Press Release: WiRE National Conference

Vale girl ‘an inspiration’ for Rural Businesses

The Vale’s founder of The Little Soap Company, Emma Heathcote-James based in Bretforton, South Worcestershire is to be an inspirational speaker at the ‘Passion for Rural Business’ national conference being held in Shropshire on Wednesday 16th February.  Organised by WiRE (Women in Rural Enterprise) the day is geared towards maximising growth in 2011 for rural businesses.

Emma’s ‘story will explore how she created her company two and a half years ago and how “Little got large”, from shivering in subzero outside markets to getting barcodes to join the big boy brands at Warner Budgens to six months later lining the shelves of Waitrose and National Trust shops. Expanding the business in other directions, a new Little Beast dog and small pet shampoo bar has joined the range and awarded a fabulous 10/10 in Dogs Monthly Magazine beating marketing leaders. On top, so enthused with her new way of life, Emma wants to enable others to get the bug of self sufficiency and created The Little Soap School which offers luxurious day courses in soap making and skin care as well as holding the hands of start up toiletry companies as they cut though all the red tape, legal jargon and EU regulations.

“It goes to show that a lot of determination, enthusiasm and perhaps most importantly ensuring the business remains full of energy and fun goes a long way” said Emma.

Further talks will encompass branding and ‘Thinking Big – is supplying supermarkets right for your business and other speakers include Claire Martinsen of Breckland Orchard, Norfolk who used to commute three hours a day working for a major chocolate manufacturer.  Less than a year ago she set up her drinks company and has gone from 0-80 outlets during that time.

WiRE has been at the forefront of encouraging local female entrepreneurs in rural locations for over a decade and now has 2000 members across the country.  Originally started in 1996 to support the growing number of farm diversification businesses, the organisation now represents a wide range of sectors from demolition to the arts.

According to a study carried out by the Commission for Rural Communities last year, Britain’s rural economy is now worth up to £347bn a year – and is still growing.  Indeed in its own survey of members carried out last month, WiRE found rural entrepreneurs upbeat about their prospects this year.

Over 50% of respondents said 2010 had been the same or better than 2009 and a further 13% had decided to start their fledgling business during the year.

Over 57% of the respondents said they were cautiously optimistic about business growth in 2011 while more than 16% were very confident of a good twelve months ahead.  Only 12% predict it will be a tough year for them.

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