Rural business lends a helping online hand

24 Jul 2020

Rural business lends a helping online hand thanks to funding from Prince’s Countryside Fund.

JP Assist, based in North Yorkshire is helping small farming businesses manage their accounts online and keep up to date with industry trends.

Between October 2018 and March 2020, Good Things Foundation tested how community organisations who are skilled at engaging and supporting rural businesses to use digital can train other community organisations or individuals to carry out a similar role. In January 2020 we spoke to Julia Priestnall, a new small business owner who had been supported by community organisation A1 Community Works.

Julia tells us, “In October of last year I set up my company, JP Assist. I decided I wanted to work for myself so I set up a business which would provide support to people in rural communities. I’m a farmer’s daughter and have been helping my family’s business move into the 21st century. A lot of their accounts were handwritten so I helped embed a new computerised system for managing their books. Then I thought, there must be other people who are in the same boat. I felt that there wasn’t much support for small businesses and when I started digging a little deeper I started looking at social exclusion as well. That’s why I have tailored my business around offering support not just from the digital side but also encouragement and wellbeing”.

Julia has almost 20 years experience working in welfare benefits and previously worked as a recruitment manager. So becoming self employed was a new adventure and came with some challenges. Tanya from A1 Community Works identified Julia as someone who would benefit from the Digital Enterprise pilot. The support Tanya has provided to Julia has really helped to build her confidence. “She’s the sort of person that I can speak to if I have a query and she always makes time for me. I’ve had a few confidence knocks but after speaking to Tanya and her sister Karen I come away thinking ‘yes I can do it!’”

“With the grant funding, I’ve been able to buy a laptop that I can use with clients when showing them the benefits of digital for their business. I’ve been helping them to declare their tax online to adhere to new government legislation. I work primarily in North Yorkshire and the Dales where there are often issues with broadband and connectivity. One of my clients had to walk to the bottom of a field to get a connection and I just thought ‘you are never going to be able to do your accounts from down there’.”

“I’ve been really grateful that as a small and new business I have been able to get a grant that has enabled me to help people. Without the grant I wouldn’t have been able to do it!"