I’m back with a new series of interviews with independent business owners, learning about their businesses and from their experiences. In this blog we meet Jane Birch from Yorkshire Wolds Apple Juice.  Jane made the leap from school teacher to business owner when she bought the business from a friend and has a passion for her product and everything it stands for – ethical, local and authentic.

How do you describe your business to your friends?

We produce and sell delicious cloudy apple juice. We use traditional cold pressing and traditional varieties of English  grown apples.  We are a small, independent, family business who love working with local, independent businesses who pride themselves on using local produce. Our fruit pressing service (commencing in September) is for people to bring us their own fruit (probably mostly apples & or pears) and we will press, bottle and pasteurise the juice so that they can enjoy it for up to 18 months. Or use it as a unique gift for families & friends.

 

How long have you had your business and what inspired you to start it?

Since November 2018.  We bought our business from a friend but did so because we have a love of natural food/drinks that tastes as it should. Food and drink that hasn’t been “fiddled with”.  Also a belief that we should try wherever we can to buy local or UK produce. It’s also a business that hopefully will fit around family life which is very important to us.  

 

What problem do you solve for your customers?

Providing locally made juice, that is 100% natural for businesses who “love local” and want to help their customers and guests buy or taste local.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Meeting other people who love amazingly tasty food and drink that is produced here in Yorkshire. And hearing people say they have not tasted anything like our apple juice before. Also the chance to meet the owners and make partnerships with other more unique businesses in our area, like The Cosy Garden Shed and The Private Hill. Its also been great meeting people who are really friendly and helpful and getting lots of positive feedback….  

What’s the biggest frustration with working for yourself?

Learning to switch off!!!!  

So what are you working on right now?

Getting ready for the fruit pressing service we are going to offer. Ordering in bottles/boxes, getting our press ready etc.  We also want to produce some new blends next year with seasonal flavours so some research into that is starting as well – I have lots of ideas.    

What does your usual work day look like?

Hmmmm, we don’t have usual work days really. It could be delivering to customers, meeting with potential new customers. Labelling and boxing orders – we usually label and box at least once a week meaning we can check that the juice is in the best condition before delivering.  If you ask about a usual day in September or October it could well be pressing fruit for other people. In November it will be pressing and bottling for our own apple juice. In some respects not having a typical day is great as it can be flexible around other family commitments.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?

I still don’t really feel like I should be giving people advice about having a business. Other than not to take anything personally (I find that tricky) – stick to your guns and what you believe in. There are lots of people out there who will believe in the same and therefore your product or service. Don’t dwell on the people who don’t share your passion.  

What is your favourite service that you sell?

Apple juice! 100% natural, not messed with, nothing added or taken out. “Just taste the apples”.  

Have you learnt anything new about yourself since you started running your own business?

That I can be a saleswoman. Pushing my envelope to “sing our business’s praises” in order to get new customers. I don’t particularly like putting myself in the limelight or on show so it doesn’t come naturally to me.

A lot of business owners can identify with that.  How have you managed to develop your inner sales person?  Do you model yourself on anyone?

I wouldn’t say I have learnt to be a saleswoman as such just realised that it’s about be honest about our product and believing that it’s fabulous. If a product is great it sells itself. Personally I don’t like it when people are pushy about something it makes me not buy – I like to decide for myself. So when I meet new business customers or at a market then we always let people try our juice and tell them what we believe is good about it and quite often it sells itself. 

I don’t model myself on anyone – personally I don’t think there is any point. Other local, independent businesses are more interested in real people and real products. “Take me as I am”.  “Taste our juice and you will find out just how good it tastes”. 

 

What is your favourite brand and why?

At the moment any brand that is genuinely trying to reduce its waste or it’s impact on the environment. Of course I love the “shop local, buy local” brand as well wherever possible.  

How about a favourite food?

My son always asks me this and I say it depends what mood I am in! I love simple, unfussy food that tastes like it should.  

Do you have any pet hates?

People being rude, having bad manners or lack of respect for other people.  My catchphrase when I was teaching was “manners don’t cost anything so use them freely”.

Single use plastic!!  People’s lack of care and respect for the environment.

  

What was your first ever job?

My first proper job was primary school teacher…… I learnt all sorts and everything.  

 

Are there any particular skills that you developed in teaching that have helped you in your new career?

Ha ha, there are 1,000s of skills I learnt.  

Multi tasking! Trying to keep many “pots boiling”- literally in one day I can switch from boxing up orders, meeting potential new customers, calculating figures for stock taking and being creative with some sort of advert/marketing. Oh and being Mum as well – big big job.

Face to face skills – meeting potential new customers or selling at a market is a bit like parents evening or leading an assembly. 

I learnt from my very first head teacher that a “firm handshake” is important even if I am feeling a bit apprehensive about something. 

I could go on … 

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Ha! I love the natural world, plants & animals and visiting new places. So something that involves those – maybe a naturalist & or conservationist.  

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

No idea but it would need to be someone down to earth.

If I gave you an extra day in the week, what would you do with it?

Spend it with my son and hubby, enjoying the  great outdoors – biking, beach, exploring, walking or extra time for my allotment/garden would be nice as well.  

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve been asked lately?

Nothing apple juice related. Often get asked weird questions by my 6 year old son.  

  

If a celebrity was going to buy from you who would you like it to be?

Our son would say “The Queen!”.  Which would be quite cool. My celebrity hero is Sir David Attenborough – amazing man. I would choose him because of his drive and passion for the natural world and his “crusade” to make people realise how we are damaging our planet and that we quite simply have to make changes. Everyone can make small changes – lots of small changes have the potential to make a big difference.  

Finally, what else should I know about you?

I love that we have a family business. I love Yorkshire! I love that our business is based in a beautiful part of Yorkshire.  And I love that we try to have as little impact on the environment as we can.

 

I really enjoyed finding out more about Jane and her business.  What came through really strongly was her passion for the product.  She says that she didn’t think of herself as a natural saleswoman.  But I believe when you have a passion for a product and a real belief in what you’re standing for, you can talk with confidence, knowledge and authenticity – that’s a persuasive combination!  So the traditional ‘sell’ isn’t needed. She’s not the first person I’ve met who worries about the selling side of their business.  Because many people worry about coming across as the old fashioned ‘pushy sales person’ full of one liners, flashy watch, pinstripe suit and fast patter.  But times have changed.  That’s not how businesses need to behave to sell their products and services anymore.  Understanding your customer and what they need, and having a quality product that answers that need for them is key.  Then you sell your product as the solution.  You’re not selling yourself, so take that piece of advice from Jane, “Don’t take anything personally”.  If people don’t like or want your offer, it’s not because they don’t like YOU, it’s just their need for your product isn’t great enough at this time.

My Brand Voice Workshop can help your business clarify how you communicate about your brand and products to your market in a consistent way, aligned to your beliefs and business vision.  If you’d like to know more then do get in touch.

I only live 20 or so miles from Yorkshire Wolds Apple Juice and I know many of the outlets that they sell through. Which is lucky because I really like her product so it’s good to know where I can go to buy more.  

The following is just a short list of some of the places where you can try Yorkshire Wolds Apple Juice for yourself;

Derwent Village Tearoom, Stamford Bridge
Derventio at Tate Smith in Malton
The Patisserie Malton
Curious Coffee, Haxby
Curious Table, Easingwold
Love Cheese, York
The Tea Shop, Pickering
The Private Hill, Acklam
Bistro Guy on Gillygate, York
Ambiente Tapas, York
The Press Kitchen, York
Bettys – branches across Yorkshire

Photographs courtesy of Fiona Bielby, anoifphotography.co.uk