Welsh family farm business honoured by parliamentary review

Welsh business Chuckling Goat LTD has been selected by the Parliamentary Review as an example of best business practice in the UK.

With no previous business experience or financial funding, farming couple Shann and Richard Jones sold Rich’s motorcycle to buy bottles for their goat's milk kefir, when they started their family business on their farmhouse kitchen table in 2014. 

Five years later, Chuckling Goat employs 22 staff, has an annual turnover of £3.5 million and sells its kefir products direct to 147,000 customers in 38 countries. Sales have increased by 6000% in four years. The couple began making kefir in their stone barn; today they offer a range of natural gut-health products including cutting-edge Microbiome Testing. Last year, the company scooped the Best New Dairy Drink in the World accolade for their goats milk kefir. 

This unusual rags-to-riches success story has caught the attention of MPs, Secretaries of State, Ministers and business leaders as an example of best practice in a challenging political and economic environment. 

Ben Lake, MP for Ceredigion, said: “The story behind Chuckling Goat is a truly inspirational one. Shann and Rich’s passion for their produce and their sheer determination have enabled them to expand successfully as a business, whilst also retaining their commitment to keeping everything hand-made and creating jobs for local people. Small businesses are the backbone of any local economy and Chuckling Goat is a shining example here in Ceredigion.”  

The Jones’ attribute their business success to staying fully committed to their values. “We never compromise,” says Shann Jones, who has written three best-selling books on the topic of gut health. “We stay in direct contact with our customers, we make everything by hand here on the farm, and we never cut corners. If you keep your quality high, even in a rural location like ours, the world will eventually find you and beat a path to your door.”

Chuckling Goat has always been committed to doing business differently; it’s this unconventional approach that has won the company this prestigious recognition.

Early on, Shann and Richard experimented with a local shop but soon found the outlays of rent, insurance, business rates and electricity to be prohibitive. Instead of pursuing this sales channel, which would have had a negative impact on profit, the Chuckling Goat team decided to invest in a high-end e-commerce site.

To offset the lack of physical accessibility, Chuckling Goat offers free shipping anywhere in the UK. 

Many businesses seek loans or grants to raise capital; Shann and Richard made the decision early on that they would never incur a penny of debt. If they couldn’t pay cash for it, they wouldn’t buy it.

Shann explained: “Despite the fact that we had no money to begin with, one of the key objectives for us as a business was to be able to have total freedom of motion and not be bound by grant paperwork or loan repayment pressures. This freedom, to adapt to anything that the rapidly changing market might throw at us, has enabled us to grow organically and sustainably.

“For example, rather than take a £16,000 grant to buy a new kefir vessel, we sourced small microbrewery vats, each costing £150, and designed our own shelves to house the vats. When we needed to increase production, we simply added more small vats. This approach meant we were able to keep our production line flexible and isolate any problems to one vat.”

In addition to turning down financial support, Chuckling Goat also opted not to sell its kefir drink and skincare products through any third parties. Today they sell exclusively to end-use consumers. 

“It has always been important to us to develop a connection with the customer,” said Richard. “We believe in intensive communication and transparent relationships with our customers.”  

Shann and Richard were also steadfast in avoiding the ‘Tesco trap’. “Large supplier demands mean that the producer often has to cut corners and this is when quality starts to drop. It has always been hugely important to us to retain control over our supply and quality: everything Chuckling Goat makes is in small batches, by hand, on the farm,” added Richard.

Chuckling Goat’s artisan style ensures that only the highest quality ingredients are used. This approach has won the company customer loyalty and a string of accolades, including ‘Best New Dairy Drink’ in the 2018 International Beverage Awards.

“Amazon has changed the world and customers are now used to receiving their goods 24 hours after they have ordered them. It is a retail model that is unquestionably successful and we, too, wanted our products to be available at the click of a button to customers around the world,” Shann said.

Speaking about their involvement in the Parliamentary Review, Shann ended by saying: “We feel incredibly passionate about our business practice principles, and it is an honour that they have been highlighted in the Parliamentary Review.

“The political and economic climate is indeed challenging at the moment, especially for small businesses. If our learnings and tactics can go any way towards helping other UK enterprises grow, then we are delighted to have been able to share our story with Parliamentary Review readers.”

The Parliamentary Review has a readership of over 500,000 and is issued to CEOs, directors and business leaders across the UK. It allows the public and private sectors to share and promote best practice with the goal of raising standards.

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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