Three rural entrepreneurs proving a business can thrive in the countryside
Key rural entrepreneurship stats (DEFRA 2015/16):
- 537, 000 number of businesses registered in English rural areas
- 24 per cent proportion of all English registered businesses
- 5m number of people employed by rural businesses in England
Rural business demographics (DEFRA 2015/16):
- 88 per cent number of rural businesses that are micro firms
- 10 per cent number of rural businesses that are small firms
Getting out of a home officeFor Lucy Hutchings Hunt, managing director of development agency Systemyzed, internet connectivity was a secondary concern, so keen was she to escape the expense and overcrowding? of the South East of England. Now based in a small hamlet in the Howardian Hills, 30 minutes north of York, sheenjoys a lifestyle almost out of a Beatrice Potter book. But, in an indication of how far the government has to go in upgrading Britain’s broadband infrastructure, Hutchings Hunt soon realised lifting her city-based company to a home-run rural business wasnt so straightforward. I didnt really believe that places could have internet as slow as where we have moved to I thought it was a myth. With such a poor connection, Hutchings Hunt sought out office space in nearby York. An unexpected benefit emerged from the move. I have met so many more great people and my business circle has increased much more than it would have I continued to work solely from my home office, she said. I do my development work in the office in York where the internet is as good as any other UK city and then I write and do my, strategy, telephone and relationship-building work from my office at home. On a personal level, an unreliable broadband connection has taught Hutchings Hunt and her family a valuable lesson in taking things easy. now, as there are forced limits to my hours of speedy technology time, I am better at switching off when I work from home. And, my kids are watching more movies and box sets we have purposefully gone out and bought, as opposed to being on a constant diet of whatever Netflix prescribes that month. Hutchings Hunt still travels to London for business twice a month, taking full advantage of the two hour, one stop? Virgin Trains East Coast Line service. She added: I enjoy it in short bursts, but I really don’t want to live there anymore my home is North Yorkshire now and when I leave – it will be in a box.
Challenges and advantages of rural businesses (Amazon 2017):
- £43, 900 gross value added per for workforce job in rural areas, compared to 49, 300 for the entire of England
- +1.9 per cent ecommerce uptick predicted by rural SMEs in the coming year
- -7 per cent Amazon Confidence Index score for rural SMEs, with -12 per cent for urban SMEs and -15 per cent for inner-city SMEs
Making sure you’re foundLike our previous rural entrepreneurs, the desire for a quieter lifestyle led Dan Szor to the countryside. However, his business, the Cotswold Distillery, also depended on its pastoral location. Despite significant growth in just three years, the distillery’s remote North Cotswold site has thrown up some challenges, particularly in its strained relationship with satellite navigation technology. this has implications not just for collection and deliveries in our supply chain, but also for our visitors we currently get around 30, 000 visitors a year, so the absence of public transport links to the distillery and the problems with sat navs has been felt, the native New Yorker told us. But, aside from signal and accessibility issues, Szor pointed to positive comments from visitors regarding the impressive location. Despite his best efforts to set up a reliable connection, Szor admitted there was no avoiding? the broadband question. Afternoons without internet have become a regular unwelcome occurrence. it’s particularly tricky because we rely on the internet for our card machines in the shop and cloud-based drives for our distillery paperwork and records, he added. To remedy the broadband issue, Szor is working with SugarNet, a company local to Cotswold Distiliery that delivers wireless high-speed broadband to rural firms. Otherwise, Cotswold Distillery is already an established member of the local business network. we employ local people, the local farmers get all our spent grains from the production process, and we only buy barley off local Cotswold farmers for our whisky, he explained The distillery supplies local pubs and bars with its drinks, and Szor has collaborated with independent local producers on other products. These relationships have demonstrated to the founder the stronger sense of community among rural business owners to those in the city. Looking past one or two tests, do the business successes of these three rural entrepreneurs mean placement is becoming increasingly less important? In Szor’s opinion, it depends purely on the business, with many companies able to run off an internet connection alone. but for us, as a producer reliant on the agricultural chain, location is crucial. Were not just writing Cotswolds on the label for the sake of it the raw ingredients we use are grown here, and we work closely with our farmers and maltster. the flavours of our spirits are designed to capture the place, the surroundings. Our entire business is driven by our location.
Rural England is encouraging rural business owners to respond to an onlineconsultation survey, the responses of which will be key to shaping policy discussions with politicians and helpingto unlock the digital potential of rural enterpriseRead expert advice from Amazon on competing with city slickers as a rural entrepreneur