Driving your rural business to success

Harry Thompson is the Managing Director of a family run business, the Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Company, based in Wolferton on the Sandringham Estate. The company has been supported by Norfolk County Council’s DRIVE team, in partnership with Suffolk County Council, to explore ways of developing the business. 
Published in Norfolk Director magazine, Summer|Autumn 2022
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Driving your rural business to success 1

Rural Entrepreneurial Grants: DRIVE

Norfolk and Suffolk are two of the most rural counties in England. The majority of businesses in both counties are small to medium enterprises, many of which are located in countryside towns and villages and provide vital employment to local residents.

The DRIVE scheme (Delivering Rural Investment for Vital Employment) offers small to medium-sized businesses that contribute to the rural economy in Norfolk and Suffolk, 12 hours of free business mentoring to create a project and business plan. Once plans are in place, the business can apply for a capital grant of between £5,000 and £40,000 for up to 40% of their project costs.

The Wrought Iron and Brass Bed Company benefited from DRIVE’s support

“Having weathered the storm of the pandemic, we are delighted to feel the benefits from DRIVE and are now entering negotiations with markets overseas,” explained Mr Thompson. “We never envisaged that DRIVE could be this successful for us.

“The expert advice from the DRIVE business mentor enabled us to consider ways to do things differently and identify new markets. Having somebody to support your decision making allows you the space and confidence to think creatively, even when individual project finances may seem to constrict your plans.

“The grant funding has allowed us to offer new products that have been designed and manufactured in brass, nickel and copper.”

Available online and in their new Swaffham showroom (by appointment only), the company now supplies John Lewis and Partners with a small selection of its iron beds.

Having benefited from the DRIVE scheme, Mr Thompson encourages all rural-based businesses to contact the team. “I would strongly recommend DRIVE to businesses like ours. What’s the worst that could happen? Do it! Unless you ask the question, you don’t know what’s available,” he said.

DRIVE can help you

Paul Mace, DRIVE Project Manager said: “We’re delighted that Mr Thompson’s story echoes others from companies we support. Small to medium businesses are sometimes so busy with day-to-day activities that they don’t have time for schemes that can help them expand and develop.

“The benefit of a relevant business expert spending time with you to question, challenge and inspire, and then help support you to write project and business plans, is time that many businesses don’t often give themselves.

“It’s only when you set aside the time to consider what might be possible that ideas turn into plans and subsequently grant applications for capital projects, that can change the face of your business and grow your team.”

More than £2.2m of funding is available for eligible projects from businesses that contribute to the rural economy. Interested businesses should check their eligibility and find more information at www.driveforbusiness.co.uk. DRIVE is available until the end of the year or while funds last.

Paul Mace is DRIVE Project Manager of Norfolk County Council

E: paul.mace@norfolk.gov.uk
Or visit www.driveforbusiness.co.uk
Twitter @norfolkforbiz

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