Thinking of starting a small food business? Then head to The School of Artisan Food

I recently had the pleasure of visiting one of my favourite places in Nottinghamshire, The School of Artisan Food on the glorious Welbeck Estate near Sherwood Forest in the north of the county. The School opened in 2006 and has developed an outstanding reputation for its training and courses, from bread-making, cheesemaking, brewing and butchery to preserving, charcuterie, ice-cream-making and patisserie. The School also offers courses on business and entrepreneurship, and has established an annual weekend of foodie lectures, attracting a range of leading speakers from the worlds of food, farming, food policy and research, broadcasting and journalism.

Many of us dream of working in food and drink, perhaps wishing we could sell enough of our delicious home-made jam to give up the day job, or marketing our home-produced cheese, opening a café, restaurant or deli, or maybe launching a traditional bakery. But starting your own business is a big decision and there is a lot to think about before diving in. The School of Artisan Food is here to help.

The School runs a two-day course several times a year centred on food start-ups and I was delighted to be invited to go along and listen in. The courses are kept deliberately small (a maximum of 12) so each individual has the opportunity to participate and discuss their specific ideas directly with the course leader, Yvonne O’Donovan. When I visited there were people from all over the country from a range of backgrounds, some with clear and specific ideas about what they wanted to do, others just beginning to explore whether launching a food business was right for them.

The course is relaxed and participative, taking you from an early exploration of ideas to the nitty gritty practicalities of business planning, financing, accounting and forecasting. The course helps you to profile your “entrepreneurial personality” – how risk averse are you? Is running a business really for you? By the end of the two days the course will have covered almost every aspect of setting up and running your food business, thinking about your customers, financial management, understanding profits and pricing, how to “pitch” and put together a business plan, plus legal and regulatory requirements.

The course takes place in the library and lecture theatre, providing a supportive, informed and engaging environment. Last but by no means least, students get to sample the (always) excellent catering by the School’s own chefs, which takes “buffet lunch” to a new level! You also have the opportunity to visit other small artisan businesses on the Welbeck Estate, including the award-winning farm shop.

If you think you might want to start your own artisan food business, attending this course is a must. Courses run throughout the year and currently cost £395 for two full days.

Abby Brennan
The author:

Abby lives in Radcliffe on Trent with her family and several chickens. She is a former restaurant owner and now mentors food business start-ups, writes recipes, and blogs at The Fishwife's Kitchen.