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Small Business Extra

A Northumberland hill shepherd has expanded his innovative e-business after receiving support from the electronic community for the North-East,
www.n-e-life.com

Jon Monks, a hill shepherd on a farm just South of the Simonside Hills in Northumberland, has developed a website that is attracting hundreds of visitors a day and provides important additional revenue for his family.

The site, www.shepherdswalks.co.uk , has over 300 visitors a day and the business employs a part-time person, selling around £2.500 worth of products a month including guided walking tours, ordinance survey maps, walking sticks, maps of the Cheviot Hills and car routes.

But the problem wasn’t setting up the site, which has received international acclaim since being launched in 2001.

The real challenge has been working out how to get people to visit it.

His enthusiasm to grow the business coincided with new online initiatives launched by www.n-e-life.com, with support from the European Regional Development Fund.

The new scheme, called Grow Your Business, was designed to help North-East business access the full potential of e-commerce.

Mr Monks was offered an opportunity to set up a micro website via the market town portals in Morpeth and Alnwick, along with training, software and licenses to help him make it as compelling and practical as possible.

He said: “I decided to go for it on the basis that the more sites I had driving traffic towards my main site, the more likely I was to increase the visitor numbers.”

“It only took me around half an hour to set up each Micro site, yet it provided me with the perfect opportunity to grow traffic to my site without having to fork out a penny.”

“It was a win-win situation. Now a good percentage of visitors arrive at my main site directly from these satellite sites.”

The Grow Your Business Initiative offers a range of support packages. Rural businesses based in or around market towns can access free entry-level support, training, software and licences to enable them to set up a basic web presence or a simple virtual store.