A MUMTREPRENEUR who started her own cheese-making business after being made redundant has been picked to supply Harrods following an awards honour.
Ailsa Proverbs created her cheese-making kits after seeing celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall making yoghurt on TV show River Cottage.
Her success means she could soon be supplying the kits to retailers in France, the cheese lover’s paradise.
The 35-year-old, who lives in Tranent with husband Sean, 50, a retail manager, and their children, Duncan, three, and Fia, one, was made redundant from her job as a marketing manager in October last year.
She had been attending free seminars run by Business Gateway East Lothian and tried to hit upon a great idea for her own business when inspiration struck.
She said: “I had my laptop out while I was watching the TV and started looking into how you would go about making cheese at home. It was a lot easier than I thought.
“The hardest bit was sourcing the little bits and bobs you need, like the thermometers for example. Once I’d got my packs together I arranged focus groups of people who didn’t know me so I would get their honest opinions. The feedback was very positive.”
In the run-up to Christmas, Ailsa got enough stock ready to create 400 kits, sure that this would last her well into the new year. However, she became a victim of her success.
“We sold 3000 kits before Christmas Day even arrived,” she said. “There were lots of people roped in to some frantic late-night packaging sessions. We got orders from everywhere – Australia, Russia, France, Ireland, Romania – it was insane.”
Ailsa’s Big Cheese Making Kit has gone from strength to strength, picking up the Best New Idea Award at the Farm Shop and Deli Show in Birmingham last month.
She said: “The winners were voted for by the 50,000 people who attended the event and it was a real honour to receive it. Apparently Harrods keep a close eye on the Farm Shop and Deli Show and it wasn’t long after that they got in touch asking to stock my kits.”
She is in talks with a “major French retailer”, with production now outsourced to Haven Products in Inverness, a social enterprise providing jobs for the disabled. Ailsa said: “I want to give back to the Scottish community. I don’t want to encourage exploitation elsewhere.”
PACK IT IN
Each cheese-making kit comes with enough ingredients to make ten batches, with each batch weighing between 1.5lbs and 2lbs.
The kits include a guide, step-by-step instructions, citric acid, organic sea salt, butter muslin and dairy thermometer. The child kit comes with a sticker book.