A thriving wedding venue born from a derelict sheep farm, an environmentally conscious construction company and a rural healthcare service are just some of the businesses shortlisted for the annual Rural Business Awards (RBAs), due to be held on 5th October at Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey.
Created by an entrepreneurial duo of countryside-based business women, Jemma Clifford and Anna Price, and backed by the CLA and Amazon, the RBAs are the only UK-wide programme dedicated to showcasing the success of rural businesses. Organised by rural businesses for rural businesses, there are 14 categories in total – ranging from Best Rural Start-up and Rural Innovation of the Year, through to Rural Entrepreneur Of The Year and Champions Of Champions – and the winners are selected by an independent panel of judges, including Diversify Now editor Emily Scaife.
A record number of nominations were received from hundreds of innovative and diverse businesses across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, breaking the previous record. Entries came from 52 counties across the UK; with Devon, Lancashire and Leicestershire businesses submitting the most entries.
Jemma Clifford, joint-founder of the RBAs, said: “Business success is often associated with the bright lights of our big cities, but the truth is that rural Britain is a flourishing hotpot of business zeal, imagination and buoyant bottom lines.
“The Rural Business Awards, now in its third year, gives rural enterprises of all sizes the opportunity to showcase their success and the contribution they are making to our thriving rural economy – the firms that entered in 2017 have combined turnovers well in excess of £70m. Congratulations to all of our shortlisted organisations; they are yet another reason to be proud of our outstanding rural economy.”
Rural Britain’s food and start-up sector continues to make up a large percentage of the entrants, but overall the highest number of entries came from businesses in the tourism sector, representing 14% of all entrants. Contenders in the ‘Best Rural Start-up’ shortlist include Cotswold’s Distillery, the first and currently only full-scale distillery in the Rolling Cotswolds Hills. Cotswold’s Distillery produces single malt whisky and dry gin using local raw materials and traditional techniques with an innovative attitude. Running for ‘Rural Innovation of the Year’ is Winch Energy, an off-grid renewable energy developer which provides electricity, Wi-Fi and running water to communities who are currently using kerosene, dry batteries and gas as a means of energy due to lack of access to an electrical grid.
“The depth and breadth of this year’s shortlist demonstrates the incredible creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of rural businesses,” said Doug Gurr, UK country manager, Amazon. “There was stiff competition to get shortlisted, so I want to congratulate all the companies that entered and celebrate their work in building growing businesses, creating jobs and innovating in rural Britain. Good luck to them all.”
Helen Woolley, Director General, CLA said: “Each of these outstanding rural businesses deserve a place in the final. They have shown great expertise in their field and have a real understanding of how their business fits into the rural economy. I wish each and every one good luck at the awards ceremony in October.”