A BUSINESS network is set to undergo a sea change to make it ready for the new challenges ahead.

The Hive Business Leaders Network, which represents businesses across Blackburn with Darwen, is looking to create a new vision to drive the network forward.

Hive is also considering becoming a subscription-based network, with members paying a fee to access the service, although the details are yet to be confirmed.

And chair of the network, Ian Brown, believes the energy at the latest event at Ewood Park last week is proof that the Hive can grow bigger and stronger.

He said: “From our engagement survey, the word that cropped up again and again was ‘thrive’.

“And that needs to be our renewed focus, to help Blackburn with Darwen thrive and have a short and succinct vision that is easy for members and prospective members to understand.

“The council has subsidised the Hive for the last five years but for us to be sustainable and credible we need to stand on our own feet.

“Other networks use a subscription model and do great things for business and that’s what we will be looking at as a steering committee.

“The cost structure hasn’t been worked out as yet but the Hive has proved to be effective, and if members are paying for our service, it will keep us sharp and hopefully get more businesses to engage with us.”

“Hive has been working for the benefit of businesses in Blackburn for the last five years and with great success.

“The network has done a great deal in bring the optimism back to the borough by bringing together 400 business leaders to shout about Blackburn with Darwen and dispel some of the myths.

“These days, perception seems to have more weight than fact - just look at the Panorama programme as proof of that - but the reality is very different.

“If you step out of the train station and you are confronted by the Cathedral Quarter, you have really arrived in Blackburn, and it’s that we need to tell people about the borough and get people here as we have some world-class companies and world-class people. It’s very different to its portrayal in the media.”

Mr Brown added that there are 400 members signed up to Hive of the 4,000 registered businesses in the borough, and the drive was on to better represent Blackburn’s cultural diversity.

“I’ve had various meetings with Asian businesses to find out what it is they want from a network like Hive.

“Khalid Saifullah was the chair of the network, but he’s now concentrating on running his business.

“So we as a network are trying to engage with businesses run by the Asian community as there are so many fantastic people and stories out there. People of different ethnicities work together everyday to prove that this is not a town divided.”