As the year draws to a close I've been reflecting on the last 12 months (in between packing up all your Christmas cheese boxes) and my word, what a year it has been. It sounds cheesy (I can't help it) but I feel so incredibly grateful to be where I am today and I couldn't have done any of it without my amazing customers.
When I set up Cheese on Towcest' in July 2020, after being furloughed, I never could have imagined where it would lead to. I thought it could perhaps be a bit on the side or at best a plan b but fast forward 18 months and it's my full-time baby, well one of them anyway!
This year has seen many changes, there's the new website, we launched our first subscription service and have taken on more markets as the country started to come out of lockdown. The increased turnover has meant more investment in equipment and customer feedback has been at the forefront of everything we have done.
It is impossible to fit it all in one blog post but I thought it would be nice to highlight some of our best bits of the year:
1. Always building
My advice? Don't take on a self-build extension at the same time as building a new website! It was hard work but we got there, not without plenty of help from my father-in-law for the build and the amazing Nikki at Bee More Design for the website.
We wanted to make it easier for customers to order their monthly cheese as well as offer gift hampers and subscriptions.
In order to ease your pain, Nikki slogged her guts out, often pulling late night shifts, to create what has so far proved to be a much nicer customer experience.
The extension still isn't finished though!
2. Cheese subscriptions
As part of the new website we launched our first ever cheese subscriptions.
It's something I had been asked about several times and decided to take the plunge in the spring. Customers wanted to be able to input their details once for cheese to be delivered to their door up to six times a year.
The response has been fantastic with the option for three or six month rolling subscription and we've just launched subscription gift packages too.
3. Blessed are the cheesemakers
If anyone tuned into hear my dulcet tones on BBC Radio Northampton on Monday, you will have heard that I am now making cheese, woohoo! Thanks to the Northampton Cheese Company I have had the opportunity to further the craft and make some different styles of cheese. Having been making cheese in my own kitchen for the best part of 10 years it has bene amazing to step this up and to learn about making it on a larger scale.
I think the cheeses are pretty fantastic (I'm biased of course) and over the coming months I'm sure there'll be chance for you to sample the goodies for yourselves.
4. New markets
So much of any business is about growing your network and I've met some fantastic people at the different markets I've attended. A number of customers and other traders have contacted me and asked me to attend other markets that they know about in the region allowing me to take the cheese show on the road!
Anyone who knows me will know that I love a good chinwag, especially if it's about cheese, and the markets give me the chance to see lots of new, and familiar, faces.
You'll now find us at: Buckingham, Bicester, Towcester, Wootton, Woburn, Higham Ferrers, Rushden Lakes and I'm sure there'll be more to come in the future.
5. Last Christmas I gave you my heart...
This year, it's blood, sweat and tears! It's incredible to think about where we were this time last year and how far we've come.
I'm still surrounded by cheese and boxes but having learnt a lot of lessons, it's been a much smoother operation this year. At points last Christmas I wondered whether we'd still be here 12 months later.
I'm so happy that we are, it really is a dream come true to be able to start supporting my family doing something that I'm so passionate about.
6. Mini cheddars and babybels
Talking of family, I can't not mention the arrival of our first human baby in August this year. Juggling parenthood with running a business hasn't been without its challenges but thank you for bearing with me, your many words of wisdom and continued support. It has also been so lovely to hear about new arrivals for customers this year and deliver them much-needed cheese packages to help with the sleep deprivation.
7. Teamwork makes the dream work Cheese brings people together. I've had the honour of supplying cheese wedding cakes, birthday gifts and everything in between and couldn't have done any of it without my amazing support network. From friends and family (including my long-suffering wife) to you, the customers, and all of the cheesemakers and suppliers I work with.
I want to thank you all for your continued support, feedback and suggestions, love and laughter and of course your need for cheese.
I hope you all enjoy your Christmas cheese. We'll be taking a short break after the new year and will be back with more fromage and frolics for 2022 - see you on the flip side!