• Iona

Revival of the Cheesemakers The Dalesman February 2011

We have just had a lovely write up by local journalist, Helen Johnson who came to see us a while back about our little dairy and our new shop.  This is an extract of her article which can be found in the February 2011 edition of The Yorkshire Dalesman.  This is what she says:

When I met Iona Hill, we discussed her previous work as an accountant in London and Dubai.  It  seemed totally unrelated to making cheese.  But, she says, many people starting in business struggle to learn the business side: keeping accounts, complying with legislation, etc.  Here, she had the advantage, as she was expert at this.  And, as a specialist in turnaround, she knew about making changes to a business.

When her Uncle founded Ribblesdale Cheese, he milked the goats and made the cheese himself.  But age and ill-health had forced him to contract out these tasks, until, in Iona’s analysis, he was ‘simply wholesaling a brand that he had created.’

She wanted to return the business to its heart, but she couldn’t cope with both keeping goats and making cheese, so which was it to be?  The decision fell into place as John Parker offered to keep goats and supply the milk, while cheesemaking friends taught Iona to make cheese.

And, she says, it was probably easier to learn to make cheese than to learn, from new, all the technicalities of running a business.  Iona says that, since the credit crunch, times are hard for small businesses.  She comments that she’d like to expand – she can see new products that she knows customers would love, but with no loans available, she has to wait until she’s saved up the money for new equipment.

Meanwhile, there’s a mountain of paperwork.  While I was there, Iona was speaking to a potential new supplier of cows’ milk.  They had to fill in forms certifiying where his milk quota would move on to.  Then a fax came through from Trading Standards: they’d been having a new label design checked for compliance before sending it to the printers.

And there are people too.  They’re a tight-knit team at Ribblesdale.  Each person’s contribution is vital in ensuring that the cheese is not only lovingly made, but the right product gets to the right customer at the right time.

So what happens if someone wants to go on holiday, or is ill?  Iona says, “We’re all learning each others’ jobs, so we can switch round.  We’ll be able to cover for each other, and it gives us variety.  And we can all talk to customers, knowing how the cheese is made, and with the pride that we’re actually making our own cheese.”

With everyone’s involved in hand-making the cheese, that pride shines through everyone at Ribblesdale Cheese.

See Iona’s blog at http://ribblesdalecheese.wordpress.com/,

Read the article in full, in print only, in Dalesman Magazine

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