Thriving businesses are the beating heart of the rural economy, they keep people employed and money pouring into our communities, but who are the people driving these businesses? Our series of Business Focus posts will be shining a light on the hard-working folks who are keeping the lights on in villages around the country and also providing a helping hand to those people who are struggling to keep their heads above water.
Our first Business Focus is on an independent cider brewer who had to diversify and adapt rapidly in a changing rural environment that almost saw him selling up his land and letting his staff go. Colm Jackson inherited his land from his father, a moderately successful dairy farmer, however, when the Financial Crisis of 2008 hit, Colm soon found that the antiquated systems with which he had been lumbered with were not sufficient to run a modern dairy business. Faced with rising costs and dwindling finances, Colm took the difficult decision to shut down the dairy farm in favour of an alternative business which would see him become one of the most successful traders in his region.
We got the chance to chat with Colm recently over a pint (or two!) of his excellent Pappy’s Scrumpy to discuss his business’ Phoenix-like rise from the ashes:
Thanks for talking to us today, the business must keep you very busy, are there many long days for you in the cider business?
Not as many as you’d think, at least not compared to life as a dairy farmer. Apples don’t need to be let out in the morning, they don’t need feeding and they don’t need medication – so there’s rarely a need to go get up at the crack of dawn, the way that my father did. I’ll admit to still feeling a little lazy whenever I sleep in past 8, but with the entire business located just a stone’s throw from my front door, there’s really no need to for me to getting up any earlier these days!
Transforming your dairy farm into a cider press must’ve been an expensive process, where you ever worried that your gamble might not pay off?
Of course! No business decision comes without a level of risk attached to it, but I did my best to create a realistic business plan and luckily the bank agreed to loan me the necessary funds. One of the benefits of owning a farm such as mine is that you have a very close relationship with your bank, we’ve used the same one for over a hundred years, so even today, there’s a certain level of trust that runs between us. This trust enabled me to get the press running and has led to the success that we see today.
Your brand is very well known locally, but we’re yet to see your product in the supermarkets, is there a long term plan to roll out your cider nationwide?
No! (Laughs) Really, there isn’t. Despite what you might have heard, we have a small scale business that would require a lot more investment in order to expand to the size needed to distribute nationally. We’re currently 3 years into a 10-year plan that requires to us to sell ‘x’ amount of product in order to keep repaying what we borrowed, pay our staff, and make a little profit on the side. As much as it might be tempting to double down with what we have here, my Father always believed in setting a plan and sticking to it, we may run a different business to the one he managed, but that principle is one I plan on sticking to.
Pappy’s Scrumpy is available in local pubs and independent stores in the Newton-on-Tap area.