Mole Valley offers advice to others about online trading
MORE than 70 farmers and rural entrepreneurs from North Devon took a plunge into the digital world at a Mole Valley Farmers event on Wednesday.
Many hope to benefit from a fast broadband satellite connection through a government and local council initiative.
Mole Valley has traded online for ten years, selling more than 10,000 different products from its website and interacting with customers on Twitter, Facebook and blogs.
Managers wanted to offer others a chance to find out what works well and what does not.
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The Mole Valley store at South Molton was filled with local business people keen to grasp their online activity and ready to learn.
The head of e-commerce at Mole Valley, Andy Skarzynski, said the company aimed to share its story of successes and hard lessons learnt along the way.
The offer of a free broadband satellite dish, installation and IT support comes through a specialist programme, Rural Connection, which runs alongside a regional scheme to bring fast satellite broadband to more than 1,000 homes and businesses in remote parts of Devon and Somerset.
The scheme is funded by Defra's Rural Development organisation.
Visitors were shown how to reach their customers, market their business, sell online, use social media and increase their search engine presence.
Among the speakers was Devon County Council leader John Hart, who said: "Rural Connection is part of the huge investment Devon County Council is making in broadband and business support, to boost our rural economy.
"We are very grateful to Mole Valley Farmers for giving up their time to contribute to this unique event.
"Migrating online can be a challenge for small businesses, but it is one that, as the success of Mole Valley proves, is well worth taking up.
"Connecting Devon and Somerset has recently signed a £94 million deal with BT to deliver high-speed fibre broadband to around 90 per cent of premises by the end of 2016, and to ensure a minimum of 2Mbps broadband speeds for all to most of our rural areas.
"This means at last our rural businesses will be able to compete on a level playing field."
Mr Skarzynski added: "We were able to share our story while giving practical advice on how to get started and promoting this fantastic offer of free broadband, installation and equipment."
The chief executive of Cosmic Ethical IT, Julie Hawker, said: "This event highlights how large rural businesses can share their learning to support and animate smaller businesses into taking steps to successfully sell and market online."
The next workshops will be with Cosmic at Moorland House, Mole Valley Farmers' head office in South Molton.
Introduction to Social Media, Tuesday, May 7. Learn about social media and what it can do for your organisation or business.
Focus on Facebook, Tuesday, May 21.
Get to Grips with Twitter, Tuesday, May 28.
Search Engine Optimisation, Tuesday, June 4. How to improve your search engine listing.
Spaces are limited, to book e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0845 094 6108.
People can check if they qualify for this assistance by visiting www.connectingdevon andsomerset.co.uk/the-rural-connection and following the link to 'Tooway Direct'.
Local companies who would like to attend a similar event in the future can call event organisers Cosmic on 0845 094 6108.