Sheryl Walker, Founder of Weston Biltong Company
Award-winning South African dried meats made from 100% British beef
At one time, I led a team of 43 people as operations director of a training company. We worked to our learners’ strengths – getting great results for apprentices of all ages. I loved the man-management side of things and it couldn’t have been further away from my grounding in agriculture. (I made the leap after the BSE and foot and mouth crises, when the sector was on its knees.)
It was a shock when I got made redundant in April 2016 following a company buyout, but I soon realised it was the best thing that could have happened. I wanted to get off the corporate ladder and I was sick of sitting in boardrooms. I also had an interesting side hustle that was ready to come to the fore…
My mum and dad moved to South Africa 12 years ago. On a visit, they introduced my husband Ryan to biltong – a kind of dried, cured meat. He’s a real carnivore and loved it, but when he tried a supermarket version back home, he said it was disgusting!
My mum sent him a parcel containing a biltong dryer and a note that read: ‘Alright clever sod, make your own!’ We rose to the challenge and, over time, we got to the stage where we had 10 dryers going in the kitchen. It was becoming a viable business, so when redundancy stepped in, I decided to go for it.
Our friend converted our garage into a production facility that meets all the rules and regs around health, safety and the environment. We set out to make 50 kilos of biltong a week, but three years on we produce around half a tonne!
Ryan was made redundant last year, so he does all the long-distance markets, as well as all our marketing and SEO. I make the product; sell at local markets; run the house; and look after our kids, the dogs and a guinea pig!
Things are taking off… I can feel it! Online sales are up every month and we’re selling through Amazon now too. Best of all, our biltong has won a Taste Cheshire Award and even appeared in an episode of ‘Game of Thrones’!