Earlier this year, I sat down for a cuppa with Emma Brown from Emma Brown Tweed (above) and we discussed entering the Rural Business Awards, adding how amazing it would be for two Rutland solopreneurs to be shortlisted, let alone win...

Well, yesterday we BOTH got the news that we've been shortlisted - Emma for Best Rural Clothing or Accessories Business and me for Best Rural Creative or Media-Based Business. I think it's safe to say we're both completely over-whelmed and incredibly excited.

Full press release from the RBAs below. Congratulations to all the finalists.

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A thriving wedding venue born from a derelict sheep farm, an environmentally conscious construction company and a rural healthcare service are just some of the businesses shortlisted today for the annual Rural Business Awards (RBAs), due to be held on 5th October at Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey.

Created by an entrepreneurial duo of countryside-based business women, Jemma Clifford and Anna Price, and backed by the CLA and Amazon, the RBAs are the only UK-wide programme dedicated to showcasing the success of rural businesses – a segment which employs more than 3.4 million people in over half a million businesses. The awards are organised by rural businesses for rural businesses, with winners in the 14 categories – ranging from Best Rural Start-up and Rural Innovation of the Year; through to Rural Entrepreneur Of The Year and Champions Of Champions – decided by an independent panel of judges drawn from the rural business sector, rural public sector agencies and rural charitable organisations.

A record number of nominations were received from hundreds of innovative and diverse businesses across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, breaking the previous record and doubling year on year. Entries came from 52 counties across the UK; with Devon, Lancashire and Leicestershire businesses submitting the most entries.   

Rural Britain’s food and start-up sector continues to make up a large percentage of the entrants, but overall the highest number of entries came from businesses in the tourism sector, representing 14% of all entrants. Contenders in the ‘Best Rural Start-up’ shortlist include Cotswold’s Distillery, the first and currently only full-scale distillery in the Rolling Cotswolds Hills. Cotswold’s Distillery produces single malt whisky and dry gin using local raw materials and traditional techniques with an innovative attitude. Running for ‘Rural Innovation of the Year’ is Winch Energy, an off-grid renewable energy developer which provides electricity, Wi-Fi and running water to communities who are currently using kerosene, dry batteries and gas as a means of energy due to lack of access to an electrical grid.

“The depth and breadth of this year’s shortlist demonstrates the incredible creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of rural businesses,” said Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon“There was stiff competition to get shortlisted, so I want to congratulate all the companies that entered and celebrate their work in building growing businesses, creating jobs, and innovating in rural Britain. Good luck to them all.”

Helen Woolley, Director General, CLA said: “Each of these outstanding rural businesses deserve a place in the final. They have shown great expertise in their field and have a real understanding of how their business fits into the rural economy. I wish each and every one good luck at the awards ceremony in October.”

Jemma Clifford, Joint-Founder of the RBAsadded“Business success is often associated with the bright lights of our big cities, but the truth is that rural Britain is a flourishing hotpot of business zeal, imagination and buoyant bottom lines. The Rural Business Awards, now in its third year, gives rural enterprises of all sizes the opportunity to showcase their success and the contribution they are making to our thriving rural economy – just the firms that have entered in 2017 have combined turnovers well in excess of £70m. Hundreds of companies enter the RBAs each year – the only UK-wide awards for rural businesses – and the finals illustrate the best businesses the countryside has to offer in each of the 13 categories. Congratulations to all of our shortlisted organisations; they are yet another reason to be proud of our outstanding rural economy.”  

The Rural Business Awards 2017 shortlist:

1. Best Rural Start-up
Herdy Sleep, based in Leeds, West Yorkshire
Cotswolds Distillery, based in Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire
Dunnet Bay Distillers Ltd, based in Thurso, Caithness, Highland
The Dog Treat Company, based in Newton Abbot, Devon
Madley Plants, Hereford, Herefordshire

2. Outstanding Rural Diversification Project
Mini Explorers Nursery, based in Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Flowers from the Farm Ltd, based in York, Yorkshire
T.Mellor and Son, based in Driffield, North Yorkshire
Knitsley Farm Shop, based in Consett, Durham
Iscoyd Park LLP, based in Whitchurch, Shropshire

3. Best Rural Clothing or Accessories Business
Emma Brown Tweed, based in Preston, Rutland
Loopy Ewes, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Butler Stewart Clothing, based in Market Harborough, Leicestershire
Derriere Equestrian Ltd, based in Broadway, Worcestershire
APT Fabrics Ltd, based in Ardkeen, Down

4. Rural Innovation of the year
Winch Energy Ltd, based in Sevenoaks, Kent
Engineering Technologies & Manufacturing Ltd (Longthorne Gunmakers), based in Northampton
The Wellbeing Farm, based in Bolton, Lancashire
APT Fabrics Ltd, based in Ardkeen, Down
Zettlex (UK) Ltd, based in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

5. Best Rural Manufacturing Business
James Kittow Butcher & Grazier, based in Par, Cornwall
Mike Wye & Associates Ltd, based in Beaworthy, Devon
Yurts for Life, based in Totnes, Devon
Cotswold RAW, based in Evesham, Worcestershire
APT Fabrics Ltd, based in Ardkeen, Down

6. Best Rural Professional Services Business
McCartneys LLP, based in Ludlow, Shropshire
Greenway Training, based in Lyneham, Wiltshire
Roythornes Limited, based in Spalding, Lincolnshire
ET Landnet Ltd, based in Cefneithin, Llanelli
Appetite Me, based in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

7. Best Rural Creative or Media based Business
Rural Maps, based in Southampton, Hampshire
Farm Creative, based in Preston, Lancashire
The Artisan Food Trail, based in Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
Holdsworth PR, based in Washington, West Sussex
Rural Roots PR, based in Oakham, Rutland

8. Social enterprise / community project of the year
Warden Abbey Vineyard, based in Bedfordshire
Field Nurse, based in Clitheroe, Lancashire
Rhubarb Farm Cic, based in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire
Infused Learning, based in Nottingham
Communigrow, based in Maidstone, Kent

9. Best Rural Tourism Business
Hoe Grange Holidays, based in Matlock, Derbyshire
Barleylands Farm Park and Craft Village, based in Billericay, Essex
The Rookery, based in Roughlee, Lancashire
Ceridwen Centre Ltd, based in Llandysul, Carmarthenshire
Humble Bee Leisure, based in Scarborough, North Yorkshire

10. Best Rural Sporting Business
Lavant House Stables, based in Lavant, Chichester
Radway Riding School, based in Radway, Warwickshire
E.J.Churchill Shooting Ground, based in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club, based in Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire
Divoky Riding School, based in Shepton Mallet, Somerset

11. Rural Employer of the year
Hartley Farm Shop Ltd, based in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire
T Soanes & Son Poultry, based in Driffield, East Riding of Yorkshire
Mike Wye & Associates Ltd, based in Beaworthy, Devon
Wallops Wood Cottages, based in Droxford, Hampshire
Engineering Technologies & Manufacturing Ltd (Longthorne Gunmakers) based in Northampton

12. Rural Entrepreneur of the year
Iscoyd Park LLP, based in Whitchurch, Shropshire
Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park, based in Chelmsford, Essex
Williams Automobiles Ltd, based in Chipping Sodbury, Avon
Crwst, based in Boncath, Pembrokeshire
Holdsworth PR, based in Washington, West Sussex

13. Best Food & Drink Business
T Soanes & Son Poultry, based in Driffield, East Riding of Yorkshire
Jolly Nice Ltd, based in Stroud, Gloucestershire
Cowdray Farm Shop Ltd, based in Midhurst, West Sussex
Cobbs Farm Co. Ltd, based in Hungerford, Berkshire
Mash Direct, based in Comber, Co. Down

14. Additionally, an overall ‘Champion of Champions’ will be selected at the judges’ discretion, from one of the other 13 categories open to entries)

The Rural Business Awards night will take place on 5th October 2017 at Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey.