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Work in Progress Episode 2 – Life outside the London bubble

Could your location make or break your business? This is the topic being discussed on this episode of Asto’s Work In Progress podcast.

Bex Burn-Callander chats with business owners who have built businesses in Thirsk, Margate, and London, to find out how they made the most of local advantages and overcame any regional challenges. London is often cited as the number one choice for many start-ups but with rates, rents, and salaries rising could the capital have had its day?

Joining the podcast for this episode is:

Judy Bell, founder of Shepherds Purse, which produces award-winning cheeses from sheep’s milk. The Yorkshire-based business supplies the likes of M&S, and also makes cheese on behalf of Alex James of Blur fame.

Kevin Glynn and David Nolan launched home-cooked dog food delivery brand Butternut Box to help pet owners give their beloved pooches a better diet. The firm started life in London but now delivers nationwide.

Dom Bridges started his skin and haircare brand Haeckels after moving his family to Margate. The business harvests botanicals from the coastline to make its range of products, which are sold around the world.

“We didn’t want to be a high end, chi-chi dog food company aiming exclusively at London... That was our idea of hell. We want to appeal to everyone.”

David, Co-Founder of Butternut Box

For Judy, who started making cheese on her family farm, Thirsk was the natural home for her business. She believes that the thriving food and drinks industry in Yorkshire has helped the brand to resonate with consumers and buyers alike. However, finding local talent has been a challenge. “We’re in the middle of nowhere,” admits Judy. But as the business has grown, great people have sought out the brand, and Shepherds Purse invests heavily in training and internal promotion.

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Butternut Box may be headquartered in London but 60pc of sales are now outside the capital, reveals Kevin. “We didn’t want to be a high end, chi-chi dog food company aiming exclusively at London,” adds David. “That was our idea of hell. We want to appeal to everyone.” However, in the early days, the brand benefited from easy access to Park Royal in northwest London, a food and drink production hub. The pair sourced a commercial kitchen here, which proved the launch pad for the fledgeling venture.

Commuting time is nonexistent for Dom, who lives 100 yards from his shop in Margate. He loves the way of life so much that he refused a multimillion-pound bid for his business. The first-time entrepreneur sources raw materials from the local seaside, which makes the location crucial to Haeckels’ success “but we would have been successful even if we were based in Mongolia.”

It all comes down to the quality of your business, the entrepreneurs agree. A good business, great product, and a strong story can work from almost anywhere.

Tune in for future episodes on building a powerful network, making your first hire, and exporting overseas.

The views and opinions expressed by any individuals interviewed or participating in our Work in Progress podcasts are their own and do not represent the views or opinions of Asto.”


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Bex Burn-Callandar headshot

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Shepherds Purse  | Butternut Box | Haeckels