ONE of the region’s most powerful businesswomen made a rural factfinding mission to Wensleydale this week.

Kate McIntyre, the recently-appointed operations director of Business Link Yorkshire, visited the Hawes area to get an idea of how the organisation can best meet the needs of local businesses.

Business Link offers a wide range of advice and services to small and medium-sized businesses to help them develop.

Accompanied by Alice Amsden, Business Link business improvement adviser and former founder director of Wensleydale Creamery, she visited several businesses.

They first went to Hawes auction mart which is a key centre for the sale of livestock between hill and lowland farms, but which faced a bleak future three years ago.

However, a shares issue paid off debts of more than £300,000 and secured its long-term future.

Andrew Pratt, mart chairman, welcomed Ms McIntyre’s visit. He said: “It’s great that someone at the top is willing to listen to our needs.

It’s not just the mart, we are part of an essential supply chain from farm to plate.”

She also visited Helen Iveson who owns the Mulberry Bush, a small shop on the main street of Hawes.

A mother of five, she was widowed as a result of a tragic accident.

With no alternative, she set up in business, retailing quality gifts and homewares.

Mrs Iveson said: “Fear of failure is a key driver. I had to earn a living to support my young family, living on benefits was not on my agenda.

“It has been really hard, but we now have a regular customer base of locals and visitors.

“It’s good that Business Link’s senior management want to hear what support I need and their offer of help is appreciated.”

Ms McIntyre also planned to visit the Old Board Inn, which is under new owner/manager, Ray Lupton, and Ribblesdale Cheese Company, run by Iona Hill, which is expanding rapidly, producing handmade Wensleydale Cheese, goats’ milk, buffalo and sheep milk cheese.

Ms McIntyre is a chartered accountant who started her career at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. She has worked for a number of organisations, including Skipton Building Society, First Direct, AXA PPP Healthcare and HBOS.

She said: “Our rural businesses are vital. Although rural in location, they are not local in their reach.

“It is tremendously important Business Link Yorkshire provides all the help and assistance it can to help them prosper.”

Mrs Amsden has 15 years’ experience, from starting a business to expanding it to employ 190 staff with a turnover of £16m.

She said: “I have lived in the Dales all my life and am passionate about the local economy. I am privileged to work in a beautiful area and want to help other businesses survive and prosper for the benefit of all.