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Rural micro-businesses: what makes some thrive in a challenging economic climate?

The Commission for Rural Communities has published a report which looks at ways in which some micro-businesses in rural areas have managed to thrive despite the challenging economic conditions. The value of England’s rural economy is around a fifth of the national total, and the vast majority of rural businesses are very small.

Every business will need its own recipe for success, and the role of the business’s owner or manager is the most important factor. The CRC has identified the following other factors behind the continuing success of some rural micro-businesses:

  • Many farmers and other small businesses have diversified into other   areas of business activity, such as letting out accommodation for other businesses to use;
  • Small companies such as food producers or providers of holiday accommodation have found success by identifying a niche market, either with a rural-focused product, or in a location where that product is currently hard to obtain;
  • Successful small, rural shops and other small businesses have often benefited from developing a very deep understanding of the needs of their local market, and adapting to meet them;
  • Some businesses offering holiday accommodation or leisure facilities in rural areas, for example, have found ways of packaging their products and selling them to a wider market. Such networks are also a valuable way of linking small rural businesses with public sector initiatives;
  • Some farmers have been able to use an idyllic rural location to market business units in former farm buildings, and some self-employed professionals have obtained great quality of life having re-located to a rural setting;
  • Some small business have found that costs such as rent, rates and parking charges can be lower in rural areas compared to urban.

The report is largely addressed to Ministers at Defra, DCLG and BIS, and makes a number of recommendations including:

  • In order to enable rural businesses to operate on a level playing field with urban businesses, the Government should make a clear commitment, beyond existing commitments, to introducing high speed broadband to all rural areas within five years;
  • In the face of concerns about slow and prohibitive responses to planning applications, Local Authorities and others should publicise the useful simplifications inherent within the National Planning Policy Framework and work with rural communities to make use of the flexibilities enshrined in the Localism Act;
  • LEPs should draw on the energy and potential of voluntary organisations and business support organisations to encourage an increase in the number and diversity of mentoring programmes available to rural small businesses.

The full report, and an executive summary, can be downloaded below. For more information please contact

Page last modified: January 30, 2013