Monday, March 7, 2016

20 Year Reflections | Vickie Anderson | Liverpool Cheese Company | #WIBA16 Business of the Year Winner

2016 is a big year for The Women’s Organisation – it marks our 20th birthday and we have plenty of interesting and exciting things lined up throughout the year to celebrate this! And some fantastic interviews will be part of this! To mark our 20th birthday, throughout 2016 we will be interviewing some incredible women and sharing their stories with you. These women may have been long-time supporters of The Women’s Organisations, women who accessed our support during our very early years, women who have been instrumental in the development of the organisation and gender equality as a whole, or simply women who we think are frankly marvellous, and want to know more about!

We hope that you enjoy these interviews throughout 2016 and can celebrate with us the incredible lives and journeys of the women that we interview. This series of interviews will be called ’20 Year Reflections’ and we always want to hear your thoughts and views! Join in the conversation on twitter using the hashtag #WOWeAre20

If 2016 is a big year for The Women’s Organisation, it is just as big of a year for another woman – Vickie Anderson, the founder and owner of the Liverpool Cheese Company as this year marks their 10th year in business! And having recently won Business of the Year at Downtown's Women in Business Awards this month,  Liverpool Cheese Company is frankly an institution and this seemed like the perfect time to speak to Vickie about the business and her journey over the last 10 years! 

Upon meeting Vickie it would be easy to believe that she has been a Cheesemonger her whole life, you could be fooled into thinking that the Liverpool Cheese Company’s shop in Woolton Village has been there since the beginning of time with Vickie and her husband Ian at the helm of it, but you’d be wrong, as the shop has been there just 10 years and there was a whole lifetime before the shop for both Vickie and Ian.

Vickie says; ‘I worked in housing for a number of years, as a director in a Housing Association.  In the Christmas of 2005 I took voluntary redundancy and that’s where everything began’ – After taking the voluntary redundancy, Vickie was also offered some consultancy to go along with this, which she took. Here she began speaking to a Life Coach in St Helens and told her quite simply that she wanted to open up a Cheese Shop. ‘I used to meet with her every week, and she’d ask me what the plan was, or how I was progressing. And I just used to reply that first I’ve got to find a job in housing and then I’d open up a Cheese Shop. She said to me – ‘Why do you have to find a job in housing? Why don’t you just open the Cheese Shop’ – and that’s where it clicked!’

To get the ball rolling Vickie trained at The Cheese Shop in Chester with Carol Faulkner, and although she was a life-long fan of cheese it was here where Vickie learnt the skills and knowledge that are crucial to becoming a Cheesemonger.  Vickie told us; ‘There are not many proper cheesemongers in Britain, that is people who know and understand the product, who mature cheeses and care for them in controlled conditions.  It’s so much more than just getting the cheese from a wholesaler and putting it in a fridge and selling it. It’s about looking after it and giving expert advice. Several of the Cheesemongers in the UK have been trained by Carol (Faulkner) so working with her was great. Being a Cheesemonger means having that little bit of extra knowledge’

To us though, ‘extra knowledge’ is an understatement! What Vickie and Ian don’t know about cheese, frankly isn’t worth knowing. With over 200 cheeses in their shop and the ability to talk articulately about each and every single one, is perhaps one of the many reasons why Liverpool Cheese Company have stood the test of time. Vickie is passionate about giving people a ‘Cheese Education’, particularly younger people. ‘I think young people have major issues with food now, because their taste buds are a lot different to older peoples. They like a strong flavour which has come about because of all the extra things that are added into food nowadays. I enjoy getting young people into cheese and the tasting of it.  We work with young people on work experience and apprenticeships along with University students.’

But for Vickie, it hasn’t always been an easy ride with Liverpool Cheese Company, and like any business there have been hard times at the beginning. ‘When I first opened, I used to say to my Bank Manager – ‘I used to run a not for profit organisation, and I still do!’ A lot of people didn’t think we would last very long but thankfully we have! And there have been learning curves along the way. The first time we ever had a stall at the Farmers Market in Woolton Village, we went along with hundreds of pieces of wrapped up cheese that we’d cut up beforehand. We quickly realised this wasn’t the way to do it and that we could cut up the cheese as we sold it!’

The Farmers Markets have been a great publicity for Liverpool Cheese Company and they still are involved with them now, ten years on. You can find Vickie and her team on Lark Lane on the fourth Saturday of every month, University Square on the second Thursday of every month, and on Allerton Road on the third Saturday of the month. 

As well as this, there is of course, Cheese School – an idea so simple but one that has become incredibly popular. Cheese School has been running for about three years, and twice a month Vickie takes over the top floor of The Clove Hitch on Hope Street and teaches a ‘class’ all about the wonders of cheese with plenty of tasting, plentiful portions and exciting pairings from whiskey, beer and even gin specialists from across the North West. The Women’s Organisation have been teamed up with Vickie on multiple occasions for fantastic cheese parties, raising money for our Teenage Cancer Trust mission and celebrating in festive style with our Business Club members at Cheesey Festive Networking!

The Liverpool Cheese Company have picked up several awards and accolades along the way and one that Vickie is particularly proud of is being named one of Britain’s top ten cheese shops in respect of the many Cheese Wedding Cakes she produces.  An average 4 “cakes” a week ensures that many happy events all over the UK are made happier by the presence of cheese!

As well as pairing up with us for special events, Vickie has been a long-time friend of The Women’s Organisation, working with our Business Advisers back when we were known as Train 2000 and based in the Wellington Buildings. ‘My Business Adviser back then was great, and Train 2000 were the people that actually suggested we look at Woolton Village for our premises and of course insisted that we write a Business Plan. I thought that we didn’t really need one, but it’s a good thing to practice.’

Now though, after 10 years there are some clear lessons that Vickie has learnt about running a business and is clear on her view that the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to being your own boss. Vickie says; ‘The beautiful thing about running your own business, is that if something isn’t going right, it can be easy to correct it. You’re managing a boat not a ship and it’s easy to turn something around. You’re in control and it’s you who is coming up with the new ideas and making things happen.’

One of the greatest parts of hearing Vickie’s story is hearing about the transformational change her life has taken from before she began Liverpool Cheese Company ten years ago, and the impact that has had on her life. ‘I used to work all across the country, and my nearest offices were in Manchester or Preston, so every day involved at least an hour of driving. I used to have to work in Bristol or in London or York so I was constantly in the car. It was a ridiculous amount of time and it just wasn’t worth it. It was a big thing for me to be able to walk to work, that was one of the main things that I wanted. And now I can, we live just down the road and I barely ever drive.

So now that Vickie has made that dream a reality, and reached the massive milestone of a decade in business, here is to the next 10 years of the Liverpool Cheese Company. From Cheese School to Farmer’s Markets, Wedding Cheese Cakes to the queue half way through Woolton Village on Christmas Eve – it’s safe to say that Liverpool Cheese Company is a big deal for the people of Liverpool, Merseyside and the North West, and we wouldn’t want to ever be without it!

Congratulations to Vickie, Ian and the team of the Liverpool Cheese Company for decade in business! 

Liverpool Cheese Company Ltd.
29a Woolton Street

Telephone 0151 4283942

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