AFTER survey findings last week highlighted the challenges small businesses face amid uncertainty about Brexit and consumer spending an adaptable entrepreneur joins the call for ministers to ease the tax burden on the key tourism and hospitality sector.


Will Docker.



What is your business called?

Balgove Larder.

Where is it based?

Just outside St Andrews.

What services does it offer?

We’re a farm shop and set out from day one to be exactly that, rather than just a shop on a farm. All the livestock from the farm comes to the onsite butchery with all the produce from the 10 acres of market garden. We’re control freaks and like to have single link supply chains and to really know where everything comes from, which involves constantly seeing how the farm can be geared up to supply the shop.

To whom does it sell?

Our great loyal local customers come year-round plus national and international tourists and students from St Andrews University. We also supply a number of golf events in the area, The Old Course Hotel and the university. We have an online shop on our website and supply meat, readymeals, hampers and Homestore products nationwide with next day delivery. This has allowed us to supply our summer tourists directly to their homes all year.

What is its turnover?

We’ve seen sales increase at a strong enough rate since we opened to justify increasing our workforce to 60 from seven.

When was it formed?

We opened the doors in September 2010 having come up with the idea in August 2009 so it was a pretty quick turnaround. The pace was brisk from the moment we opened the doors and each year we’ve expanded in one way or another adding the Steak Barn, a shop extension, the Homestore, Flowershed and extending the café which has been really exciting.

Why did you take the plunge?

Having grown a shellfish business in Essex to its capacity I was keen to pursue new challenges in the food industry. The site at Strathtyrum Estate drew me to Scotland as I saw the huge potential of the farm buildings there that were then lying derelict. A longstanding friend owned the land and his offer was too good to miss.

We saw a large gap in the Scottish market. Scottish foods are world renowned but have tended to be exported rather than celebrated domestically. We focus on traditional breeds and keeping things really simple as the food industry has become vastly over complicated with convoluted supply chains.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I was running Colchester Oyster Fishery – supplying the top London restaurants with live shellfish. Prior to that I was a chef in London, the Alps and the Arctic Circle. These jobs gave me great insight into what can be achieved by using high quality seasonal produce and just how little you need to do when the quality is there already. Retail is very different to wholesale, the devil is most certainly in the detail. You might have the most delicious product but if it doesn’t look great on the shelf or if it’s not priced correctly no one will try it.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

We hit the piggy bank hard and tried to make savings wherever we could.

What was your biggest break?

Receiving 50 per cent grant funding from Scottish Rural Development Programme for the initial set up – it was a huge leg up and really made the project get off the ground.

What was your worst moment?

We had a fire in August 2011 which was small but damaging – The team were amazing at working through the night to ensure we were open for business the next day.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

To pursue continued growth through developing the site further and working even more closely with the farm team to supply more great produce.

What are your five top priorities?

To work hard; to drive the business forward; to be fair; to work on my sense of humour, and last but most important a good husband and father.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Provide relief from Value Added Tax for tourism/hospitality businesses.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Never take no for an answer and delegate to competent team members.

How do you relax?

Cooking is great therapy and standing on the top of a mountain certainly clears the head!