TEN years ago, a small networking group of food and drink firms met for the first time. Little could they have known the impact it would have on their business and the culinary scene across Northamptonshire.
Ten years on, Made In Northamptonshire continues to support some of the county’s finest local producers, retailers and eateries. And now it has opened two retail outlets selling everything from cheese to chocolate, beer to bread and sauces to spirits… all produced in Northamptonshire.
It was a decade in the making and the first MIN shop opened at Rushden Lakes just before Christmas, only to be forced to close with the introduction of the most recent lockdown restrictions. But with those restrictions now easing, the shop is welcoming customers once more and a second MIN store is also open, at Jeyes of Earls Barton.
MIN was founded by Bozeat businesswoman Rachel Mallows, originally to provide tailored guidance, business advice and to expand sales opportunities.
“We have 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,” says Rachel. “But, ultimately, their success depends entirely on their P&L.
“It is 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 has all been made just a stone’s throw from where they are standing.”
Among the delights being stocked are a range of goat milk ice-creams from Gander’s Goat at Cottingham near Corby. The business is run by husband and wife Ian and Lauren Horton and featured in a recent edition of ITV’s Love Your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh.
Without MIN, the couple say, they simply would not still be operating. “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,” says Ian. “But that was arguably the best thing we ever did.”
They have used MIN to source business advice, as a trustworthy sounding board and have increased sales opportunities by attending events and festivals. The two MIN shops are yet another benefit for the business, they say.
“The help we have received through Made In Northamptonshire has been simply amazing and, having reflected on the last five years, we really do not think we would have survived without the kind of unique support we have received if we had gone anywhere else,” says Ian.
Spice-blend producer Sera Harmon, of Bite Me Spices in Northampton, joined MIN soon after starting her business. “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.”
Group meetings have included Meet the Buyer events and talks by experts in subjects such as food technology, food safety and social media. They have been invaluable, says Sera.
“After a break from the business through ill health, I have recently rejoined 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.”
MIN ‘s quarterly meetings – held online over the last year – have been regularly attended by around 50 members, hearing from guest speakers, accessing sector news, grant and event information and the chance to share best practice.
Membership is £75 per year and the group also produces a directory which promotes more than 100 tasty treats to the county’s foodies.
For details of store opening times and for the latest news of plans for further stores across the county, visit MIN’s Facebook page at @MINFoodandDrink and @JeyesEarlsBarton.
For more information about MIN, call 01933 664437 or email firstname.lastname@example.org