A community interest company, which helps train hard to reach and vulnerable people across the North East, is scaling up its operations after moving to a new head office in Sunderland.

Media Savvy, which was founded by Dan Makaveli and Mark McKenna back in 2010, has recently moved to a new office in the city centre after receiving support from Sunderland City Council.

The pair founded the company eight years ago after working collaboratively on a project to help school children in County Durham produce a video promoting cultural awareness and cohesion.

Inspired by how enthralled the children, teachers and wider community were by the project, they decided to take the brave step of launching their own organisation providing similar support to people across the region.

“Working with schoolchildren to create a video promoting cultural awareness was completely different to what we were used to but we were amazed with just how receptive they were to it,” said Dan.

“I previously worked as a videographer for Sunderland AFC before becoming a freelancer and both Mark and I were only really used to working on professional projects with corporate partners.

“They were so engaged in the project from start to finish and it was amazing to see the impact it had, not only on their education, but their entire outlook on life.

“Once it was complete, we knew there was scope to roll this project out region wide and support even more people, which led to us joining forces and launching Media Savvy.”

Founded in 2010, the company started as a non-profit organisation with Dan and Mark working full time hours to launch and develop the social enterprise without drawing a regular salary for the first two-years.

Aided by a grant and mentoring from UnLtd, a leading provider of support to social entrepreneurs in the UK, they were able to get the organisation off the ground but this wasn’t without difficulty.

“Mark stepped down in the winter of 2012 in order to study for his doctorate and I carried on running the business after bringing in Lisa Miller, a mature illustration graduate on an internship to replace Mark,” Dan recalls.

“After over two years without taking anything resembling a regular and adequate salary I was within weeks of throwing in the towel. We were getting lots of praise and receiving many awards and accolades but it was taking too long to become a sustainable business.

“Alongside our social objectives we have always had a commercial arm though it has very much been a secondary priority.

“Offering design, video production, animation and web design services commercially has always been a great way to help us off-set against our social goals and showcase the team’s talents and specialist areas.”

The company has now been running for eight years, employs seven full-time members of staff and changes the lives of hundreds of people across the region every year.

And Dan is confident, that the move to their new office on Norfolk Street, Sunderland, will help not only safeguard the company’s future but also act as a catalyst for future growth.

Speaking about the move, he said: “Working out of St Peter’s Gate was fantastic and we were really well placed however, due to our growth, we were really struggling for space.

“At one point, we were having to take turns working out of the office as we just couldn’t fit everyone in!

“Now, thanks to our move to Norfolk Street, we’re in a position where we can have everyone working collaboratively from the same building without any such worries.

“We can’t thank Sunderland City Council enough for the advice and support they’ve given us, we couldn’t have done it without them.”

As well as providing them with more space to work from, the move will also see the team convert the basement into a fitness area to support their new range of health, fitness, nutrition and wellbeing courses.

The courses are theory led and educate people on everything from how the body works, to eating a balanced diet and the importance of nutrition.

Dan added: “The health and wellbeing courses are a great example of how we’ve expanded our offering and are continuing to help people transform every aspect of their lives.

“Not only are we providing our learners with skills to be work-ready but we’re also contributing to them living healthier, happier lives and the reception so far has been fantastic.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Media Savvy is a fantastic example of the impact community interest companies can have on society.

“Not only are they creating jobs in the city but they’re also transforming the lives of hard to reach and vulnerable people who previously, may never have been able to access such services.

“We are delighted to have been able to support the organisation and are excited to see how the company continues to grow from here.”

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