If you’re a Dorset producer, two Shaftesbury-based marketing experts want to promote your goods with their innovative new service.
Jim Chetwode of Chain Digital tells Alfred that the difference with the new ‘Designed in Dorset’ website will be its interviews with makers, offered at no charge. “We are celebrating all things Dorset. If you are a maker, grower, brewer, distiller, or you design or make anything within the county borders, we want to have you on our marketplace. We want to promote you, as well as pushing Dorset,” said Jim.
Jim teamed up with his cycling partner and cricket colleague Rupert Brown last summer to launch their marketing and online agency. They operate from offices in the Wincombe Business Centre.
The idea for a website devoted to Dorset traders goes back further. “Ten years ago, my wife and a friend set up a Christmas fair called ‘Designed in Dorset’. It was a great success and there were lots of local producers and shops in the tithe barn near Sherborne. Hundreds of people came to that but the one thing that people said was, ‘Can you get it online?’ Ten years ago, it cost around £30,000 to build a simple (online) platform. Now it is a lot easier and more cost efficient,” said Jim.
Of course, other website companies are available, but Jim believes that his project’s emphasis on producers’ stories and the site’s Dorset-only focus will set it apart from the other online retail sites. “In order to drive traffic to the website we need to create interesting content. We don’t want to be like Amazon, which is just sell, sell, sell, and then the profits go off to America. We want to keep this local. It’s about shopping local. With the environment being a massive issue, we want to encourage people to source their Christmas gifts locally,” he said.
Jim is a people person, and so is his business-partner Rupert. Both men are upbeat and sociable. The men are looking forward to chatting with local makers about their successes. “This is a business that lets us go and interview producers making videos, blogs and stories about them. We will be giving them advice that they would not normally get from their own website. We are creating content for them and for us as well. It’ll benefit the website.”
Some small producers might feel uncomfortable about promoting what they do because they fear they’ll appear to be bragging or seem big-headed. Jim says it’s much easier being interviewed for articles or video features, where you are responding to someone else’s questions.
“It’s all about the story. We want to be creating stories that will generate interest for people,” he said. “It could be about how stuff is grown or how they got into what they do. A lot of people move from London to Dorset because they get fed up of the corporate world and want to start making something. They’re having fun with things, whilst embracing the countryside. We want to get that message across.”
Dorset is a popular weekend escape for Londoners. Jim hopes that he can encourage the crowds that head to the coast to visit ‘Designed in Dorset’. The website could then act as a shop window for inland areas of the county like Shaftesbury.
“Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove are very popular with Indians living in the UK and on holiday. They feature in a Bollywood film,” explained Jim. “If we can get producers that make calendars or souvenirs with pictures of the area, we believe there’s a market for that. We’ll get people from across the world coming to our marketplace and then they’ll see something else nice and buy that as well.”
The men want the website to benefit the wider community, too. “We want to give back, so a share of our profits will go to good, local causes. It will be the same criteria in that they have to be based in Dorset,” said Jim.
I reminded Jim that we were on the Wincombe Business Park, less than half a mile from Wiltshire. But he’s standing firm on his ‘Dorset only’ rule. “If this goes well, we are potentially looking at ‘Designed in Wiltshire’ and ‘Designed in Somerset’,” he said. For now though, it seems that makers based in Semley and The Donheads can’t apply. “They will have to hold on or perhaps move postcodes. We will have a platform for them in the future.”
Shaftesbury businesses that have signed up include Georgie Faulkner Bryant’s Big Beautiful Bunting Company. “They make fantastic home-made bunting for all sorts of events and festivals and they are sold across the UK,” said Jim. “We have a glass blower going on soon as well as somebody who makes tea towels and a person who makes pâtés locally.”
Businesses won’t need to pay for inclusion on the website. The listing and interviews will be free. “You will only pay a 10% commission if you sell something via our website,” Jim said, adding that the content creation is complimentary.
Jim is expecting a significant take-up of the offer and he’s looking forward to meeting Dorset’s creative and entrepreneurial producers. “The fun part of this business is travelling around the county, finding out more and visiting farmers markets,” he said.
You can learn more about this Shaftesbury-based initiative at DesignedInDorset.co.uk.