Food & Drink

Published: November 24, 2021 | Updated: November 26, 2021

Rich Burn of Dorset Growth Hub talks about his work and the help available for your business..

By Andrew Diprose, editor

Welcome to our third column from Heather Brown, Owner of Dorset Foodie Feed, the county’s top food & drink website.

Dorset Foodie Feed and Dorset Biz News work collaboratively to share food & drink news features across both our platforms.

Our aim is simple: to help support and encourage the food and hospitality sectors by bringing positive news stories to our respective audiences.

You’ll find Heather’s column on here on the last Thursday of every month

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One good thing about the pandemic is that it opened up a number of new sources of grants and income for businesses to help invest in new equipment, technology and expert help, writes Heather Brown.

In November 2020, I was able to successfully apply for a Dorset Growth Hub backed Dorset SME Recovery Grant which enabled me, for the first time, to get some expert help to add on new features to the website, including the searchable Directory of food and drink businesses.

I found it incredibly encouraging to know that people were prepared get behind the vision of Dorset Foodie Feed and to financially help me to contact experts for help and be able to pay them properly.

I spoke to Rich Burn from WSX Enterprise, pictured, to find out more about how businesses can seek help to grow and build their businesses.

Q: I know you have worked for a long time helping businesses to grow and flourish and you have offered plenty of brilliant help and advice to me over the years. To someone who has not met you, what is it exactly that you do and who do you work with to help businesses in Dorset and across the South.

I work for a company called WSX Enterprise who run projects to help SME’s to navigate the world of business. From Start-Ups to Scale-Ups we run services to help business owners up-skill, connect with others and strategise new opportunities and growth opportunities. We were very heavily focused on growth strategies before the pandemic, however in recent times we have done a lot of work helping businesses to recover and sustain their businesses in relation to the pandemic.

I have worked for most of my time with WSX on a project called the Dorset Growth Hub. I started as a Business Navigator back in 2014 and focused on touring around Dorset meeting businesses, identifying their challenges and then supporting with bespoke services, events and  resources to help them overcome the hurdles. I slowly progressed into more project management with DGH and setup a Digital Capability service that was aimed at helping organisations navigate the world of digital. This is what I have been focusing on for the past four years.

Since the pandemic though, I am now helping to instigate and setup digitally focused projects across the whole of the South Coast.

I also spend a fair bit of time building partnerships (I think my official title now is Strategy & Partnerships Manager… one of many titles in WSX to date!) for strategic alliance purposes mainly.

We can’t be the knowledge experts of everything so we team up with other organisations who help fill our knowledge gaps. I think it’s the key to building a strong product or service portfolio. Collaboration is far more powerful than trying to forge your own path! It’s just making sure those collaborations are mutually beneficial and don’t lean too much in favour of one party. If that is the case it simply won’t work as you are on different pages.

Q: Obviously businesses have had a hard time over the past two years with both the pandemic and Brexit – what kind of help is out there for food, drink, hospitality and farming businesses navigate through this season?

There is a huge amount of localised support out there right now. Many regions have created Covid Relief Fund pots.This doesn’t necessarily mean there is cash to be had, but it means investment in support services like DGH has increased in the past 18 months. Depending on where you live I would suggest connecting with your Growth Hub as a starting point. They are great for signposting to other services that are relevant, (and often free) to help you.

Q: Do you have any advice for business owners both as we head to Christmas and in the quieter months at the start of 2022?

Look for collaborations and partnerships that share the same goals as you. If you have more time in the quieter months, a strategic focus on collaboration I think will help in so many ways. One particular benefit, especially for those working on their own as producers/makers/owners for instance, is a strategic partnership can create that sense of community and help with those feelings of isolation, especially given the times we have been though in that last 18 months.

Obviously the financial benefits is one of the main goals of collaboration also. Good example in the local food scene include Chococo and Conker Gin. It’s a strategic alliance that I believe
was born from identifying a similar target market and alignment of brand values and goals.

Q: In your opinion, from your experience working with so many businesses, what is the best way for a consumer to support local businesses?

If you love something tell your friends! Word of Mouth (no food pun intended!) is still the biggest growth strategy for any business, especially in the food and drink sector. Businesses can
encourage this and for example can introduce “tell a friend incentive”.

Many use social channels to facilitate this and it can really work. The “Call to Action” here is really important. Tell your consumers how they can help and if they love what you do, give them easy wins to help you and instruct them.

Customers who love you, love being told how they can help you more  you like to indulge in local produce, then local food markets are now back up and running and
safe. If you see a local food market, go along you will be amazed as to what is producde on your doorstep!

Also since the pandemic, many producers now have very efficient eCommerce platforms.

Great for the jolly season ahead! So take a look and see what Xmas treats you can purchase for your family… and yourself of course!

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I definitely recommend seeking out new local businesses when either choosing gifts or when buying food for your Christmas events and Christmas Day.

I am personally shopping local this year and I am very much enjoying ordering all the different pieces of Christmas Dinner from local suppliers and will be sharing some of them on my social media in the coming weeks. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as @dorsetfoodiefeed

If you would like to find your local businesses then visit dorset.foodiefeed.co.uk and you can find reviews and recipes as well as a searchable, map based directory of over 650 local food and drink businesses.