Entrepreneurs from all sectors are realising that setting up in the country has massive benefits. Here’s why getting out of the city could be the best move your business ever makes.
Lower costs and greater headspace
Steph Douglas, founder of online gift company dontbuyherflowers.com, originally set up in Richmond, but moved the business out to Nailsworth, Gloucestershire in 2016. They’re currently in their third year of triple-digit growth.
"We knew we needed to go to the next phase as we'd outgrown the house, and also needed more people involved, as I was fulfilling too many roles," she says. "Our warehouse space is at least five times less than what it would have cost to get somewhere near Richmond, but also it's a bigger space which means we will grow in to it, as the business continues to grow month on month. I think our mindset is also different since having premises, and more employees. We think bigger. I can focus on sales and strategy and know that the fulfilment is taken care of."
Keeping local skills alive
Entrepreneur Lulu O’Connor’s tailoring and alterations service, The Clothes Doctor, enables anyone in the UK to send their clothes to the company’s team of talented seamstresses in Cornwall.
"I knew the area well, and would never discount the importance of local knowledge in understanding, for example, how and in which areas to look for talented employees," she says. "I ended up advertising in the local papers and chose the Redruth/Camborne area for our workshop, as there is a strong local heritage of sewing and small-scale clothing manufacturing - most of which has relocated or shut down now. As a result, I found some brilliant seamstresses whose talents were being wasted."
Finding untapped markets
There’s less competition in rural areas, meaning more opportunities for a savvy start-up - if the product is good enough. Adrian Tweedale’s family moved to Ruskington in rural Lincolnshire, bought a run-down fish and chip shop and turned it into The Elite Fish & Chip Company. "We found that people were willing to travel from far and wide if we offered the right product, so we concentrated on that," he says. "What really surprised us was the fact that people would travel every week to us, just to enjoy their fish and chips! After our success in the late 80s and early 90s in Ruskington, where we won National Fish & Chip Shop of the year in 1992, we expanded to location in Lincoln in 1994. We thought if we could make a success in a small location, we could make a larger one work even better. And we’re still there today, as well as another successful restaurant and takeaway in Sleaford."
Better quality of life
Working in rural surroundings has a halo effects, says William Forshaw, CEO of Maxwell Scott Bags - when staff are happy and not stressed, everything works better. "Our office is located on an industrial estate in Dunnington, a village ten minutes drive from the centre of town," he says. "The location is lovely - tweeting birds, lush greenery, flowers and fresh air. Quite a few of the staff go for walks on their lunch break, and I can bring in my dogs. Although my employees come from all over the world, there is a real sense of northern spirit in the workplace. Without the London commute, my staff are more well rested and less stressed. We also avoid road rage because we’re driving away from the traffic flowing through the centre at busy times. We all sit and eat lunch together every day which develops understanding between colleagues. When we want to buy lunch to bring back to the office, we always carpool! And the cost of living in York is a lot lower than it is in London so my employees can keep more of their hard-earned cash."
Location as brand story
Freshly grown ingredients are a key USP for luxury chocolate company Troffle.co.uk. "The more common concentrates, essences and flavour enhancers used by most brands are simply no match," says co-founder Verity MacDonald. So it’s easy to see why their kitchen operates from a tiny village in rural Kent. "We want to be known for our commitment to using wonderful fresh ingredients and growing as many of them as we can ourselves. We recently raised over £25k on Kickstarter to help grow this part of our business, which shows how much our customers care about this aspect and want to see it develop. While our product is a premium one and a bit of luxury for the person who enjoys them, our brand is more down to earth and the demographic of our customers reflects that. Our rural location is very much a part of our story."
A time to change
A complete change of scene is a great way to kickstart a change in direction. James and Sarah Gawthorpe, founders of luxury lodge development Cedar Retreats in North Yorkshire, had loved their fast-paced careers in the city - but they wanted to start afresh. "James is from Yorkshire and I lived there before moving to the South, so we had a network of friends and family," says Sarah. "It made sense to ‘come home’ and to consider how we could transfer our skills. I also didn’t want to go into something similar to what I had in London - it felt like stepping backwards. We had to find something that we could both contribute towards and that would give us that sense of ownership that you get from having a business that you can invest in. Cedar Retreats was exactly that and as a commercial design consultant, I was able to transfer my skills to the luxury lodges."