Start Up Success: Maria Whitehead - Hawkshead Relish Company

I have worked in the food industry since 1984, though our business really started in 1994. That was the year my husband and I too k over the running of a busy café, giving us the oppo rtunity to make our own home coo ked sauces, preserves, relishes and pickles - all made using locally sourced ingredients.

Hawkshead Relish CompanyName: Maria Whitehead MBE
Job role: Director
Company: Hawkshead Relish Company

In 2001, following an increased interest in our preserves and jams, we decided to sell our products through retail outlets across the country and this saw the birth of Hawkshead Relish Company. Our products are now stocked in 350 retailers.

Since establishing Hawkshead Relish Company it has successfully grown producing up to 120 unique flavoured relishes, pickles and preserves without using any artificial flavourings, colourings or preservatives.

Setting up your own small or medium sized manufacturing company within an industry you are passionate about is extremely exciting to say the least. My role is really varied and involves being front of house, finance, running the accounts, payroll and marketing. My husband, Mark, is a trained hotelier and chef who manages the practical side of the business and the logistics. By combining skills and working together we ensure the smooth running of our business.

I love working in a field which brings pleasure to so many people and it has never been a chore. We are constantly working on new products, moving the business forward with new marketing ideas and this constant change is what keeps the work interesting, making every day a challenge.

In 2011, we had the unique opportunity to meet the Queen when both Mark and I were awarded MBEs for our services to the food industry in Cumbria. When you are working hard to build a small business and remain true to your ethics, beliefs and helping others to achieve their goals along the way, it was both a shock and humbling to be recognised for it.

Going from having no formal training to running a successful SME in a rural landscape has been an interesting career path. I believe that people with a mixture of ability and drive can achieve real success in food and drink and I can't think of a better industry to be in.

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