Rural growth network – Case studies

 

My Art Project


“We had reservations about applying for a Micro Enterprise Grant,” recalls Shaun Goddard, director at My Art Project, “because it is something we had not really looked into before. Would they even
consider us? But I am so glad we went for it!”

It turned out that the business, Atherstone-on-Stour-based My Art Project, which transforms children’s classroom artwork into greeting cards and other products, was not just considered – it was warmly approved and backed.

Shaun takes up the story.

“We started the business in 2008 when my son brought home his school Christmas card. Parents were encouraged to buy them, so we did, but I was a bit disappointed. I thought ‘we could do better than that.’

“We already have a design company and spent two years testing and tweaking the school art side of it before it became a selfsustaining business. By 2011/2012 it was clear there was huge potential.

“In 2013 we had probably reached our limit. A lot of our work is in the run-up to Christmas, of course, and we had reached our capacity. We had to stop taking orders which was very frustrating.”

And that’s where the Micro Enterprise Grant, awarded by Warwickshire Rural Growth Network, came in. The grant was accessed via the Rural Development Programme for England, a seven-year programme (2007-2013) funded jointly by the EU, through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the UK Government.

“We knew there was a piece of equipment available that would save us 20 production days a year,” said Shaun. “We could hardly believe what it was capable of. It would clearly enable us to take the business to the next level – and with the grant we were able to invest in that equipment.

“It also enabled us to take on more staff. Basically, the grant laid the platform to allow us to improve production and expand the business further.”

Visit the My Art Project website

Toft Alpacas


Kerry and Doug Lord knew that their business was ready to expand.

Since its formation in 1997, Dunchurch-based Toft Alpacas had become well-established and highly respected as a supplier of DIY knitwear to customers locally, across Europe and in the United
States.

The Toft stud, with its high-pedigree alpacas, welcomes visitors from far and wide throughout the year. A thriving retail side of the business, meanwhile, was ready to take the next step: to expand into selling to other retailers.

The potential was clearly there.

And following a Micro Enterprise Grant from the Warwickshire Rural Growth Network, that potential is now being fully exploited.

Assisted by a £23,000 grant, Toft Alpacas was able to upscale to meet the demand which any small business craves but inevitably must expand in order to satisfy. The grant increased the level of production of the Alpaca yarn and mixed yarns to expand the wholesale side of the business.

“The grant made a huge difference,” said Kerry. “We needed to expand and would probably have been able to do so eventually, but it would have taken years.

“Our grant was not a huge amount of money but, for a small business, made an enormous difference. It just allowed us to grow the business in areas where it really needed to grow, like batch-sizes and storage space, website functionality and design software – and we took on more staff.

“The grant enabled us to make that leap and, as a result, our orders have grown too. We now have more than 50 stockists in this country, throughout Europe and the USA.

“Without the grant, the expansion we needed would not have been possible for some years.”

Visit the Toft website

Smallfry


It is not just new and recently-formed businesses that can take advantage of Micro Enterprise Grants from Warwickshire Rural Growth Network.

Wolston-based firm Smallfry has been at the forefront of industrial design ever since its formation in 1971.

The business has built up an excellent reputation specialising in working with companies both in developing new products and enhancing existing ones through the use of advanced engineering and design technologies.

It is state-of-the-art stuff in a competitive environment in which, in more than any other, it is vital to keep pace.

Smallfry have always done that, as illustrated by their work recently featuring, not for the first time, on cult TV show The Gadget Show.

But, as director Steve May-Russell acknowledges, sometimes every business needs “a little nudge.”

And last year Smallfry received one in the form of a £12,444 Micro Enterprise Grant to purchase a rapid prototype machine in order to enable projects to advance more quickly with the obvious benefits to business growth.

The grant was accessed via the Rural Development Programme for England, a seven-year programme (2007–2013) funded jointly by the EU, through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)
and the UK Government.

“The machine was clearly going to benefit our business,” said Steve, “but it was quite a significant investment for a small business so something to think about carefully.

“Basically, we just needed a little nudge and that’s what we got when we found out that the grant might be available.

“I must admit that I wasn’t aware of the Micro Enterprise Grant, so it was real surprise to get a call from a colleague in the industry suggesting we look into it. I’m very glad we did!”

Visit the Smallfry website

Aviation Engineering Support Ltd


Business partners, Paul Broadaway and Brian Coombs-Prole had worked in aviation for in excess of 40 years combined but never worked together. Seizing an opportunity in the market and through industry contacts they decided to set up a small engineering workshop repairing components for aircraft. It soon escalated into a requirement for a 145 Component Workshop.

AES repairs all kinds of structural parts such as flying controls, doors and hatches for any type of aircraft. The business has approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency to perform component maintenance for various aircraft components. Paul Broadaway said: “A part will be removed from an aircraft due to damage or corrosion and will be shipped to us. Engineers will inspect the part and repair the component and it is then fitted back on the aircraft.”

The business accessed the Warwickshire Rural Growth Network’s Micro-Enterprise grant after a business neighbour pointed them in the right direction. The Rural Growth Network is managed by Warwickshire County Council on behalf of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

It has funds allocated by Defra’s Rural Development Programme for England, funded by the European Union and the UK government which it allocates to micro-enterprises, businesses with less than ten employees. Paul completed the applications and included a business plan of its future goals and was awarded a grant for £25,000. This will be used to help to recruit additional staff and
make the most of expansion opportunities.

It will also be expanding into new facilities in 2015 as part of a strategic programme to increase the capability and to add components for additional aircraft types.

Paul Broadaway director said: “We have worked extremely hard over a very short period of time to obtain the approval in order to secure the continued and successful growth of our business. AES are now in an excellent position thanks to the Warwickshire Rural Growth Network and its partner, the University of Warwick Science Park, to further support our existing clients and also to offer the same exacting standards to new customers. We have already recruited two new members of staff and hope to increase this in the near future.”

Inside Organics


Inside Organics manufactures and distributes raw and organic food products as well as beauty and skincare products. Each product is chosen for its high quality and above all organic nature to ensure its customers receive the very best.

The company based in Bidford-Upon-Avon heard about Warwickshire Rural Growth Network’s Micro Enterprise Grants through a local business advisor from Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce who pointed Inside Organics towards The University of Warwick. Inside Organics received the awarded grant of £25,000 to help grow their customer base further.

The business is also the manufacturer of the rawLicious brand. The award-winning range of raw and organic foods includes handmade raw crackers, guilt free healthy treat of snackaroons, the award-winning Soil Association approved raw and organic kale chips and its Ultimate Raw Protein, a premium quality raw brown rice protein. Some of the products are distributed in Asda in the
UK and other supermarket chains across Holland and Germany.

Inside Organics will use the grant to develop its warehouse, buy new machinery and improve kitchen facilities. Currently, it has about four members of staff but is hoping to double its production staff in the near future. The team are committed to ongoing research and will be constantly launching carefully selected new lines. All of its products are free from sodium laurel sulphate and parabens, are non-GMO, free from bad chemicals and additives and not tested on animals.

According to Peter Davies, Financial Director having the grant will be beneficial to all aspects of the business, especially being able to track all deliveries and authenticate food products coming from particular geographical areas and protect consumers against imitations and false
information.

“We should quadruple our turnover in 2015 when compared to 2013. The future looks positive due to the extra money we will soon receive through the Warwickshire Rural Growth Network scheme,” he concludes.

Visit the Inside Organics website

OCM Communications


Any successful business needs to constantly evolve and identify new markets and reach out to them.
Henley-in-Arden-based OCM Communications is no exception and is, this year, adding new customers to its client-base thanks in large part to a Micro Enterprise Grant from Warwickshire Rural Growth Network.

The grant was accessed via the Rural Development Programme for England, a seven-year programme (2007–2013) funded jointly by the EU, through the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the UK Government.

OCM, a specialist IT business, has traditionally targeted its IT solutions at small-to-medium sized businesses. But with the growing number of micro-businesses starting up in rural areas, the
company sought to target them too.

They had all the required tools and technology. It was just a question of getting the message out there.And a grant enabled to do that without biting too deep into their cash-flow. That funding enabled OCM to have a presence at many key product development events and trade and business shows and also hold business networking events and entirely remodel their website.

The result has been a rise in customers – though most of the benefit is still to be reaped as word get around that communications are accessible to the most rural locations. The OCM website is in the process of a further redesign.

“The grant was a great help to us,” said director Darragh Gamble. The business was at a point where we were having an internal review and looking at what we do and who we do it for, how technology was
changing and what its impact might be.

“We saw a lot of potential in trying to target small business and the grant has allowed us to push ahead on that front much sooner than we would have been able to.”

Visit the OCM Communications website

Angstrom Engineering


Angstrom Engineering received financial support from the Warwickshire Rural Growth network to help them further grow and differentiate their high-end toolmaking operations in a competitive marketplace.

The grant from the Rural Growth Network enabled Angstrom Engineering to buy tooling for their newly acquired Mori Seiki CNC machine, which was sourced from a Formula 1 engine manufacturer and a testament to the company’s high-quality output Angstrom.

Graham Hill, MD of Angstrom, contacted Warwickshire County Council in mid-2013 regarding the Micro-Enterprise Grant available through the Rural Growth Network programme.

He was referred to the team at the University of Warwick Science Park who were managing the Access to Finance activity of the programme. A telephone conversation with Graham quickly established their business potential, with the proposed outputs meeting the key objectives of the grant – to assist microenterprises in the Digital, High Value Engineering and the Low carbon sectors achieve sustainable high growth.

Dirk Schaefer, an advisor from University of Warwick Science Park, met with Graham to better understand Angstrom’s business plan and strategy for expansion. Listening to Graham, examining the growth of the business in the 3 years since it formed and the challenges they faced as a micro enterprise, it was clear that the speed with which they could implement their strategy would be accelerated, with 40% of their tooling costs covered by the Micro-Enterprise Grant, alongside the traditional asset finance sourced to purchase the machining centre.

Within only four weeks of making their application, the company was advised the grant had been approved. Angstrom have been able to maximise their own funding alongside the grant, subsequently running two triple-parallel shifts to meet increased demand from their customers. In addition, the company have confidence in targeting a range of new market sectors where capacity and high-quality precision engineering is key to winning new customers. Forward thinking and future-proofing long-term business with this investment, Angstrom are set to create at least four new jobs in the next 12 months to handle their business expansion.

Visit the Angstrom Engineering website

Newfield Fine Homes


Newfield Fine Homes is a property management business that has recently developed a new and
innovative solution for those seeking a luxury solution to camping.

Newfield Fine Homes received business coaching and financial support from the Warwickshire Rural Growth Network (RGN) to help develop a prototype and grow the market opportunities. The business coaching has provided Newfield Fine Homes with an opportunity to develop marketing strategies, complimenting other services within the RGN.

The Access to Finance team at the University of Warwick Science Park have supported Newfield Fine
Homes through the application process for a Micro-Enterprise Grant. This grant has given the company
an opportunity to create a prototype living space that can then be launched in the ‘Glamping’ (glamorous camping) market.

Newfield Fine Homes met Rita Booth, a business coach at Pera Consulting (a partner delivering the business coaching element of the RGN), in September 2013 following a referral from the Access to Finance team. At this point, Aidan Reeve (Director) had already developed a luxury living solution concept for campers.

Aidan and Rita agreed to meet, to discuss the business idea and potential routes to market. Following this initial diagnostic meeting, Rita and Aidan have been working together to develop marketing strategies, explore opportunities to raise background awareness and other marketing solutions. In addition, Newfield Fine Homes also attended a ‘Finding & Winning Customers’ workshop available to those signed up to the RGN.

With the professional support and guidance from the RGN partners, Newfield Fine Homes is in the process of building a prototype Glamping Hut and has recruited a marketing and sales specialist. The company is also developing background awareness in preparation for a national, specialist trade event in the summer of 2014 at which the Glamping Hut will be showcased.

Visit the Tinywood Homes website

Doggy Style


Doggy Style is a mobile dog grooming service, available in the North Warwickshire area. The company received business coaching and financial support from the Warwickshire Rural Growth Network (RGN) to develop business management skills and to generate new enquiries to establish a full-time business.

The business coaching has provided Doggy Style with an opportunity to develop strategic management skills to grow the business and generate new enquiries, as well as accessing financial support from the RGN. In September 2013, Pera Consulting (a partner delivering the business coaching element of RGN) received an enquiry from Laura (business owner) regarding start-up business support available.

Doggy Style met Rita Booth, a business coach at Pera Consulting. At this point, Laura had identified a gap in this market, launched Doggy Style as a mobile dog grooming service and was taking bookings during evenings and weekends, to work around her existing employment. Laura and Rita agreed to meet, to discuss the business and explore ways in which to grow this business into a full-time proposition.

As a start-up business, Doggy Style also required financial support to secure a fully equipped mobile dog grooming parlour. Doggy Style successfully secured an RGN start-up grant, which has given the business an opportunity to buy and modify a vehicle into a fully functional dog grooming parlour.

With the ongoing professional support and guidance from Pera Consulting and the RGN, Doggy Style has
overachieved on its target for new enquiries per week, and is set to become a full-time business by mid-2014.

GDS Ltd


GDS (Greenwood and Dodsworth Services) manufactures top quality, high grade fibre-optic patch leads and hydro fibres to express customer requirements.

The company received business coaching and financial support from the Warwickshire Rural Growth Network (RGN) to help establish business operations and a market place. The business coaching has provided GDS with an opportunity to develop and implement strategic management plans, as well as accessing other services within the RGN.

GDS met Rita Booth, a business coach at Pera Consulting (partner delivering the business coaching
element of RGN), in August 2013 at an event. At this point, Mark Dodsworth (Director of Operations) had a business concept and had registered the business as a limited company.

Mark and Rita agreed to meet to discuss the business idea and potential ways to establish this business. They developed an action plan, and GDS also chose to attend the full programme of business workshops available to those signed up to the RGN. Rita also made a referral to the Access to Finance team at the University of Warwick Science Park, who supported GDS through the application process for a Micro-Enterprise Grant. This grant gave the company an opportunity to buy specialist machinery and equipment to develop a high end manufacturing operation, giving GDS a leading edge in its market.

Mark said: “Due to the support, funding and professional advice from Pera Consulting Ltd and the Access to Finance team at the University of Warwick Science Park, through the Warwickshire Rural Growth Network, GDS has now become a reality for two people who have embarked on this exciting new adventure. GDS is already thinking about their next recruitment and new investments and hope to complete these by mid-2014.”

With the professional support and guidance from the RGN partners, GDS has established a new manufacturing operation in North Warwickshire and began manufacturing in late 2013. Mark is busy handling an increasing number of new enquiries and, more recently, GDS has recruited an experienced engineer and plans to build a production team over the next few months.

Access UAV Ltd


When you are an ex-marine, qualified rugby coach, professional stuntman, with a production and film
background and a passion for film and camera technology, with a desire to be your own boss, the logical thing for you to do is start up your own business. And that is exactly what Blake Sporne did.

Starting up his own business was not an easy journey for Blake. As an ex-marine, he applied for the Royal British Legion “Be The Boss” scheme. However, as they were inundated with applications, the finance had been postponed.

Blake then approached his bank manager for support but was unfortunately turned away. However, his
bank manager put him in touch with Jon Bass at the Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce who, in turn, put Blake in touch with Andrew at the Coventry & Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust (CWRT).
Andrew saw the potential to fund something completely new to the market and invest in someone who has the passion, skills and knowledge to set up and run his own successful business.

Blake received ongoing support from Andrew who helped to set a clear vision for the business, finalise his business plan and financial information, and get him to the all-important ‘investment readiness’ stage.

In July 2013, CWRT approved Blake’s £12,000 loan, provided by the Rural Growth Network. Blake was then able to set up Access UAV – the business providing low-level aerial photography and film service using UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles). The funds enabled him to purchase the necessary equipment for the business and to complete the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) licence course.

Blake has picked up contracts with Rugby & East Warwickshire Hockey Club and Princethorpe College. He is currently in the process of talking to Rugby School and Rugby Golf Club about working with them.

Blake has also received mentoring support through the RGN from Rita Booth of partner organisation Pera Consulting, meeting once a month to discuss how to keep the business moving forward.

Blake says “The RGN has been an invaluable service. I have particularly enjoyed having someone to bounce ideas off of, be there to support me through the start-up phase and be at the other end of the phone when I needed.”

Following the support Blake has received from CWRT and the RGN, he hopes to invest in employing a new team member in the near future and take the business from strength to strength.

Act on Energy


Act on Energy is benefiting from its participation in the Warwickshire Rural Electric Vehicle project (WREV). They are a not-for-profit organisation based in Wellesbourne providing independent and impartial energy efficiency advice to residents and the public sector working across Coventry, Solihull, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

Historically Act on Energy has paid staff on a pence per mile basis to use their own vehicles on business. A WREV feasibility study carried out by Greenwatt Technology identified savings of £50 per month on their transport costs if they used an electric vehicle compared to their existing transport payment system.

Through the WREV project Act on Energy selected a Nissan LEAF and had a 32A vehicle charge point installed at their work premises to enable a full charge in 4 hours. Their regular business trips are well within the electric vehicle’s range of 80 – 90 miles and the ability to re- charge during the day provides additional flexibility and range.

The WREV project is part of the Warwickshire Rural Growth Network funded by Defra and led by Warwickshire County Council, on behalf of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). 20 rural businesses received a free feasibility study to identify the practical and economic case for electric vehicles within their business of which 10 have been awarded a grant as contribution towards the cost of a 2-year vehicle lease and the installation of a recharging point. Each company will also benefit from 12 months project support, vehicle monitoring and eco-driving training designed to optimise the use of the vehicle.

Pinnacle Care Ltd


Pinnacle Care Ltd is a privately owned company providing both specialist dementia residential care and day care across a number of sites in Rugby Borough. The company is benefiting from its participation in the Warwickshire Rural Electric Vehicle project (WREV). Pinnacle Care need to transport staff and visitors to and from their semi-rural site at Wolston Grange as there is no local public transport.

Pinnacle Care Ltd has been using a diesel powered vehicle for these journeys which was due for replacement. A WREV feasibility study carried out by Greenwatt Technology identified that the business could make a small monthly saving if they used an electric vehicle compared to their existing vehicle. It was also shown that cost saving would rise to around.£100 per month when compared to a new replacement diesel vehicle.

Taking advantage of the WREV rural business support grant, Pinnacle Care Ltd took delivery of a new Nissan LEAF and also had a 32A vehicle charge point installed at their work premises to enable a full charge in 4 hours. Their regular business trips are well within the electric vehicle’s range of 80-90 miles and the ability to re-charge during the day provides additional flexibility and range.

The WREV project is part of the Warwickshire Rural Growth Network funded by Defra and led by Warwickshire County Council, on behalf of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). 20 rural businesses received a free feasibility study to identify the practical and economic case for electric vehicles within their business of which 10 have been awarded a grant as contribution towards the cost of a 2-year vehicle lease and the installation of a recharging point. Each company will also benefit from 12 months project support, vehicle monitoring and eco-driving training designed to optimise the use of the vehicle.


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