Local businesses scoop Rural Business Awards

22nd October

Great Out-tours team members with trophies
The Great Out-Tours winning team

There are many award-winning businesses among our members and this month three of them were recognised in the Rural Business Awards Regional Finals which took place on Friday.

Now in its fifth year, the Rural Business Awards is the only UK-wide programme dedicated to showcasing the success of countryside businesses.

The Great Out-tours, the Horam-based, nature-focused educational business, has long inspired East Sussex children with its after school clubs and adults with its special needs services. Earlier this year the company launched a nationwide roll out via a franchise model for these services. This made the business well placed to take the Winner of The Best Rural Professional Services Award and runner up in the Best Rural Recreation or Outdoor Pursuits Business.

“We are thrilled to have won this award. We love what we do and every single Great Out-tours team member puts in so much hard work to ensure that adults with special needs attending our adult ‘Four Seasons Activity’ programmes and children participating in our primary after school clubs, get an illuminating, educational and rewarding experience. This commitment inspires our audiences to care for, protect and sustain the wonders of the Great Out-doors. Getting recognition of this magnitude from the esteemed Rural Business Awards judges and industry leaders like Amazon, NFU Mutual and Openreach is a fitting tribute to our collective dedication and exacting high standards to the cause and a great achievement for our business as well as the rural community as a whole.

“The competition this year was really tough and of such a high standard, so I am delighted to be bringing this award back to our team. We will use this prestigious accolade to elevate The Great Out-tours on a national level,” explained John Brooksbank, Founder of The Great Out-tours Limited.

Heathfield resident and Dancing on Ice star Jayne Torvill OBE added her voice to praise the achievement:

“I am delighted for The Great Out-tours in winning these two awards. They thoroughly deserve them. I have seen first-hand the passion in their work and the extremely hard efforts they put into making a positive difference to the lives of primary age children and adults with special needs, learning and physical disabilities, dementia and mental health conditions. They illuminate the minds of every individual they teach, to see, interpret, understand the beauty, features and importance to protect our countryside. I wish them every success with their future plans for UK-wide expansion. Onwards and upwards!”

The Great Out-tours will now progress to the National Final on 27th February 2020 in Manchester where they will go up against each of the ‘Rural Professional Services Business’ winners from the other six UK regions and to compete to become the best Rural Professional Services business in the whole of the UK.

The Great Out-tours hopes to use this extra exposure to make an increased push to sign up more franchises across the UK. Their existing five franchises are performing extremely well and are entirely autonomous to their Wealden HQ clubs arm, with term-on-term, full to capacity club registers.

John went on to say: “This proves our product can go beyond ‘Farmer John’ and operate at any location,county or country.”

Next week, the business launches an enhanced job ad with ‘Countryside Job Service’ an online job portal promoting countryside careers in the UK and environmental conservation worldwide. 

Employees of Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm
The Catsfield Team: Phil Reynolds, Toby Ballard, Clive Collins and Emma Laurens.

Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm, the popular festive tree farm and seasonal shop near Battle, won two awards in the competition.

Plantation owner Clive Collins was the winner in the ‘Triumph Over Adversity Award’ and worker Toby Ballard was named ‘Rural Young Person of the Year’. Both Clive and Toby go through to the national finals in in Manchester.  The farm was also shortlisted for the ‘Best Rural Retail Business’ category in recognition of its excellent Christmas shop and customer service.

Clive Collins said: “We were absolutely thrilled to win two awards and to be shortlisted in a third. It was particularly pleasing that Toby Ballard’s contribution to rural business can be shown off. He is a talented young man who loves working outdoors and gets on with people. To get this type of endorsement is brilliant for him, and we are really looking forward to the national finals now.”

A third member of the Heathfield News – Konzepts was a finalist in two categories – Best Rural Digital Communications or Media Business and Best Rural Start Up.

Photo of Sue Harbottle-Sear with a calf
Finalist – Konzepts founder Sue Harbottle-Sear