Haulier swaps the high road for burgeoning home deliveries after family farm shop purchase

A former haulier-turned-shopkeeper has stepped into the driving seat of a long-established rural retail outlet after securing funds to fuel his entrepreneurial aspirations.

Michael Fisher parked a career as a long-distance driver when his father-in-law John Money decided to hang his apron at the popular Stallingborough Farm Shop.

And the 30-year-old business is now increasing its presence on the road, having bought three vans to expand a burgeoning home delivery service.

Nine new staff members have also been hired to meet demand for fresh fruit, veg, meats and flowers.

He said: “I always like the idea of running my own business and when the opportunity arose to secure the future of the business and give my father-in-law a long and well-deserved retirement plan, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

“I knew from the outset that running my own business would be a challenging and exciting journey, but when we signed on the dotted line, little did we appreciate just how much and how quickly the business would need to adapt as a result of Covid-19.”

Funds initially stopped the dream, with a need to purchase the business and stock. After exploring different ways of raising money needed, a friend suggested Finance For Enterprise – a delivery partner of British Business Bank-backed Start Up Loans UK.

Michael and Maria Fisher at Stallingborough Farm Shop.

He discussed his plans with Grimsby-based investment manager Jane Cusse who helped Mr Fisher and his wife Maria to secure £40,000 through two start-up loans, topped up by funds provided direct. “The financial support we received helped us to manage our cashflow, particularly during our first few months of trading when we didn’t know how lockdown would affect the business,” he said.

“The Farm Shop had always offered a home delivery service, but the funds we were able to secure from Finance For Enterprise enabled us to continue trading by delivering the fresh produce to the doors of our customers and as a result, we’ve managed to grow the business and create new jobs, something I feel incredibly proud to have achieved.

“Jane was amazing, she took the stress and worry away and kept us regularly updated through the application process.”

A willingness to go ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty has seen the company receive rave reviews from its growing numbers of customers, with plans afoot to further expand the delivery fleet.

Jane said: “The retail sector has been particularly hard hit during the Covid pandemic, Michael and Maria spotted an opportunity to build and diversify their new business and they seized the opportunity.

“After spending time reviewing their business plans I put together a lending package which enabled them to not only acquire the existing company, but one which would help them to put their own mark on the business.

“Despite working in a challenging business climate, Michael and Maria’s hard work has really paid off and the amount of positive feedback they’ve received from their customers is a testament to their dedication and hard work. The Farm Shop is something of an institution in the Grimsby area and it’s great to see that its future is in safe hands.

“Accessing finance is one of the greatest challenges that many new business owners face, but the Start Up Loans scheme was specifically created to support new entrepreneurs. Michael and Maria presented a well thought out business plan, backed by forecasts based on the historical performance of the business and under their leadership the business has gone from strength-to-strength.”

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The burgeoning benefits of becoming a B Corp

Certified B Corporations (or B Corps) are the new age business, operating their day-to-day activities to meet the highest ethical standards. Our purpose was always to be a different kind of business, with strong emphasis on authenticity, nurturing connections and being ethical. In our experience, having a B Corp certification as a visible part of our business reflects a commitment to prioritising purpose over profit, and holds us accountable for maintaining the highest standards of practice.

Our ethics and morals were the driving force behind securing a B Corp
certification. We’ve found that customers are more interested than ever in
supporting companies with strong ethics. The ethics of businesses and their
supply chains is very much in the spotlight these days.

There is much greater transparency and knowledge around food and how
it’s sourced than in the past. People want to know what they’re eating and
where it’s from. This continues to be a growing movement but we know that our
customers care. Using produce such as free-range and grass-fed meat, along with
serving local and independent wine and beer, helps to support other businesses
and communities, and ultimately creating a tight knit family that is unique to
being a B Corp.

One of the many positives that comes from working as a B Corp certified
company is being involved in the B Local initiative, which is a program that
helps foster a community feel between suppliers. It sees the B Corp community

in our local area working together to support, learn and create opportunities
for promotion of the ethical business sector. The B Corp community is strong in
providing support for those wanting to learn and experience the difference.

As one of the few restaurants to hold the certification, we work hard to
provide advice to other businesses attempting to gain certification. I have a
few tips for businesses looking to become a certified B Corp:

  • Search and move toward value-aligned businesses – never work with a
    business or a person that compromises your ideals – no matter what.
  • Connect to your suppliers and find out how you can support one another.
  • Connect to other businesses – across industries and find out what
    they’re doing and how they’re doing it.
  • Understand where you are coming at from a financial perspective. It can
    be costly at times to transition towards B Corp standards, so make sure you are
    in a position to move forward in a way that won’t impact the overall running of
    your business.
  • Most people enjoy sharing their journey and what they’ve learned – reach
    out and ask the question.

We hope to continue to work with other B Corp businesses, including
hospitality equipment financier SilverChef, to educate others to create a more
sustainable and ethical landscape.

Melissa Goffin, Managing Director, Red Gum BBQ

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