A Cornish cheese farm business is maturing nicely, having been selected to supply a prestigious supermarket chain in the North West.
The Cornish Gouda Company in Lanreath, Cornwall, was created in 2012 when Giel Spierings, then aged just 19, came home to his family dairy farm from college to find a ‘For Sale’ sign on the gate.
It was no longer profitable for his parents to continue to run the farm they had moved from the Netherlands to establish. Determined to save his family home and change their fortunes around, Giel decided to set-up his own business making high-value Gouda cheese using traditional techniques he’d learned in Holland.
He knew that he could buy milk from the farm at a fair rate whilst profitably producing an artisan cheese, and so a fledgling side business was born.
The handcrafted Cornish Gouda Giel created quickly became a hit at farmers’ markets and with local shopkeepers and soon demand was exceeding supply. But Giel was struggling to find a way to increase production. He explains:
“I needed to source enough finance to secure more production equipment and increase output, but I was finding it hard to do that.”
The turning point for Giel came when he began working with business coaches from Transform, a support programme for businesses in Cornwall with ambitions for high growth.
Giel said: “The backing I received through Transform was fantastic. Initially they helped me to produce a full, professional business plan which I could take to the bank. This enabled me to get the finance I needed to purchase equipment and hire additional staff so we could increase production. Once we were able to get all this in place we were able to gear up 10 times on what we were doing beforehand.”
Mike Jobson was Giel’s Oxford Innovation Business Coach for the Transform programme. Mike’s knowledge and expertise played a key role in one of the biggest new steps Giel has taken: becoming a supplier to upmarket supermarket chain E H Booth, often known as the ‘Waitrose’ of the North.
Mike quite literally went the extra mile for his client to help make this exciting deal happen, driving him from Cornwall to Preston for the meeting and coaching Giel throughout on some of the more difficult questions he might be asked.
Giel says: “Mike’s support made it possible for me to pitch to slightly bigger clients in the first place as I’ve not had the experience to approach them before. Having him with me when I met with E H Booth supermarkets made all the difference to how things went, and as a result of that meeting, I’m now officially one of their suppliers. This is a huge step for the company.”
Mike added: “Giel has been a pleasure to work with and is hard-working and totally dedicated to his business. He has a top-quality product and only needed a little guidance in how best to get that product to even more customers. I’m certain that he’ll continue to succeed with the Cornish Gouda Company and I’m delighted that our input has helped him progress to this point.”
Topping a great year for Giel, Cornish Gouda won best hard cheese at The Great British Cheese Awards 2016. Several types of Cornish Gouda are available which have been aged for different periods, from four to 24 months, as well as flavoured varieties.