Today there were five fledgling business owners joining me for a Professional Day's Training at my base in Rutland. These were five individuals who were all hoping to take their big hobby - making preserves - to the next level by becoming Artisan Producers.
They were all completely different, as you would expect, but shared the same passion for good food and preserves in particular. At the start of the day we discussed briefly what it was that gets us hooked into preserving, what is it that drives us on. The older ones of us had nostalgia woven into the mix but we looked on knowingly as Nicola, the youngest there today, talked of her ambitions and her eyes shone brighter and brighter. 'There's no hope for you - your hooked!' we all said but she wasn't protesting.
This is not a practical, making day, it's a day for paperwork and regulations and labeling laws and the like, and it is fair to say that my students were unaware of most of what they needed to know. They weren't daunted though and were busy scribbling notes in their course programme and asked intelligent questions, which is always helpful.
We covered the requirements of Trading Standards and Environmental Health, went through labeling with a fine toothed comb. We covered insurance and best practice, the Jam & Similar Products Regulations (England) 2003.I was also able to enrol the first five businesses into the new scheme being launched by The Guild of Jam & Preserve Makers - the Quality Assurance Initiative. We have launched this through The Guild to uphold the high standards of the artisan preserve community to help the general public identify which are quality hand made products. This will be rolled out in June in time for the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC and my five businesses today have agreed to trial to report back on reaction from customers.
We will be refining the details of the Quality Assurance Initiative over the next few months and also looking a series of webinars to present the Professional Training on-line.