A passionate Welsh foodie launches her bespoke hamper business, celebrating local producers and all things Welsh.

With a passion for Wales, local produce and food, Helen Pritchard turned a challenging Covid-19 situation into a brand new bespoke hamper business, Cariad o Gymru. Helen benefited from a start-up webinar and advisory support provided by the Welsh Government’s Business Wales service, allowing her to launch the business in 2020.

  • Start-up webinar and advisory support to set up
  • £1000 start-up loan secured
  • Successful launch and 1 job created
  • Commitment to the Business Wales Green Growth Pledge

Introduction to business

Launched by Helen Pritchard in Swansea, Cariad o Gymru offers a selection of locally sourced bespoke Welsh produce and gift hampers for all occasions and budgets.

Why did you decide to set up your own business?

I have had a sincere love of Wales since my childhood. Born to Welsh parents, proud of their nationality, it is only natural that it runs through my veins, too. Due to my Dad’s job, we moved a lot during my childhood all throughout England, but I always had ‘hiraeth’ (longing) to Wales. It was my safe and happy place to come back to during the holidays, staying with my Grandparents.

Soon after our marriage, Tim and I sold our house, left our jobs and went travelling around the world for over eight months. Sharing our mutual admiration of travel and food, we visited some spectacular places and sampled some amazing dishes. By eating with local families and visiting local markets, we were able to see all the fresh produce available. Observing proud nations making the most of their produce, I now want to support the country I live in and its fine food.

Our family remain so passionate about food and good quality produce. It is no wonder that I almost seemed destined for a career in the food industry. As a result, I have worked in the industry as a development chef and home economist. After having my three children, I progressed and developed my skills into a small business teaching cookery classes for young people, as I wanted to pass on the value of good quality food and trying different cuisines.

As our family settled back in Wales, I wanted to share my love of this beautiful land through some of the fantastic food I grew up with, as well as give people a taste of the wonderful language.

As my parents grew older, I still wanted to give them a special, meaningful gift. However, like many others in my situation, I always got “we don’t want anything”. I found that food hampers were always welcome.

I feel it is important to support our community by buying local and improving the Welsh economy, which is even more crucial now. A few years ago, I helped a friend to set up a local Welsh café and while sourcing their food products, I discovered the wealth of amazing suppliers across the country. This is the driving motivation to set up my hamper company, showcasing some of Wales’ best produce and gifts.

So, when my work contract ended due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I started thinking about setting up Cariad o Gymru. I am also very family-led and with my husband often away with his job, so I wanted to be flexible and work hours to allow me to be at home for my family.

However, I knew there were many similar businesses already out there and wanted to offer more of an eco-hamper to tie into Business Wales’ Green Growth pledge. Our Welsh seed poppy heart label is handmade from pulped post-consumer household packaging. So, rather than being disposed in the rubbish, it can be planted in the garden. The label will decompose and the poppies can flourish.

We keep packaging to a minimum. Hamper boxes are sustainably sourced and 100% recyclable. The ‘wood ’ fill is a 100% natural by-product. It is recyclable, biodegradable, free of chemicals and suitable for use as pet bedding. Working with a local designer and printer, we are using 100% recyclable, FSC sourced offcuts, surplus stock or waste paper and card for our printed materials.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 means many families have not been able to get together to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other events. Hampers have been the perfect gift during this time. I prefer to work closely with customers rather than offering a standard price list, as I want to offer a bespoke service to fit with their budgets and individual requirements. This way their loved one receives a hamper unique to them.

What challenges did you face?

My laptop broke just as I was setting up, so it took time to set things up again.

Additionally, being of an age where I was not brought up with social media, it has been a learning curve to get things up and running. My 11-year old helps with the Instagram posts!

Other challenges involved not having capital behind me to get things off the ground and not being fluent in Welsh: I wanted to post more bi-lingual content, but this takes a lot more time as a learner!

Business Wales support

Helen attended a start-up webinar before working with a business adviser, Hywel Bassett, on her business plan and cash flow forecasts. The support enabled her to secure a £1,000 loan from the Start-up Loans Company to purchase additional stock and get the hamper business off the ground.

With Hywel’s support, Helen launched the business in September 2020 and is already expanding her customer base beyond Wales.

Outcomes

  • Start-up webinar and advisory support to set up
  • £1,000 start-up loan secured
  • Successful launch and 1 job created
  • Commitment to the Business Wales Green Growth Pledge

Hywel has been a fantastic support. He is friendly, approachable and full of knowledge. He helped me secure a business loan by providing advice on my business plan. This loan helped me purchase initial stock and equipment to increase the range of items on offer and get the business off the ground.

Hywel has always been at hand to offer further advice on questions I have had and encouraged me at every level; he has a great sense of humour, too!

The initial webinar on starting up was really useful and I hope to look into more support on social media to help me improve my skills further.

Future plans and ambitions

I would love to grow the business by continuing to work closely with Welsh producers and offer a wide range of hampers all year round. I would like to create recipe or cookery boxes combining my previous cookery business and experience writing recipes using the wonderful Welsh products.

I have had hampers sent to the South of France, Canada and soon Australia, so I would like to be able to share Welsh hampers to ex-pats around the world to remind them of home!

I am also aiming to improve my Welsh and with the help of Helo Blod to become more bi-lingual.

If you want to read more success stories of how Business Wales has helped other people like you to start or grow their businesses, visit https://businesswales.gov.wales/case-studies or follow @_businesswales / @_busnescymru on Twitter.

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