Dorset, is a county full of not just stunning natural beauty but is a thriving business hub with nationally and internationally known brands like Lush, Dorset Cereals, Moore's Biscuits. What we have discovered on our recent journey is the number of small, up and coming businesses is growing rapidly across the county. An especially important part of the local economy is devoted to producing food and drink. New ideas and producers are springing up all the time, offering fresh locally sourced products as well as innovation in the way they sell and promote their wares.
Helping to promote these small Dorset businesses comes in many forms including ourselves. Dorset Food and Drink has been around for years, serving the sector, but one that has recently caught our eye and deserves a thank you is the Dorset Foodie Feed. We have caught up with the lovely Heather Brown, to find out more about what makes the website tick and how she has taken it from strength to strength over the past year with the help of the Dorset Growth Hub.
Dorset Foodie Feed (DFF) is a website and social pages that showcase the best local food and drink places in Dorset. This year has been a bit… unexpected and this time last year DFF was just a website with reviews and some recipes that had been running since 2012, started by the brilliant John Grindle. I then took over in 2018 and rebranded and built a new website in January 2020.
At the beginning of lockdown last year, after seeing panicked tweets and instagram posts from local businesses and seeing the supermarkets fall apart from panic buying, I created lists of local businesses who were still open and offering takeaway or home delivery food and veg boxes. I kept those lists updated throughout lockdown and after 3 months they were accessed more than 15,000 times.
As lockdown eased in July, I turned those lists into permanent lists and have expanded them to include more than 500 local businesses across Dorset. In September I successfully applied for a Dorset Growth Hub Recovery Grant which allowed me to invest in developer help (up until then I had done everything myself as Dorset Foodie Feed doesn’t generate any income). I was then able to launch in time for the autumn lockdown a searchable, map based Directory. It is free for businesses to list and in many cases, I have tried hard to actively find businesses to list myself, rather than wait for them to contact me to be added.
Customers can search by their postcode or by region and then choose a business type to search for (eg farm shop or cafe). I can also add whether businesses are open in lockdown, offering takeaway etc so I work hard to keep the lists as up to date as I can.
I also reached out to local bloggers who had a similar desire to connect customers to businesses and have added links to listings if either Dorset Foodie Feed or the other bloggers have reviewed the businesses. My hope is that the Directory can be a resource - both for locals to find and support their local businesses, and for tourists. Overall - it has just been really beautiful to watch local businesses really step up to help their local community.
Some village pubs became the local hub, providing home cooked meals and using their suppliers to pull together veg boxes and other supplies to hand deliver to the vulnerable in their community. There are hundreds of stories across the county of local businesses helping their community and flourishing and its been really lovely to see.
It brings back memories of the first lockdown for us at Designed in Dorset, when we launched Local Shops 2 U. As a way of connecting shops with customers by offerinf a click and collect or delivery option, including the fish deliveries we used to do from our local pub the Fontmell. We wish Heather well and hope the website continues to grow and service the needs of our growing food and drink community across Dorset.