Northamptonshire culinary networking group's decade-long dream for its own shop doubly realised on anniversary
New stores 'icing on the cake' for Made In Northamptonshire's 10 years of supporting county's fledgling businesses
When a small group of Northamptonshire food and drink producers started a new networking group in 2011, little could they have known the impact it would have on their businesses, not to mention the county's culinary scene.
Now, 10 years on, Made In Northamptonshire (MIN) has helped to support some of the finest producers, retailers and eateries, as well as opening two shops to sell their goods.
It was a dream come true for the group’s founder and Bozeat businesswoman, Rachel Mallows, when the first shop opened at Rushden Lakes just before Christmas.
Unfortunately it was not trading for long as it was forced to close during the third national lockdown but it has reopened now restrictions have eased, with a second branch also in full swing at Jeyes of Earls Barton.
With the group originally established to provide tailored guidance, business advice and crucially, to expand sales opportunities, Rachel believes there could not be a better way to mark its anniversary.
“We’ve been delighted to offer hundreds of hours of support to our dedicated and passionate producers over the last decade, helping many new businesses to launch and well-established firms to flourish but, ultimately, their success depends entirely on their P&L (profit and loss),” she said.
“It’s why the opening of these two MIN shops is the icing on the cake, offering not only the chance for them to reach more customers but also the opportunity for discerning buyers to try some of their wonderful treats for themselves and head home, laden with local, quality produce, knowing it’s all been made just a stone’s throw from where they’re standing."
The Rushden Lakes store is a collaboration with generous support from The Crown Estate, owners of the shopping and leisure complex, and the Recovery Through Enterprise Hub, situated beneath the multiplex cinema in the West Terrace.
Among the delights being stocked are a range of goat milk ice-creams from Gander’s Goat at Cottingham near Corby.
The business is ran by husband-and-wife team Ian and Lauren Horton, who recently appeared on ITV’s Love Your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh, and the couple believe they simply would not still be operating without MIN.
“Lauren and I searched the country for the perfect place to set up our business, and it was really only by chance that we ended up buying the farm here in 2016, but that was arguably the best thing we ever did,” Ian explained.
“That’s because the help we’ve received through Made In Northamptonshire, whether tapping vital business advice, accessing a trustworthy sounding board or, crucially, increasing our sales opportunities through events and festivals, not to mention these two new shops, has been simply amazing.
"Having reflected on the last five years, we really don’t think we would have survived without the kind of unique support we’ve received, if we’d gone anywhere else."
MIN was set up to bring like-minded businesses together to help promote quality on the doorstep and to forge new working partnerships.
Over the last decade, its quarterly meetings – held online over the last year - have been regularly attended by around 50 members, gaining expertise from guest speakers, accessing sector news, grant and event information and, perhaps most importantly, the chance to share best practice.
Membership is £75 per year but it also produces a directory which promotes over 100 tasty treats to the county’s foodies.
Spice-blend producer Sera Harmon of Bite Me Spices in Northampton says MIN has been vital to her company’s growth.
“When I first joined MIN, I found myself alongside many other food producers just starting out and we leaned on each other within the group for support, knowledge and, especially for those of us running sole trader businesses, sanity, not to mention a much-needed social aspect to our working weeks” she said.
“The meetings, which have included meet the buyer events or talks from experts in fields such as food technology, food safety or social media, have been invaluable and, even when proficient in a subject, these provide refreshers and allow a focus on a specific area of the business.
“After a break from the business through ill health, I’ve recently re-joined the network and am thrilled to be back with the chance to create even more positive working relationships and build on sales again over the coming years."
For more information about MIN and its shops, visit its Facebook page at @MINFoodandDrink, call 01933 664437 or email [email protected]