Interviews

The best rural businesses in the UK

10 min read

20 November 2018

Deputy Editor, Business Advice

The 2018 Amazon Growing Business Awards are almost upon us, but first we take a look at the companies in the running for Rural Business of the Year.

Our Rural Business of the Year candidates serve as a reminder that there is no such thing as a geographical limit – that London isn’t necessarily the place to be headquartered to achieve success.

Here are the five companies in the running for Rural Busines of the Year at the 2018 Amazon Growing Business Awards.

2018 Rural Business of the Year finalists

Belvoir Fruit Farms

A family run premium soft drinks maker in Leicestershire.

Growth story: Belvoir Fruit Farms began selling its original Elderflower Cordial in 1984 and has seen consistent annual growth. The Elderflower Cordial is made using the same recipe today, with elderflowers picked from the company’s elder orchards, which are unique in the UK. A £3m state of the art factory and bottling line opened in 2015, future proofing the business for further expansion. The business registered over £18.5m turnover in 2017.

“Belvoir’s business ethos has always been consumer choice and the determination to make the best tasting and best quality drinks they can. This means that despite the challenges of the sugar tax, Belvoir has refused to swap sugar for artificial sweeteners as many brands have done as they are not prepared to compromise on taste or quality.”

Bluefruit Software

An outsourced embedded software company based in Redruth, Cornwall.

Founder: Paul Massey

Growth story: Although Bluefruit Software is based in Cornwall, the company has clients based in Boston, San Francisco, Edinburgh, Cambridge, London, and Nuremberg. Current revenue forecasts predict a year-end result of 400% growth (from 2012 to 2019) and an additional doubling of revenue in 2020, according to the company.

“Rural businesses tend to face three big obstacles: perception, place, and people. As world-leading embedded engineering experts, Bluefruit Software has found a way to overcome all three, building a thriving tech business in the heart of Cornwall.”

Farmer Copleys

A farming business registering £3m annual turnover.

Directors: Robert Copley and Heather Copley

Growth story: Farmer Copleys started as a dairy farm over 140 years ago and now has a farm shop, café and restaurant, hosting many large events on the farm. Now employing a growing team of 65, the company reached the £3m turnover mark in 2017.

“We feel that any glass ceiling that is in place needs smashing and we are repeatedly diversifying and growing in an industry where it is difficult to become something more. In the beginning, we were just a small farm shop. Now we believe we are setting the standard for everyone else running them.”

LJ Fairburn & Son

A third-generation family firm founded in 1951 with 150 chickens.

Managing director: Daniel Fairburn

Growth story: Having started life as a humble farming business with just 150 chickens, LJ Fairburn & Son is now UK’s largest family-owned independent egg producer. The business now produces 17 million eggs a week and has secured contracts with six leading supermarkets, launched innovative product ranges and built its own 40-strong network of producers.

“Fairburn’s has flourished as a newly-independent ‘breakout’ family firm, overcoming financial challenges and growing to become one of the largest egg producers and packers in a previously quite static and conservative farming sector.”

Mash Direct

The UK brand leader of the vegetable accompaniments sector.

Founder:  Martin and Tracy Hamilton

Growth story: Over the last fourteen years, Mash Direct has grown from supplying mashed potato to two local farm shops in County Down to a £17m turnover business. With listings in over 6,500 stores and export markets growing rapidly, the Hamilton family have grown Mash Direct into a national household brand.

“From handing out over 140,000 samples to get direct feedback and suggestions at consumer and public events, to engaging with our customers through our social channels, Mash Direct bring a family face to the convenience food market and promote healthy living, as well as work toward combating food waste throughout the UK.”

2017 Rural Business of the Year finalists

Enterprise Products

Enterprise Products is a small, family-run business which operates from a unit in rural Lincolnshire. All of our manufacturing suppliers are located within a 50-mile radius, keeping the carbon footprint to a minimum.

There is a strong sense of community, with Enterprise Products showcasing its machines at local events and donating products to local charities. As an online business, the rural setting has not proved to be an obstacle to Enterprise Products’ growth.

In fact, being in a rural area allows greater flexibility for employees and reduces day-to-day costs of running the business.

KP Technology

At international research conferences, many leading scientists now know “that company in Wick”.

In effectively what is a developed shed, in the middle of nowhere in Scotland, we produce equipment which helps design satellite engines, develop solar cells and make the new generation of hydrogen fuel cells.

In this shed, we help academia answer some of the most difficult questions challenging humanity. No-one, anywhere in the world, can do it better than we do in Wick. People are genuinely surprised regarding our location, yet we have always seen this as a proud strength rather than a weakness.

Pontus Research

We are a rapidly growing company servicing an equally rapidly growing global industry with several international clients already working with us.

Using our many years of combined experience and specialist knowledge, we provide an essential service to support this growth. We are a young team, with an average age of 30 (including directors) giving us a dynamic and energetic edge in an industry which itself is in its infancy as an industrialised, global source of food.

We are a truly global company, with a diverse and globally aware workforce, and a global outlook – nestled in the valleys of South Wales.

Sally’s Cottages

This is a company created from an initial investment of £1,000 now bringing in millions through the sheer force of personality.

It is a company which thrives on the rural nature of its setting. It is a company that believes in job creation, which believes in small businesses using each other to create a flourishing local economy. It is a company with strong values and agility which underpin decision making, allowing it to build a strong reputation and brand.

These building blocks will allow the company to grow even stronger, allowing it to grow into a national company in time

TestLink Services

We took a city-loving business sector and turned it into one highly capable of running slick operations rurally. TestLink saw beyond the challenges of urban-focussed demand, inner-city networking and limited transport links.

Our workforce is motivated by beautiful surroundings and invigorated by a relaxed quality of life. Customers jump at the opportunity to pay us a visit.

Our local community inspires us to host productive, memorable meetings in beautiful areas that showcase the advantages of our location and support other local businesses. This has paid off dividends as our business is still thriving (and growing) after more than 28 years.

The Raw Chocolate Pie Company

We have been making our Raw Chocolate Pie in the wilds of West Cornwall for more than ten years and along with our raw fudge there remains nothing quite like it on the market.

It is a genuinely unique, handmade product, straddling definitions from a healthy energy boosting snack to after dinner sweet treat.

This combined with the recent expansion of our raw fudge range means that our company offers something that can enjoyed by most and in particular, meets the very particular demand of the burgeoning vegan and free from markets in a healthy and responsible way.