Following the Brexit vote, business leaders around the UK have been looking for ways to continue trading uninterrupted – whether that is domestically or with EU nations.
In this series, we’re catching up with those who have made big decisions for the future of their business in a post-Brexit world. In this business story, Susan Fiander-Woodhouse, co-owner and managing director of Blaenafon of Cheddar, takes us through her decision to use asset finance.
Ricotta get through this
“With Brexit on the horizon, we knew we needed to put a plan in place to stabilise our finances and future-proof our business model,” Susan explained.
Established in 2003, Blaenafon of Cheddar specialises in wax-wrapped cheeses, and the company has won numerous awards since first opening.
Susan reported that the success of the business had led to many propositions from potential traders, as well as a significant demand for its products, both overseas and in the UK.
“At that time, we weren’t in a position to take these deals on as we would never commit to an agreement we couldn’t be 100 per cent sure of delivering.”
Following the Brexit vote, however, Susan made the decision to maximise on the predicted popularity of buying British produce by investing in equipment that would support the company’s expansion via an asset finance facility.
“Experts suggested more people would be choosing British as the price of brie shot up, [so] we decided to invest in our equipment to fulfil larger orders.”
“We decided to take out a £77,000 asset finance facility through Time Finance to buy the specialist piece of equipment we required in order to scale up production,” Susan reported.
Susan went on to add that, by spreading the cost of investment, the business had protected its cash flow at the same time, a key reassurance during the build up to Brexit and throughout the pandemic.
Brie-ving nothing to chance
With the popularity of British cheeses widely predicted, Susan knew that her company had to act swiftly or risk losing out on the opportunity to expand business in the wake of Brexit.
“When we first identified our path to innovation through asset financing, it was because we knew there was going to be a surge in expected demand for British cheddar post-Brexit,” she said.
“As major supermarket leaders questioned the cost and ease of imports in European cheeses, we knew that if we didn’t act quickly to meet demand, we could quite easily get left behind.”
It didn’t take long for the benefits of investing via asset financing to pay off, with the family-run business seeing rapid growth in the months following the installation of the new equipment.
“With our specialist equipment now in use, and production levels of our cheese soaring, we have secured our very first deal with a major supermarket,” Susan revealed.
For a small, family-run business in rural Wales, the boom in production and the ability to fulfil larger orders has been life changing.
Susan believes that, by forward planning in preparation for Brexit, her business has been able to thrive while others have suffered.
“Considering this is a time when the business may have otherwise taken a significant hit, our growth has been unexpectedly smooth,” she went on.
“This is entirely down to our forward-thinking Brexit plan, paired with a lender who understood our needs.”
“We’ve now been able to say ‘yes’ to those deals that we had to turn previously, and we are now securing opportunities on a much larger scale,” Susan said of the business’ growth.
“Having the equipment meant we could accelerate our production, increase the number of cheeses we could supply and continue focusing on development.”
Although the move has already been a success, Susan said the biggest implications would be the long-term growth of the business.
“In the long-term, we’ll be able to see the lasting legacy that our innovation in 2020 led to, and the security the asset financing gave us,” she hypothesised.
“We’ve ultimately been able to push through this challenging period thanks to the funding.”
For businesses in a similar situation, Susan had the following advice. “Aside from exploring all your possible funding streams, my advice to others who feel they may be struggling to adapt, is to buddy up. There will always be somebody out there working in your industry who is going through the same changes as you.”
Susan referenced, in particular, the interconnectivity between small business in Wales. She said that a number of small business support groups had been established within the region, adding that the impact of sharing knowledge and supporting one another had been “phenomenal”.
“By supporting one another we can get through these changes and thrive in this tricky climate.”