Artist is picture of superfast success

A Helmsley-based artist has transformed her wholesale art and homeware business thanks to Superfast North Yorkshire.

Digital Business Support Programme helps virtual art gallery make an online impression.

A Helmsley-based artist has transformed her wholesale art and homeware business thanks to Superfast North Yorkshire.

Award winning artist Julia Burns has doubled her sales and expanded her home based business allowing her to take on two part-time staff – after completing an innovative digital business support programme and signing up to superfast broadband.

Her company is just one of around 2,000 Yorkshire small businesses to have signed up to the specially tailored programme - run by the Superfast North Yorkshire project - offering free business support and advice on a variety of topics designed to help businesses harness the potential of high speed fibre broadband.

The Superfast North Yorkshire project – a partnership led by North Yorkshire County Council and BT, has completed its first phase of the rollout with 90 per centof the county’s 380,000 premises now able to get high speed broadband – offering speeds of up to 80Mbps and beyond* - when BT’s commercial roll-out of fibre broadband is also taken into account.

Work is already underway on the second phase of the project with £8 million in additional funding to make high speed broadband available to another 11,100 homes and businesses in 2017.

Julia, already a renowned artist whose abstract canvases hang in private collections all over the world, set up her business www.redhenoriginals.com in 2008 as a way to create and sell affordable pieces of original art, based on a sophisticated version of the age-old method of potato printing. With demand growing, Julia plans to turn Red Hen Originals into a brand – expanding into stationery including greeting cards, wrapping paper and even fabrics and ceramics.

The mum of two said: “We’re a small business in a very competitive market. The little high street retailers who would normally buy from us are still struggling from the recession so we are very reliant on online sales. Before getting superfast, the speed was very slow and intermittent – very frustrating when you’re trying to process online orders or keeping the website up to date. Everything took so long, which would eat into my time spent in my studio.

“The advice we got from the support programme showed us how to get the most out of social media and to make the most of our website and it has certainly had a positive impact on the number of sales. We’ve taken on a part time marketing assistant and an admin manager to look after this side of things so that I can focus on my art. I’m also looking to expand the website with fabric products like tea towels and cushions. But without superfast to make everything run smoothly none of this would have been possible.”

Julia’s husband Simon, who helped her launch the business, attended the business support programme to learn more about how to use social media and digital marketing more effectively.

Simon said: “Following advice from the programme we completely redesigned the website. The course helped us to understand how websites and search engines like Google actually work. A big lesson was that you have to constantly work at it in order for it to work for you. Everything has to be regularly refreshed and updated. Content has to be dynamic and interactive to have a real impact. That’s when we realised we needed to take people on so that Julia could focus on her art.

“Having superfast has also given us a competitive edge. Before, wholesale customers would ring up having seen something on the website and want to check its availability for a client. We would try to check what it was on the website while they were on the phone but with our old slow connection it could take ten minutes or more to upload the pages. In desperation we printed pages from the website and stuck them on the wall for quick reference. These days buying decisions are made instantly – people don’t want to wait and having a good broadband connection really can make the difference between losing and winning a sale.”

Superfast North Yorkshire Business Advisor Colin Hobson , who worked closely with Red Hen to find the best classes and courses to help the business, said: “What Red Hen’s experience shows is that being digitally savvy is not the preserve of hi-tech industry or big corporates, new online ways of working benefit everyone – especially when they are powered by faster fibre broadband.

“As the Superfast North Yorkshire rollout gathers pace the issue is becoming less about whether or not a small business has access to the right technology and tools and more about how best they can use them as they become more widely available.”

Colin urged other eligible businesses to follow Red Hen Originals’ example and get in touch with the programme to find out how they could benefit. The programme aims to attract 2,100 businesses to the scheme by the end of June 2015.

Carl Les, chair of Superfast North Yorkshire, added: “As the superfast rollout progresses, more and more businesses like Red Hen are starting to harness the power of fibre. Superfast can open doors for new opportunities, fresh ways of connecting with customers – and potential customers – and it can cope as business needs develop and grow.”

North Yorkshire businesses wanting to find out more and to check whether they are eligible for the Business Support Programme should call 0845 0020021, emailenquiries@sfny.co.uk or visit www.sfny.co.uk

BT was chosen as the private sector partner in the project following an extensive selection process by the county council. The company is contributing £10 million towards fibre deployment in “non-commercial” areas whilst the county council is using its £17.8 million share of BDUK funds and a further £8.6 million coming from the European Regional Development Fund.[1] The project is investing an additional £8m in funding to push the deployment of fibre even further with the aim to connect an additional 11,100 homes and businesses across England’s largest rural county with high-speed broadband by 2017.The high-speed network installed by BT’s local network business, Openreach, is available on an open, wholesale basis to all communication providers, therefore offering North Yorkshire households and businesses the benefit of real choice from a highly competitive market.

For further information on the Superfast North Yorkshire programme visit www.superfastnorthyorkshire.com

For further information please contact the BT Regional Press Office on 0800 085 0660. All our news releases can be found at www.btplc.com/news

Notes to Editors:

Photography illustrating the Superfast North Yorkshire project is available here:


Red Hen Originals. Tel: 01439 770 712

35 Bridge Street


North Yorkshire

YO62 5DX

Email: julia@redhenoriginals.comWeb: www.redhenoriginals.com


*Speeds offered by fibre to the cabinet technology of up to 80Mbps and speeds of up to300Mbps offered by fibre to the premises technology are wholesale speeds. ISPs may use different speeds in their advertising. Individual line speeds will depend on network infrastructure and the service chosen by the ISP

About Superfast Britain

Superfast Britain is a Government investment of £1.08bn in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race. The portfolio comprises three linked programmes:

  • £780m to extend superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017
  • £150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities
  • £150m to improve quality and coverage of mobile phone and basic data network services

Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life.

For further information: https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk

[1]The Superfast North Yorkshire project is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007 to 2013. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information visit www.communities.gov.uk/erdf