We've been in business for over a decade now, and from the beginning we've been aware that there is more to being a small business in a rural area than screwing every penny possible out of every customer. In the big city you may get away with it, but living and working in a small community really makes it obligatory to contribute to that community in whatever way we can, whether as individuals or as businesses. That may be something as simple as paying for an advert in the village school's calendar, but in our case it goes further: we're always happy to contribute our professional skills to local community groups at reduced costs or even for nothing. From a pragmatic point of view this sort of pro-bono work may help to generate a bit of paid work by spreading the word about the company, and in rural areas reputation is everything: very few small businesses just look in Yellow Pages when they want a web developer - they go by word of mouth recommendations (or at least they do round here). That's one factor of course, but on the whole we do it because we actually want to - we want to get involved with local groups and businesses - they're our neighbours, after all.
One recent project comes to mind: Siop and Caffi Cynfelyn.
Siop Cynfelyn is a community enterprise (Cwmni Cymunedol Cletwr) that has taken over the site of a local petrol station/shop/cafe in the village of Tre'r Ddôl on the A487 that had been empty for several years. In May 2013, after a lot of hard work by a team of volunteers, the café and shop were re-opened to the public. It's grown steadily since then, staffed mainly by a team of dozens of volunteers, and is now in the process of applying for grants so that the group can buy the site and completely redevelop it. Our initial contribution to the project was an offer to develop a website (a freebie of course) to keep locals up-to-date with the project plans. That then evolved into a site aimed at advertising the activities in the shop and café and progress on the project. It was then added to with a private area for managing communication with the volunteers and to maage a general customer mailing list. Although the site was developed with our standard content management tools, we're still doing most of the content editing as well.
Of course in this case our involvement didn't stop there - somehow I'm now on the management committee and I also seem to be doing a couple of shifts a week making excellent lattes for the customers and standing behind the till (a strangely slow piece of advanced computer-based technology. Why does it take 7 seconds to calculate that there is £4.00 change from a £5 note when buying a £1.00 loaf? Very odd - I think there's a little demon in the box writing down the details of each transaction with a quill pen.)
You can see the website at www.cletwr.com
The managers have also been busy, and set up a Facebook account, which helps to spread the word
...and of course, if you're on the A487 between Machynlleth and Aberystwyth at any time, why not pop in for a cuppa and a slice of cake, and a chance to buy some excellent local produce - choose the right time and you might even meet Santa Claus