Laura Burlison from Northumberland received her Start Up Loan 18 months ago and used it to start ‘The Paddock – Fresh Food Delivered from the Land to your Hand.’
From a 6 acre smallholding, The Paddock provides a bespoke weekly fruit and veg box delivery service throughout Newcastle, Gateshead and Northumberland. The Paddock aim to produce what veg they can and what they can’t is sourced locally from organic suppliers.
What inspired you to start your business?
My love of food, along with my beliefs in sustaining our natural environment. I believe in producing food in an ethical and environmentally friendly manner alongside maintaining high levels of animal welfare. Knowledge I have gained from my dad as well as my experiences travelling New Zealand working on eco-friendly farms further encouraged these beliefs and gave me some of the skills needed to start my own business.
How have you used your Start Up Loan?
My Start Up Loan enabled me to get The Paddock off the ground quickly by helping to buy necessary equipment. This gave me me the opportunity to begin buying stock and set up vital links with suppliers. A large proportion of my loan went towards buying my van which is the most important tool of my business.
What has been your greatest achievement with your business thus far?
There have been many great achievements since starting The Paddock and every day I feel proud that I have managed to create my dream job and bring my idea to reality. The day I bought my van was also a high point – as well as being nominated for both a WIN award and Princes Trust Celebrate Success award. But I think the greatest moments of all are those that happen every day. When I speak to my customers and they’re thrilled with their produce or when someone gives me excellent feedback or, I feel a great sense of satisfaction. Following all of the hard work, knowing that I can make an income out of doing something that I, and my customers, love is incredible.
What was the greatest challenge the business has faced and how did you overcome this?
From the very beginning my mentor and I identified that managing the flow of income and expenditure for my business was going to be very difficult due to the range of products, fluctuating prices and number of weekly orders. My mentor suggested that a custom built database would make it much easier to run the business day to day. So we built one – and it is!
How has Start Up Loan’s support helped the business?
My mentor has constantly provided me with advice and support. From buying my van to marketing the business through taking on volunteers to help run the business. Mentoring has enabled me to grow my business in a way and at a speed that I don’t believe would have been possible otherwise. It provided me with an outside perspective on my business which has been very important for some of the decisions I have had to make.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to people starting their own business?
Be prepared to work extremely hard. Starting your own business will not come easily; you will constantly face challenges along the way which you will have to overcome but if you work hard and believe in it enough, you will be able to achieve it. You must do your research and listen to your customers, make sure you are providing a service or product that people want, and if not adapt accordingly. Make customer service your number one priority.
What is the greatest piece of advice you have received?
Sometimes you have to make decisions which are ruled by your head rather than your heart. This is not always easy but you have to think about what is best for your business and keep this in mind at all times.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
We are expanding the growing areas at The Paddock in order to source a larger percentage of produce from our land. We will be getting more chickens this summer to keep up with the demand for eggs and continue the laying throughout the winter. I am expanding the volunteer opportunities at The Paddock and taking on a paid member of staff. Finally, I am looking into developing The Paddock’s delivery service to allow customers to buy a larger selection of products via one central wholesaler, who specialises in more ethical, environmentally friendly and fair trade products.