Food producer sees sales heat up by 500% after engaging with Business Gateway

Donna Polson, owner of Whalsay Made

A FOOD producer is anticipating significant growth after reporting a 538% sales increase since April last year, following support from Scotland’s national business advice service, Business Gateway. 

Based on the Isle of Whalsay in Shetland, Whalsay Made produces homemade preserves, chutneys, and sauces including sweet chilli sauce, gin, and lime marmalade and carrot marmalade.  Initially, a small operation providing products directly to those in the local area, owner Donna Polson turned to Business Gateway for support to scale up her offering in 2019. 

The success and significant demand for her products has meant that the business is now in a position to expand, and Donna is working with Business Gateway to identify funding opportunities to allow for the construction of new business premises close to her house. This will enable the growth of Whalsay Made, which is currently run out of Donna’s kitchen following approval by the Shetland Islands Council Environmental Health Department 

Before initially launching Whalsay Made, Donna attended a two-day course on running a business held by Business Gateway.  Following this, Business Gateway introduced her to several owners of local delis who were interested in stocking her products while her adviser reviewed her business plan, gave advice on company regulations, and provided marketing support.  

During lockdown, Donna worked with Business Gateway as she adapted her business to the pandemic and introduced a delivery service. This has led to significant demand for products such as rhubarb and ginger jam and beetroot chutney Products have also been included in a number of gift sets and Father’s Day Hampers that were put together by local suppliers based in Shetland.  

Donna also received support from DigitalBoost, Scotland’s national digital skills training programme, and is in the process of upgrading her website to allow for a virtual shop in direct response to customer demand for online shopping.  

Donna said: “The workshops and webinars I attended prior to lockdown ensured I was able to adapt quickly to lockdown with the launch of a delivery service while the DigitalBoost programme has meant I can see the business case for using social media platforms.  

“This growth has meant I can think about expanding my business. I hope to soon take on my first employee to support with orders and deliveries and I’m continuing to work with Business Gateway to apply for funding that will allow me to build a bespoke space for my business. 

“I feel extremely fortunate to be in this position and cannot thank Business Gateway or my adviser enough for their encouragement and advice over the last 12 months, which has given me the confidence to take a chance on my product.” 

Kirsten Nicolson, Business Gateway, said: “Our advisers are perfectly placed to support you with a range of questions related to starting a business, whether that is on your business plan or on topics such as funding or marketing. This support is complimented by our DigitalBoost programme that helps get businesses online and exploiting all the opportunities this brings.  

“This range of services really comes together and can help grow your business over the long-term and this is exactly what has happened with Whalsay Made. We look forward to working with Donna as she enters this next phase of expansion.” 

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