Western Gazette June 09

Internet Access To A World Of Nature And Fun On The Farm

A new online business, based at Chillington in South Somerset, is using cutting-edge internet technology to give children a better knowledge of the land and where their food comes from.

The brainchild of web expert Julia Lowe, Farm Toys Online is home to a bewilderingly vast and diverse array of products, some of which she sources from just down the road, others from across the world. These include toys, books and DVDs, accessories, children’s gardening equipment, crockery and lunch boxes, clothes, bags and much, much more. 

But according to Julia, everything on the site shares a common theme: “They’re all to do in some way with nature, agriculture, animals and the land.  They’re based on the same philosophy that’s behind educational farms – providing the understanding that our food comes from the land, and encouraging the environment awareness that should last a lifetime.” 

In fact, when Julia set up the company in 2008 her first idea was to market toys and other products to the 350,000 people who every year visit her mother’s educational farm in Surrey.  As she says today, however, she simply has not yet needed to target them. 

“Having a well-made website that optimises our Google rankings has put us in pole position for anyone looking for farm toys, and we’ve also invested in Google advertising,” she says 

As a former internet consultant, this success has been particularly pleasing.  “After years of telling people how run a website, it’s a relief to find that I can do it in practice,” she laughs.  “I’m also very grateful to Ilminster-based design company Iconography, who built me an excellent site.”

The business has already exceeded her expectations within its first year, and she has already taken on an employee much earlier than she expected.  Now, though, she is now preparing a marketing push to bring Farm Toys Online to an even wider audience.  

“Soon after I set up, I contacted Business Link in Somerset to receive some marketing advice,” she says.  “I met Business Adviser Nicola Evans, who had some really brilliant ideas that I could put into practice straightaway. These included a tie-up with Jimmy’s Farm, as seen on TV, and even contacting top chefs like Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to include their food in the lunch boxes we sell.

“I haven’t yet had time to implement the full plan that Nicola and I developed together – I wish there were more hours in the day – but I’m very confident that it will boost the business even more once it’s underway.” 

According to Nicola Evans, who also works with Iconography, “It is wonderful to see how modern technology can help create an interest among the next generation in the timeless values associated with the land, wholesome food production and environmental awareness.  By applying her own internet expertise to an excellent concept, Julia has already created a thriving business.  I’m looking forward to seeing how Business Link’s help enables her to move on to the next level of success.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about the services Business Link provides locally should call 0845 600 9966 or visit www.businesslinksw.gov.uk/southwest.  To find out more about Julia’s business and the huge range of products that are available, visit www.farmtoysonline.co.uk.

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