Jane Harris is a dab hand in the world of business, having worked in areas including market-selling, dairy and floristry for many years. She is now the owner and operator of two local businesses – The Yorkshire Dales Cheese Company, which she founded with her husband, and Oakwood Aromatics, which she recently purchased.
What’s the story behind your business? How did you get started?
My business journey goes back many years and I’ve done lots of different things, ranging from selling socks on markets to being a florist in a family business for over 20 years. I currently run two businesses – The Yorkshire Dales Cheese Company is a partnership with my husband Dave, and I run Oakwood Aromatics as a sole trader.
The cheese business was started in 2006, following a few years working for the Wensleydale Creamery where my job was setting up and running retail shows and events. The company decided to concentrate mainly on trade shows, but my husband Dave and I knew that the retail events worked well and that we could make a living from selling Yorkshire cheeses ourselves, so we both quit our respective jobs and The Yorkshire Dales Cheese Company was born.
Oakwood Aromatics came about more recently. In January this year, the former owners and founders of the business announced that they were giving it up to pursue other careers. I had always been interested in natural skincare and I was also a customer. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to continue the business so I asked the owners if they would consider selling it to me, which they duly did – and have since trained me well! The products are all vegetable oil based (though strictly no palm oil), with essential oils, and the range consists of solid and liquid soaps, lip balms, shampoo bars and body butter bars.
What’s a typical day like for you?
There’s no such thing as a typical day really, it could be anything from cutting and packing cheeses, to making soap or looking after (and trying to keep up with!) my one-year-old grandson, Freddie.
What’s the toughest part of your job?
Trying to keep up with – and accepting – changes in the way that business is done is difficult. When I first started in business there was no internet, credit cards or mobile phones and it seemed much simpler.
And the best part?
My favourite parts of both businesses are the creative bits, like making gorgeously-scented soaps and lotions, and creating fabulous cheese hampers – especially at Christmas time.
What are your top three business goals for the future?
With Oakwood Aromatics, in particular:
- To continue its legacy in creating natural and affordable skincare products with minimal impact on the environment.
- To get to grips with social media.
- To involve other female family members in the business, if they would like to be involved, so it’s not so much a social enterprise but more a family one.
What’s your top marketing or social media tip?
Ask the young people for advice when I get stuck with it!
How can people find out more about what you do?
We trade at farmers markets, shows and events – as well as online – so you can find us there. Both businesses have websites and some social media too, and – of course – we network with Dales Business Women.