On October 2nd 2016, Young Ambassador and Prince’s Trust entrepreneur, Laura Burlison, participated in our Palace to Palace cycle ride – cycling 45 miles from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle with her partner to raise money for us. We caught up with Laura to find out why she decided to take on the challenge.

Laura’s blog

In 2013 I participated in the Enterprise programme which helped me set up my own organic fruit and vegetable delivery box business. The Paddock. The Paddock – a 6-acre family owned smallholding – provides a weekly delivery service to Newcastle, Northumberland, Gateshead and parts of Durham. The ethos of The Paddock centres around a celebration of local, seasonal food produced in an ethical, sustainable and environmentally friendly manner

Although I had the idea for my business, I did not have the funds to support my idea. I found out about The Prince’s Trust’s Enterprise course through a conversation with my mam’s hairdresser. That afternoon I searched for The Prince’s Trust online, read about the Enterprise course and the rest is history.

I had started to produce a business plan before the Enterprise course, but the template from The Trust was really helpful as it made me think about all of the aspects of my business and how it would run on a day-to-day basis. Without The Prince’s Trust’s support, I wouldn’t have been so prepared when it came to actually starting my business.

I found the four-day course to be a really positive experience. It made me feel that the idea of my business becoming a reality was possible, giving me the motivation and confidence to go away and complete my business plan and apply for funding.

Of course, the funding played an important role in helping me to start The Paddock, but The Prince’s Trust has helped me in so many other ways too. I was assigned a business mentor for two years, who is a volunteer for The Trust. Initially I was quite concerned that the mentor would interfere and try to tell me how to run my own business. Being a very independent person, this really didn’t appeal to me.

However, I needn’t have worried as my mentor and I got on really well from the beginning and he has been a constant source of support, advice and guidance.

The business mentor has really has gone the extra mile to support my business and I now believe that the mentoring part of the course is without a doubt the most valuable part of the whole experience.

It is really valuable when starting a business to have someone who has been in that situation and successfully created their own business to be on hand to have a completely neutral view of how your business is developing.

At the beginning, my mentor and I quickly realised that managing the fluctuating price of my stock, the incoming orders and expenditure and vast number of products on offer was going to be difficult so we discussed the need for a database to manage this. I researched many off-the-shelf packages but we needed something more specific so my mentor put a ‘shout out’ through The Trust – where mentors can reach out to one another, to share skills and expertise. Another mentor came forward and he has helped me to build a custom built database for my business.

Without the support of my mentor and the continued support of The Trust, I don’t think The Paddock would have progressed as quickly as it has.

During my first summer of trading, I had not anticipated that there would be a decrease in sales due to school holidays. The Trust were very good with helping me manage my loan repayments, easing the financial pressure and my mentor helped me to stay focused. Eventually the hard work started to pay off and things improved and since then I haven’t looked back.

Since starting The Paddock, I have expanded the business by:

  • Delivering to new areas
  • Including new products
  • Opening up The Paddock Farm Shop, which stocks we now stock and deliver a wide range of local produce including organic dairy, handmade cheeses, jams, chutneys, organic dried goods, fresh bread, free range, grass-fed meat, local honey and more
  • Employed two part-time members of staff, who assist with the packing and delivery of the fruit and veg boxes
  • Recruited two volunteers who support me with the upkeep of the smallholding and care of the animals
  • Own expanded the number of chickens from the original 50 to 150
  • We are now growing on approx 1.5 to 2 acres of our land

I am now a Young Ambassador for The Prince’s Trust, a voluntary role where I tell my story to inspire others to get involved with The Trust. This year I took on the Palace to Palace cycle ride, not only to challenge myself, but to help raise money for The Prince’s Trust because I wanted to give something back for all of the help I have received.

Until July this year, I hadn’t been on a bike for more than 15 years, but I wanted to challenge myself to give something back to what I believe is a fantastic charity and a great cause.

I trained really hard over the course of 10 weeks to get ready for the Palace to Palace bike ride, and thanks to the patience and support of my partner who completed the biked ride with me, I got to the day feeling positive and confident. I am fitter and stronger and I now have a new hobby that I love – and it has all been for a good cause.

We travelled to London from Northumberland by train with our bikes, which in all honesty was a challenge in itself, but the bike ride was amazing. The sun was shining and the atmosphere was great. It was really well organised and marshalled. It was a completely different environment to what I had been training in, the traffic for one was so much busier, but it was a great feeling completing the ride.

I enjoyed the whole experience so much; I am considering the 90 miles next year!

We have raised almost £700 for the Trust through sponsorship and a charity raffle which I have been running from my shop, with six prizes from local businesses in the village in which the shop is based, the village in which I grew up.

I hope that by completing the Palace to Palace cycle ride, and continuing to volunteer as a Young Ambassador for The Trust, I can help inspire other young people to make their business ideas a reality – to encourage them to believe in themselves, and make a positive change in their lives. 

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