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The Catnip Collaboration: An Engine Room Success Story

By 22nd April 2014 No Comments

Supporting Cornish based enterprises through the Engine Room isn’t just about working with them individually to help drive and develop their businesses. As RIO has discovered, sometimes there are some unique and creative ways in which businesses can work together, for mutual benefit. One example of such a partnership is seeing the UK’s first high grade organic catnip being grown right here in Cornwall.

RIO has been working with Cornish business EcoKitty since early 2013. Specialising in exquisite, British-made gifts for our feline friends, EcoKitty uses recycled cardboard, an eco-printer, local wool and organic catnip in its range of hand made products.

Prior to becoming an Engine Room client, RIO supported EcoKitty to successfully apply for a £10,000 SWIG loan. Following the successful SWIG application Ecokitty joined the Engine Room programme in January 2014. RIO is supporting this family run business, based in Truro, with marketing advice, profile raising, capital investment and supply chain management. One particular challenge facing Ecokitty was sourcing suitable organic catnip for use in their toys and gifts. With a focus on local procurement, Ecokitty was having to look as far afield as North America for a suitable organic catnip supplier and was keen to look at more local options.

Around the same time as EcoKitty became an Engine Room client, RIO also began working with Tamar Grow Local through the programme. A Cornwall based cooperative of food producers promoting the growing and eating of local produce, Tamar Grow Local has received support from RIO through the Engine Room around capital funding, new distribution channels and supply chain. RIO has also been helping Tamar Grow Local to explore opportunities around product development, including how they can work with schools, both in terms of learning programmes as well as potentially supplying their catering functions.

From working with both EcoKitty and Tamar Grow Local through the Engine Room, RIO spotted an opportunity to link the two businesses together – solving a supply chain challenge for one and providing a product development opportunity for the other. This unique collaboration, brokered by RIO, is now seeing Tamar Grow Local sewing a test batch of high grade organic catnip to supply Ecokitty for their environmentally friendly cat toys. As far as we know this is the UK’s first foray into high grade organic catnip!

Ed Whitelaw, Engine Room consultant at RIO said: “The Engine Room programme exists to support Cornish enterprises to develop and grow.

“Along with a range of partners across Cornwall we work with businesses on a one-to-one basis offering a package of advice and support including business planning, finance, investment, marketing and product and market development.

“We usually work with businesses individually, but being able to connect organisations together, solving two problems and promoting collaboration is fantastic. It’s a real, tangible example of how by working together we can strengthen individual businesses as well as the wider Cornish economy.”

To find out more about the Engine Room and support available for Cornwall based enterprises visit www.theengineroom.org.uk.

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