Durham hen entrepreneur receives boost from Dragons' Den star Theo Paphitis

Margaret Manchester, who runs Durham Hens - a supplier of hens to the pet market - has won the retail magnate's Small Business Sunday competition

Margaret Manchester, the owner of Durham Hens
Margaret Manchester, the owner of Durham Hens

A Durham entrepreneur who has found success selling hens from her Tow Law small holding has been recognised by Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis.

Margaret Manchester, owner of Durham Hens, tweeted the business celebrity as part of his long-running ‘Small Business Sunday’ initiative, which aims to highlight blossoming small businesses through social media.

The former teacher was thrilled to be selected from thousands of tweeters and given exposure to Paphitis’ 200,000 followers, as well as a profile on his Small Business Sunday website.

Despite being relatively new to the social media platform, Durham Hens has now picked up an extra 200 followers as a result of the exposure, and Margaret says visitors to her website have increased dramatically - generating a large number of enquiries.

The business, which was officially launched in 2007, has grown from a hobby and now employs six people, selling hens and accessories six days a week.

Margaret said: “There is a huge trend for keeping hens which has been helped by lifestyle programmes and TV advertisers using hens.

“We’ve established ourselves predominantly selling to the pet market. We breed rare and pure breed hens, as well as supplying all the accessories you need to keep them, such as food, housing and care products.

“We even provide ‘hen boarding’ so people can bring their hens here to be looked after when they go away on holiday.”

Together with her husband, who is a chartered engineer, Margaret has built the business from her three-acre small holding - which boasts a shop, a small hatchery, and hen houses.

Durham Hens frequently attracts customers from across the UK, including people who purposefully make the journey from Scotland and the Midlands.

Last year the business won Poultry Supplier of the Year at the Grow Your Own magazine awards.

Margaret added: “People are becoming increasingly interested in where their food has come from, and keeping hens offers them the ultimate control over part of this.

“The business is now growing so fast, which is fantastic. The plan for us now is to grow our hatchery and increase the range of products we sell. The online side of Durham Hens holds a lot of potential.”

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