Tell us a bit about your family?
I have two lovely ‘farm mad’ children, Joe aged 11 and Loren aged 8. My husband is a farmer and works on the family farm with his dad. Our farm is in a lovely rural location just outside of Bath in Somerset.
What’s your business called?
Bath Harvest Rapeseed Oil
Can you describe it in one sentence?
Bath Harvest rapeseed oil is all about provenance, health and cooking…it’s the British alternative to Olive Oil with added benefits!
When did you start it and what inspired you?
I started my business in 2011 after I was faced with a career change due to my steady admin job at the MOD being threatened. I had worked for the same big organisation for over 17 years and it was scary leaving the safety and security that this offered. I was not sure what to do next as the job market was not looking promising. It was around this time that I literally had a flash of inspiration whilst listening to the radio one morning. A farmer was being interviewed about the rapeseed oil that he grows and produces on his farm and I thought to myself – this is the crop growing at the bottom of my garden! Literally from then on a ‘seed’ of an idea took hold and I proceeded to do some extensive research into the cold pressed rapeseed oil market. I started trading in September 2011 and took early severance from my MOD job a month later and never really looked back – I haven’t really had the time to! It’s been a rollercoaster ride that is still picking up speed in some areas of my business – the more effort you put in the more doors and opportunities that open for you!
How did you fund your start up?
I used my severance pay from the MOD to fund my business. As you can imagine, you do need a certain amount of specific equipment and a dedicated space to press and bottle the oil, so we decided to convert a previously unused building at the farm and I now have my own press and bottling room on site which is perfect for my needs.
How do you manage working around your children?
It hasn’t always been easy and there are still some very busy periods in my business calendar but I think I have achieved a reasonable work life balance at this point in my career. There is quite a bit of juggling to be done especially when the weekend events and festivals kick in from May onwards. I do rely on family to help me out on my stall and this sometimes means babysitting can be a challenge especially in the summer when my husband is working long hours working hard to bring in the harvest. They do a great job on the farm and both Matthew and his dad are dedicated hard workers. They provide the raw material pivotal for my business and I’m proud to be able to help diversify the farm in the way that I have with Bath Harvest.
Can you describe a typical day, what tasks do you have to get done, how do you manage your time?
This is why I love my job – no one day is exactly the same! I start around 8.30am after the kids have hopped on the bus to school. My daily priorities are dictated by my business calendar and the orders for the week. I might fit in a bit of admin followed by a stint in the bottling room, usually helped out by my dad and then after lunch and walking the dog, I usually do a few local deliveries. Other work activities can include attending networking events, prepping and presenting talks for groups, marketing via social media, website maintenance, dealing with suppliers, attending shows and book keeping – not my favourite task!
What challenges have you faced in your business and how have you overcome them?
Before starting Bath Harvest I had never run a business and had limited experience in the skills and attributes needed to make successful business decisions. I soon had to became a mini expert in everything from food labelling to website SEO and if I’m honest the start up and first few months of trading were very stressful – there was just so much to do – I even kept a ‘to do’ list next to my bed to scribble on during the night!
What’s the best thing about being self employed?
I think the one thing I enjoy the most about being self employed is the variety and flexibility my job offers – I don’t think I could return to a 9 – 5 office job now!
What are your plans for the future?
I’m quite clear about my short term plans. While my children are still young and need their mum at home, I need my business to mould and fit around us. I have kept it small enough for me to manage largely on my own with a bit of help from family whilst still moving it forward in the current market place. This can be a challenge at times as I do have to say no to some things which may benefit my business, but that’s just the way it is for the time being. In a few years, when the kids are older, I hope to be able to throw myself into the bigger, more exciting business opportunities when they present themselves which should be fun!
What advice would you give for someone just starting out?
Do the networking thing! I’ve got so much out of networking, it’s the one thing I make specific time for as it can reap dividends in lots of ways. I work a lot of the time on my own and I thrive off of being around people so I deliberately take advantage of networking opportunities to keep me sane and I have made some really good friends along the way!
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
Here’s the main benefits of switching to using our cold pressed rapeseed oil;
• Health – cold pressed rapeseed oil contains 50% less saturated fat the olive oil and is a rich source of Omega 3 and Vitamin E
• Cooking – you can use cold pressed rapeseed oil for dressing, drizzling, marinating, baking, roasting and stir-frying. It has a higher burn point of olive oil. It makes the most amazing roast potatoes!
• Provenance – Bath Harvest is grown, pressed and bottled on our family farm in Bath, Somerset. It’s a zero food miles product and we even feed the waste product seed husks to our cattle so zero waste too!