The Rural Business Awards (RBAs) were created by two entrepreneurs, Jemma Clifford and Anna Price, to recognise businesses operating across the rural economy.
Amazon is thrilled to be sponsoring the awards again, especially this year, which we know has been so challenging for the UK’s business community. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the resilience, adaptability – and success – that rural businesses have demonstrated these past 12 months.
The RBAs cover 13 categories, representing a diverse range of talent across the rural economy. Whether it’s cider producers, Celtic Marches Beverages, switching cider for hand sanitiser during the pandemic; creators of 100% British Wool products, Romney Marsh Wools, investing in its digital shopping platform to boost online sales; or egg producers St Ewe Free Range Eggs, giving away 20,000 eggs as part of a ‘Shell Out to Help Out’ campaign, there is plenty to celebrate.
Deciding the finalists is no easy task, Director and Co-Founder of the Rural Business Awards, Jemma Clifford, said: “The determination and resilience of the rural sector continues to shine through. We are amazed at the high calibre of businesses who have entered – the judges had a real challenge on their hands, and every business shortlisted should be very proud of their achievement of reaching the National Final.”
Here are some of the rural businesses who have caught our eye.
Romney Marsh Wools
One of the businesses shortlisted in the Best Rural Artisan Business category is Romney Marsh Wools, a family farm and maker of 100% British wool products. They are passionate about celebrating and sharing the benefits of wool – operating in the heart of the local community, employing locally and working with local crafts people, but also expanding the business online with its own online shopping platform and by selling on the Amazon stores.
“The pandemic has presented its challenges, but we had fortunately invested substantially into our online shopping platform at the beginning of the year and have seen online sales catapult almost five years ahead of our aspirations” says Kristina Boulden, Owner & Founder, Romney Marsh Wools. “This has been a lifeline for us, and so heart-warming to see customers support and buy local.
“We are also grateful to further grow our business through Amazon – to be a small organisation able to trade through such a trusted platform adds an enormous reach and weight to our brand” she adds.
Kristina tells us what it means to be shortlisted, and how she hopes it will benefit the business in future: “Being shortlisted for the RBAs national final is a huge accolade to our family farm business and everyone involved. We hope this will continue to raise our company profile and build brand awareness, create local employment opportunities and impress potential buyers to grow our current stockist base.”
Celtic Marches Beverages
Some businesses have managed to adapt to the circumstances in the last year, and are now thriving. Celtic Marches Beverages, the UK’s largest self-sustaining single estate cider producers, are shortlisted in the Best Rural Drinks Business category. “To say 2020 was a testing year for us would be an understatement, but to be shortlisted as a finalist was just what our team needed,” says Collette Cumbes, Account Manager, Celtic Marches Beverages.
The business figured out a new way of working when the pandemic hit. “We wanted to help fill the need for high quality hand sanitiser as nationwide stocks and availability plummeted,” Collette explains. “It also meant we could protect our team’s employment, as packaging contracts were postponed due to the uncertainty of the hospitality industries demands.”
The changing demands of the hospitality sector also meant the business had to re-evaluate its primarily on-trade customer base, and it decided to start selling on the Amazon store during the pandemic. “We looked into how to sell with Amazon and decided it was the right time to really get involved. We’ve had a successful start to our partnership and we’re hoping to develop our brand positioning within the marketplace. I see the great potential of our business growing with Amazon.”
Looking ahead, Celtic Marches is continuing to adapt to changing demand with new product ranges. “We’re excited to be launching our new branded bottle gift packs as we’ve seen a promising surge in demand for home deliveries,” says Collette.
St Ewe Free Range Eggs
One of the great things about rural businesses is how they are embedded within their local community, and the past year has been no exception. With orders from the hospitality sector diminishing, egg producers St Ewe Eggs begun a ‘Shell Out to Help Out’ campaign to avoid throwing eggs away, selling trays at a reduced rate and donating a carton to food banks for each sale.
“The past year has been a challenge there’s no denying it, but from it our team has continued to find the positives,” says Bex Tonks, CEO of St Ewe Eggs. “One such way was pioneering a campaign that not only helped us as a business reduce the risk of food waste with our surplus egg, but gave us a chance to do something positive for the local communities across Cornwall, as well as doing our bit to help the thousands of people struggling everyday living with food insecurity.”
Shortlisted in the Best Rural Food Business category, the family-run egg producer has strong local ties with the community, and it was great to see this strengthen during the pandemic. “‘Shell Out To Help Out’ has seen us connect with the local community like never before, allowed us to keep our staff and producer farms employed – not just in Cornwall but across the Southwest, and it has also allowed us to make a difference to people’s lives,” Bex says.
Amazon and the Rural Economy
Amazon knows the importance of businesses operating in rural parts of Britain, which is why in 2018 we conducted research in partnership with Rural England and Scotland’s Rural College to find out more about the opportunities for businesses outside the capital and major cities.
The research showed that rural businesses contributed a staggering £299bn to the whole UK economy. It also found greater digital adoption in rural areas could add up to £26 billion a year to the UK economy, and annual business turnover in rural areas could also grow by at least £15 billion per year. So the rural economy has huge potential for growth by embracing digital opportunities, and many of the shortlisted businesses this year have demonstrated that by swiftly adapting to a new way of working as the pandemic hit.
As we approach the national final at the end of this month, we look forward to celebrating the achievements of our rural businesses and raising awareness of the impact that these businesses have on the UK economy, communities and people.
We know that customers value the opportunity to support small and local businesses online, which is why we’ve launched more than 250 tools and services globally to help these independent businesses grow their Amazon sales – whether it is Fulfilment by Amazon or Amazon Web Services – we want to help small and rural businesses focus on what matters most.