14 start-up tips from farmer and founder of luxury food brand

Annabel Makin-Jones is a fifth-generation farmer and founder of the luxury food brands Annabel’s Deliciously British and Tame & Wild.

Her business focuses on providing high quality British fruit products including preserves and sparkling fruit and botanicals drinks.

She shares her tips for starting up a farm enterprise.

See also: Farmers Weekly Awards 2021: Diversification Farmer of the Year

1. Trust your gut

Starting your own business will never be as easy, but if you really believe in your idea, then don’t give up on it and trust your instinct. It’s normally pretty spot on.

Believe in yourself – you know so much more than you might think you do.

2. Take risks

There will always be uncertainties, so don’t let the fear of failure prevent you from making decisions.

Not everything will work as you hope, but stick at it and be consistent.

Ultimately, if you don’t make mistakes, you never learn and get better at what you do.

It’s impossible to totally disregard thoughts of failure, but try to focus on the present and the positive.

3. Staying power

Farmers have this in spades – and it’s vital if you are the driving force behind a company.

If you can’t commit to the hard work, then your business won’t be successful and will never work out as you had hoped.

4. Take responsibility

It’s important to understand your role and impact. For example, as a brand, we are trying to become more sustainable in our practices.

Sustainability isn’t just about big brands – we should all be doing our bit.

Whether you are a primary seller, retailer or wholesaler, everyone has a role to play in making more sustainable choices within their companies.

Remember – your reputation is gold when it comes to doing business.

5. Invest in staff

You’re only as good as the people you employ.

A good employee is someone who is trustworthy, has initiative, isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty and, most importantly, cares about your company.

As the farming industry is so far from being a typical 9-5 job, you need people who are completely committed to their role and want a sense of belonging within a company.

6. Have faith in yourself


© Annabel Makin-Jones

As an example, it took me 18 months to get my Tame & Wild products stocked in Daylesford.

I had a number of setbacks that were out of my control, including a cancelled order before the first lockdown. As you can imagine, I was heartbroken as it was such a big deal for a small brand.

It then took 18 months to get the order back due to changes in working practices, buyers, and for people to resurface from covid. Faith and a little patience goes a long way, though.

7. Have a vision

If you have a vision for your brand that you are passionate about, be prepared to own it and see it through to fruition, despite any knock-backs that come your way.

Be tenacious, never give in, and retain that love and passion for your products.

8. Embrace technology

Technology is essential in helping to develop a scaleable business, so be prepared to embrace it to support increasing levels of turnover while remaining respectful to the more traditional ways of doing things.

9. Stay on your toes

Learn to adapt to situations you can’t control. You need to be prepared for any eventuality.

Farmers are no strangers to unpredictable weather, but it’s important to know how to be both pro-active and reactive to all scenarios.

10. Be honest

Your brand must stand for something and you need to be able to explain your ethos with confidence and be open about your methods and sustainability.

As the expert, you are responsible for educating the consumer with trustworthy information about your products.

11. Trust the process

Creating a start-up will see you go through many highs and lows.

Often the lows will feel more frequent than the highs, but these are your learning opportunities.

Don’t forget to reflect, ask questions, analyse and take lessons from successes as well as failures. Trust, learn and grow.

12. Listen to advice

Starting a business or brand takes a bucketful of ambition, bravery, and inspiration.

You will have many people offering their two pennies worth, and it’s worth listening.

Their advice may or may not be what you want to hear, and you don’t have to necessarily take it on board, but you do learn from others.

Make sure you meet new people who share the same passions as you, this will give you added support and motivation when times feel tough.

13. Your brand is everything

How people perceive your business during the start-up phase is crucial to its long-term success.

This means going out of your way to take positive steps towards brand recognition. 

Stay true to your word and your brand and keep your priorities clear, know what is important to you and make your decisions accordingly.

14. Network

Some of the benefits of this include the opportunity to exchange ideas and gain new insights, discuss challenges and ways to overcome these, along with developing long-lasting relationships with mutual benefits.

Say “yes” to networking invites that come your way – it will be worth it!

Annabel’s West Yorkshire-based business supplies a range of products including fresh fruit, flowers, preserves, yoghurt, honey and gin to top restaurants and retailers, including Booths and Ocado.

Find out more on Annabel’s website.

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