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Rural LEADER Funding

Are you a rural business owner or have a land based enterprise in Kent seeking to develop a new project that will strengthen and grow your business?

Then you’ll be pleased to know that you may be eligible for funding under The LEADER Development Program for England. This is a great opportunity for you to obtain funding to help you realise your growth plans benefiting not only your business and yourself, but also the wider rural area in which you live.

Funding is available to rural businesses, farmers, foresters, growers and landowners to develop projects that will assist, strengthen and develop their businesses and the local area.

Funding is available in the following 3 geographical locations:

  1. East Kent Leader will cover the rural areas of Thanet, Canterbury, Dover, Swale (East of and including Faversham) and Shepway (north of the Romney marshes).
  2. Kent Downs and Marshes Leader will cover the rural areas of Ashford, Maidstone, Medway, Swale (west of Faversham), and the Romney Marshes.
  3. West Kent Leader covers the rural areas of Tonbridge and Malling, Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, and part of rural Gravesham.

These areas have been defined by economic coherence and existing partnerships rather than administrative boundaries.

If you’re about to embark on a growth project that fits the Rural LEADER Funding criteria and you would like to find out if you are eligible for funding then you can contact the Rural Leader Program Manager in your area as follows:

West Kent Leader: caroline.lingham@sevenoaks.gov.uk  – 01732 227282

Kent Downs and Marshes Leader: huw.jarvis@kent.gov.uk – 03000 417104

East Kent Leader: huw.jarvis@kent.gov.uk – 03000 417104

The absolute deadline for all funding applications is October 2018.

Read about some of the local people, businesses and projects that have received funding in the past: Jane Bowyer, owner of Canterbury Cheesemakers Nick Waldron, master craftsman, carpenter and joiner and Mike Gillman, owner of the Log Barn.

Find Out More

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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.

Rural PLC Kent Initiative

Rural PLC (Kent) is an initiative that aims to demonstrate the true value of the rural sector in Kent, increase awareness of the rural sector and drive investment into the sector with strong returns.

There are currently too few types of investor and ranges of financing available to the rural sector in Kent. Given that food is a basic necessity with a growing customer base Rural PLC (Kent) should be an investor’s dream and not an investor’s last resort.

Their vision is for Kent to be the food hub of the UK and in time recognised as the global food hub. Investment and the recognition of farmers’ importance in the food chain will help to build a return on capital.

Read more about this initiative on the Rural PLC Kent website.

Business relocation to Kent on the rise

Kent is increasingly becoming a popular area for urban businesses to relocate to.

With excellent transport links, lower living costs, good broadband connectivity and a better quality of living it attracts more and more skilled entrepreneurs.

Find out how the Leader Programme can offer support to rural businesses in Kent and if you are eligible for grant funding through DEFRA to develop your project.

Rural Planning Review

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), along with the Department for Communities and Local Government will be undertaking a rural planning review which will look at reducing regulatory burdens in support of creating new homes, jobs and innovation.

The aim is to boost the rural economy by investing in education and skills, improving infrastructure and connectivity, and simplifying planning laws for rural businesses and communities to ensure the countryside becomes an even more attractive place for people to live, start a business and bring up a family. Already this is causing more businesses to migrate from urban to rural areas.

Rural entrepreneurs and house builders in England will be given the opportunity to have their say on how the planning system can better support rural life, making it simpler for them to expand their businesses and to build much needed new homes.

More information on this article can be found here.

For more news and information about rural opportunities in the district visit MyBiz-Rural.

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How to Get Funding to Grow Your Rural Business

The Rural Development Programme for England

 

If you are a rural businesses owner, farmer, forester, grower or landowner in Kent wishing to develop a new project that will strengthen and develop your enterprise, then you’ll be pleased to know that you may be eligible for grant funding under The Rural Development Programme for England.

Kent was previously covered by two Leaders:  West Kent Leader, and Kent Downs and Marshes Leader, but in the new round of funding, Kent has obtained a new East Kent leader group, meaning that now 97% of rural Kent can benefit from this great Programme.

Eligibility under the Kent Leader Programmes

Funding is available in the following geographical areas:

  • East Kent Leader will cover the rural areas of Thanet, Canterbury, Dover, Swale (East of and including Faversham) and Shepway (north of the Romney marshes).
  • West Kent Leader covers the rural areas of Tonbridge and Malling, Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, and part of rural Gravesham.
  • Kent Downs and Marshes Leader will cover the rural areas of Ashford, Maidstone, Medway, Swale (west of Faversham), and the Romney Marshes.

These areas are based on economic coherence and existing partnerships rather than administrative boundaries.

Programme Priorities

Funding is available to rural businesses, farmers, foresters, growers and landowners, to develop projects that will assist, strengthen and develop their businesses and the local area.

Your project should focus on Jobs and Growth and fall within at least one of the 6 main programme priorities:

  • Increasing Farm Productivity
  • Micro and Small Enterprises and Farm Diversification
  • Increasing Forestry Production
  • Provision of Rural Services
  • Cultural and Heritage Activity
  • Rural Tourism

If you are about to embark on a growth project that fits this criteria and you would like to find out if you are eligible for funding then you can contact the Rural Leader Programme in your area as follows:

East Kent Leader: Huw Jarvis, Programme Manager, Huw.Jarvis@kent.gov.uk 03000 417 104

West Kent Leader: Caroline Lingham, caroline.lingham@sevenoaks.gov.uk  01732 227282

Kent Downs and Marshes Leader: Huw Jarvis, huw.jarvis@kent.gov.uk  01622 696940

This is a wonderful opportunity for you to obtain funding to help you realise your growth plans and benefit not only your business and yourself, but also the wider rural area in which you live.

For updates about great business events, funding advice and invaluable business tips you can also follow @StartMy_Biz or @GrowMyBiz on Twitter and Facebook.