A Conversation with Anghared Underwood from The Preservation Society
In episode #006 of The Artisan Food & Drink Business Show I talk to Angharad Underwood, owner and founder of The Preservation Society, an award-winning sweet and savoury preserve company based in Chepstow, Wales, UK.
Angharad set up her business in 2011 and supplies a growing number of independent fine food retailers in Wales and other parts of the UK, including London.
In the show Angharad talks about the personal circumstances that were the catalyst for setting up her business, juggling food production with the demands of parenthood, getting listed by Daylesford Organic, appointing a wholesaler for her products, teaching preserve making and the thrill of getting her company name and logo trademarked.
Listen Now to the Episode with The Preservation Society
Audio Not Your Thing?
If audio isn’t your thing, you can download a transcript of the show here Ep #006 The Preservation Society: Standing Out From the Preserving Crowd. You can also find the full transcript of the show at the end of this post.
Don’t Miss New Episodes of The Artisan Food & Drink Business Show
If you’d like to hear each new episode of the show as it’s released you can subscribe for free on iTunes.
The Preservation Society … Fruit Sirops … Candied Jalapeños: The Magic of Naming
Making and selling preserves, whether savoury or sweet, must be one of the most competitive areas in the (artisan) food world. And this means that differentiating your company is not only especially important but also especially challenging.
One of the most striking ways Angharad has made her company stand out from the preserving crowd is her choice of company name. It would have been easy, as she says herself on the show, to call her company Angharad’s Jams. Instead, she opted for The Preservation Society, a name that came back to her over and over again. Choosing that name was a good move. The name has turned heads and captured attention. In fact, I think it was a stroke of genius. Let me explain why.
It’s got an ethical, ‘grass roots’ connotation, and, of course, it’s got a direct reference to preserving — the core operation of the business. Both of these aspects of the company name echo the fact that Angharad is one of the co-founders of a hyperlocal Welsh food cooperative known as The Rudry Kitchen, an outlet for local farmers and producers to sell their goods. The Rudry Kitchen was also the place where Angharad was able to do a ‘soft launch’ of her new business idea. But there’s more.
The company name also references Angharad’s participation in ‘swap-cropping’, which is when local growers of fruit and vegetables give you some of their seasonal glut in exchange for, in Angharad’s case, a pot of something entirely different and delicious. Sharing gluts must be good for the local community and reducing waste must be good for the planet. And the name The Preservation Society encapsulates all of this.
The Preservation Society makes a range of fruit sirops (the show explains this spelling), chutneys, fruit preserves and the intriguing Candied Jalapeños. The Candied Jalapeños aren’t just intriguing but award-winning too, and were something of a food meme, having achieved cult status on social media a few months back.
To go back for a moment to the subject of naming, it’s interesting to note that both ‘sirop’ and ‘candied jalapeños’ are what the food branding company Dine calls ‘unexpected’ names. Dine gives a few quick tips on naming a food product in its piece How to Name a Food Brand.
Key Points from the Show
- Think carefully when naming your company and food or drink products. You want a name that’s memorable rather than ‘samey’. Try to think of a name that captures the essence or ethos of your brand (or products) — your brand promise.
- Social media tools like Twitter and Facebook enable you to engage with customers and also to get valuable direct feedback about your products.
- Some of the high-end retailers may be wary of products that are produced from home. Having a tip-top food hygiene rating and HACCP plan in place may allay their reservations.
- Running courses where you teach the techniques you use to make your products is not just a potential new income stream, it can raise your profile and establish your authority in your particular product niche. Are there any companies that you could partner with to make this happen?
- When thinking about appointing a distributor for your products, talk to them about how they will promote your products. The best distributors do more than just distribute your products from A to B.
Very Sounds Bites from Angharad Underwood
Check out the infographic below for some direct quotes from Angharad during the show.
Thanks to Anghared for generously giving her time to come on the show and talk about her business success. To connect with Angharad online and to find out where you can buy her products check out the Links and Resources section next.
Links/Resources Mentioned in the Show
- The Preservation Society website
- The Preservation Society on Twitter
- The Preservation Society on Facebook
- The Rudry Kitchen
- Edible Ornamentals
- Swap Crop
- Great Taste Awards
- Food Adventure Ltd
- An Account of Angharad’s Preserving Class in a Castle in Wales
- Wales the True Taste Awards
- The World Marmalade Awards
- Blas ar Fwyd, a Welsh Food Hub
- Daylesford Organic
- Food Expo
- Buttery & Boozy Mincemeat
Thanks for Listening
Thanks for listening to the show. If you are a food or drink producer, or industry professional who would like to appear on the show (it’s free!), don’t hesitate to get in touch with me by using the Contact Form on this website or by tweeting me @FoodDrinkShow. To hear when each new episode of the show is released simply sign up for my newslsetter.
If you have any questions or comments just use the Comments section below.
Like It? Share It!
Please share the show with friends or colleagues who might find it useful or interesting — just use any of the social media buttons on this page.
Transcript of the Show
Catherine: Hello. Welcome, everyone, to episode six of The Artisan Food and Drink Business Show, the show where artisan producers tell their story and share the secrets of their success. I’m your host, Catherine Moran. In this episode of the show, I have the pleasure of talking to Angharad Underwood, who’s the founder and owner of The Preservation Society, an award winning preserves company based in South Wales. Angharad discusses the catalyst for setting up her very own food business, what it was like to appoint a wholesaler to distribute her products and what that means for her business, and also, interestingly, what it was like to trademark her company name and logo. Let’s now listen to what Angharad had to say.
I’m here with Angharad Underwood, owner and founder of The Preservation Society. Welcome to The Artisan Food and Drink Business Show, Angharad.
Angharad: Thank you. Hello.
Catherine: Hello. It’s lovely to see you on a very sunny day in Wales.
Angharad: It’s a beautiful day, absolutely beautiful. How did that happen?
Catherine: Are we in Wales?
Catherine: We are? Chepstow is in Wales?
Angharad: Yeah. It’s right on the border, so half is in England and half is in Wales. We’re on the Welsh side.
Catherine: Right. With a name like Angharad, obviously, you’re a Welsh woman, aren’t you?
Angharad: I am a Welsh woman, yes. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Welsh, but I am a Welsh lady.
Catherine: I’m sure you have the odd Welsh word, though?
Angharad: I do have a few Welsh-isms.
Catherine: Hopefully, they’ll come out now in our conversation. Before we start talking about your business, The Preservation Society, would you tell me what you did before setting up as an artisan food producer?
Angharad: In my previous life?
Angharad: Immediately prior to setting up the business, I was a transport manager for one of the major supermarkets. I wasn’t a very good transport manager, but I was a transport manager.
Catherine: What was the catalyst for you changing your career completely and setting up as a food producer?
Angharad: I think there were a number of things that all hit at the same time. The first was my husband had been through redundancy twice. I was just about to go through redundancy. I had just found out I was pregnant with my daughter, and I had the opportunity to become a founding member of a local cooperative based near Caerphilly, and taking the jars that I was making at the time.
Really, that was the catalyst for setting up the business. I think when you’re fighting 110 percent to keep a job that you don’t really love anyway, and suddenly you have this opportunity to do something that you do love, and you think, ‘Hang on, if I can put 110 percent into something I really love, what sort of results could I get?’ That was the start.
Catherine: You say to ‘something you really love’. You mean preserving, cooking, basically?
Angharad: Absolutely, something I felt really passionately about. I think those initial markets were amazing, in that you’re suddenly putting your stuff in front of customers, which is completely different to giving it away to friends and family who have the obligation of saying how lovely it is, when people are actually handing over money. Having that trial opportunity. Throughout my pregnancy with Pip, we did quite a lot of markets, and then during my maternity leave really pushed that to see if, by the end of my maternity leave, I could have a business that could potentially work going forward. I took that leap of faith, really, going ahead with the business and leaving a corporate lifestyle behind.
Catherine: It’s a scary thing to do.
Angharad: It was absolutely terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. In order to make that decision, I worked so hard. We all did, as a family. Pip, from two weeks old, was dragged around everywhere. But I knew it was the one opportunity I’d have. I’d never have that opportunity again.
Catherine: It was now or never.
Catherine: I think a lot of food entrepreneurs feel that way, actually. The threat of the regret of not having taken the plunge when the opportunity was right, and you’d never know what you missed.
Angharad: I think that’s exactly it. You have the opportunity, and you know if you don’t, it’s gone, and you’re back and you’re working for somebody else. I’m really glad I did it.
Catherine: Fantastic, great. What is a typically day in the life for you at the moment?
Angharad: Chaos. Chaos! The day starts at stupid o’clock. There’s a school run, there’s getting everything ready before we do the school run. Back from the school run, getting the place cleaned and sorted so that I can turn house into professional kitchen. Getting everything cooked, sorted, ordered for the next day. Orders out, school run, back to chaos, turning it back into a house again. Then, kids go to bed, back to working.
It’s really, really busy. It’s quite unrelenting at the minute, but it’s the Christmas period. No matter what business you’re in at the minute, the lead-up to Christmas is going to be the busiest time. I think from that point of view everybody is probably in the same boat, but just may not be doing that in their own house.
Catherine: That’s right, yes. You’re currently making everything from your kitchen at home?
Angharad: From home, yeah.
Catherine: Talking about making things, and there’s a beautiful selection of your products here in front of me, your sirops, which is spelled S-I-R-O-P. Is that the Welsh way of spelling syrup?
Angharad: It is the Welsh way, and also the French way. The decision, really, to call it a sirop, it’s actually technically a vinegar, it’s made with local cider vinegar, but that on a shelf next to a bottle of Prosecco, people don’t really get it, it doesn’t quite work. But you use it as a syrup, so I didn’t want to go down the route of calling it a syrup that people imagine would go on, I don’t know, toast or something like that. There is a difference to it, it is a different product. But the relevance of the Welsh spelling is it’s all local ingredients, so it is a Welsh product.
Catherine: It’s an eye-catching name, actually. I’m sure that in itself makes it stand out on the shelf, apart from the fact that it’s an extremely good-looking product. I’ve got a trio of cranberry sirops in my hand here, and they’re quite small bottles. They’re about, what size are these?
Angharad: A hundred mls.
Catherine: They look really lovely. Putting them up against the sun, absolutely gorgeous sort of ruby red from the light.
Angharad: Yeah, the light really shines through them. They do look beautiful.
Catherine: What other products do you make apart from fruit sirops?
Angharad: A variety. I do preserves, so jams, marmalade, and then a lot of chutneys and spicy things. I really like spicy foods. The Candied Jalapenos I make are amazing and have a number of different uses. In fact, somebody tweeted this week to say that she uses the sirop to make a dirty martini. How cool is that? I’m looking forward to trying it.
Angharad: Yeah, a variety of things, all based on things that I really like to eat.
Catherine: You have come up with the recipes and the ideas?
Angharad: Yeah. They’re based on recipes. I do a lot of research on recipes and really find what works for me, what ingredients I can get hold of and the flavours that I like, so they’re all adapted.
Catherine: You mentioned Candied Jalapenos. What on earth are Candied Jalapenos? They sound amazing and wonderful.
Angharad: They sound kind of wrong, though, don’t they? They are jalapenos, as you would buy in a jar from the supermarket. I use jalapenos grown by Edible Ornamentals in Bedfordshire. They are amazing, really brilliant growers. They’re the British chillies. They’re actually cooked in a secret syrup of sugar and vinegar and spices, and so you just get this immense flavour of the heat of the chillies but the sweetness of the syrup, and they’re just addictive.
Catherine: They’ve created quite a buzz on social media I’ve been noticing.
Angharad: They really have, yeah. I have grown men messaging me in the middle of the night that they’ve run out.
Catherine: In a panic, I suppose.
Angharad: In a panic. It’s quite disturbing really, but feed that need.
Catherine: It’s so wrong that it’s right.
Angharad: It’s so wrong it’s right, yeah.
Catherine: How would you suggest eating the Candied Jalapenos?
Angharad: You can eat them so simply, just with a chunk a cheese. They go great with pizzas, great with pulled pork and things like that. The syrup is brilliant in coleslaw, in a dirty martini. Just such a variety of uses. Anything that you would eat that you’d want to add a bit of heat to, they just work.
Catherine: Those sound absolutely wonderful. You mentioned a few seconds ago using a glut, you touched on the concept of the glut. I’m wondering if that’s one of the factors that determine how you develop new products.
Angharad: Yeah, definitely. Well, I think that there’s a twofold thing to new products. There’s those things that I can make all year round and can have access to those ingredients, and then there’s the other seasonal limited editions that I do with local gluts. I had a call a couple of years ago from a lady who had a mulberry tree and was desperate to do something with the fruit. She didn’t have time to do it. Last year, I made mulberry jam. This year, the family and I all went up and picked the mulberries again from this most glorious tree right on the borders, about half an hour from here. I’ve been trying to decide, I want to do something different with them, and I think I’m going to do a very limited batch of Mulberry Sirop, because I think it’ll make a beautiful, beautiful drink for Christmas.
Catherine: It’s quite a rare fruit now. You don’t see it a lot these days, the mulberry.
Angharad: They are absolutely impossible. They’re really hard to pick, and once they’re picked you can’t keep them. They’ve got to be either frozen, or … I have a load in the freezer. But they’re not something that a supermarket could sell, because they start to degrade straight away.
Catherine: Hence probably the reason you don’t see them in the commercial setting. What about this woman that phoned you up with her glut of mulberries, does this bear any relation to ‘swap-crop’?
Angharad: Yes, it does. Absolutely. I’ve got a number of local growers, actually the numbers are building all the time, that phone me with apples, damsons. Things like that, the more unusual fruit, is really exciting. We trade in jars. Quite often, they don’t want to have their damsons back because they’re obviously using them in making their own things. They want something a bit different, so they want the Candied Jalapenos or something spicy or something that they wouldn’t normally make. Yeah, it’s really exciting, and it’s so lovely to meet these people who grow so passionately and do it for fun.
Catherine: I guess a lot of that produce is probably organic. It’s going to be probably spray-free as well, which is another bonus.
Angharad: Absolutely, yeah. It’s garden produced from gardens that they’ve developed over the years. They’re hundreds of years old quite often.
Catherine: You have won quite a few awards, even though you’re a young business. When did you set up?
Angharad: First market I did before it was even a business was in Christmas 2010. I had Pip in 2011, so really it’s just built since then around the kids.
Catherine: So three-ish years?
Angharad: Just coming up to three years, really, yeah.
Catherine: But you’ve won Great Taste awards and Wales the True Taste awards, and you won recently at the World Marmalade Awards. What difference have these awards made to your sales?
Angharad: To sales? Yeah, absolutely. People are confident that what you’re producing, it stands out. From my point of view, it gives me confidence in what I’m producing and that it’s good. I’ve never entered any of these competitions because I thought I’d win. I’ve entered them because the feedback is amazing. After entering the first one I realised how good the feedback and how important that is.
Catherine: From judges?
Angharad: Yeah. It’s so well constructed and it really helps. But to win award as well is amazing. It’s blown me away, especially this year with Great Taste. To enter again is actually quite scary, because you think, ‘Oh, I won an award last year. Oh no, how will I do this year?
Catherine: The pressure.
Angharad: But I entered the sirops and all three sirops came out with an award, which is brilliant. I wish I’d entered more of them now. I think the awards, they help. As a business, they highlight the business to shops and retailers, and as a person it’s great to know why your products are good and why people like them.
Catherine: Absolutely. Many of your products have fun, quirky names like Ravishing Raspberry Sirop, Limey Lime Marmalade, Buttery & Boozy Mincemeat. Do you come up with the names?
Catherine: You’re having a little bit of fun, but I guess it’s also a way of making the products stand out.
Angharad: I’ve never thought of it in that way. That’s wasn’t why I set out to name them that way. I just wanted to have a bit of fun. I didn’t want to have it just a raspberry jam. Isn’t it dull? When it’s not, there’s more to it. The raspberries all come from up the road from the most amazing grower who grows on the banks of the River Wye and retired ten years ago, but after two weeks realised she couldn’t retire and carried on growing. She’s an amazing person. It’s a reflection of what she produces. This personality’s behind the jars, and that’s important, that the jars become a personality as well.
Catherine: Tell me, Angharad, about your teaching of preserves. I know you’re doing something quite interesting with a company in Wales.
Angharad: Yeah. This weekend we’re holding our first preserving course with a company called Food Adventure, who are amazing couple who take people on different journeys, whether it’s food, vineyards, whatever, and they make it relevant. This Sunday, we are going to a private castle to make preserves in the castle kitchen, and then everybody’s having a castle tour. We’re so excited, we’re really looking forward to it. I’m really excited, because what we’ve put together is just very simple, very easy, let’s get rid of the myths of preserving, and let’s make it fun. I think quite often people get scared because it looks really serious and you have to have everything at setting point and it has to be perfect, and if it’s not you’re a disaster. Whereas we’re just going to play around, and if things don’t turn out perfectly, we’ll call them something else.
Catherine: You’re doing this in collaboration with Mark and Carol from Food Adventure?
Catherine: That’s a very interesting other string to your ball, really, isn’t it? Apart from being a producer of jam who then retails and wholesales, but you’re now actually teaching preserve making as well.
Angharad: Well, it’s the first course. It may not happen again. But I’m really excited. I’ve done a few things, the local WIs and we’ve done a few demos and stuff, and they’re really well received. I think the one thing people really like to do is get hands-on. I think you can sign up to a number of courses, and quite often you get to watch somebody doing something. We’re getting right down to the bones and they’re making everything. That’s important, that you get to touch and feel and smell and see the changes as things cook and progress.
Also, I really want there to be some problems so that we can just have fun with them. If the jam doesn’t set, it’s suddenly, oh, a really nice coulis, so that people can just feel more relaxed about doing it and have fun with it and get the kids involved and get the husband involved and go out blackberry picking and bring it all home, and know that they can make something delicious out of it, whether it’s alcohol or jam or chutney or whatever, that people can do things.
Catherine: Sounds absolutely wonderful. I hope it’s a great success for you.
Angharad: Just such lovely people, really lovely people, and the history behind the castle and everything. To be able to have that to ourselves for a day is really exciting. Carol and Mark are really clever, the ideas that they come up with. They’re great hosts, and the knowledge and experience they have of food producers and artisan producers is amazing. They’re great people, and interesting company.
Catherine: Yes, very much, and real champions of Welsh food.
Angharad: Real champions of Welsh food, absolutely. I’m really looking forward to it.
Catherine: Fantastic. Moving on to your sales now, you do farmers’ markets. What about other revenue streams? Do you sell to delis, farm shops, pubs, hotels, restaurants, that sort of situation?
Angharad: Yeah. I don’t do so many farmers’ markets now. I think when I was starting out, they were a great way of getting feedback, immediate feedback from customers. I don’t do so many because of the kids. It’s really hard to fit that in around everything else. Because of that, I’ve increased the amount of farm shops, delis, restaurants and outlets that I’m working with. I’ve just started working with a wholesaler as well, so that’s another completely different entity, completely different costing. Which I was really wary of, but now I’m really glad that I’ve done that. It was a step I didn’t want to take, which sounds really weird, but you see that profit margin just go down, down, down, down, down. But actually it’s working really well.
Catherine: Fantastic. Who are you using?
Angharad: Blas ar Fwyd. They’re based in North Wales, but have a number of outlets around here as well, or supply a number of outlets around here. They’re brilliant. It’s a family business, so it’s great. They’re handholding me, which is perfect. I’m really enjoying it, and I didn’t expect to.
Catherine: How does that work? Do they come and pick up from you?
Catherine: Wow. That’s handy, isn’t it?
Angharad: I know.
Catherine: Very handy.
Angharad: I know that, because it’s a family business, they are only working with people that they want to work with, that they’ve tried and tested my products before they’ve even put an order in, that they like what I’m doing, they like the branding, they understand the business and they understand me. That’s really, really important that they get that across to their customers. It’s a good first step, definitely.
Catherine: Where are they distributing to?
Angharad: Pretty much the whole of Wales they cover, but there’s a number of outlets between that I would probably supply, but it’s a lot easier if they’re supplying South Wales. But then they go over to Carmarthen and up to North Wales as well. There’s a lot of customers they’ll be tapping into that I wouldn’t be able to do.
Catherine: It sounds like a very good idea. I guess therefore you are open to distributing throughout the UK?
Catherine: That would be a future step for you.
Angharad: Yeah. I’ve got three or four retail outlets currently throughout the UK, so Gloucester, Reading, Warwick and I just got a new one up in Derbyshire. It’s a brand that does travel outside of Wales, which is what was important to me in the beginning. I didn’t want something that was particularly Welsh and that was my market. The outside of Wales is definitely growing, and Daylesford Organic is a fantastic one. I know that the products are in London, which is great.
Catherine: You’re supplying Daylesford?
Catherine: Oh, wow. That’s quite a feather in your cap, because they’re very picky, aren’t they?
Angharad: They’ve been great. They’ve been really good to deal with. A number of the high end retailers are a little bit wary of home production, whereas Daylesford approached me and I explained that it is still home produced and they were really comfortable with that, which is encouraging, that even though they’re big, they still like a product, taste a product, trial a product, and are comfortable with that sort of artisan home production.
Catherine: Did you have to go and see them in the Cotswolds?
Angharad: I didn’t. I met them, or they met my products, at Food Expo at the beginning of the year and a number of conversations and samples. They had a load of the sirops and now they have mincemeat for Christmas period, which is great.
Catherine: They’re selling your product in the Cotswolds and in London?
Catherine: Wow. That’s terrific. The London market is a very important market in terms of volumes, isn’t it? I guess you’ve got a foothold in there already?
Catherine: Would you like to supply more outlets in London?
Angharad: Definitely. The food halls, that’s where everybody goes. That’s the starting point for a lot of other retailers around the country, is they’ll go and check out the food halls, so to have a listing would be amazing.
Catherine: I suspect it’s only a matter of time. We’ve spoken about sales. What about marketing? What is your approach to marketing your products?
Angharad: This is why my wearing of many hats is difficult, and you realise how nice it is working for a big corporation when they have marketing departments and finance departments and all these other things. But from the beginning, my marketing approach has always been through social media. I’ve never paid for an advert, and I don’t want to.
Catherine: I think, having paid for a couple of ads myself in my time, a terrible, terrible waste of money. The new style now of marketing and advertising is that, rather than pushing a message on the consumer, you pull the consumer towards you, and do it so that they want to receive and they’re actively coming to you to get your message because you set it up in such a way that you’ve interested them and responding to their needs and stuff. I think you’re right.
Angharad: Yeah. I think Facebook and Twitter, through all their faults, they’re not perfect, there are plenty of issues, but from a small producer point of view, they are fundamental. The number of businesses that I work with or are in a similar boat to me, that’s how we all market our products.
You may have to pay for some photography, but apart from that, it’s engaging. The feedback is brilliant, and you’re getting that directly feedback from your customers. If they like something, they’ll tell you. If they’re not keen on something, they’ll tell you. It’s instant.
Catherine: Of course, it’s word of mouth, which is ultimate advertising, isn’t it?
Angharad: It’s word of mouth, yeah.
Catherine: There are a lot of other new social media applications like Instagram and there’s so many coming on the stream all the time. Do you keep an eye on what’s happening, or do you decide, “Facebook works for me, Twitter works for me, I’ll stick with those for the moment”?
Angharad: I need to engage in more. I think that I’ve got my head around Twitter and I’ve got my head around Facebook, and I love using them, but I need to embrace more now. I think that’s what happens with a business, is you get to a stage where you’re comfortable with something, you need to push and find something new or a new avenue or whatever. Yeah, I need to keep on top of it. One thing I haven’t got my head around is LinkedIn. I need to.
Catherine: Yeah. Obviously, it’s been around for years, but they say in particular for a business-to-business communication it’s very much the coming thing. I guess maybe for talking to your, connecting with your retail or wholesale customers, that could be a viable option for you.
Angharad: Yeah. That’s next on my list.
Catherine: It’s a bit more straight-laced than the likes of Twitter.
Angharad: Yeah, it’s not so much fun.
Catherine: That’s right. That’s fantastic. Angharad, a couple of more questions I’d love to ask you, one of which is, what keeps you awake at night, if anything?
Angharad: Many things. Everything. It’s not easy, I would have to say. Anybody who thinks setting up their own business is easy, it’s absolutely not. I think my biggest worries are making the ends meet, that cash flow thing. It’s brilliant having new customers on board, it’s amazing having bigger customers on board, but the bigger customers have quite strict payment terms that aren’t negotiable. You supply a big order, you invest in that order. There’s always a gap between when you have to pay for all the ingredients and the jars and everything, and when the company pays you. It’s trying to bridge that gap. That just takes planning, and I’m getting better at that and more astute at that. But that can keep me awake quite significantly.
Catherine: Cash flow’s a very real issue, isn’t it? Scary, scary times. Have you ever had a bad debt?
Angharad: I’ve not had a bad debt, touch wood, but very close.
Catherine: Hopefully, it won’t happen, but sometimes I think it’s inevitable. But hopefully it won’t. When you started out as an artisan food producer, if you knew then what you know now, what would you do differently?
Angharad: Have a large gin and go on holiday [laughs] and say, ‘Don’t do it.’ I wouldn’t do anything differently. It sounds really stupid, but I think the whole journey is a roller coaster, every single day, every single week, and the day when you’re banging your head against the wall and just going, ‘This is ridiculous, I can’t do this, I can’t see a way out, I can’t see how I can solve this problem, I can’t see how I can get the energy to do any more,’ within ten minutes, something amazing has happened and, ‘God, this is exactly why I do it.’ It’s shocking and brilliant and exhausting all at the same time. But I started out completely naively, and I’m glad I did that, because I think that opened a lot of doors and it helped me to embrace things that I just wouldn’t have done before, I’ve never have had the opportunity to do.
Catherine: It’s probably horrifying to reflect on what you didn’t know, in a way. You probably think, ‘Just how could I have taken the jump?’ But for some reason, some amazing reason, you have the courage at the time when you do it.
Angharad: I think it’s keeping that courage as well, because the problems get bigger or change, so you feel like, ‘Right, I’ve got to get to that hurdle, and once I’ve sorted all of that out, it’ll be fine,’ but actually something bigger happens, and you’ve got to keep pushing and keep being brave. I think that’s the hardest part, is continuing being brave and really having that self-belief. But like I say, then something happens and you go, ‘That’s why I’ve got the self-belief. That’s why it’s worth pushing and fighting for and having no sleep, because one day I’ll have some sleep and it will be fine.’
Catherine: What advice would you give for people considering taking the plunge and setting up a business as a preserve maker?
Angharad: Do crochet. [Laughter] It’s a lot lighter to carry. Jars are so heavy. I really envy people at markets that do crochet and things like that, because they just pack it in the car and they go, whereas jars are so heavy. I would say, if you want to do it, the profit margin is ridiculously low, but the rewards are great.
I think that the best thing you can do is really trial your recipes and trial your recipes and trial your recipes and get people to taste them and spend a fortune on giving them to people to try, because that feedback is essential. The better that feedback is and the more of that feedback you get, the better your product is.
Catherine: Absolutely agree. I wanted to ask you, because you’ve got a lovely T-shirt on which is branded with your company name, The Preservation Society, can you tell me just very quickly how you got the idea for that name?
Angharad: It wasn’t my original choice. It’s kind of weird, but somehow my jars were going up in front of a major supermarket, and somebody mentioned to me whether I had the name trademarked. I said, ‘Don’t be so ridiculous. Of course I haven’t, I’m a home producer.’ She just said, ‘It’s going in front of a supermarket. If they really like it and you haven’t trademarked the name, you may find that it’s stolen.’ I went, ‘Ah, good point.’ When it came to trademarking, I wasn’t able to. We just went through hundreds of options, and The Preservation Society kept coming into my head. I really loved it, really loved it, but I thought there’s no way, somebody is bound to have trademarked it, and they hadn’t.
I just think it’s brilliant. It’s so much better than the name I originally had, and it lends itself to so much. There’s so much business potential with it. I’ve stopped worrying about not doing the bits that I want to do. I know that in time the different areas and the different parts of the business will come together. But I think it’s a brilliant name. It makes people smile, it makes people laugh, it makes people think. It’s not Angharad’s Jams.
Catherine: Sure, absolutely. Is it actually trademarked, then, that name?
Catherine: Do you use the little ‘tm’? Or it’s an ‘R’, isn’t it?
Angharad: Yes. I need to, but I haven’t put it on my branding as yet. It’s another thing on my list.
Catherine: Your endless list. Fascinating. That’s wonderful. Angharad, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it so much.
Angharad: Thank you.
Catherine: Thank you very much, Angharad, for you time. It was great to have you on the show, and I have no doubt that much of what you said about the thrills and challenges of running an artisan food business will resonate with many of our listeners.
To find out how to connect with Angharad online and to find out also where you can buy her products, including her famous Candied Jalapenos, just go to the show notes for this episode. They’re available at www.myartisanbusiness.com. If you also go to that website, you’ll be able to get a transcript of this episode, my conversation with Angharad.
Don’t forget, you can contact me via the website, or you can connect with me on Twitter. I’m @FoodDrinkShow. That’s pretty much it for the moment. Until next episode, happy cooking, happy brewing, happy fermenting, and thank you for listening.