Rural grants offer springboard to growth
Small and micro-businesses in rural Warwickshire have help at hand from a new £2 million grant fund to grow businesses and create jobs.
The Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Growth Programme has allocated £1.5 million for business development grants to small and micro businesses, including social enterprises and farmers diversifying into non-agricultural activities.
The funding is aimed at enabling small rural businesses to become established and grow and also to fledge in new directions.
Similar recent grants have proved a springboard for success, as Jo Reynolds a director of Warwick-based Church Farm Brewery can testify.
In 2012, the business was awarded £25,000 from Warwickshire County Council's growth fund. The money enabled vital investment in new equipment and expansion of the brewhouse - and was a turning point for the business.
Church Farm Brewery, which employs four people, now brews 80 barrels per brew (up from 20) while turnover has doubled. As the business goes from strength to strength it was recently named Diversification Innovator of the Year at the British Farming Awards and featured on the BBC's Countryfile programme, watched by 8.5million viewers.
"Our decision to expand the brewery was a real leap of faith," said Jo. "We were confident that we had the product and expertise to make it a success but it was still a very big commitment and a very big decision.
"This type of funding was a real turning point. It allowed us to progress with the expansion and, touch wood, we haven't looked back. Our sales for the first quarter of this year were 59 per cent up year-on-year.
"The grant was a springboard for us and its value wasn't just financial. When you apply for something like that and experts look at your business plan and say 'yes' then it really lifts you. It gives you that extra confidence.
"We have further expansion in mind, into canned beer, so will be looking to access further grants if we can. The process of accessing this funding is not as onerous as it might seem and I would strongly urge all rural businesses to think seriously about applying."
Up to £500,000 has also been allocated for tourism grants for land-owners, people or groups representing rural communities, charities and public bodies.
Sean Farnell, board member of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Our region has an extremely strong and diverse rural economy and it is great news the area has been allocated further grant funding to boost businesses.
“Through the Rural Growth Network, partner organisations worked together successfully to enable innovation and create employment at a range of businesses and led to Warwickshire being named as one of the most enterprising places in Britain at the Enterprising Britain Awards.
“It is important we build on the progress that has been and for organisations to apply for a share of this new funding to further strengthen our rural economy.”
The new grant fund is open for expressions of interest until 31 January 2018.
The fund is part of a wider package of finance available to support Coventry and Warwickshire businesses including European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) investment grants, ERDF innovation grants, ERDF low carbon grants, LEADER grants in North Warwickshire and Warwickshire County Council’s Capital Growth Fund.
For more information about the RDPE Growth grants, visit: