In 2018 Rachel and Craig Stockwell, their young son Tom, and Rachel’s parents, Bern and Stan, moved to a 50 acre sheep farm in County Durham, fulfilling their ambition of combining a working farm with four holiday cottages.
The family welcomed their first guests in 2019 and the cottages, which are set in rolling farmland just outside Lanchester, proved to be popular, with a busy first year and bookings coming in for 2020.
Just as the 2020 holiday season began, COVID-19 hit and the family were forced to close the cottages to guests. “We were geared up for another busy year but ended up having to refund guests who cancelled their bookings, and we had no other reservations coming in,” said Rachel Stockwell.
The family used the time during lockdown to carry out improvements to the cottages, including the addition of wifi routers. “Previously we had to manage all our bookings, do the accounts and all the admin on my iphone,” explained Rachel. “This was limiting the business so to help make up for lost bookings in 2020, we wanted to invest in wifi routers, a laptop and a printer.”
Rachel heard about the North East Business Support Fund (Restart & Recovery/Kick-starting Tourism) via Facebook and applied for just under £2,000 of funding to buy the routers, printer and laptop.
“We’re now able to do a lot more and it’s really opened up the business to more people, as our guests can now make use of the wifi as well,” said Rachel. “I think staycations will be a big market for us in 2021 and the wifi means that we can now appeal to a wider range of people including people who need to use the internet for work, and families with children and teens who might want to stream films.”
“We did receive help from the government to keep the business running but without this extra funding, the business would have really slowed down,” said Rachel. “This investment means we hope to attract more guests in the future and it’s made our business more efficient. The process of applying for the funding was really quick, easy and smooth and people have really wanted to help us. It’s been a big boost during a difficult time.”
The North East Business Support Fund (Restart & Recovery/Kick-starting Tourism) is administered by North East Enterprise Agency NBSL.
NBSL is approved by BEIS and has achieved the Customer First accreditation. NBSL has a team of experienced business funding advisers who work with people and businesses across the North East to identify solutions that aid development and growth.
NBSL relaunched North East Business Support Fund in 2018. The inaugural round of funding was launched in 2012, since then NBSL has provided funding and support to businesses from an array of sectors spanning all corners of the region with a recent impact report finding that the fund has yielded an impressive £4.40 economic boost for every £1 invested.