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    Student’s social media support helps placement vineyard find new customers – and boosts her own business

    Posted 14 May 2021

    A young woman stands, holding a bakery book, in front of a hedge in a garden.

    A student has built her own gluten-free bakery business - while also undertaking a placement year at a South-Staffordshire Vineyard during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Ellie Jones, a 21-year-old Agri Food Marketing with Business student at Harper Adams University, has seen both her placement business – Halfpenny Green Wine Estate -  and her own food enterprise discover new customers during the past year through harnessing the power of social media.

    She began her placement at the vineyard - run by Harper Adams University alumni Martin and Clive Vickers - in July 2019, working there until September 2020. 

    During her placement Ellie, from Claverley, near Bridgnorth, Shropshire, gained first-hand experience of how businesses such as Halfpenny Green had to adapt at speed to new ways of operating when the first lockdown was introduced in March 2020.

    She said: “It was very, very different to what I was expecting – not least due to Covid 19 – but it was a really good experience. At the start, I was doing a lot of marketing, but then as the pandemic struck, things changed.

    “As the first lockdown was announced last year, they called me in on the weekend for a few hours to sort out their Facebook site and to make sure things were going on the website correctly. 

    “We did an order form for click and collect, too – and our sales were rocketing online! It was really busy, and my role then was to process online orders in preparation for the winery to pack.

    “We did offer free delivery within five miles, but I’d often take deliveries with me if people were on my way home.”

    Managing Director Clive Vickers added: ““Ellie has been fantastic for us - hard working, with a great attitude in difficult times. We hope she will stay with us full time after her Harper days.”

    Ellie combined her placement work with her own business, Nora’s Gluten Free Baking, through which she hopes to change people’s perception of gluten free food. 

    The business, which Ellie now combines with her degree studies, is promoted through dedicated Facebook and Instagram pages, picking up orders from cafes and tearooms as well as the wider public.

    Nora’s Gluten Free Baking was started by Ellie after she was diagnosed with coeliac disease six years ago. Through her work, and its growing reputation, she hopes to help people who have an intolerance or allergy to gluten and allow them to enjoy food again.

    She added: “I am a coeliac – and I am a huge foodie anyway! 

    “Obviously, I have had to develop a few recipes for myself – and then I have combined those with my baking. It is going quite well – I do have to get up early some days to make sure I get stuff done and it can be intensive sometimes. But I’m getting up and doing it!”

    Ellie has, however, decided not to take further bookings in May and June this year, to allow her to fully concentrate on her studies including her dissertation and final assessments.

    However, she is then looking forward to more baking, which she hopes to combine with further work at Halfpenny Green, and to continuing to apply the skills she has learned during her studies at Harper Adams to her future work.

    She added: “I absolutely love studying at Harper Adams – I can’t fault it at all! I feel really lucky and I have learned a lot.” 

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