Small Business Saturday Blog

Local and sustainable is winning formula for SmallBiz100 Hays Hampers

Wednesday, November 07 at 23:30

Established in 1984, Lincolnshire wine merchants Jeremy and Rachel Marshall-Roberts wanted to add to the prestigious and fine wine they were selling and create gift sets – enter Hay Hampers.

After 30 years they left the company but were keen to ensure their close-knit family ethos remained. Luckily, eager to enter the entrepreneur life was Italian couple Elisabeth Och and her husband Gabriele Da Re. Ready to spend more time together and with a passion for food and wine, Hay Hampers was the perfect match.

Taking over in 2014, they have used their backgrounds in the financial and marketing industries to promote Hay Hampers in the competitive gourmet market and its turnover has more than tripled in the past four years.

The pair have remained true to the traditions of the company, even the majority of the employees remain from before they came to own the Bourne premises. The Marshall-Roberts themselves even work part-time as wine educators and consultants.

As a Small Business the company faces challenges in competing with the larger retailers who are also in the food and wine gifts business.

“There are many challenges, even as simple as our promotion on Google. The big businesses will always come up on the first page, whereas we struggle to do this,” says Elisabeth.

But like so many small businesses, the company manages to compete by keeping close to its values. Working in a family owned business means a lot of support, sharing and counting on one another during peak times, such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Elisabeth explains they have to be prepared:

“We have to be ready, so we set strategies for peak times and hire more staff, but seasonal business is difficult for any small business as people turn to better-known brands.”

To gain the upper hand, Elisabeth and Gabriele have placed more focus on community engagement, including supporting local charities by providing hampers as prizes at events.

“When we arrived, Hay Hampers wasn’t too well-known locally, and we really made an effort to engage with the community,” Elisabeth says. “We recruit locally, and when we are hiring more staff at Christmas, it is important we are known in the community to get the most talented people.”

Elisabeth also places a lot of emphasis on the importance of sustaining the local community. She and her husband always try to find local food artisans and help them become their suppliers. For example, if they don’t have the suitable packaging, Hay Hampers will help them to design and source.

Hay Hampers has taken part in Small Business Saturday for a number of years to further connect with the community, and this year decided to apply and was chosen for the SmallBiz100. The business has also been involved in the AMEX Shop Small campaign.

“We have always offered the opportunity to customers to pay with American Express, so it’s good to know they will be rewarded for spending with us via the Shop Small campaign. We were really delighted to be chosen as one of the SmallBiz100, representing our community.”

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