Rural Entrepreneurial Grants: The DRIVE Team

DRIVE Mentoring & Grant Programme
Mary Sparrow is the Director of family run business, Hippersons Boatyard, based in Beccles. In addition to day boats, self-catering guests can stay in quirky houseboats and floating glamping pods on the picturesque River Waveney.
Published in Suffolk Director magazine, Summer|Autumn 2022

Driving your rural business to success

Hippersons Boatyard has been supported by Norfolk County Council’s DRIVE mentoring & grant programme, (Delivering Rural Investment for Vital Employment) in partnership with Suffolk County Council, to expand their business and their workforce. 

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

The DRIVE scheme is offering SMEs 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.

Mary Sparrow said: “The tourism season is very busy, and we realised that we could really do with hiring a new member of staff. But to do this, we needed to guarantee our income, and the answer, we thought, would be to add another floating glamping pod. We realised that the DRIVE scheme could be perfect to help us achieve this.

Challenging your thinking

“The DRIVE business mentor challenged us to think differently about our plans. They asked difficult questions which at the time I found taxing, but which really made us consider what we wanted to do, and how we planned to go about it. By the time the 12 hours of business mentoring was over, we had a comprehensive plan and were confident that we could deliver the project, expand the business and our team.”

The new glamping pod has recently been craned into the river and a new staff member with a focus on customer service and hospitality recruited.

Having benefited from the DRIVE scheme, Mary said: “Another thing I really like about the DRIVE project is that they make you consider the competition and other local rural businesses, and to think about whether your plans could adversely affect someone else. There’s little point creating a job in one business, that puts someone else out of work, which is why expanding your business to create more work is key.”

Paul Mace, DRIVE Project Manager said: “Really thinking through your plans to expand your business, is something that small to medium businesses sometimes overlook, or don’t have time for. The benefit of a relevant business expert spending time with you, to question, to challenge, to inspire and to ensure that plans are deliverable, is time and head space that many businesses don’t often give themselves. DRIVE is all about making sure projects are feasible from every angle, and that your capital project can really 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

DRIVE is available until the end of the year, or while funds last.

Rural Entrepreneurial Grants: The DRIVE Team 1

For more information contact:

T: 01603 222643
Or visit

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