New Advice Service Offers Practical Help To Rural Businesses

A new region-wide business advice service, the Rural Gateway, was launched on 7 December to help rural businesses in the East of England.  Funded by the East of England Development Agency ("EEDA"), the scheme will support those who are planning to start new businesses in the countryside, as well as those who are already running businesses but want to diversify or make their existing business more successful.

The Rural Gateway service will be operated through the region’s six Business Link organisations, using just one single number.  Working in partnership with the six agricultural colleges and ADER, it brings together a range of services, to provide a more focussed approach to supporting rural businesses.  It benefits from £723,000 of funding from EEDA, which is being used to employ a team of staff with in-depth rural knowledge, who can deal first hand with queries and come out to visit rural enterprises – however remote.

All farm, land-based, or rurally located businesses are eligible – including businesses based within an urban community but which are dedicated to rural customers.

To access the service, rural businesses contact a free helpline – 0845 600 9006.  They will talk to a team of dedicated business advisers, who have experience in dealing with the issues rurally-based businesses face.  These include transport and logistics and the lack of an immediate ‘community’ of other businesses with whom to share ideas and experiences.

Practical help offered includes advice on accessing funding; employment, legal and technology related issues; as well as business fundamentals, such as strategic planning, regulatory compliance and sales and marketing.  

Edward Huggins, from Business Link and Joint Project Manager of the Rural Gateway, commented: ‘The Rural Gateway is great news for rural businesses in the East of England.   The level of advice and practical support we can now offer has the potential to transform the prospects of success for many rural businesses.’

The Rural Gateway is backed by the Business Links of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, together with ADER (Agricultural Development Eastern Region) and the six agricultural colleges – Easton, Otley, Writtle, Shuttleworth, Oaklands and the College of West Anglia.