The Rural Start-Up Fund

Forest Holidays, partners of The Royal Countryside Fund, are passionate about sustainable rural tourism. Ensuring resilient communities and a prosperous local economy means supporting the people living and working at the very heart of the rural sector. 

This is why Forest Holidays and The Royal Countryside Fund have teamed up to create The Rural Start-Up Fund, an exciting opportunity for rural businesses to receive financial support as they embark on a new business venture. 

One of the biggest barriers to setting up a new business is the initial financial demand, and this, coupled with the challenges of working rurally, is why we are striving to support new entrepreneurs across the UK. 

A total of £5,000 is available in the Rural Start-Up Fund in 2023/24 to be awarded to one winning business or shared between a number of rural start-ups. In addition, as part of the Rural Start-Up Fund, the successful applicant(s) will receive mentoring support from a relevant expert in the Forest Holidays team to further guide and support them. 

Applications for the 2023-24 Rural Start-Up Fund are now closed.

Watch this space for announcements about the 2024/25 round.

Our 2022/23 winner

Caroline Dawson
SUP Lass Paddle Adventures 

Nercwys, Flintshire 

SUP Lass was established in Nercwys in 2021 during the Covid-19 lockdown, and prides itself in offering unique experiences that combine paddleboarding with local food, accommodation and the countryside.

Find out more

Previous winners

Sophie Willingale

Sophie took over running of Bow in the Cloud Vineyard, a family start-up in rural Wiltshire, following the death of her father in 2018. Upon hearing that she had won the £5,000 award, Sophie said: “At times over the last year things have been a struggle, so having some external support and the opportunity for mentoring from Forest Holidays is something I really value as well as the financial help.

“I’ve fallen in love with the vineyard and have been learning how to manage it and develop the business – with a lot of support from local people. It’s been a great joy to bring back community harvest days, provide opportunities for others to learn like myself, and see the vineyard being used by the community. The future as a whole feels exciting and I can’t wait to see what will be achieved over the next few years.”

Jamie Bending

With a concept he began developing in 2011, Jamie Bending founded Ergrownomics—a business specialising in the production of spatially-efficient growing systems. Despite a winning product created through nearly a decade of testing, Jamie found difficulties in establishing his business. “If there was one thing we hadn’t recognised from the off, it was how isolating starting a business could be—relentless, and little in the way of a business-support network that can really empathise,” said Jamie.

With the help of mentoring support provided by Forest Holidays in the inaugural year of the Rural Start-Up Fund, Jamie was able to sharpen his business skills to give him the confidence to expand Ergrownomics. “We now have a revised brand image, a new ethos, and an entirely different plan in place for 2022, all of which we’re certain wouldn’t exist if not for the support of The [Royal] Countryside Fund and Forest Holidays,” said Jamie.

“We’ve made a huge amount of progress – we’ve significantly up-skilled and gained a lot more awareness on how businesses work, and how to make a real difference. Forest Holidays’ investment with The [Royal] Countryside Fund has certainly paid dividends in our case.”

Jamie Bending, Ergrownomics

Related links
Our Farm Resilience Programme
Discover our work with new entrants