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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.

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Enamellist Kate Samuels Can Brighten Up Your Home and Your Day (Local Business)

It’s clear from talking to talented enamel artist Kate Samuels, that she is truly passionate about her art. She gets her inspiration she says, from her children, the sea and “my surroundings, life adventures and sunshine moments; I like things that make me smile.” This happy, upbeat attitude is wonderfully apparent in her brightly coloured, bold, artworks, sculptures, mugs, bowls and plates all bearing uplifting words to brighten your day.

Kate’s process is evolutionary, every piece of work beginning with a moment or several images she has collected from her own experiences on day trips in and around the Kent area and sometimes further field. The beauty of her work and the reason for its popularity with both locals and visitors, is that every piece is a handmade, signed original and every collection reflects a local story. They are created with British steel and enamel from China. Enamel is a great medium for customers as all Kate’s creations are hygiene standard tested, durable and dishwasher proof.

As we so often hear, particularly with successful creative entrepreneurs, enamelling was Kate’s hobby for many years. Once she had children she decided to turn her love for enamelled art into a business so she could create a better work-life balance while also doing a job she loves.

The converted Victorian coach house where she lives with her family houses Kate’s studio and her kiln so she can conveniently work from home. To reach out to the local community Kate runs an open studio once a year, during which people can come to her house and watch her work, enamelling and hand-firing in her kiln. As the Director of Made in Herne Bay she also brings local artists together giving them a platform to discuss their lives and their work and how to market and sell it.  

Below is a video that shows what Made in Herne Bay is all about:

Big trade shows in venues like Olympia have proved a very successful way for Kate raise brand awareness and sell her creations. She has made some great connections through networking and you can find her designs in 20 galleries and shops in the UK and Australia and in many local Kent galleries. Next she is set to conquer New York.  

Kate says she is looking forward to the StartMyBiz, GrowMyBiz and Herne Bay Shop Local projects helping her grow by managing her time more effectively, planning for the future, and finding the funds to take on a new employee. Her advice to entrepreneurs is to stay true to your individuality, as this has always worked so well for her. To see Kate’s designs visit her website at: http://www.katesamuelsdesign.co.uk/

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Get Back to Nature with Khoa Contemporary Jewellery (Local Business)

Back to Nature

Khoa Mahon’s stunning fine silver jewellery is lovingly hand-crafted and incorporates gorgeous freshwater pearls and semi-precious stones. You can see Khoa’s passion for her work as she describes how each piece reflects a different occasion when she has felt connected to the earth’s natural environment. Some items are reminiscent of a leaf or a pebble, others the look of moonlight reflecting in the water or the texture of a seashell. In addition to her talent, what sets Khoa apart as an artist is her careful attention to detail, high quality craftsmanship and determination that every creation is unique and makes the wearer feel special.

Khoa’s love of crafts harks back to when she was a little girl. Knowing from a young age that she wanted to be a jewellery designer, she studied goldsmithing, silversmithing and jewellery design at the Kent Institute of Art and Design (KIAD). She then went on to do her MA in Three Dimensional Design at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA). A desire to be in control of how her very personal designs were marketed and sold, led to the decision to become an entrepreneur and run her own business.

A Passion for Craft

You can find Khoa’s beautiful creations at local craft fairs and exhibitions in the Canterbury District or, if you have an idea for a piece for yourself or a loved one, you can commission her to make a piece to order. To help promote and showcase her own work and that of other talented local artists, Khoa created “Passion for Craft”, an organisation that puts on exhibitions and pop-up craft fairs in local galleries and popular venues like the Horsebridge Arts and Community Centre.  The events which provide a lovely way to while indulging yourselves with gorgeous designs, you can meet the artists to learn more about their work and purchase presents for family, friends or adding to your own accessory collection! Khoa always goes the extra mile to ensure that these events are a great experience for artists and customers alike.

Khoa and StartMyBiz Canterbury

A member of Canterbury City Council’s StartMyBiz Canterbury Project, Khoa says the Project has helped her develop her business in several different ways. A dynamic talk by Emma Jones of Enterprise Nation, at an SMB Bootcamp, gave Khoa a great overview of what she needed to do to set up her business. StartMyBiz then introduced her to a friendly local accounting firm who provided her with free advice. A workshop on how to engage with potential partners and investors also proved invaluable and Khoa says she appreciates the way in which StartMyBiz and GrowMyBiz raise her business profile through their social media channels.

Get Your Own Unique Piece

There is something very special about Khoa’s jewellery and you won’t see anything like it anywhere else. So visit her website or go to a Passion for Craft event or you can find some of Khoa’s jewellery displayed for sale at The Conquest House Gallery in Canterbury and buy a unique piece that will never go out of style.

Website: http://khoa.co.uk/

Twitter: @KhoaMahon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/passionforcraft

The Conquest House Gallery: https://www.artincanterbury.co.uk

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Frances Brown – Grosvenor House

Frances Brown at Grosvenor House runs writing courses and retreats for writers and artists on the coast here in Herne Bay. There is plenty of space to relax and find peace and inspiration. You can book a room and you will be well looked after, or have the whole house to yourself for a self catering retreat.

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Canterbury is a Creative Centre for Photographer Tim Stubbings

If you’re looking for creative and commercial photographs of the local area or your business look no further than the wonderful creative talent of StartMyBiz and GrowMyBiz Sponsor, Tim Stubbings. Here’s what he has to say about his photography work:

Opening his commercial photography studio in Canterbury was the natural location for Tim Stubbings.

“Although my work took me from Scotland to Sweden last year, my creative home is in Canterbury.

I arrived there as a student in 1989 and despite periods of infidelity (living and working in Eastbourne, Nottingham, and London) I came back in 1998 and set up the commercial studio in 2014.

The campaign, advertising and other commercial photography I do is still 50% rooted in Kent with strong links with Canterbury. The University of Kent was my first ever paying client (they still are!) and Canterbury City Council were kind enough in the early years to entrust me with some of their tourism and cultural marketing campaigns.

The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury Festival and Shepherd Neame are all valued relationships and sources of ongoing interesting types of work. Porchlight has been a nominated charity since 2008 and I’ve been happy to support them with annual report and marketing pictures to promote their campaigns.

I shoot mostly for businesses (headshots, marketing images, advertising – anything that businesses and organisations require really) but also work with models, stylists and portrait customers.

Although I’d not a landscape photographer, the coastline and countryside we have in the region has always been a source of interest, inspiration and relaxation and I know I can take it for granted. It’s also formed the backdrop for some of our campaign work for agencies and local businesses.

If you had to sum up what I do either on location or at the studio, it’s to make what you do, what you make or what you are look better tomorrow than it does today.”

Visit http://timstubbings.com/

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The Bay Brewer

Torin Brown is the Bay Brewer, producing hand-crafted beers lovingly brewed by the sea in Herne Bay, Kent. Torin shares his journey from the initial business idea to a successful small craft beer business started from home.

This video is about how StartMyBiz, Canterbury helped Torin with his business start up. Torin received one to one advice, attended the StartMyBiz free business workshops which include free follow up with business experts and also went to the free business networking meetings arranged by GrowmyBiz. They also helped with a stand at the Expo 16 business exhibition.

StartMyBiz and GrowMyBiz provide free advice, business workshops and free networking events, for people who are starting a business or people who want to grow an existing business in the East Kent, Canterbury District.

This video is a Smugshot Video Production: http://www.smugshot.co.uk


Locally sourced meat and fresh produce delivered to your door for free!!


Visit: http://www.meatguy.co.uk/

Harvey Woods Gardening

Harvey Woods Gardening is a local small business that has used StartmyBiz. We asked them about their experiences of starting up a business. Here is what they had to say…


What the business is?


Local, independent gardening services at reasonable rates


When you started?


January 2013


Why you started?


Our core team, Tom Harvey, David Eve and Dave Carman all worked on a Kent Enterprise Trust charity project, Appleseed Landscapes, in 2012. David and Dave worked as volunteers and Tom had a two-day a week part-time contract. In December 2012, Appleseed Landscapes was closed and Tom was made redundant. We have built up the business since January 2013 starting initially with Appleseed Landscapes customers.


Where the business is?


Canterbury, Whitstable, Herne Bay, Sturry, Thanet, Chartham, Chilham, Bridge, Faversham, Sittingbourne.


What was the most difficult part of starting a business?


We were fortunate to have a small customer base we could build from but developing a
marketing strategy for new customers is still an ongoing conundrum for us. We have a very limited marketing budget and we are still learning new, efficient ways of advertising ourselves.


How was Startmybiz able to help?


The regular emails have kept us in touch with what is going on locally and we have booked a stand at the Herne Bay Showcase event in March 2014 which we hope will be a great opportunity to meet new potential customers and learn more about how Startmybiz can support us in the next few years.


Have you made any new contacts because of Startmybiz who have helped you? If so who?


Yes, Andrew Smith and Angela Furlong have been very helpful in replying to personal queries on StartMyBiz events such as training courses, business breakfasts and showcase events.


What is it like doing business in the Canterbury area?


A lot of our business is with private residential gardens and we love working closely with our customers on ideas for their gardens etc. We also work with estate agents and housing associations and we have always found them to be very understanding and supportive in terms of prompt payments and regular communication which is very important for a small company.


For more information visit: http://www.harveywoods.co.uk/