How my Shed became the Hub of a Cheese Empire, delivering fabulous Westcountry cheeses to all corners of the land. How I became Bovey Tracey's Leading Shed-Based Virtual Cheesemonger. No, really.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bringing the story up to date ...

That was 11 months ago. The Cheese Shed's up and running now, with over 60 cheeses listed plus several gift boxes / cheese selections. The whole operation has been 'running in' and seems to be working. There are more customers each month. I would never have imagined that I'd be excited about selling cheese, but what can I say? It's great to see it growing all the time!

But a few basics: what's all this shed stuff? We live in Bovey Tracey, Devon, England. The shed is my office - it's up at the top of the back garden and looks out over the roof of the house towards the moors (we live on a hillside). When Susie and I married in 1997 the shed was a way to give me some quiet working space given that there were 4 of us in a small terraced house. I wrote a lot of music there plus my PhD, but that's another story.

I knew from the start that I wanted the cheese business to be called The Cheese Shed. It felt quirky, fun, a bit rural-rustic, and not too obvious. After someone nabbed the domain name from under my nose, I secured, but all without much idea of how the business would work.

The big obstacle seemed to be: how could you list a lot of cheeses (I knew I wanted it to be comprehensive) without stocking all of them, all the time? How much of it would 'go off' before enough buyers found the site? I'd need fridges and have to be inspected by the food hygiene people. A total no-no.

James Mann's deli - down the road in Bovey - was the breakthrough. I realised that if James was on board, then the supply and storage problems were largely solved. Feeling a bit crazy, I described the idea to him over coffee and a slice in the local cafe. "So", he said, "what you're saying is that you'll get the orders over the internet, and I'll pack the cheese and send it out". Bingo.

Cue 6 months of research and setting up. The Cheese Shed had its first customer in May 2006.


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