Do you have your own business, or you’re thinking of starting one up? Read on to hear about how Cywain can help you! Not your thing? Read ahead anyway to hear from the fantastic producers that Cywain has helped, and maybe we can tempt you to a treat or two!
Over lockdown, we all know someone who has turned to their craft to give them back a bit of their sanity. Due to layoffs during the pandemic, a number of people used their skills to create an extra source of income, creating an influx in small and micro businesses across Wales and the UK. According to Simply Business, new entrepreneurs have been on the rise, e.g. there has been a 157% year on year increase in requests for home baking insurance. However, many of these start-ups lack the business experience to push their business to reach its full potential.
Cywain is a Menter a Busnes project designed to help small businesses grow and flourish, and since their launch in 2018, they have helped an amazing 902 food and drink businesses in Wales to grow! Cywain has supported 232 business start-ups and has provided 1055 training days to over 769 participants, specialising in helping clients to maximise their potential in a competitive world, promoting the high quality of produce Wales has to offer and the talent of its entrepreneurs. Cywain reports that they have created 118 new full-time jobs, safeguarded 4,272 jobs and that 40% of their producers are award winners.
Cywain has designed the ‘Scale Up Challenge’ specifically to help these new businesses in the food and drink industry to grow. The ‘Scale Up Challenge’ supports these businesses over six weekly sessions, covering a wealth of practical advice to help smaller companies scale-up their activities to develop their business, and is part of the Covid recovery strategy to grow businesses and jobs. The sessions cover topics like having the right attitude, finance and resilience, identifying and seizing opportunities, communications and marketing, accreditation such as SALSA, and finding and using trend data. Held in collaboration with other partners such as Food Innovation Wales’ via Project HELIX, insight from experts was backed up by established Welsh food and drink producers who shared their experiences of forming and growing their companies. Cywain Project Manager, Dewi Evans, said, “Growing a business can be quite a steep learning curve, and the number of regulations and new skills required can be daunting at times. That’s why Cywain created the ‘Scale-Up Challenge’ – to bring all these elements together through informal topic-focussed sessions.’
Thirteen companies from across Wales took part in the initial programme. Here’s what some of them told us at taste.blas about their experience and how they benefited from various aspects of the Scale-Up Challenge:
Bossa Nova - Communication
Bossa Nova is an artisanal chocolate producer, aiming to bring the taste of Brazil to Wales with their Brazilian style chocolate truffles. Andrea at Bossa Nova said about her experience:
‘The Scale up challenge was excellent. I have learned so much from the speakers/presenters as well as other businesses participating. Communication is not my fortes, so I have to work extra hard on it. With the support from Cywain, I recognised this and started developing my communications plan for the new brand. I have created a re-launch plan of Bossa Nova for this autumn, and I am working on a new website design and marketing plans now. The challenge also helped me refocus on direct customer strategy. I am working now towards launching my products on Amazon and increasing my digital presence on other platforms.’
Pen Y Bryn Apiary - Attitude
Pen Y Bryn Apiary make a range of unique honey-based products such as bees wax candles, food wraps, honey marmalade and honey jams! Pen y Bryn Apiary is currently made up of one hundred and fifty hives and is home to Welsh native black bees. Carys said of her experience with Cywain:
‘I enjoyed the challenge as it got me thinking about different aspects of the business and supported me to concentrate on attracting and approaching new customers and working to my strengths. Preparing and formally pitching to a buyer wasn’t something I had done before and I wasn't 100% confident with it. Historically it has only been me who has been working on the business but going forward I have identified roles that can be undertaken by others.’
Bragdy Cybi - Opportunities
Bragdy Cybi was set up not long after lockdown started in May 2020 after owner Dan Jones was made redundant and decided he’d like to use this as a chance to learn how to make beer.
‘Despite only opening our doors in May 2020, by December we had to think about upscaling. During lockdown, we were constantly having to turn down trade business, and we were often running out of beer. This gave us the confidence that an expansion could succeed. One workshop during the upscale challenge was specifically about opportunities, highlighting local wholesalers, farm shops and delis that we could work with. This unit made us think about our customer base and made us realise the volume needed to justify selling through a wholesaler. We had an opportunity during week 5 to meet the buyer for National Museum Wales who were very interested in stocking our beers at their slate museum in Llanberis.’
Derw Coffee - Finance / Data & Trends
Husband and wife team, Chris and Intan set up Derw Coffee as they both love good coffee, made with quality, natural ingredients, and wanted to make something they care about. Blending their Welsh and Indonesian backgrounds, they created Derw’s coffee to bring you fantastic flavours and health benefits.
‘Some areas of business can be daunting and overwhelming, and it felt like Cywain attempted to highlight these more challenging areas and tackle them in the sessions in order to help us grow and develop. The session on financing and cash flow was particularly helpful for us as it is not something we have had experience with in previous jobs, and to be honest, is not the most exciting aspect of business for me. It is also very hard to 'know' what is a reasonable forecast of sales and so on, and the session helped me judge these things a little better.’
Cardiff Distillery - Accreditation and Growth
Offering premium, award-winning gins, Cardiff Distillery particularly benefitted from Cywain’s help in attaining accreditation.
‘I think we benefited the most out of listening to the guest speakers who had actually been in our position, what they did, and where they are now. Our business is fortunate in that it rapidly expanded throughout the pandemic, and Cywain helped us learn about how buyers look upon small businesses and what certification and accreditation we should try and achieve. We are now underway with SALSA and B Corp, whilst also looking at ISO's.’
Cywain has helped these businesses grow in numerous ways, helping to keep the backbone of the Welsh food and drink industry strong, and letting customers enjoy the artisanal products these producers create. Cywain has paved the way for helping small food and drink businesses, showing that there is help available, Covid recovery is possible for small businesses, and anyone can try their hand at running a business.
Back in March, Cywain organised for the participants of the ‘Scale Up Challenge’ to take part in a virtual ‘Meet the Buyer’ event which gave them the opportunity to hear from the buyers for retail and catering outlets at National Museum Wales. The presentation was followed up by individual meetings with the buyers where they pitched their products with some very promising results. Cywain has also given the participating businesses the opportunity to attend the Welsh Government’s flagship food and drink event, Blas Cymru/Taste Wales, where they will be able to take part in a new ‘Rising Star’ marketplace where they can promote their products and meet buyers this October.