As part of its
Think Small programme
, Earnest is interviewing a number of small businesses to understand the changing business models, challenges and ambitions that are spreading across the small business market.
This month Earnest met Chris Wildman, owner of Town End Farm, which is a tea room and a producer of beef, lamb, pork and charcuterie for chefs and hotels across the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales.
We met Chris in the butchery on his farm, where he told us about his dreams for the future and the importance of keeping up with current trends.
“I was born a butcher’s son, so I was born a butcher. It’s what I’ve always known. It’s born into you, so I don’t see it as being anything out of the norm. We used to have a long running family business until changing attitudes to shopping basically crushed the company and it became defunct. We had two butchers, a deli and a frozen food shop. It was fantastic and would have survived, if only it had been in Dulwich, London.”
Diversification is the lifeblood of a growing business
Chris is keen to pass this business and farm down through the family but knows the business needs to keep evolving and growing.
“The only way to continue is to have it passed down from generation to generation. But diversification is also important, as with any farm; you need to be constantly on the look-out for new ideas and innovation. My head is buzzing with new ideas and extensions to what we are doing. We’ve built the butchery on the farm and are now running butchery courses. Now I’m thinking about camping pods, glamping, anything new! There are just not enough hours in the day.”
“We’re a small business. We can’t afford seven grand. Some of these businesses have to understand small businesses aren’t going to spend that”
Chris Wildman, owner, Town End Farm Shop
Big businesses must understand the scale and scope of their small allies
It’s clear that small businesses want to keep diversifying, but they need help from big business to do this. Take, for example, the basic need for communication and connectivity.
“We fought for ages to get fibre optic broadband here, which has changed the business and helped us set up ecommerce stores. But when it comes to phones we don’t have 4G, we don’t even really have 3G. Mobile networks aren’t interested in rural areas. They just don’t seem to want to bother with it.”
Additionally, many big businesses offer products and support that are simply worlds away from their price range.
“We’re a small business. We can’t afford seven grand. Some of these businesses have to understand small businesses aren’t going to spend that. Bigger businesses have time and money and energy to get the grants, but I just don’t have the time. The whole grants system needs looking at – but until then, we’ve only got the money that comes from customers to help us move ahead.”
What can marketers learn from Town End Farm?
Marketers need to better understand the small businesses they are talking to – not only their hopes and dreams but also what it really means to run a business in difficult conditions. If ever we saw a business that was disadvantaged by the London bubble, it was Town End.