A MEMBERSHIP organisation that provides resources and events for rural business owners is celebrating a successful first year after launching during lockdown.

Founded by businesswoman and farmer Jo Martin, Rural Business Network was launched to fill a gap in the market and offer support to rural-based businesses. The organisation provides a forum for members to learn, communicate and grow, hosting regular online meetings on topics such as diversification, digital media and how to raise finance.

In September 2020, a successful crowdfunding campaign raised £10,000 to help fund Rural Business Network as it grows to offer more to its members.

The Network now boasts more than 60 members from up and down the UK, ranging from farmers and food and drink producers to agricultural accountants and holiday park owners.

Jo Martin and Rural Business Network were shortlisted for two major awards in 2020 – in the Digital Innovator of the Year category at the British Farming Awards and reaching the semi-finals of the Santander Emerging Entrepreneurs Programme.

Founder Jo Martin said: “I have been blown away by the reaction to Rural Business Network from the farming and rural community over the last year and am over the moon with how far our membership has grown in such a short space of time.

“Members benefit from a dedicated contact to answer any of their questions, access to online knowledge events on the issues affecting your business, access to our Member’s only Facebook group to share stories and successes, and weekly e-newsletters containing relevant news, events and opportunities to take advantage of.

“The Network is a game-changer for rural businesses, providing the resources, connections and knowledge to enable them to thrive. It is my vision to expand the Network to become the ‘go-to’ resource for rural businesses across the UK and Ireland.”

Rural Business Network Member Fiona Fawcett, from the Scottish Highlands, said: "Joining Rural Business Network has been simply fantastic! For me, it is all about meeting other people who share my rural interests, hopes and dreams. We are all friends of the soil, whether north or south and the help, support and information shared has been amazing and relevant."

Plans are currently in place to develop a new website, organise regional events when restrictions allow, and continue the programme of online events.

Those interesting in joining can visit rbn.org.uk to find out more.