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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 August 2005, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Hot news for Devon chilli farmers
A chilli ristra
Chilli Chocolate is the farmers' number-one bestseller
A chilli farm in Devon which started just two years ago is in line for a national business award.

The South Devon Chilli Farm, near Kingsbridge, has made it to the finals of the 2005 Start-Up Stars Awards.

The awards, run by the HSBC bank, are for the most promising new businesses in the country.

Co-owners Jason Nichols and Steve Waters said the good news had added to this year's bumper harvest, making it their best year so far.

We feel like we've already won - just to get into the top 10 is amazing
Steve Waters, South Devon Chilli Farm

Mr Nichols said: "We've had warm weather at the beginning of the year which helped when we were planting out the seedlings and, apart from a couple of rainy spells, there's been sunshine and warm weather.

"It's meant we've done better that we've ever done before."

The chilli farmers, who both used to work as computer software engineers, produce more than 80 varieties of chilli and have won several awards for their sauces, jellies and the unusual chilli chocolate, which is the business's number-one seller.

Steve Waters told BBC News: "We feel like we've already won - just to get into the top 10 is amazing. It's been a rollercoaster year."

Mr Waters said if they were lucky enough to win, the cash prize would be re-invested in the business.

Determined vision

He said: "Tempting though it might be to jump on a plane for Barbados, I think we'd use the money for a piece of equipment for the new building or perhaps transport. We could do with a couple more vans."

The farm at Loddiswell has recently opened to the public for a couple of hours each day. But once the new building is up and running properly, the opening hours will be extended for visitors.

Simon Wainwright, from HSBC, said: "We've been impressed by the vision and determination shown by Jason and Steve and hope that budding entrepreneurs in the area will be inspired to take the plunge and turn their business dreams into reality."

If the chilli farmers are announced as the winners at the awards ceremony in London in October, they will not only collect the coveted award, but a cool - or should that be hot - 20,000.


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