Northumbria University Business Clinic
Northumbria University

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Organic advice sowing seeds of success

Organic farmers certainly know how to cultivate their crops but when it came to growing the business, one family-run enterprise knew exactly where to turn – Northumbria University.

The Business Clinic is a free consultancy and advice service provided by students in the University’s Business School. Available to a range of organisations from SMEs and charities to multinationals, businesses can present students with a problem that they need help with. Working in teams, the students will analyse the problem, consider possible solutions and provide a detailed report and presentation of their recommendations to the client.

Family-run fruit and vegetable producer, Hexhamshire Organics, contacted the Business Clinic to get help evaluating their options as they looked to explore areas for growth. The business was launched four years ago by Bob and Ann Paton after they purchased their dream home which came with six acres of land. They secured organic legitimacy from the Soil Association and now cultivate fruit and vegetables which are sold at local markets and direct to customers, as well as rearing rare-breed Tamworth pigs.

Keen to continue growing the organic company, they asked Northumbria’s Business Clinic for advice on the best avenues to take. Undergraduate students Matthew Lynn, Niamh Whelan, Jonathan Dineen and Andrew Fleming impressed Bob and Ann with their research methods and attention to detail in helping them understand what they wanted their business to achieve. They visited the farm, attended markets, talked to clients and potential clients and helped the Paton’s to understand how they could better promote their products to their target audience.

Bob said: “Working with the students was great. They were very enthusiastic and wanted to learn all about us, and what we wanted to achieve. I was really surprised by the standard of work completed, and particularly by the final document we received. It was very thorough with excellent, well-researched recommendations. I honestly didn’t expect to receive something so professional.”

Since the Business Clinic’s launch in 2013, students have provided pro bono advice and recommendations to more than 220 organisations, with estimated value worth in excess of £1.2 million. The success of the Clinic led to the University investing over £800,000 to move it into dedicated premises on New Bridge Street. The new building boasts client briefing rooms, a boardroom and conferencing and event spaces.

Business Clinic Director, Nigel Coates, said: “Our students have assisted a range of organisations with consultancy advice over the last four years and it has been a pleasure to work with such a passionate client and to be championing organic farming. Our client organisations include local and national, from the smallest to the largest, from the newest to some of the longest established companies in the UK.

“We’re hoping to help many more in the years to come and would be delighted to hear from anyone interested in working with us.”

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