Calling Northamptonshire – time to unveil your best rural businesses

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It’s no secret that Northamptonshire is jam-packed with some wonderful innovative rural businesses, and now’s the time to shout it from the rooftops by nominating your favourites for this year’s Rural Business Awards. The awards, in partnership with the CLA and Amazon, are split into 13 categories and are the only UK-wide programme dedicated to showcasing the success of rural businesses – a sector which employs in excess of 3.4 million people in over 600,000 different enterprises.

This year’s prestigious awards have not seen as many entries from Northamptonshire as the organisers would like – so they are now seeking some of the hidden superstars among Northamptonshire’s rurally based business community. You can enter or nominate your favourites in the wide range of categories by simply logging on to www.ruralbusinessawards.co.uk/enter/ – but time is short, the closing date is 30 June! They’re keen to hear from, and of, any countryside-based businesses that deserve recognition for their excellence, from farm shops, butchers, clothes-makers, employers to creative business – indeed, anyone with a fabulous countryside-based firm that should be getting a well-earned pat on the back.

In return for winning an award, any prize-winning business will receive much more than just a status-enhancing gong, benefiting too from throwing the media spotlight on their growing business.

Gravity Digital, a digital marketing agency with offices in Derbyshire, who won the Best Rural Creative or Media Based Business in 2016 says that it’s definitely worth entering the Awards in 2017. Director Sharon Stevens-Cash notes:

“We were overwhelmed to win a Rural Business Award last year. We’d read about them in the media the previous year and realised that the Awards had got the backing of not only the CLA but also of a range of Ministers and MPs and had built a reputation for being the most prestigious rural business awards – and the only ones that were truly UK-wide.

“We entered not thinking we’d have a chance of winning and on the night we were completely stunned. It’s nine months since we won the Award and people are still talking about it. Clients and prospective customers continue to recognise the value of this award win and it gave us the confidence to continue to grow our business, and enter other award schemes. We can honestly say that without the RBA Award win, we wouldn’t have entered the Federation of Small Businesses Awards and when we did, we won Micro Business of the Year (East Midlands) just a few months ago.

“The RBAs recognise all sizes and types of businesses from across the rural community and we feel that the programme gives ordinary hard-working businesses the opportunity to be recognised for their successes. Attending the Awards Ceremony itself was also a super experience as it was a great networking opportunity and we met some businesses there that we are continuing to work alongside today. If you are a business owner or manager and you’re not sure whether to enter, I would say just give it a go. The process is simple and it’s just a few hours of your time that could lead to a business lifetime of recognition so why wouldn’t you enter?”

Now in their third year, the awards so far have seen an amazing variety of rural enterprises rewarded for their outstanding contribution to the sector in which they work, as well as the geographical area they work in. In addition to individual winners in each category, on the night a “Champion of Champions” is chosen as the overall victor. The inaugural awards in 2015 saw Lily Warne Wool from Devon named Champion of Champions, as well as Best Rural Start-Up, after blowing judges away with their commitment to the farming industry, to the Great British product of wool, to the environment and to the local community. Last year’s overall Champion of Champions was Landmark Systems Ltd, a Sussex-based computer firm which provides agricultural software, helping farms run effectively. Landmark was also winner in the Best Rural Professional Services category of the awards. Other prize winners have included Somerset-based Alpaca farmers producing exquisite cloth, a Welsh seaside beach café, to farms that have shown real imagination in diversifying to grow their businesses.

The Rural Business Awards were founded by businesswomen Jemma Clifford and Anna Price, a deliberate counterpoint to other awards schemes they felt overlooked rural enterprise in favour of large city-based firms.

Jemma said: “We know there’s just a few days to go before the Awards close but we know there are businesses out there that haven’t entered that should and we want to let them know that there is time to do so. The application process is not arduous so firms shouldn’t be fearful of it.

“We know they’re out there – those little gems hidden away in the beautiful English countryside which are demonstrating amazing business acumen and true innovation in the way they are ensuring their long-term survival, whilst also giving back real benefits to the communities in which they serve. We aim to shine a spotlight on these businesses and help them grow by recognising their hard work and bringing them to a wider market. We know that Northamptonshire has some great rural enterprises and we are really excited to hear from them in time for this year’s awards.”

Time is running out as the closing date for entries is June 30th.

This year’s glittering awards ceremony will be held at Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey on October 5th. The award categories will be decided by an independent panel of judges drawn from the rural business sector, official agencies and rural charitable organisations.

More than a hundred rural businesses attended the awards ceremony last year, and 2017 is set to be a record for entries.

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