Digital agency received app-ropriate support from the Growth Hub

A Sheffield-based digital agency is enjoying huge successes 5,000 miles away after spotting an opportunity to capitalise on Sheffield’s growing relationship with China – the world’s largest economy.

Appt, specialists in web, app and software development and social media management, began four years ago with a vision to combine digital efficiency, connectivity and creativity to provide businesses with bespoke solutions.

The business discovered an opportunity to support British businesses by connecting digitally with the Chinese market. British websites and apps aren’t always relevant or accessible within mainland China and British businesses often struggle to understand Chinese social media platforms, ecommerce platforms and search engines.

With a desire to help British companies Appt began working with Business Sheffield Key Account Manager James Wilson to explore establishing an office in China. James helped the business by discussing their business growth aspirations and introduced them to the China Britain Business Council, as well as a number of other potential new partnerships in both Sheffield and China.

James referred Appt to the Department for International Trade (DIT) who provided them with funding towards an exploratory trade mission to the Yunnan Province, Southwest China.The Key Account Manager also supported Appt with the opening of their China office – again referring them to DIT for financial support and trade expertise. “It’s only been through conversations with DIT that we’ve felt confident, knowing that we’re supported and have people we can turn to.”

The expansion into the Chinese market has proven a success for Appt and they now employ 12 staff in Sheffield, as well as two in China. It also led to them winning their largest ever contract, as well as winning the ‘Best in China’ award at the Global Horasis Gathering in November 2017.

Anna Bollinger, Director at Appt, said: “The support we have received from our Key Account Manager has been invaluable in helping us expand our company to China. Through him, we have been able to connect with experts at the China Business British Business Council and Connect China, participate in a DIT trade mission, access ERDF funding, and we are now looking to offer our employees Mandarin language classes through Skills Bank.

“I would highly recommend the Growth Hub Enhancement Project to any SME looking to grow. There is so much available support out there, but it is not until you talk to someone like our Key Account Manager that you find out about it.”

The one-to-one support the business received was available through the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub Enhancement Project which provides free, impartial business support to help small and medium sized businesses within the Sheffield City Region achieve their goals. The support on offer also includes skills support through a number of Masterclasses.

The Sheffield City Region Growth Hub Enhancement Project is receiving up to £2.7m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for the European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, business, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit