Wine merchant set for vintage year after help from Dorset Growth Hub

07 Dec 2018

A Dorchester wine merchant has become the latest business to transform its online trade through a ‘digital capability’ grant from the Dorset Growth Hub.

Morrish & Banham is among more than 100 small firms helped by the countywide support agency since a dedicated funding stream for digital was launched last year.

More than 50 grant applications have been approved as part of a wider package of help including workshops, courses, face-to-face advice and web resources.

On re-tooling its website for e-commerce in October 2018, four-year-old Morrish & Banham saw an instant uplift in enquiries.

Co-founder and owner Caroline Banham said: “Our website looked good but it wasn’t doing what we wanted it to do. It was a shop window when what we needed was a full e-commerce platform.   Thanks to the support of Dorset Growth Hub, we’ve been able to rebuild it with better functionality and navigation, giving us added confidence to grow.”    

Support for Dorset's food and drink businesses

Morrish & Banham is symptomatic of one of the main groups pursuing greater digital transformation in Dorset: the food and drink sector.

Many ‘micro’ businesses, including producers and retailers, have been benefiting from Dorset Growth Hub’s links with membership organisation Dorset Food & Drink.

Under that tie-up, Morrish & Banham attended a free usability testing workshop where they and other sector businesses had their websites analysed from the user perspective by human-centred design specialists Experience UX, organisers of the UX Insider conference in Bournemouth in October 2018.  

Also present at the workshop were Capreolus Fine Foods, Dorset Chilli Shop, preserves specialist From Dorset with Love and naturopathic food supplier Primrose’s Kitchen.

Caroline said: “The workshop enabled us to view live customer feedback. It is enlightening to see how your website works through the eyes of potential users. That was a line in the sand. We knew there and then that unless we fixed the issue with our website, there was no way it was going to do what we wanted it to do. Armed with fresh insight on what we needed to do to improve, we completed and put in the grant application.”

The upshot was a £1,500 grant secured by Dorset Growth Hub through the European Structural and Investment Fund, which the firm matched from their own investment pot.

After sourcing three quotes from potential providers, Morrish & Banham awarded the contract to upgrade their site to Bournemouth-based digital marketing agency Uprated.

Caroline said:  “As soon as the improved site went live, we saw an instant change including an increase in enquiries about the business, particularly about our events and sales. The site now offers an experience that better reflects our business.  We have more confidence to put the web link everywhere on social media and we’re really excited about the potential for growth in the coming year.

“I can understand people might be hesitant about the time involved in applying for grants but actually the process was straightforward. Dorset Growth Hub were so supportive.  They want to support businesses in our position because they want to see economic growth in the area. We’re full of thanks for the help we’ve had from both Dorset Growth Hub and Experience UX.“

Dorset Growth Hub approves grant applications

In the past year, Dorset Growth Hub has received 66 applications from businesses for Digital Capability Grants, approving more than 50. Aside from grant funding, 105 businesses have received 12 or more hours of support from the hub’s digital team. Ninety-two workshops have been delivered with an average of ten attendees per event. By the end of December 2018, another forty digital events will have been held.        

Dorset Growth Hub Digital Project Manager Richard Burn said: “The number of small businesses in Dorset transforming their digital reach is rocketing and this entrepreneurial spirit is set to continue in 2019.”

Ali Carmichael, co-founder and Commercial Director of UX Experience, said: “We’re always keen to help local independent businesses, which is where the idea of the free usability testing workshop came from. It was a very insightful day for all involved. Caroline has taken our recommendations, driven them through her new website and is now enjoying the results. We’re looking forward to helping more Dorset businesses, alongside Dorset Growth Hub, in 2019.”   

For more information call 03454 586 480 or join the discussion on Twitter following @dorsetgrowthhub #TalkToTony.