A pioneering Shropshire couple say they have been able to turn their business dream into a successful reality thanks to the Marches Growth Hub.
Luke and Steph Boxall have launched their Worm Soil business – thought to be the only one of its kind in the UK – from a smallholding near Bridgnorth.
It sells bags of natural, eco-friendly fertiliser and soil improver produced by around 100,000 worms from their four acre plot.
And Luke says the business would never have got off the ground without the help of the Marches Growth Hub – the business support service of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership.
Luke said: “I will be eternally grateful for discovering the Marches Growth Hub when I did – literally every piece of advice and support that has enabled Worm Soil to launch is because of this incredible service.”
The couple started Worm Soil after moving to Shropshire from their former home in the South East in search of a better quality of life.
They use worms to produce break down manure to produce vermicast – a high-quality fertiliser and soil improver which is entirely natural and environmentally friendly. Vermicast is used widely in other parts of the world, but Worm Soil is the only business of its type in this country.
Luke, who used to work in IT, said advice from the Marches Growth Hub Shropshire, which is delivered by Shropshire Council, had been instrumental in getting the business off the ground.
“Whilst I had built up significant commercial experience through my career in the IT sector, I’d not previously launched a business from scratch, and I couldn’t claim to know all there is to know about successfully running a company. The Marches Growth Hub had so many resources available, it would have been silly not to use them.
“The support I’ve found there has been very, very useful and relevant to my own needs – they’ve not led me down a rabbit hole of support that’s not been required.
“Added to that, the network that the growth hub opens up to you is fantastic and Marches Growth Hub Shropshire manager Emma Chapman has introduced me to some invaluable contacts who, in turn, have introduced me to more amazing contacts.”
The hub had helped Worm Soil access funding through Shropshire Council’s ARG Economic Recovery Fund to purchase composting equipment and put Luke in touch with experts at the Meres & Mosses Business Environment Network, Shropshire Wildlife Trust and the Master Composters organisation.
Other help provided or supported by the Marches Growth Hub included:
• Regularly attending The Friday Hub Zoom networking sessions
• Working with Matthew Woodhead from WCL Consulting Ltd on areas including business objectives, business plan, financial planning and management
• Participating in the ‘Step up to start’ programme run by business specialists Good2Great
Luke said the growth hub and Marches LEP’s strong partnerships with world-renowned Harper Adams University’s Agri-EPI centre and the CREST team at UCS had been crucial in developing his business.
“The likes of Agri-EPI and CREST are well respected by growers who know them and trust their scientific findings. This is important as we seek to convert large farmers and commercial horticultural growers away from pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers to our product which benefits the environment in every possible way.
“I can’t imagine getting to where we are now without the guidance and support that the growth hub team has provided and would fully anticipate that as we grow and evolve, that support and signposting to funding or useful connections would continue depending on our specific needs at the time.”
Dave Courteen, Marches LEP Small Business Champion, said: “The Marches Growth Hub is here to help all businesses – either those starting up or those which are established and want to grow.
“We would urge any business to do exactly what Luke did and get in touch to find out how we can help turn their business dreams into reality.”
For more details of how the Marches Growth Hub can help visit https://www.marchesgrowthhub.co.uk/support/