Save the High Street Questions, by Sarah Greeff. May 2018

What inspired you to start Isle of Wight Biltong?

Meeting another local food producer who started making cheese on the Island sowed the seed of an idea. When we decided it was time to leave Zimbabwe we had to decide what we were going to do in the UK. Having worked for other people the whole of our lives we were keen to be independent and create something that we could call our own. Nicks family has been making biltong for generations and it is his favourite food. After a research visit to Johannesburg Isle of Wight Biltong was born.

What’s been the biggest digital challenge you have faced as a retailer?

We had been working deep in the African bush for years and were hopelessly behind the times as regards the digital age. We knew the importance of email and having a website but that was the limit of our knowledge. It is a constant enjoyable challenge learning how to utilise web traffic, mailchimp and social media to help promote our brand the best we can for as little cost as possible.

If you could learn more about one area of digital business, what would it be?

I was very lucky and found a fully funded course on Social Media for Small business. I travelled for several months, one day a week over to Southampton and worked hard to learn as much as possible. I would love to learn how to update my wordpress website myself to keep it very relevant to what our business is doing.

What do you believe needs to be done to save our high streets, in particular, in more regional communities?

We started by renting a small manufacturing unit on a farm that no-one could find and did not have planning permission to sell from. We had our office at home and started selling at festivals and markets with high fees that were weather dependent on footfall. If we had started on a High Street from the beginning it would have been much easier to get going.

It would be fantastic if the local Council, Planning Departments, Parish Councils, Chamber of Commerce and Business associations could all work together with this one aspirational goal.

In every region there is a burgeoning artisan food and craft industry. The High Street is an opportunity for these people to live and work where there is already some footfall and help create more.  As micro businesses we are already reliant on other retailers and online; most started working from home so have created a business that is already sustainable. By moving onto a High Street and creating a workshop, catering kitchen or studio with a shop window it creates an extra more traditional income stream. The business makes the shop look unique and attractive and adds that all important new  independent shop to the High Street. It also means the maker gets to talk face to face to their customer base for free which is so important and creates that important buzz and pleasure of making and selling. By living in the flat over the work space it makes the cost of living every economical. We are finding being part of the local business community has offered us support and vice versa its wonderful to feel part of the village.

What is the best bit of advice you could give to someone who is looking to start

their first high street retail business?

  • Do all the small business start up courses you can find.
  • Know your brand and who your customer is inside out.
  • If you are similar to another business in the UK study what they do.
  • Find out if there are any start up grants available.
  • Learn all you can about digital marketing.
  • Speak to other businesses on your chosen High Street and study the footfall and customer type.
  • Study the type of shops that have been established for a long time already.
  • Visit the Business association and get their advice and support. If you can get someone to mentor you that really helps.
  • Cashflow is king, work out all your overheads before starting and be realistic about future sales.
  • Have determination and passion for what you are going to do…

What are your future ambitions for Isle of Wight Biltong.

They are very simple, we would like to bring more footfall to Seaview High Street for all the businesses, which would also raise our direct sales, and to stay as a viable small business we can be proud of that sustains the lifestyle that makes us happy.

Where can we find out more about Isle of Wight Biltong?


Facebook @isleofwightbiltong

Twitter @IOWBiltong

Instagram: Greeffs Isle of Wight Biltong

Pinterest: Isle of Wight Biltong

Email us: sales@isleofwightbiltong.co.uk

Telephone us: 01983 611288

Text us: 07715181491