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Overcoming Barriers to Growth

Building your own business is about more than just survival. You need tools and training just to get by out there, but you’re not here just to struggle from day to day. You got into this to plant your flag, make your mark and create something wonderful. That means committing yourself to growth – and like everything else on the business battlefield, it’s about knocking down walls and climbing mountains. You’ll face challenges every step of the way, some from the most unexpected places. With the right approach, though, there’s no barrier you can’t break through – overcoming barriers and breakthroughs are what RIFT Accounting’s all about.

Know your limitations

Running a business means understanding what you’re good at, and what you’re not. It’s tough to be an expert in everything, and knowing when someone else is in a better position to make a decision is the key to good leadership. Build strong teams and don’t let pride talk you into shouldering loads you aren’t built for. Know where to get advice and how to put it to use. Sometimes you have to take a step back to see the full picture.

Be careful with your star players

Another point about team-building is knowing where your strongest links are. Just don’t rely too heavily on any one of them. If you’ve got one or two people who are pulling more than their share of the weight, your team’s unbalanced. Worse yet, when star players leave they take their magic with them. Try shifting your business focus away from over-reliance on key people. Instead, learn from them and work on training to raise everybody’s game.

Manage your money

We talk a lot about cash flow at RIFT Accounting. It’s one of the most important prediction, production and protection tools you have. Knowing your overheads, your break-even points and your cash gaps are essential to growth. Cash flow forecasts are more than just hopeful guesses about tomorrow. They’ll help you stay fast on your feet, so you can pounce on easily missed opportunities and turn them into a real chance for growth.

Explore the RIFT

If you’re a veteran of the Business Battlefield then you already know how much RIFT Accounting does to help you grow safely and quickly. With cloud accounting software and any-time access to your information, we’re here for you whenever and wherever you need us. Our quarterly reports give you the full picture of your business, and our hand-picked experts will show you how to reach goals and hit targets. If you need financing, we’ll show you the best hunting grounds. We’re making business personal, so you know you’ll never be just another number to us.

Ambition is a great thing in business, but it’s not enough. Real growth takes planning, persistence and a sharp eye on the mountain top. Call or email to see how we can help you get where you’re going, and listen out for more Voices from the RIFT

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Why face to face networking is still vital to your businesses

Whilst the rise of social media has made the possibilities of making new contacts far easier and more direct, many professionals agree that there is still an inherent requirement to meet face to face. Statistics have shown that more sales get closed, more ideas are generated and that most people agree face to face networking is essential to long term business relationships.  But in todays’ ever busier working world people are struggling to carve out the time in their working week to attend lots of different networking meetings.

Meet, speak and network  

Step forward the Canterbury Business Show – a free conference and exhibition at the Spitfire Ground St Lawrence on 29 March. The day begins with a free networking breakfast plus a free ‘Lunch and Learn’ which will deal with the hot topic of the moment GDPR and how to keep your email lists compliant as well as networking opportunities over a bite to eat.

The show is partnering with 4Networking again to offer our brilliant, speed networking sessions where you can meet more new contacts in a few minutes than you would normally in a month. Add to this our Café which is running throughout the day with facilitated networking with Mark Goldfinch. There really are many opportunities to make new contacts, feed your sales pipeline, find new suppliers who may offer better, more cost-effective solutions to your business.

Relevant business content and interesting exhibitors

Alongside the networking we have over 50 exciting exhibitors showcasing their products and services and offering some great on the day special offers. Gary Turner, founder of Xero will be looking at how robots might improve business and sales expert Julie Holmes will be offering insight into how to get more sales, more innovation, more confidence, more positivity and more fun.

With engaging workshops on LinkedIn and cyber-crime there will also be a fascinating panel session on “Collaborative working, bringing Kent business together”. Plus, Google is attending again with a masterclass on getting to grips with your Google Analytics.

The Canterbury Business show offers advice, knowledge and real tips for you to implement in your business, plus tonnes of networking opportunities for you to make those new contacts today.

Find out more at www.growkent.co.uk and book your free place now.

For further information contact Carole Black on 01732 758530 or carole.black@bestbusinessevents.co.uk

Get a World Class Customer Experience at The Studio

Creative Photography company, The Studio, is a wonderful example of how, when 2 talented and enthusiastic entrepreneurs put their heads together as partners, they can create a successful business. Co-founder Daniel Peters has an interesting background. Originally trained as a chef, he has served such prestigious guests as the Queen and Queen Mother, and also worked at the Royal Wedding of Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex.  The lifestyle of the chef with long hours and lack of monetary reward, soon drove Daniel to switch careers and he began working for a training company while setting up his own Mobile Bar business complete with photographer and DJ. Branching out like this brought new connections and opportunities whereby Daniel met professional photographer John Potts and the pair started The Studio together. Thy have just celebrated 10 happy years of trading in Herne Bay.

Daniel’s inspiration for running his own business comes from his mum and dad who decided to set up a business 32 years ago with just a rotten old van, £200 of equipment and a lot of grit determination. The pair worked 6 days a week for the first few years and now run a hugely successful commercial vehicle repair company with over 30 engineers and 6 office staff. Observing how this heady mix of hard work, commercial savvy and luck created a profitable business made Daniel think, “I can do that!” Interestingly the idea initially was to open the business in Daniel’s home town of Faversham. Delays led to the partners deciding to look elsewhere and they based their search on some advice Daniel had once heard that you should “set up in a town where there are a lot of banks and that tends to be where you can find people with money”.  Sittingbourne was dominated by a competitor, Canterbury and Whitstable were too expensive, but luckily, Herne Bay offered everything they needed in terms of location, price and clientele.

In addition to Daniel’s outgoing entrepreneurial spirit and John’s experience managing 13 photographers on a Cruise Ship, what makes The Studio unique? Well their main USP is that they produce as much as possible in-house where they can keep a close eye on quality and keep cost to a minimum. In the interests of quality they also source locally and have a close relationship with all their suppliers.  The result is that they are constantly busy, which can only be a good thing in business! Other things that set them apart are the same day and while you wait services they offer and their fun, informal and professional approach. Competitive prices are a further draw for customers. For the first 2 years the partners didn’t take a penny. However, by ensuring quality in every customer interaction and implementing a growth strategy that sees them frequently add new services, they now have a loyal customer base and are reaping the financial benefits of all their hard work. The great customer experience they have created means that The Studio are so frequently recommended by word of mouth, they don’t need to pay for advertising.

For Daniel, a major highlight of running the business include taking, printing and framing images for, and several appearances on, the BBC TV programme “DIY SOS – The Big Build. On a more daily basis  simply seeing the look on the face of a satisfied customer makes him happy, particularly, he says, “when we have fixed their most treasured memory with our photo restoration service”

The Studio is a great business with 2 delightful owners and one of the best customer experiences in town, so, if you need a photographer or restoration, graphic design, reproduction of art and printing services, make sure you drop by and see why it’s so popular with the local community.

Find Out More

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Herne Bay Produce and Craft Market

An exciting shopping experience in Herne Bay on the second Sunday of every month!

Come and meet a host of traders, local and guest producers. There truly is something for everyone, shoppers can pick up a diverse selection of authentic products, watch chefs create delicious dishes and chat with the producers directly. The market will have different seasonal themes throughout the year!

Free on-street parking is available on a Sunday, apart from Central Parade and areas marked with double yellow lines. Here is more information about the Stagecoach Triangle if you are planning to get to the market by bus: https://www.stagecoachbus.com/promos-and-offers/south-east/introducing-the-triangle.

You will find the market at Wimereux Square, William Street, Herne Bay, CT6 5NX.

Find out more, including a list of stalls, on the Buy in the Bay Website.

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Making your £1 million breakthrough

If you’re starting a business in the UK, you’re in good company right now. About 7% of working-age people are doing exactly that in the next few years. Of course, a lot of those businesses probably won’t survive long-term. That’s just the way the rules of the game work. However, 1 out of every 25 young businesses one day grows up to break the £1 million barrier in turnover. How do they do it? Well, that’s down to a combination of factors.

A good start isn’t enough

Setting up a business isn’t rocket science – unless you’re in the rocket science business, in which case it isn’t brain surgery. Either way, it doesn’t take any particular qualifications or experience to start up. As long as you’ve got a good idea and a plan to achieve it, there’s no specific reason why you can’t hit the £1 million turnover mark. You do have to be prepared to learn as you go, though – and to do it the right way. The old “practice makes perfect” thing is a lie. The truth is that practice makes permanent. Getting better at business means learning where your weak points are and fixing them. No amount of randomly bashing your head against the glass ceiling of your own limits will break you through. Your enthusiasm needs to be properly directed, which means working to fill in the gaps in your knowledge right from day one. Understanding what you can’t do and don’t know is the key to hitting your magic million turnover target.

Learn the local language

We’ve said this before, but accounting is the language of business. It’s not enough to be good at what you do to make money. You also have to be good at handling the money you make. You’ve got to learn how to read profit and loss sheets, and understand why they’re only part of the big picture. You have to understand HMRC’s rules and deadlines, but also how to keep your taxes under control. Crucially, you need to get to grips with cash flow. With good cash flow management, you can forecast the future and weather the unexpected storms. You’ll be prepared for both the best and the worst, and more able to steer things in the right direction.

Dig in for the long haul

You really can’t short-cut your way to success – at least, not to the £1 million mark you’re aiming for. You can, however, clear the road ahead with the right people, skills and tools at your side. There’ll be a point in your growth where you realise you just can’t do it all yourself any more. That’s the time to focus in on the things you do best. Build your teams around everything else to make sure that everyone’s filling a role and not just a desk. Remember that lasting success is about constantly working on your business, not just in your business.

Stick to the plan, until…

The dreams you had and plans you made when you launched your business were a terrific start. Just make sure they aren’t still tethering you to the ground. Times and technologies change, and new opportunities come from unexpected directions. When you’re still small, take advantage of your flexibility to respond to the market you’re serving. Take feedback and switch things up if necessary. By the time you hit the £1 million turnover mark, your business may be very different from the one you started. That’s not a bad thing. Change is a key part of growth.

Most importantly, learn from those around you. You can learn almost as much from the successes and failures of others as you can from your own – and it can be a lot less painful. Always talk to RIFT Accounting for guidance and advice, and let our expertise work for you. In the meantime, grow strong, grow safely and check back here for more Voices from the RIFT

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The Log Barn – A Modern, Environmentally Friendly Business

Mike Gillman, owner and founder of the Log Barn in Canterbury, is highly entrepreneurial and committed to improving customer experience with new technologies. He balances this modern approach with a passionate commitment to growing his business in the most environmentally friendly and sustainable ways possible. For over 30 years he has been supplying his customers in Canterbury, Thanet, Ashford and beyond, with high quality hardwood logs and kindling, sourced from local coppice woods, to provide fuel and kindling for their open fires and wood-burners.

Make or Break

Initially the business operated as a secondary income for Mike and his family and his productivity and profitability rose and fell depending on customer demand and his personal circumstances. In 2009 Mike realised it was make or break time and he either had to commit to growing his firewood business, or find employment locally and no longer be his own boss. He had always been resistant to public funding, believing that entrepreneurs should stand on their own two feet. However, he knew that others in the local firewood industry had successfully applied for funding and if he wanted to even up the playing field and gain a competitive advantage, he needed to make some changes and get some business support. He decided to apply to the Rural LEADER Funding Program to acquire the financial input he needed to modernise the equipment and premises of the Log Barn.

Cracking On

Mike was initially apprehensive about the application process. However, he was pleasantly surprised at the high level of support and encouragement he received from then Program Manager Matthew Hall, who helped Mike complete the forms, and whose mantra was always “crack on and get it done”! Mike admits the process was hard work, but says that Matthew helped lighten the load and that the end result made everything worthwhile, as he was granted £60k of funding in 2 tranches, £40k for the first phase and £20k for the second. He spent most of the first round of funding on equipment including a tractor and crane to move the timber; a telehandler for loading and handling; and a modern firewood processor.  to eliminate the need for painful manual lifting. The new equipment eliminated the need for painful manual lifting and sped up all the business processes for a better customer experience.  The second round of funding was used to build a huge log barn in which to dry the wood.

Supporting the Local Community

With the remaining money and the profit he was making as a result of the modernisation, Mike started employing local contractors to carry out his client work. He also hired a young man from Hadlow College, who he trained up for two years and who has now started his own local forestry business. Mike is passionate about forming partnerships and supporting other local businesses in the community and is delighted that the LEADER funding enabled him to increase his local spend from next to nothing to the £18k per quarter he now feeds back into the local business community. Mike says of the LEADER funding process, “It transformed my business and my life. There’s no doubt in my mind that without the LEADER funding I would have had to take a job driving a truck or in a local hardware store…”

A Smaller Carbon Footprint

It’s important to Mike to be accountable for his carbon footprint and take all possible steps to protect the environment. All of the Log Barn’s logs are sourced from local coppice with sustainable cropping plans to ensure regrowth and future supply. These methods provide sustainable fuel, benefit the environment and ensure that the flora, fauna and character of the North Downs are kept intact. After being logged, the wood is kiln-dried, using a process that uses waste woody material to provide the heat and solar panels to provide the power for the drying fans. The CO2 produced when the logs are burned, is combated by the vigorous regrowth of the coppice woodland. Mike is now waiting for vehicle technology to catch up, as he would like to source an electric or hydrogen cell powered van powerful enough to carry the 1400 tonnes of wood he transports each year. As soon as there is one available on the market he’ll be looking for funding to enable him to upgrade again to greener vehicles and machinery.

If you would like to buy your wood form the Log Barn or talk to Mike about potential business partnerships, then you can contact him via his website www.thelogbarn.co.uk or by email mike@thelogbarn.co.uk or phone 01227 709276.

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How A Master Craftsman Grew His Business with Rural Funding

Nick Waldron designs and creates beautifully crafted kitchens, free-standing and fitted furniture and specialist items, for private and commercial clients. He works closely with interior designers and architects who often seek his expertise in the early stages of a project, to capitalise on his traditional skills combined with modern manufacturing methods. This combination enables Nick to provide a cost-effective and creative solution that meets the client brief. Nick is a very commercially-minded person as well as a creative, which is a great combination for an entrepreneur.

Quality & Speed to Market

Prior to 2011, Nick says, his business was “successful but small-scale”. He was considering buying some second-hand machinery to modernise the business, but was concerned about the likelihood of the ongoing maintenance costs associated with equipment that had already been used commercially. Following a conversation with fellow local entrepreneur Mike Gillman, who had already received funding under the Rural LEADER Program, Nick decided to apply for the funding himself. His growth plan was to install a machine he didn’t already have in order to speed up the manufacturing process and make it more cost-effective for both himself and the client, getting his pieces to market faster while maintaining the quality, to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. He made an application to the LEADER Program for £16k to purchase a 4-sided wood moulding machine and an upgraded dust extraction system to support the new equipment.

Business Benefits

The business benefits of the new 4-sided moulder are clear as Nick says it now takes 1 hour to complete wood moulding processes that previously took 8 hours with 7 processes each carried out on different pieces of equipment. The machine also freed up his team from doing repetitive manual and machine work, enabling them to focus more on the creative process and client experience. He was also able to take on a larger quantity of jobs and much larger projects. By helping Nick to grow his business, the LEADER funding was also a catalyst for hiring more staff and his team has grown from 1 full time and 1 part time employee to 4 in the last few years.

Secrets to Success

Nick feels the secret to the success of his funding application was that he did a lot of groundwork and preparation supported by the LEADER Program Managers Huw Jarvis and Richard Hall and then took a full week off work to complete the form.

“I read the funding requirements really carefully and made sure I addressed every one of them and showed how my growth strategy matched each criterion. As my business is highly creative and the pieces we make are aesthetically pleasing, I included lots of images to illustrate the benefits of the proposed project. I demonstrated my passion for my work and made my application stand out from the crowd.”

If you are looking for high quality furniture and joinery skills you can contact Nick Waldron via his website www.nickwaldron.co.uk or by email at nick@nickwaldron.co.uk.

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More Cheese Please! How Rural LEADER Funding Helped Cheesemakers of Canterbury Grow

Cheesemakers of Canterbury is home to the award-winning Ashmore Farmhouse and Kelly’s Canterbury Goat cheese, and a wide selection of other delicious unpasteurised and pasteurised cheeses. Their glorious array of cheeses is much loved by the local community, visitors and tourists alike.

The Need for Cheese

Before she started Cheesemakers of Canterbury in 2007, owner and founder, Jane Bowyer, already had over 20 years’ experience in the dairy business and a vast wealth of knowledge of both the industry and the local market. Jane was aware that Kent was producing excellent quality milk, cream and butter, but no cheesemakers were fully capitalising on this wonderful produce to create truly local, naturally-rinded, unpasteurised cheeses. Spotting this gap in the market, and armed with the equipment, Ashmore cheese recipe and goodwill she purchased from a Wiltshire cheesemaking business, Jane created Cheesemakers of Canterbury. Six months later they were selling their first produce.

Funding for Growth

In 2010 Jane was presented with an opportunity to grow her business when the lease of a local farm’s soft cheese room became available with all the necessary equipment, cheese vats and client list included in the deal. Jane was keen to learn new skills in soft cheesemaking and open up a whole new product line for Cheesemakers of Canterbury. She decided to apply to the Rural LEADER funding Program for the £18,000 she needed to develop the soft cheese product line.

The Extra Mile

Part of Jane’s plan was to partner with Debbie Vernon from Ellie’s Dairy, who was keen to supply the goat’s cheese to make the soft cheese, and the pair decided to work together to complete the LEADER funding application.  The most daunting part of the process for Jane and Debbie, as for so many people when applying for funding, was not the hard work associated with growing her business but the prospect of the unfamiliar task of completing all the funding application paperwork. Fortunately, the LEADER Program Manager, Huw Jarvis, was on hand to advise them on how to fill out the paperwork properly and, when disaster struck, he really went the extra mile to make sure Jane’s application was filed on time.  

“In the weeks leading up to the deadline we had been working so hard on the application, often late at night, after a long day of cheesemaking,” Jane told us. “It was Christmas time and it was snowing on the day of the deadline. We were so happy to be at the end of the process and looking forward to handing in the forms. All of a sudden, my partner was taken seriously ill with a heart attack and of course that took precedence over everything else. Not wanting us to fall at the final hurdle, our LEADER Program Manager Huw Jarvis, came all the way down to our farm in the snow and picked up the application for us by hand, so it was within the time limit.”

The Good Shed

Jane, her team of cheesemakers and her partners were delighted when they found out that their funding application was successful. In addition to benefiting her business hugely she was pleased that she would now be able to partner up with Ellie’s Dairy. Jane grew her team by using some of the grant money to employ one full them and one part-time member of staff. She describes the first year after funding as “wonderful but chaotic”, as everyone was learning on the job how to make the soft cheese and initially they were making small batches by hand, while they discovered other better ways using modern equipment.

Just 6 months later in the summer of 2011, Jane was invited to join The Goods Shed Farmers Market, Food Hall and Restaurant in Canterbury, as their cheese concession. Jane has been selling both their original hard cheese and the new soft cheese they are making as a result of the LEADER funding, at The Good Shed, ever since.

Strong-Minded and Passionate

Successfully applying for the funding was such as positive experience that Jane and her team are applying again in this round of funding for a new project to grow the business. Her advice to anyone wishing to apply for funding under the Rural LEADER Program is, “be strong minded, committed and passionate and stick with it. Be sure to ask for help from your Program Manager. You will know if it’s the right path as soon as you start the process. You can’t go at it half-heartedly.  Be determined and listen to your gut and you could be on your way to growing your rural business!”

You can find out more about Cheesemakers of Canterbury on their website here: http://www.cheesemakersofcanterbury.co.uk/

Or on Social Media here: Twitter @cheesesofkent Facebook @cheesesmakersofcanterbury

To find out if you are eligible for funding under the Rural LEADER Program click here.

Why Easel Media’s Mantra is “Innovation with Communication”

Based in the Bay

Easel Media is a family-run branding agency that specialises in designing and building a strong online presence for their clients through services such as web and graphic design, PR and social media management. The agency was launched in Herne Bay in February 2017 and is participating in Canterbury City Council’s Buy in the Bay project, helping businesses encourage the local community and tourists to shop local. Easel Media has also had support from the Council’s GrowMyBiz and StartMyBiz projects, receiving free marketing and grant funding advice and being introduced to a good accountant.

As Director Lucie so eloquently puts it, “Herne Bay is definitely an up and coming area, with new, innovative businesses popping up more and more frequently and we wanted to be a part of that and contribute to the local community”.

Challenge or Opportunity?

Lucie says that the start-up already has an impressive portfolio of clients, as several of the team worked as freelancers prior to going into business together, and the quality of their work won them client loyalty when they started Easel Media.

In true entrepreneurial spirit, Easel Media was born when the 2 founding members found themselves in a potentially bad situation and decided to turn it into a great opportunity. “There had been talk of starting up on our own for a while” Lucy says, “we knew we had the skills to become a full stack agency, which Herne Bay really needed, but we were reluctant to give up our steady incomes and step in to the unknown. Then suddenly the two founding members were simultaneously made redundant from their jobs. Although it seemed unfortunate at first, it was a blessing in disguise, as it was the push we needed to start our own business”.

Constant Communication

Easel Media’s unique selling point is their commitment to provide excellent customer service based on an ethos of “constant communication”. The idea is to create an ongoing, two-way conversation between the agency and the client, so that the resultant online presence truly reflects the client’s brand. In Lucy’s experience, proper communication can sometimes slip through the net in the design world as creativity and vision take over. Coming from a customer-facing background, Lucie says the team wanted to make sure Easel Media addressed this and liaised with their clients every step of the way for a better end result.

Get a Discount for Your Brand

Easel Media are currently offering a 10% discount to businesses with a CT6 post code, so if you would like to improve your online branding contact the team at https://easelmedia.co.uk or on Twitter @easelmediauk or on Facebook.

Gorgeous Cocktails in a Glampervan? Don’t mind if we do!

Parasol-up

The deliciously quirky brainchild of entrepreneur Nicola Casey, Parasol-up serves gorgeous cocktails from a vintage-styled VW Campervan called Lily, at events in and around Herne Bay.

She hit upon the idea of a unique mobile cocktail bar, bought a VW in early 2016, named it Lily after her late mother, refurbished it and 9 months later, Parasol-up was born. Nicola’s inspiration for Parasol-up came from her own entrepreneurial background and the fact that she has lived in Herne Bay for 38 years, loves the areas and knows all the local events. “Having worked for myself for a long time in my previous business, I didn’t even consider going to work for someone else. I wanted a new challenge and this has been really good fun!” she told us.

The Lovely Lily

Customers are drawn in by Lily’s beauty. AQ TV, speakers and cameras that look out on the crowd at events further add to her appeal. Nicola also attributes Parasol-up’s success to the fact that she only uses the best quality ingredients and never skimps on the cocktails and that her team are a friendly bunch and love socialising with existing customers and meeting new people.

An Entrepreneurial Spirit

An entrepreneur through and through, Nicola says what she loves most about running Parasol-up is being in control of and accountable for all the business decisions and the fact that life is one big, exciting learning curve. If you’re wondering if you should go into business, a good starting point is to ask yourself if you share Nicola’s go-getting determination and love of calculated risks and taking the lead.

Supporting Local Business

Parasol-up supports the local business community by sourcing their stock locally wherever possible.  A few of Nicola’s favourites are Anno Distillers, Nip From The Hip, Mighty Fine Things and Maiden Distillery. They also use a local supplier Page & Sons because she says, she can trust their excellent team to always deliver on time.  This great attitude to sourcing local is brilliantly aligned with the work Canterbury City Council are doing with the Buy in the Bay Project.

The Parasol-up cocktail repertoire is always developing and expanding as Nicola and her team create bespoke menus for every event. Last year they made a special punch for the Herne Bay Festival, then a mulled winter warmer for the Canterbury Christmas Market. They are currently working on a special menu for Broadstairs Dickens Festival and Nicola says they love rising to the challenge of creating bespoke wedding cocktail menus.

Get in Touch

If you’re a Herne Bay local with an allotment then get in touch with Nicola as she is currently looking for a local supplier to provide Parasol-up with the fruit they need for their gorgeous cocktails. And if you love a cocktail or three then look out for them at the next event on the Herne Bay calendar!

Visit Parasol-Up