Giving back to support Covid-19 impacted businesses

The Lake District Hub was founded on the 1st June 2020 by founder Gareth O’Rourke and it aims to become the leading visitor website for the Lake District and Cumbria area.

Gareth left his role as director of international eCommerce and buying for the branded fashion business CHO where he had spent the last 5 years building award-winning digital marketing campaigns. He helped grow the business by over 250 per cent changing it into a multimillion-pound business selling internationally. Before that, he has worked extensively in the travel sector heading up the digital departments for the holiday park and holiday cottage industry. He has also worked in the luxury travel space heading up digital for a 5-star resort in Barbados.

“I left my role as director of international eCommerce and buying, with the intention of setting up this project as I grew up in the Lake District and lived here most of my life and wanted to do something to make a difference by using my extensive award winning digital marketing experience to help an area that is reliant on the visitor economy”.

Gareth started his career at 21 years of age, where he set up 3 retail stores and an eCommerce business which he ran for 13 years in the female mid-market branded fashion space. So, setting up this project and working for himself again is something that is not alien to him. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset, constantly looking at ways to improve things, making things better and looking at what opportunities there are. It feels good to be setting something up again that will make a difference.”

Interestingly Gareth is also a founder of a CBD company which he got involved with when two work colleagues wanting a businesses partner that could help with digital and business strategy.

“CBD is a huge departure from fashion and travel and tourism, however, it’s a really interesting area and is set to be worth £1bn by 2025, part of the reason I got involved in this was that the business gives 10 per cent of its profits to the mental health charity “The Mix” which helps young people struggling with mental health issues.”

The Lake District Hub was created to help the visitor economy and its businesses because of the impact the Corona Virus was having and will continue to have for the next 18 months. Gareth decided that he needed to create a platform that was accessible for all businesses in the area to be featured and decided as a result of the Corona Virus to offer 6 months free to any new business joining and a low annual fee of £59 even though he has no income himself at the moment.

“I am in a very fortunate position, where I can afford to take some time out and focus on helping other businesses which are not in the same position”

The information for the Lake District is very fragmented, with no central point for a visitor to access to make the most of their stay in the Lake District and surrounding areas. Therefore, the Lake District Hub aims to become a hub for the area, one central point to help remove some of those barriers to make sure visitors keep coming back.

Parts of Cumbria have already seen an increase of 400 per cent in unemployment, some of the highest in the UK due to the Corona Virus, before this unemployment was below the national average. The Lake District has a population of around 41,000 people with 15,000 of those working in the tourism sector. Once you take out people of school age and those who are retired, it effectively means most of the Lake District’s population could not survive without the visitor economy.

“I have friends and family who either work in or own businesses in the Lake District that rely on the visitor economy and I knew I had to do something to help them, many of whom were very worried about their futures.”

Further investment is planned into the website development and marketing of the platform with the aim of having 2,000 businesses featured over the next 12 months and becoming the leading Lake District website beyond that.

“Ultimately the aim of this project is to increase visitor numbers to the Lake District and its surrounding areas so that more businesses can survive through this crisis, which in turns means less people will lose their job, if I am able to achieve that then I know I will have done everything I am able to, to help make a difference”.

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