Hawkshead Relish Company, manufacturers of hand-made relishes, pickles and preserves, have refocused their growth strategy, reshaped the business around a key new appointment, and raised their profile with major customers since participating in the Cumbria Forum.
“We produce both our own brand and private label,” explains Maria Whitehead MBE, Director and joint founder. “Prior to going on the Forum, I was nervous about the private label side, whether it was the right route for us, for growth. But the Forum, and especially the Business Model Canvas, allowed me to see it in a different way – and now that side is growing faster than anything else.”
Applying the business modelling tool also helped to rationalise where to spend money and led to a strategy of entering awards to gain visibility. This supported the launch of a new product, which Maria’s husband and fellow Director Mark took more than a year to develop. The innovative Black Garlic Ketchup was a finalist in its category at The Grocer’s New Product Awards, pitted against the likes of Heinz and Hellman’s. As Maria says: “That for us was the ‘biggie’ because as well as all the high-end stores, it gets noticed by all the supermarkets.”
Hawkshead Relish have also won accolades for their business accomplishments, receiving the runners-up award at the prestigious Nat West Great British Entrepreneur Awards and scooping Small Family Business of the Year. Maria says that going on the Forum enabled her to look afresh at the make-up of the company and to recognise both the great strengths and the potential weaknesses of being a family enterprise.
“It made me draw up a plan of personnel and recognise that we needed an Operations Manager to become the key link between production, distribution and the sales team. This will make a huge difference to the way we opperate.
I found Cumbria Forum both very practical and empowering – it made me see a better way to manage the business.
She adds that they have now introduced software that enables them to cost every aspect of production and broker more profitable sales deals. This analytical approach all started with the dashboard that was introduced early in the Forum. “As soon as we were given it, I started to use it and adapt it to our needs, so that every department could see their contribution for the week. It’s such a really useful tool to have.”
Maria found her experience of the Cumbria Forum both very practical and, in her own words “hugely empowering”. Her husband Mark is now attending the Innovation Development Programme, one of Lancaster University Management School’s additional programmes.
What Mark is learning now is what she learned, Maria says. “It’s the value of stepping outside the day-to-day: concentrating on what your business needs, rather than fire-fighting issues as they arise. That makes all the difference.”
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