Why diversity is desirable – re-writing the rural rules

Just back from an enjoyable week’s break with the family near the Yorkshire coast, which prompted a few thoughts on the way some small businesses seem to be going.

At least in that neck of the woods, small enterprises look to be branching out in a number of directions. Nothing particularly new in this, of course, but based on a number of visits to East Riding over the last few years, it seems to be an increasing trend.

One particular successful case in point is the holiday cottage where we stay. Run by a farming family, the rural way of life was in the family blood for many years until their venture into… the arts!

Capitalising on the head of the household’s passion for paintings with the establishment of his own art gallery on site, this facility has started offering art tuition classes during the last few years. The art gallery was followed by the conversion of farm buildings into a series of holiday cottages and on-site facilities to help guests relax.

In August, the biggest change we saw to this business, compared with our last visit in 2010, was the opening of a coffee shop that also does light snacks, housed within the existing art gallery. It’s really brought a bit of a buzz to the whole place when it’s busy, and certainly increased the footfall.

No doubt there are dozens more examples if you care to look for them, and they’ve helped rural businesses survive the savage downturn, as well as changing trends such as the decline of traditional farming and the different demands from today’s holiday-makers.

Much closer to home, there are a couple of interesting case studies – Signature Steakhouse in West Bridgford, Nottingham, boasts a boutique alongside the dining area (filet mignon with a blouse and shoes to go, madam?) and in the suburb of Lady Bay there’s a bed and breakfast combined with an art studio.

There are strong arguments too, for focusing on a single service or offering and sticking at that rather than becoming a ‘jack of many trades’, but it all depends on the circumstances and demand.

Words have always been at the centre of what I do for a living, although I apply them in a wide range of ways, so I guess you could say I’m both diverse and focused in my range of services.

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