helping to make new businesses feel less isolated, by providing a place to meet new contacts.

Simon Monaghan, joint owner of the Mill, who hosts the event said: " This is initially a great concept for businesses working together. People come together socially at the end of their working day and discuss relevant issues, and get advice and support. It is also nice for us as a Stokesley business to put something back into the community by hosting the event."