Rural business proving fruitful
Nov 17 2010 The Journal
CHOCOLATE Grape provides web development and design services to small and medium-sized businesses across the North East and is focusing on local companies in Northumberland.
“We are a small rural business and understanding value for money is critical for businesses especially in the current economic climate,” said owner Tim Mather. “We aim to provide an excellent service that local businesses can afford.”
Recent work from Chocolate Grape includes websites for Green Fingers Services, a local landscaping company with 10 staff, and Comfort Call, a nationwide home care company based in Sunderland employing more than 250 carers as well as several e-commerce sites. “The services we provide are bespoke for each client, we use open source software to develop all our websites ensuring we concentrate on the important parts of our clients' business rather than reinventing the wheel,” said Tim.
“Your website is often your first contact with potential customers. By working closely with our clients we ensure we understand your website’s audience and how to present your business to them.”
The internet can be a very cost- effective way to market your business.
The growth of social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) means creating an online presence for your business is easier and cheaper than ever but managing and focusing that presence into something useful is critical to its success.
“We believe in passing on as much knowledge about marketing your business online as we can. Often the website is just a small part of what clients receive,” added Tim. “Advice on social media tools, search engine optimisation and pay per click campaigns are just some of what we can provide.”
Tim started the business from a home office in Morpeth in 2007 after several years working in Newcastle and Gateshead as a web/software developer. He moved to Hipsburn with his wife Ruth in 2009 and recently relocated Chocolate Grape to an office in the heart of Alnwick.
“Living and working in Northumberland was something I always wanted to do,” he said. “I am a keen fisherman and shooter and when not working hard for our clients I spend a lot of time in the countryside surrounding Alnwick with my troop of spaniels.”
As a member of North East England Service Provider Register (NEESPR), companies based in the North East can apply for funding towards services provided by Chocolate Grape.
“The funding that has been available over the past few years has definitely benefited local start-up businesses with several clients receiving up to 50% of funding on a website built by us.”
The recent announcement of the imminent demise of One North East has affected the funding situation in Northumberland considerably but funding of up to 40% is still available in some situations.
News of £5.5m being made available from Northumberland County Council to support existing and start-up businesses should drive rural businesses forward.
Regardless of the current economic climate Chocolate Grape is looking to a bright future by expanding its services and working with clients to improve its online presence.
“We are currently building mobile specific websites for several clients, presenting a different user experience to iPhone and iPad users,” said Tim. “We are also developing a web-based application for managing staff which will be released in the first quarter of 2011.”