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Welsh Food & Drink Enterprises ‘Scale-up’ New Heights

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Welsh food and drink producers have been put through their paces as part of a new ‘Scale-Up Challenge’ to help grow their enterprises and build commercial confidence.

Sioned Vaughan Williams

Led by experts and mentors, the ‘Scale-Up Challenge’ programme has been created by Cywain – a Menter a Busnes project that supports the development of growth-orientated businesses.

The six weekly sessions covered a wealth of practical advice to help smaller companies scale-up their activities to develop their businesses, and is part of the Covid recovery strategy to grow businesses and jobs.

Topics covered in the ‘Scale-Up Challenge’ were, having the right attitude, finance and resilience, identifying and seizing opportunities, communications and marketing, accreditation such as SALSA, and finding and using trend data.

Held in collaboration with other partners such as Food Innovation Wales’ via Project HELIX*, insight from experts was backed up by established Welsh food and drink producers who shared their experiences of forming and growing companies – from the highs to the lows.

Thirteen companies** joined the initial programme, among them North Wales coffee producer Ffa Da and Cardiff distiller Treganna Gin.

Cywain Project Manager, Dewi Evans, said,

“Growing a business can be quite a steep learning curve, and the number of regulations and new skills required can be daunting at times. That’s why Cywain created the ‘Scale-Up Challenge’ – to bring all these elements together through informal topic-focussed sessions.

“Producers have been able to ask experts a range of questions and also learn first-hand from those who have succeeded in expanding their enterprises.

“Over the weeks, the group have also formed a bond among themselves. We hope this connection will continue as mutual support and togetherness is important not just from a business perspective, but having encouragement from your peers is good for personal well-being too.”

Mark Flanagan

The attendees also took part in the first stage of a ‘Meet the Buyer’ event. The virtual presentation gave them the opportunity to hear from the buyers for retail and catering outlets at National Museum Wales. The presentation will be followed in a couple of weeks by individual meetings with the buyers, where they will pitch to have their products stocked and served.

Dewi Evans said,

“Getting to meet buyers is not always easy for smaller producers, and it has been especially difficult over the past year, so we are delighted that our Scale-Up Challenge clients will have the chance to show their fantastic products to potential customers.”

Group members are also being supported in their preparations for the forthcoming meetings, with mentor appointments to get expert advice on how to pitch and present their products to the buyers.

Also, at this autumn’s planned Welsh Government flagship food and drink event, BlasCymru/Taste Wales, (October 27th & 28th), the ‘Scale-Up Challenge’ producers will be able to take part in a new ‘Rising Star' market place where they can promote their products and meet buyers.

Dewi Evans said,

“This will be yet another fantastic opportunity for our producers to shine at an event which puts Welsh food and drink on a global stage.”“BlasCymru/Taste Wales is Wales' largest food and drink event giving producers the opportunity to develop new business.  At the 2019 event, over 780 delegates took part and more than 1,600 one-to-one business meetings facilitated. This has, so far, generated over £17.4m of new business deals secured.”

FFA DA

Coffee lover Sioned Vaughan Williams’ mission was to find “quality in a cup” – so she launched Ffa Da (Good Beans).

Eighteen months on, Sioned – a supply teacher by day and artisan coffee roaster by night – has succeeded in creating a range of ethically sourced single-origin and coffee blends at her home in Llandanwg near Harlech.

Ffa Da is sold online (www.ffada.co.uk) and in local shops and cafes. Currently, Sioned roasts the beans in her kitchen annexe but hopes to take production up a notch by turning her garage into a dedicated roastery.

To help her enterprise grow, she’s tapped into a variety of business advice from Cywain, including joining the ‘Scale-Up Challenge’ programme.

Sioned said,

“‘Scale-Up Challenge’ has been amazing; it makes you think about things differently and how the business is going to work.

“Being able to hear people’s different stories has been interesting, and it is fascinating to learn about people’s experiences and problem-solving.

“I think one of the main things the programme has done is give me more confidence. It’s not just me who is asking a question; everyone else is in a similar position. It’s been an excellent way to explore your potential, and after each session, we were asked what we’d done in practice.

“For me, the biggest learning curve has been the financial requirements of running a company. I’m also looking into getting SALSA accreditation which will help me when approaching potential retailers and outlets.”

More information: ffada.co.uk

TREGANNA GIN

Professional actor and artisan gin producer Mark Flanagan launched Treganna Gin in December 2019. The gin swiftly gathered interest around his home in Cardiff.

However, when Covid-19 hit and the hospitality sector shut down, Treganna Gin’s momentum also came to an abrupt halt.

Instead of shutting up his still, those early days of the pandemic saw Mark switch to producing much-needed hand sanitiser. Using donated unwanted bottles of spirits and, following the World Health Organisation’s sanitiser recipe, he swung into production and gave it away free of charge to people in the locality.

As 2020 progressed, Mark returned to gin production and began selling his hand-crafted gin online (www.tregannagin.co.uk) in local shops and at Riverside Market.

Keen to increase his business skills, Mark got in touch with Cywain and joined the ‘Scale-Up Challenge’. He credits Cywain with helping him to establish his business and help him plan for the future.

“Cywain’s been really helpful; I think one of the main reasons my business has done well is thanks to them. They have put me in touch with the right people to help me structure things, and it has recently resulted in me getting a 5* hygiene award.

“The ‘Scale-Up Challenge’ has been great with lots of topics, and we’ve had advice from companies like Halen Môn too. Each week there’s been a different aspect of growing the business and practical tips on growing, and subcategories like pricing products, fixed costs and variable costs. We’ve had good honest advice.”

More information: www.tregannagin.co.uk